In today’s society, success is usually thought to be determined by degree or pedigree. I am here to tell you that neither of those things are absolute qualifiers for success. When Paul spoke to the church in Corinth, he reminded them that few of them were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called them. He further went on to say that God often chooses the “things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful,” (1Corinthians 1:26-26, NLT). Now, this is not to say that there isn’t a value to education, for we know that God honors those who seek knowledge, counsel and wisdom. It is simply to say that our circumstances do not disqualify us from being great. Look at Gideon.
Too often God places a dream on our heart, and we erroneously think that we need an ensemble team to bring the vision to fruition. We are inclined to decline opportunities because we think that we lack the skills needed to accomplish the task. In the Old Testament, Moses tried to hand over the opportunity to lead the Israelites out of bondage to Aaron because he thought that being a successful leader was directly correlated to an ability to speak well. Fortunately, God is more interested in using those who can walk the walk rather than those who talk the talk. So how does that tie into the story of Gideon?
God had called Gideon to defeat the Midianites. Like many of us, Gideon doubted that God could really use him to do something so extraordinary. Thankfully, what Gideon soon came to realize was that his weakness was inversely proportional to God’s strength. In other words, he realized that when he was weak, God was strong, and it was that epiphany that allowed him to grow in strength.
Prior to battling the Midianites, Gideon had 32,000 men. God told him to send home those who were fearful. Twenty-two thousand men left. Gideon was left with an army of 10,000. Still God was unsatisfied. He ordered Gideon to bring the men to the stream and “[d]ivide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream,” (NLT). There were three hundred men that drank from their hand. Finally, God was satisfied. With a total of 300 men, God delivered the Midianites into the hands of the Israelites (Judges 7).
The story of Gideon serves as an amazing demonstration of God’s ability to elevate us above our circumstances. In the natural, there was no way that Gideon could have defeated an entire army with only 300 men. However, God reduced the size of Gideon’s army so that He would receive the glory. The first lesson that you and I should learn from Gideon is that when we are called to do the impossible with only a skeletal crew, it’s not because God is punishing us. It’s simply because He wants us, and others, to know that success is not based on a formula, but is predetermined by God. The second lesson to be learned from Gideon is that not everyone in our camp is destined or willing to fight. Know that the dream that God gave us was given to us. Not everyone in our camp is meant to go with us to battle. In order to achieve victory, sometimes, we have to get rid of those who are stumbling blocks. In the case of Gideon, had God not gotten rid of those who were “timid or afraid,” it might have cost them the battle. Under pressure, those eliminated individuals might have surrendered or betrayed their camp. The third lesson to be learned from Gideon is that when God gives us a dream, it’s better to have a faithful few than a lazy bunch. Those who drank from their hands proved to be hard workers and go-getters. They didn’t just kneel at the stream and waited for the water to flow into their mouths. They took the initiative. We want people in our camps that take initiative. The last lesson that we learned from Gideon is a little off topic, but equally important.
The Bible says that God will make our enemies our footstool (Luke 20:43). We should know that oftentimes, God will use our very enemies to announce our victory. In the case of Gideon, God used the Midianites to announce the Israelites’ victory:
The Midianite camp was in the valley just below Gideon. 9That night the Lord said, “Get up! Go down into the Midianite camp, for I have given you victory over them! 10 But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah. 11 Listen to what the Midianites are saying, and you will be greatly encouraged. Then you will be eager to attack.”
So Gideon took Purah and went down to the edge of the enemy camp. 12 The armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east had settled in the valley like a swarm of locusts. Their camels were like grains of sand on the seashore—too many to count! 13 Gideon crept up just as a man was telling his companion about a dream. The man said, “I had this dream, and in my dream a loaf of barley bread came tumbling down into the Midianite camp. It hit a tent, turned it over, and knocked it flat!”
14 His companion answered, “Your dream can mean only one thing—God has given Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite, victory over Midian and all its allies!”
15 When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship before the Lord. Then he returned to the Israelite camp and shouted, “Get up! For the Lord has given you victory over the Midianite hordes,” (Judges 7:8-15, NLT)!
Know today that God has called each and every one of us for something great. If God can use flawed individuals such as Moses, Gideon, David, Ruth, and Esther, imagine what He could do with us.