It’s Always Paul and Somebody Else

SCRIPTURE READING IN PHILEMON 1:23-24

Philemon Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow labourers.

The Apostle Paul was a TEAM PLAYER.

I never read in Scripture where JUST Paul took trips to establish churches in the Roman Empire.  It was ALWAYS Paul and somebody else–Paul and Barnabas or Paul and Silas.  In addition, a number of people were with these headliner pairs, like John Mark, Luke, Timothy and Epaphras, and the valuable couple, Aquila, and Priscilla.

One of these helpers that traveled with Paul was a young man named DEMAS.

Notice in the Bible verse Demas is referred to as one of Paul;s “fellow laborers.”  At this point, Demas was valued enough to be mentioned as one of Paul’s fellow laborers, an honored designation.

But in Colossians 4:7-14what I found as notable and something interesting as well.  In Paul’s closing remarks and as was his custom, he mentions a list of servants by name.  Notice that Paul says some glowing things about several people in this passage:

Tychicus is a “much-loved brother and faithful ministering assistant and fellow servant”…verse 7

Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother…verse 9

Aristarchus a fellow prisoner along with Mark the relative of Barnabas…verse 10

Epaphras, a servant of Christ Jesus, a man of prayer and convictions…verse 12

Luke the beloved physician…verse 14

Great praise was given to these men.

Demas is also mentioned at the end of this passage, notice in Verse 14 and the only thing Paul says about him is “And Demas”.  Glowing remarks for all but one, Demas, and all he got was his name mentioned.

Was Demas being slighted here, demoted in Paul’s estimation somehow?  Hold that thought.

Now, let’s look at 2 Timothy 4:9-11 –

DEMAS has abandoned Paul’s team in this portion of Scripture while Paul while incarcerated in Rome. 

The phrase “deserted me”  in the Greek literally carries the idea of “abandonment in a time of need.” Today we might say, “He left me in the lurch”.

Ironically, Paul asks Timothy in verse 11 to bring with him Mark, who had abandoned Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15 but had later been restored to service.

[11] Only Luke is with me.  Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.”  (NIV)

I find it ironical when Demas had deserted him, Paul sent the former quitter, John Mark, whom Paul now says it was helpful to him in the ministry.

Ah, reconciliation at play!

This is a reminder to all of us that no one is UNSALVAGEABLE to God.

John Mark, like Demas, had been a miserable failure earlier in life, but now he had become a “helpful” servant.

GETTING BACK TO DEMAS…

What happened to him?  He started off with great promise.

ONCE he’d been a valued co-laborer; NOW he’s a tragic failure.

I’m not a big fan of reading between the lines in Scripture, BUT…

I can think of several reasons DEMAS may have left his post.

FIRST, DEMAS MAY HAVE BECOME WORN OUT –

Perhaps he had not anticipated how tiring ministry really was.  No doubt, working with Paul involved many hours of tiresome labor to:

  • Witnessing the Gospel to many people…
  • Counseling sessions to attend…
  • Study time needed to be done for sermons…
  • Teaching responsibilities…
  • Meetings to attend.
  • Choir practices
  • Drama rehearsals.

Many times, undoubtedly, he may have been burning the candle at both ends.  And I can relate!

Past times in my serving in ministry…after working all day at a secular job, then at night, attending leadership meetings, evangelism outreach classes…And that’s okay, actually, because honestly…I LIVE for this kind of usefulness.

But I can see myself being in Demas’ shoes if I’m not careful; just getting WEARY of being tempted to quit if you caught me at the wrong time.

What Demas needed to hear is the same thing we need to hear when we get WEARY IN THE lORD’S WORK.

Paul said in Galatians 6:9 – “Let us not become weary in doing good, for the proper time we will reap a harvest if we don’t give up.”

Sometimes we need to get some rest…But don’t get weary in well-doing.

Sometimes we have to reprioritize to make sure the important things get done first, but don’t get WEARY in doing well!

Sometimes we may feel taken advantage of and unappreciated, but don’t be weary in well-doing–because we’re not doing our service for people anyway.

