Do you hear the crowd cheering wildly “Gideon, Gideon, Gideon”!
At record speed, Gideon makes his way through the winding wingnut alley, the steep salmon ladder, and the treacherous hourglass drop. Finally, he’s arrived at the coveted 14-foot warped wall. Without skipping a beat, and with laser-like precision, he ascends the warped wall and defeats this challenge with courage and strength.
The crowd goes wild.
When I read about the life of Gideon, I see this hero of the faith embodying strength and courage. I imagine him competing in one of my daughter’s favorite TV shows, American Ninja Warrior. Can you imagine the lineup of strong men and women of the faith competing in Israel’s version of this popular competition? That would make for some fun reality TV.
As a culture, we view strength as the quality of being physically strong and able to withstand great force or pressure. We envision bodybuilders and athletes when we think of physical strength. Gideon was likely physically strong as we find him in a winepress threshing wheat, no easy task. Yet, in Judges Chapter 7, we discover that God has a new plan up his sleeve to determine what Gideon is truly made of. Is it just brute strength or strength of character?
In the previous chapter, Gideon strikes down Baal and a nasty civil war ensues. Gideon gathers an army of 32,000 men together to fight the Midianites and a few other tribes. Gideon must feel confident at this point. God has assured him—several times—that through His hand they will be victorious, and there is strength in numbers, right? He’s got both!
This is when God interjects, “Not so fast, my child.” Through a series of tests, the Lord asks Gideon to reduce his army from 32,000 men to only 300. Ouch!
I can imagine how Gideon feels. I’ve been there. I may not have been going to war, but I’ve often gone to battle with my plans, remedies, and checklists at the ready. So, what is God up to? Why this drastic request? Is God setting Gideon up to fail?
Remember back when Gideon was alone in the winepress, questioning the angel of the Lord? We learn that he was the “least in his Father’s household.” (Judges 6:15) He doubts the calling and questions his qualifications. However, despite Gideon’s fears and insecurities, he chooses to obey the Lord’s commands. This proves to be the “secret sauce” Gideon needs to see the power of God revealed in this epic story unfolding through the pages of Judges chapter 7.
Self-sufficiency is a handicap which causes us to rely on our own strength. When God strips us of our self-reliance, it forces us to place our full confidence in God and not in ourselves. It builds our strength, not by physical or even mental abilities, but in the Lord, helping us to believe that through His mighty power we can overcome anything. God wants Gideon to know without a shadow of a doubt that although he has anointed, prepared and equipped Gideon, it is by God’s grace, power, and strength that the battle is won.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” Ephesians 6:10
I always wondered what it meant to be “strong in the Lord.” You see, I viewed strength by physical and mental abilities for the task at hand; however, as I read the account of Gideon defeating the Midianites, I discovered that strength has nothing to do with physical abilities or the size of your army. Godly strength comes from confidence in who God is and surrender to His power, not ours.
However, we cannot be “strong in the Lord” without obedience. God calls us, anoints us, prepares us, equips us and promises to walk with us. Our job is to choose to walk forward in faith. That is what we see Gideon do throughout this story in Judges chapter 7. He surrenders his assurance of a strong and mighty army for the only assurance that matters: victory depends not in strength or numbers, but in obedience and commitment to the Lord.
Gideon exudes not only strength of character but also courage of heart. What does it mean to be courageous? I consider many heroes of faith, such as Moses, Joseph, David, Esther and Paul, to be courageous. Yet, was it courage or confidence they demonstrated? Each of these mighty men and women had doubts, fears, and crippling insecurities; however, they chose to place their confidence in the mighty power of God rather than their own strengths and abilities.
What battle are you facing today? You may feel neither confident nor courageous. The battles we face in life often leave us feeling discouraged and deflated. Be encouraged by the stories of ordinary men and women who through obedience to the Lord, chose to place their faith and trust in God. Victory may look different for each of us. No matter how great the odds against us may be, our faithful God is sovereign, and He will always see us through the battles we face in life.