I love the story of Gideon from the Old Testament book of Judges. Here’s a guy in the midst of severe oppression, who sees himself as being in a place of no hope and no chance of turnaround. Until one day when God shows up and says “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Now if Gideon was actually a mighty warrior, that might make more sense. But when we find Gideon, he’s actually hiding from his enemies doing everything he can to keep them from stealing his lunch. And according to Gideon, he’s the least important member of the least important family in all of Israel. Not exactly “mighty warrior” material.
Eventually God uses Gideon in an amazing way. He leads an army of 300 against an army of 135,000 and defeats them soundly. It’s a remarkable story. But what really stands out to me the most in this story are the two questions Gideon has for God. I think they stand out the most to me because the resonate so much with me. I know I’ve asked them many times myself.
When the angel of the Lord greets Gideon with the whole “mighty warrior” business, Gideon responds like most of us would:
13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
Why? Why would God allow this to happen? Why do I see such inconsistency between what should be and what actually is? We’ve all been there. Why is my relationship falling apart? Why would you let me get sick? Why is there such injustice in the world? Why aren’t you providing a job for me?
Gideon’s questions is more statement than question right? It’s an indictment of God. He’s basically saying, God if what you are saying is true then you need to do something to prove it to me. You need to show me this is real.
And so God responds:
14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
God’s response essentially affirms Gideon’s complaint. He says, yeah you know what Gideon – someone should do something about this. How about you? Go in the strength you have and be the answer to your own question.
Which leads to the second question.
15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
When God points the finger back at Gideon his response is “how?” How in the world can I – the weakest of the weak – do anything about this? I’ve asked the same question so many times. In the process of planting a church, I’ve probably asked God a hundred times the “how” question. I’ve come to realize that the answer to that question is above my pay grade. I don’t get to know the plan before I take the next step. And either does Gideon. God tells him:
16 The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.
God’s answer? I’ll be with you. That’s all the “how” you need to know. That’s tough for me to hear. It would be so much easier if God dropped the answers out of the sky in a nice step by step pamphlet. It would be great if we were given the steps in a dream. But generally speaking, all we get is the confidence and assurance that God will be with us.
The reality of following Jesus is that He will often call ordinary people like you and me to do extraordinary things. He puts burdens on our hearts that cause us to ask the “WHY” question. And once we begin to understand our role in tackling that burden, He answers our “HOW” question with His presence.
Whatever burden is on your heart today, whatever cause or person or issue troubles you and causes you to ask “why?” – may you find the courage to “go in the strength you have.” And may you find God’s presence to be all the “how” you need.
*For more on this subject, check out this sermon: http://www.storychurch.org/wp-content/uploads/sermons/Underdogs04.mp3