I want to share a couple of tips that I’ve learned over forty-five years in various ministries on how NOT to get or stay weary in well-doing:

  • First, when you can, SERVE in harmony with your spiritual gift.

We can’t always have that luxury to serve only where we’re GIFTED, but that’s where we should gravitate when possible.

When we minister in our giftedness, we may get tired, but we get tired because we’re doing too much of what we ENJOY and that’s a good kind of tired.

  • Second, find time for alone time with God where you can get recharged and encouraged in the Lord by His Spirit.

Just maybe, Demas needed to set aside some time with God and get STRENGTH from Him.

SECOND, DEMAS MAY HAVE BECOME UNHAPPY WITH HIS EFFECTIVENESS –

Maybe he tried to win his relatives to the Lord, and they wouldn’t listen.

Perhaps as he preached alongside Paul he became disappointed that he didn’t see the same results as Paul.

Possibly Demas found that PREACHING when most of his hearers didn’t want to hear what he had to say was more difficult than he anticipated.

And he just simply became discouraged in his doing, and he decided to throw in the towel and QUIT!

If true, then he would’ve been helped by Paul’s words to the Corinthian church, 1 Cor. 3:5-7:

Paul was saying that much of what we do when we SERVE GOD doesn’t result in immediate visible results.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it or that God isn’t blessing it.

Maybe Demas just needed to HEAR that we work for God, not for effectiveness and it won’t be until we get to HEAVEN to see the fruit of our labor.  Right now, we just need not be WEARY in well-doing.

THIRD, POSSIBLY DEMAS HAD BEEN DISAPPOINTED WITH THE FAILURES AND INCONSISTENCIES OF OTHERS –

Maybe some of the Christians he worked with were not all they were cracked up to be.  It’s hard to imagine that he could have found a more spiritual man to minister alongside than the Apostle Paul, but Paul certainly wasn’t perfect.

  • Maybe some of the other Christian leaders he worked with didn’t live up to the standards he thought Christians or ministers of the Gospel should have.
  • Maybe he started looking at others for inspiration instead of Jesus!
  • Maybe he was looking around instead of looking up!

Or maybe he struggled with a certain SIN in his life that caused him to begin to look at others with more critical eyes so that he wouldn’t feel so bad about his own sin.

OUCH!!!

We really don’t know for sure, but if that’s the case, the writer of Hebrews had the answers to Demas’ problem

HEBREWS 12:1-2 (AMP)

[1] THEREFORE THEN, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth]. let us strip off and throw away every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which is so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us,  [2] Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection].  He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

The writer says we should keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ and not others as we run the race.

  • JESUS is the author and finisher of our FAITH, not those around us.
  • It was JESUS who endured the cross for us, not our co-workers in the Lord or our mentors, our fellow Christians.

I wish Demas had thoughts of that before he threw in the towel.

FOURTH, DEMAS MAY HAVE BEEN DISAPPOINTED WITH HIMSELF –

Perhaps he thought, once in the Lord’s service, somehow his struggles with sin, lust or fear, or covetousness, or anger from jealousy would disappear.

  • Maybe he forgot the importance of depending on the Holy Spirit.
  • Maybe, as he looked back over the last few years of serving in the ministry that he became disappointed he hadn’t come any further in the Christian life than he felt he should have.

As a young worker in God’s Vineyard, maybe he had been too idealistic–thought that people would flock to hear him teach and preach with multitudes being SAVED!

But things, well…they just didn’t turn out that way.

All anyone wanted to hear was that big-shot Paul!

Possibly, DEMAS struggled as many of us struggle and was disillusioned with his own wrong motives and lack of spiritual growth, especially when he compared himself with the great Apostle Paul, who seemed to always be “on target.”

FIFTH, IT’S ALSO POSSIBLE THAT HE HAD DEVELOPED A DIMINISHING OF SPONTANEOUS SERVICE FOR THE LORD –

  • I wonder if Demas was so involved with FIGHTING for the Word of God that he stopped FEASTING in the Word.
  • I wonder if he became so busy SERVING God, that he stopped SAVORING God.

