The Great Diminish

The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many people for Me to hand the Midianites over to you, or else Israel might brag: ‘I did it myself.'” – Judges 7:2

It is a familiar story to almost anyone who has attended Vacation Bible School or Sunday School. Fearful Gideon led a meager army of 300 to defeat a pagan horde numbering over 100,000 with nothing more than some pots, torches, and shouts. Samson was renowned for his strength and David for his sling, but Gideon had little more than an obedient (though at first, reluctant) spirit. Even so, that was all God needed to accomplish His purpose.

One would have thought that the Almighty might have made some attempt to shore up the courage of Gideon, but instead He revealed that trust was a greater asset in the fight. When Job lacked courage in his “battle,” he still trusted the Lord and it is apparent that God needed Gideon to trust Him against the Midianites.

It must be the same with each of us. The Lord will most likely “diminish” our resources as we face the individual challenges of this life, but He does so for a reason. Ultimately, we must come to trust His strength rather than our own. Courage is valuable, but trusting obedience is where the victory is first gained.

Talk what we will of faith, but if we do not trust and rely upon Him, we do not believe in Him. – Antony Farindon

Stop

“Stop [your fighting] — and know that I am God, exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth.” – Psalm 46:10

Why is it necessary for us to “stop our fighting” in order to know God’s power and presence in our lives? The Lord certainly wants us to exert ourselves in His service, but can this effort (no matter how feeble) also blind us to His involvement?

Let me illustrate it this way. Have you ever been on a moving sidewalk? With just a little effort on your part, you can speed your way through an airport and past your fellow travelers. One can’t help but feel a little more powerful and perhaps even a little smarter in the process. You might even … for a moment … forget that the true power is in the sidewalk itself. Of course, the moment that you stop walking you realize just the opposite. It really wasn’t you.

We need to make it a regular practice to stop and rest in the power of God. If not, we should not be surprised if God applies the brakes Himself. Independence is a dangerous attribute and leads to idolatry. Yet, when we stop striving, we know Him … acknowledge Him … and ultimately, worship Him.

In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you. – Leo Tolstoy

Short-Sighted

“Look,” said Esau, “I’m about to die, so what good is a birthright to me?” – Genesis 25:32

In spite of what you may have heard, being “short-sighted” is not a malady that affects whose who, like myself, are vertically-challenged. In fact, it is more a condition that affects those who are “eternally-challenged.” Esau is a great example. When he traded his rights as the first-born son of Isaac to his brother Jacob for a pot of stew, Esau allowed his immediate need to cloud his future plans. He was short-sighted in that he neglected to weigh the effects of his selfish decision upon his future descendants.

It is truly unfortunate when short-sightedness seems to pervade leadership decisions in a country, organization, or church, but we have to admit that it is just the logical outcome of the mindset of those who allow them to serve. So many people want it all NOW and are willing to trade tomorrow for a “pot of stew” today.

Even so, a failed entity is not the worst outcome of this disease. Short-sightedness is most devastating when a desire for immediate gratification so blinds a person to the truth that it leads them to ignore an eternity that is certainly to come.

Upon a life I did not live, upon a death I did not die; another’s life, another’s death, I stake my whole eternity. – Horatio Bonar

A Dangerous Relaxation

… he told her the whole truth and said to her, “My hair has never been cut, because I am a Nazirite to God from birth.  If I am shaved, my strength will leave me, and I will become weak and be like any other man.” – Judges 16:17

A mistaken assumption couched within the myth that surrounds an unbiblical view of Samson is that his strength somehow lay within the length of his hair. Of course, it did not. Samson’s supernatural might rested with a transcendent God and it was simply a gift for his use as long as he remained consecrated or dedicated to the purposes of the Almighty. Even though Samson did not cut his own hair or make a conscious decision to reject his anointed position in God’s service, he obviously took that position for granted and when he let his guard down his strength departed.

Your strength … my strength … our strength as Christ-followers rests with Him. Though we may not consciously reject our anointed position in God’s service, we may take it for granted … and the moment we do, our strength departs. Diligence in the presence of a persistent enemy is a necessary defense against such a formidable thief and our greatest assurance that we can remain strong in God’s might and dedicated to His purposes. On the other hand, relaxation in such matters can be devastatingly dangerous.

If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted?  But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it. – God to Cain (before he murdered Abel)

Pleasing to All

Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves. – Romans 15:1

One theme that Paul pursues in his letter to the church at Rome concerns the strength that true freedom in Christ supplies to the ardent disciple. The Apostle taught that we are all free (in Christ) to ignore the rules and regulations of legalism (in his case, Judaism) and that this freedom was a great asset in the service of Christ’s kingdom. In his case, Paul emphasized that this freedom gave him the ability to move between cultures and, as he put it, “be all things to all men that by all means he might save some.”

At the same time, Paul was convinced that his freedom came with an obligation. Understanding that such freedom could produce its own brand of religious piety and superiority, which would run contrary to the Spirit of Christ, he could never allow it to become a license to offend. In fact, such freedom should at times be limited … or at least gently applied … when in the presence of those whose faith is still bound by their tradition.

Paul’s message should be received by all those who share in Christ’s Kingdom. Be pleasing to all without displeasing God.

Christianity, godliness, is far more than a checklist. Being “in Christ” is a relationship, and like all relationships it deserves disciplined maintenance, but never legalistic reductionism. – R. Kent Hughes