If so, then most likely his spiritual life became forced, cold, mechanical, calculated, until he just didn’t bother taking time out to spend with the Lord anymore.

Maybe he became like Martha instead of Mary.  

MARTHA received a gentle rebuking from Jesus though she was busy serving, while MARY was commended because she took the time out to be with Jesus (Luke 10:41-42).

Maybe DEMAS wouldn’t have given up if he had been able to feed at the Lord’s table.

SIXTH, JUDGING FROM PAUL’S WORDS IN TIMOTHY 4, MOST LIKELY THE ATTRACTIONS OF THIS WORLD ALLURED DEMAS AWAY FROM GOD.

Paul said, “…because he loved this world, has deserted me and gone to Galatia…”  (2 Tim. 4:10).

That will rob you of your spiritual power and zeal like nothing else!

Jesus half-brother James (Mark 6:13) said in James 4:4

[4] “Do you not know that being the world’s friend is being God’s enemy?  So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God”  (AMP).

James uses mighty strong language here! 

A FRIEND of this world’s system is a spiritual adulterer or adulteress who, instead of loving God with ALL your heart, goes “a whoring” after the world, to use O.T. terminology.

How can one experience the JOY of walking with God if you’ve become His enemy?

No, the WORLD will not satisfy you; it will only pull you away from God and SERVICE to Him.

I’ve Given Some “Maybe’s”, the REASONS Demas Could Have Bailed Out On Paul.

But all is not lost in the case of DEMAS (3 John 1:12):

“Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone–and even by the truth itself…”  (NIV)

It is said that this passage of Scripture was written about 90-95 AD.  Many Bible scholars believe that DEMETRIUS in this passage is the same DEMAS found Philemon 23-24.  

The name “Demas” was what is called a diminutive of the name Demetrius; in other words, kind of like shortened nickname of the name like Bob for Robert or Will for William.  

If this is the same DEMAS as the one Paul referred to, it proves again, as with John Mark, it’s never too late to recover, restore, reconcile those who have FAILED, failed miserably. And reconciliation IS the theme of Paul’s letter to Philemon.

Somewhere along the line, Demas got things straightened out in his life so that John could say,  “Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone…”

If you are in danger of becoming a DEMAS, or maybe you find yourself already a “Demas”, then it’s time to grab hold of God’s PROMISE found in 1 John 1:9:

[9] If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].  (Amplified Bible).

_______________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS –

The Free Dictionary by Failex.

Bible Hub – 2 Timothy 4:10; Elliott’s Commentary for English Readers.

Ray Stedman, The End of the Road.

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search, Settings Advance.

BIBLE TRANSLATIONS:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); except where noted in the text.

 

 

When Is “Enough”, Enough?

6a011168574e19970c01539046a676970bI was in a local pet store one day, wandering up and down the aisles, looking for the unusual, when I heard a constant rattling…almost annoying sound.

And the mystery was revealed.  HAMSTERS running in their little wheel as it spinned, running with all their might, but never getting anywhere.  They are running, the wheel is spinning, but nothing else changes.

In my close observation, I knew the spinning wheel is there for their exercise, but I wondered if the hamster might be thinking to himself when the wheel starts spinning,

“Yeah, I’m on my way now. Nothing can stop me.  I’m breaking out of this joint!”

The HAMSTER follows his trails in the cage, runs in the spinning wheel, giving everything he’s got, only that he hasn’t moved from inside the cage where he’s trapped.  There is nothing he can do to break the cycle on his own because there is a much more powerful, larger being, with vastly more intelligence already determined how his life will be spent and where he will go.  Sad commentary if you are a “pet” lover.

Many times, I too have felt like the little hamster;  I’m running in circles like the hamster but never getting anywhere.

That brings me to the Scripture found in Deuteronomy 2:1-3:

[1] THEN WE turned, and took our journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red Sea, as the Lord directed me; and for many days we journeyed around Mount Seir.

[2] And the Lord spoke to me [Moses], saying  [3] You have roamed around this mountain country long enough; turn northward.

I want to direct you to look at a story presented in Deuteronomy; of a people in God’s Word that were caught in the same spinning wheel of life.  They seemed to be going nowhere because they had lost direction and just kept running in the same circle.

stock-photo-illustration-of-wheel-121045525

God had plainly set their path but for nearly 40 years they were on a journey to…how should I say it…NOWHERE!

Finally, the day came when they realized they didn’t have the answers; they had no true direction; and that someone greater than themselves had to direct their path if they were ever going to be anything other than mindless runners on the spinning wheel of life.

The sad part is that countless thousands had died in the process of running in circles while never finding the real meaning of existence, dying in a vast wilderness with their dreams and hopes lost forever.

God had made a way when He delivered them from the SLAVE PITS of Egypt.  A way for them with a greater PURPOSE, A DESTINY that would change their lives forever...IF… they would only follow His direction and remain FAITHFUL to His Purpose for their lives.

But FREEDOM has a price; and TRUE FREEDOM demands limitations.  Freedom without limitations becomes ANARCHY, which I see happening in our city streets today.

TRUE FREEDOM can only be found by following GOD’S PLAN; and everything else only leads to another form of SLAVERY; either to SIN within ourselves; or to the controlling hand of someone else who will dictate to us the conditions of life.

We will truly need a FIRM FOUNDATION to rely on; that won’t be shaken or changed with a determination to ‘stick to it’!  Of course, the only TRUE FOUNDATION is found in Jesus Christ, our Savior and the Word of God that will never fail, nor ever change.

Psalms 37:23-24:

[23] The steps of a [good] man are directed and established by the Lord when He delights in his way [and He busies Himself with his every step].

[24] Though he falls, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord grasps his hand in support and upholds him.

God never promised us a PATH without a few falls.

In service, in ministry to the saints or to the surrounding community.  He never said that life would be easy, not facing problems.

What He did PROMISE was that we would never be forsaken and even when we fall, the Lord will keep us by His hand.

God ALWAYS provides a way for FREEDOM to reign and for the VICTORY to be won if we just keep on, keep’n on in following Him.

ISRAEL began their journey; but they had much to learn, and so God predetermined them to take a long journey to get to their final destination:

Deuteronomy 2:1

THEN WE turned, and took our journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red Sea, as the Lord directed me; and for many days we journeyed around Mount Seir.

03990_000_bible-photo-2

From the pits of BONDAGE in Egypt, relating to our DELIVERANCE from the grip of SIN under the hand of Satan, Israel proceeded into the WILDERNESS, and area called Mount Seir where they wandered for many days, in fact, for 40 years.  They just kept going around in circles, moving their camp many times along the way.  Sometimes staying in one place for a few years, and then moving to another when the water ran dry, or the grass was gone for their animals.

I wonder how many times ISRAEL experienced a deja-vu moment in their wanderings?

How many times did one Israelite look at another and say,

“You know, I think we’ve been here before.  Something about this place looks familiar and I know I’ve climbed this mountain before.  I feel just like we are running in CIRCLES and nobody knows which way to go.”

I see the same thing happening in the world today.

Mankind has no clue of direction; history just keeps repeating itself and we don’t learn the lessons of the past.

The PATH has already been laid in front of us and we begin to wonder in our own understanding leading us to nowhere.  Our world has lost its way; no man has the ability to LEAD the human race to a place of perfect peace and safety; and every day the race just gets faster while the destination more obscure.

The same thing happens in the CHURCH as well, for we are the church.

Christians often express their concerns and just keep running in circles, never accomplish what they want to in their lives.  I know this to be true because I have been there before.

That place in MINISTRY where doubt and a critical spirit raises its ugly head...A MOUNTAIN blocking the progress of my journey.  Every day seems to end in disappointment and frustration because nothing ever seems to change.

Some of us struggle with the same old self-created HABITS and the WHEEL is spinning; we are trying as hard as we can but nothing is changing.

Let me give some encouragement in the Lord if you are in this position of “wheel spinning”–going around in circles.

Just keep on running, but run where God tells you to run.

The BAD HABITS may be A BAD TEMPER; A CRITICAL SPIRIT (I’m guilty!); LACK OF SELF-CONTROL…etc.

The BAD HABITS start out as mole hills and become mountains because we won’t quit talking about them.

In effect, we just keep CIRCLING Mount Seir just like Israel did for all those years.  The march goes on, time passes, but nothing seems to really change.  When is “Enough” enough?

And the LORD spoke to me saying, “You have roamed around this mountain long enough; turn northward”  (vs. 2, 3).

Things began to change for ISRAEL, and all the things in your life are changing as well.

Sometimes the CHANGE happens so slowly its unnoticeable at first, but eventually the CHANGE will be great.

Israel’s attitude changed one step at a time.  With each step forward they drew closer to the end of their journey.  Like the old saying, “How do you begin a journey of a thousand miles? By taking the first step.”   

And so it is with our walk with JESUS.

Those whose FAITH is too weak, fall by the wayside as the SEED of the gospel stolen from the heart; they will die right beside the path of life.

But the strong in the LORD, those who ‘sell out’ to God; serve Him with all their heart, mind, and soul and will remain FAITHFUL to the end; they will not only SURVIVE the JOURNEY…but will become VICTORIOUS over ALL THINGS!  (Luke 1:37)

God doesn’t give up on His people.  Though many never saw their PROMISE LAND; never occupied that land; God never forsook ISRAEL.

God won’t give up on you or me either!!  We are going to WIN the battle.  Romans 8:37 says, “Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors and gain a surpassing victory through Him [Jesus] Who loved us.”  Have you ever heard of a “CONQUEROR” who ever lost a battle?  If they did, then they wouldn’t be called “conquerors”.

Whatever you are going through right now, you are going to OVERCOME this mountain in your life; if you just remain FAITHFUL until the race is won.

It’s time to quit circling around MOUNT SEIR.  Enough is enough!  Move on!!!

The ISRAELITE’S backs were facing the Promise Land, meaning they were going the opposite direction where God intended them to go; so God turned them around and placed them back on the right path.

The name “SEIR” means holiness; and they were wandering for 40 years just learning to be holy people unto the Lord!  Without HOLINESS–no man can see the Lord and you can’t see the PATH to walk in.  You are walking BLIND.

Now I began to think deeper about Mount Seir; how that it could represent some of the great mountain ranges in our lives that we must overcome.

I’ve already mentioned some of the HABITS which you, no doubt, have already mentally added to.

All of these things are just huge MOUNTAINS that seem to loom over us with DOUBT, and FEAR, and maybe SHAME.

So how do we get rid of that mountain (s)?

If you had to move a mountain and there was no way around it, or through it, how would you do it?  You would start by moving one rock at a time.

Just like you begin a journey of a thousand miles with one step–you move a mountain by moving one rock at a time.

Moving Mountains, One Rock at a Time
Moving Mountains, One Rock at a Time

Now sometimes you can speak to that mountain and YES, God can and will move some of the mountains out of your way.

BUT…there are MOUNTAINS in our lives that we are going to have to work on ourselves. Maybe for a lifetime.

Those MOUNTAINS are there for a purpose and you just have to keep moving them–one rock at a time until they are behind you instead of in front of you.

The TASK of OVERCOMING your mountain may seem impossible; but then that’s where God begins to work for you (Luke 1:37).

He makes the IMPOSSIBLE possible and He will not allow you to be overcome!

Banana-Oats-Fitness-Cookies-Howie-in-the-mountains

In your struggle to move your mountain, you will have times when you feel like you’re finally WINNING THE BATTLE!

Then suddenly…you find yourself in a pile of rock rubble, wondering if the VICTORY will ever come.

I have experienced this in my own life, finding myself in the “rubble” of CRITICISM.

I may go on for days, weeks, without being critical of someone or some thing.  But just when I think I’ve overcome it, here it comes again.  Often, my beloved wife of 51 years will give me that look without saying a word, knowing that I’ve lost my way–again!

But little by little, one STONE at a time, that MOUNTAIN is coming down.  I believe that most of my mountain has been moved; but there are still a few rocks and yes, boulders, that have to go.

We still have a lot of MOUNTAINS to move in our Christian lives.  None of us have cleared them all.  The KEY is to remove them and not just keep CIRCLING around them.

Never accept the excuse that “That’s just the way I am.  I can’t help it!”  That is a cop out!

We can’t allow ourselves the luxury of CAMPING on the wrong side of the MOUNTAIN forever when VICTORY in Jesus can only be found on the other side.

REMEMBER what the Lord said to Moses and the Children of Israel in Deuteronomy 2:2,3…

“You’ve been going around in circles in these hills long enough; go North” (The Message bible).

What mountains are you facing as you read my thoughts in this blog-study?  

Whatever it is, you can begin dismantling it right now!  Give it to JESUS; seek His help. Why move it alone?  You can do ALL THINGS through Christ Jesus, who strengthens you, but you have to let Him lead.

I am moving my stones right now!  What are your STONES?  There is no better time than right now to move NORTH!!

IN JESUS’ NAME

 


Photo Credits:  Photo Pin and Google Images.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible, except where noted.

Quit Hiding In A Wine Press!

“Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the oak (terebinth) at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Fleabite, and his son GIDEON was beating wheat IN THE WINE PRESS to hide it from the Midianites”  (Judges 6:11 AMP).

Well, you guessed it.  I am still reading in the Book of JUDGES, where the Spirit of God is inspiring my thought process to investigate the truths of the Bible.  So we are beginning the JOURNEY, of discovering what God’s Spirit has for each one of us based on GIDEON’S experiences.

ANCIENT WINE PRESSES.

To make the situation clear, we need to understand in those days, wine presses were generally dug into the ground.  If you got inside a wine press you would be out of site.  Gideon is found hiding in the wine press and won’t be seen by the marauding Midianites while he’s threshing the wheat.

PERSONALITY FACTORS IN.

GIDEON isn’t exactly your Hollywood image of a hero.  The fact is, he’s the OPPOSITE!  He is much more the indecisive and timid type.  He is one of those people who want every i dotted and every t crossed before they make a decision.  And even then, they won’t be able to make up their mind.  We can see the sort of person he is in finding him at the beginning of the story.

THE ENCOURAGING THING FOR SOME OF US–

Some of us relate to ‘GIDEON the timid’, the nervous type, despite the UNPROMISING substance from which he was made.

God takes him and makes him a hero of Biblical proportions.  After digging and investigating the Biblical evidence, I began to discover the process through which GIDEON was CHANGED by God into a LEADER and SAVIOUR of his people.

A PERSONAL ENCOUNTER WITH GOD:

“And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, The Lord is with you, you mighty man of [fearless] courage”  (Judges 6:12 AMP)


It becomes obvious that “the Angel of the Lord” is a distinct person in Himself from God the Father (Gen. 24:7; Exod. 23:20; Zech. 1:12, 13).  Nor, does “the Angel of the Lord” appear again after Christ came in human form; the “Angel of the Lord”, the visible Lord God in the Old Testament.  The Cambridge Bible observes, “There is a fascinating forecast of the coming Messiah, breaking through the dimmers with amazing consistency, at intervals from Genesis to Malachi.  Abraham, Moses, the slave girl Hagar, even the humble parents of Samson”; and now here in Judges 6:12, are seen talking with Him centuries before the herald of angels proclaiming His birth in Bethlehem [footnote in Amplified Bible in Genesis 16:7 (b)].

BEATING OUT THE WHEAT IN A WINE PRESS.  WHY?

Because GIDEON is scared; because he might be seen by the enemy, the Midianites marauding the land.  And the Angel of the Lord addresses him as a mighty warrior!  Can you imagine what GIDEON must have thought?

“Hey, you’ve got the wrong guy, fella.  What you’re looking for is a hardened soldier.  I am no fighter!  I am the youngest in my family and even they are the weakest family in our tribe.”

Do you ever feel like that?  Like you’re too weak to do what God’s asking you to do?  I remember when I was first asked to teach adults in the church.  Personally, I felt insecure but at the same time I was reminded of the first chapter of Joshua, where Joshua is told over and over again to be strong and of good courage.  This was a message to me to TRUST God working through me in any given ministry, and it is the same with GIDEON.

GIDEON’S RESPONSE:

“And Gideon said to him, O sir, if the Lord is with us, why is all this befallen us?” (verse 13).

But God IS with them and He DOES have a plan for their salvation, and a plan that involves Gideon:

“The Lord turned to him and said,  Go in this your might, and you shall save Israel from the hand of Midian.  Have I not sent you?”  (verse 14).

At the right moment, despite Gideon’s protest, God adds, “Surely I will be with you” (verse 16).  Here is the FIRST STEP to Gideon’s revival!  A personal encounter with God; where God’s promises to empower him for the TASK ahead.

Don’t underestimate the importance of this sense of personal calling in your life.  The New Testament speaks often of the Christian having been CALLED to a life of service to God and to others.  But while we are thinking about our own personal call to discipleship, let’s remember the example given to us in Scripture of GIDEON:  The thing about GIDEON’S CALL is the sort of person he was when God called him and the personal attributes he possessed at the time.  THEY WEREN’T THE ISSUE!  Actually, the shrinking nature of GIDEON may in fact have been his GREATEST ASSET!  He didn’t have the natural characteristics of a warrior or leadership qualifications to lead his people against the Midianites.  GOD CHOOSES the LEAST in the world so His glory is manifested and NOT the person.  Do you remember what the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:27?

“[No] for God selected (deliberately chose) what in the world is foolish to put the wise to shame, and what the world calls weak to put the strong to shame.”

I’ve discovered that this seems to be God’s modus operandi in my life anyway.:

“He has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of low degree. [53] He has filled and satisfied the hungry with good things and the rich He has sent away empty-handed [without a gift]”  (Luke 1:52-53).

If you are unsure of yourself and aware of your failures, you’re just the sort of person God can use.  Let Him speak to your spirit and tell you what He wants you to do in any situation that arises.  Ask Him to EMPOWER you for the task.  Then look for Him to speak to you with the sorts of words He spoke to GIDEON; in the FIRST PERSON; surrounding Gideon’s ego with His ego: “I AM with you, you mighty man of courage; you warrior.”

STARTING WHERE YOU ARE:

Before God sends GIDEON off to fight the Midianites, He gives him a task to fulfill at home.  FIRST, he has to go and remove the source of idolatry that is polluting his home town.  As much as it seems, Gideon’s family may have been followers of the Lord, but they had become POLLUTED by the pagan worship of their neighbors.

A similar thing has happened in our world.  Not that we have shrines to our gods like they did.  Nor do we make regular sacrifices to the gods of our culture.  Our gods are a bit more SUBTLE:

1.  “gods” of consumerism and affluence.

2.  “gods” of pleasure and ease.

3.  “gods” of economics and politics and more!

All to often, Christians are as much caught up in these pursuits as the rest of the world.  So it wouldn’t hurt us to look at our own home town situation from time to time.  The way GIDEON was called to see if there are THINGS we need to clean up in our own lives before going off fighting the enemies of the Lord.

IT WASN’T AN EASY THING FOR GIDEON TO DO.

But he did it!  Even if it was with the help of 10 of his friends; even in the darkness of night, just in case someone caught him at it.  I get the feeling here that an GIDEON-like individual is the sort of person, when challenged to speak to someone about JESUS, does it by dropping a gospel tract inside of a DVD rental from Blockbuster when returning it to the store; hoping someone who rents it next, will read it.  That is my confession by the way.  I just did that last week.

But despite the TIMIDITY of GIDEON’S actions, look at the effect it has on his father (Judges 6:30-31).  It’s as though his father had been waiting for someone to step up to the plate about these idols.  PERHAPS, timidity was a family trait!  But in either case, Gideon’s actions reawakened Joash’s devotion to the Lord.

So God tells GIDEON to start at home for a number of reasons.  ONE is to clean-up their own act first, before they START THE BATTLE.  Another is to show him he isn’t alone!

There are others you run into every day that certainly CARE about serving God.  THIRDLY, it shows him in a small way, when he ACTS, God will bring him success.

A GIFT FROM GOD – THE SECRET DISCOVERED:

Here in this passage of Scripture, we discover the SECRET of great heroes of the Bible.  What is it that made them great?  Was it their own NATURAL ABILITY, their EXPERTISE they learned from good teachers and mentors?  Was it in their TRAINING?

Leadership EXPERTS [by the way, I’ve NEVER met an EXPERT], will tell you these sorts of things today.  And some may be true up to a point.  But none of them is the CRITICAL FACTOR!  The REAL SECRET is, God CHOOSES to equip each one of us in special ways for His work:

“Then all the Midianites and Amalekites and the people of the east came together and, crossing the Jordan, encamped in the Valley of Jezreel.  [34] But the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon with Himself and took possession of him, and he blew a trumpet, and [the clan of] Abiezer was gathered to him”  (Judges 6:33-34).

Suddenly the timid, scared little man becomes a powerful leader of his people.  He blows the trumpet and 32,000 men come out to fight with him.  So what’s the difference?  I love the way the Amplified Bible says in verse 34, “But the Spirit of the Lord CLOTHED Gideon with Himself and took possession of him.”  Can you visualize the EMPOWERMENT?  I sure can.  Let’s don’t miss the FACT that the same spirit EMPOWERS us today. He is on us, in us and around us!  JESUS tells His disciples,

“However, I am telling you nothing but the truth when I say it is profitable (good, expedient, advantageous) for you that I go away.  Because if I do not go away, the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you [into close fellowship with you]; but if I go away, I will send Him to you.  [8] And when He comes, He will convict and convince the world and bring demonstration to it about sin and about righteousness and about judgement;  [9] About sin, because they do not believe in Me;  [10] About righteousness (uprightness of heart and right standing with God), because I go to My Father, and you will see Me no longer;  [11] About judgement, because the ruler (evil genius, prince) of this world [Satan] is judged and condemned and sentenced already is passed upon him”  (John 16:7-11 AMP).

AND HE SAID: 

“I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, if anyone steadfastly believes in Me, he will himself be able to do the things that I do, and he will do even greater things than these, because I go to the Father”  (John 14:12).

HE SAID:

“But you shall receive power (ability, efficiency, and might) when the Holy spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends (the very bounds) of the earth”  (Acts 1:8 AMP).

If you are worried about being up to the challenge, of being a disciple of JESUS, take courage.  The example of GIDEON, the mighty warrior; mighty only because God’s might and power enabled him to do great things.

SO WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM GIDEON’S STORY?

There are of course some obvious parallels aren’t there?  We too have to battle to fight against God’s enemies; against the idolatry of our world; against the powers of darkness that oppose the Church at every turn; against forces that oppose truth and righteousness.

So what can we learn from GIDEON?  To me it is the importance of recognizing the personal calling of God.  Let’s be aware that each one of us has been CALLED BY GOD.  To a LIFE OF DISCIPLESHIP, a life of SERVICE to the living God that will find its ‘outworking’ in different ways for each of us.  But the CALL is just as REAL for each of us despite any differences.

WE NEED TO LEARN to BEGIN where we are.  There is no use to try to fix the world’s problems if our own home is polluted with sin.  Next, as the Lord EQUIPS us for the task, with His POWER and not our own; ask Him to fill you with His Spirit.  So you and I can know what to do and where to go.  And as long as you’re asking, ask Him for the ASSURANCE that only His Spirit can give.

Finally, let’s LEARN to TRUST GOD more!  It is an important lesson to learn when you’re part of a small church.  Equally important lesson is to KNOW it individually when you are living and working in a world that is opposed to the gospel message.  That the BATTLE is His and we don’t NEED superior ‘fire power’ of our own doing.  Not when God is fighting alongside of us.

As Paul says in Romans 8: ‘Ig God is with us, who can be against us?’  Recognize God’s call; clean up your own act first, then TRUST God to give you what you need for the VICTORY!

I hope that you have enjoyed the study of GIDEON in The Book of Judges as much as I have.  Be sure to read the rest of the GIDEON STORY, for there are many other parallels and truths to discover.

.