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Posted in: Big Faith, Overcoming, Know God

09.06.23 ( Jeff Vines )

Faith Builders

(An Excerpt from the Sermon)

Sermon Series: UnPossible

Gideon faced an impossible situation. A situation he detested, one that he resented. He had little to no courage to face it. He's like many of us, if we're honest: spiritual wimps. We talk a really good game, when it's in somebody else's life. But when the enemy starts coming down the mountain into our valley to destroy us, most of us spiritually melt, including me, including all of us. I just turned 59 last Tuesday and I asked myself the question: why am I no better at this now than I was in my twenties? Because, when difficult things strike our lives, when tragedies come in, whatever it is, what do we do? How do we respond?

Our first inclination is not by faith, it's just not. We could lose our job, get bad news from the doctor, be estranged from our kids, tragedy, whatever it is, we start losing sleep, our thoughts are dominated by the unfortunate events. We think about it all the time. In the shower when we're getting ready for the day or it wakes us up in the middle of the night. We're possessed by the thought of what might happen rather than what is going on right now. We become crushed by the uncertainty. We are Gideon. 

Here's why we're going to do this over the next few weeks: Gideon experiences one of the greatest victories in Israel's history, which tells me that if he can, then we can. Then we ask: how did he do it? The answer is simple. God trained him to think and respond differently to the tragedies of his life.

I don't mean subtle differences, I mean life altering, life transitional ways of thinking and responding to the impossible situations in our lives. Unpossible, incapable of rising above or succeeding. Again, I'm talking about the real world here. That's why I want to take the time to make sure you know what we're talking about. If we're going to come to these answers, if we're going to be productive, if we're going to determine our destination through the responses that we exhibit when these trials come into our lives, no matter what they are, I'm talking about the real world. When we lose our job and wonder how we're going to feed our family, when we're betrayed by someone we felt close to, when we lose someone we love so dearly, when Mr. Right becomes Mr. Wrong, when the doctor comes back with the big C word, the word cancer, when depression overwhelms us, when anxiety wrecks us to the point of constant fear and worry and doubt, and then finally robs us of our ability to function daily, when our children become estranged, when our families break up and destroy the things we treasure so dearly, when everything we thought we knew is turned on its head and suddenly we feel we can't hope or trust in anything or anyone anymore.

That's real life right there. How do we face it? 

I'm telling you that it does not have to be this way for us. We've got to get better at this. I've got to get better at this. Here is what the Lord has shown me through the word in Judges 6:1-6, in the life of Gideon. God shows us seven resolutions that lead ultimately to our flourishing. I'm saying to you that if you will come on this journey with me and you will wake up every day allowing these resolutions to govern the way you live and the manner in which you respond to every circumstance, no matter how big or small, every unfortunate event that comes into your life, everything that you'd rather not deal with, if you learn to respond to it in a different way by these seven resolutions, the good, the bad, the fortunate, the unfortunate, the possible, the impossible, the following things are going to happen:

Your countenance will be constantly lifted. You'll become an incredible optimist. Nothing will discourage you for any significant length of time. Now we're human, we're going to have bad days, we're going to be discouraged, but not for any significant length of time. You're going to live with a centralized joy, an overarching hope in the power and the presence of God. Greater still, you're going to be so overwhelmed by the feeling that God is near when you live by these seven resolutions, that you're going to be constantly moving beyond mere knowledge of God into existentially experiencing God and knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that God is near. When you become that kind of person, most people around you are going to be in awe of you and they're going to want to know your secret. 

Here is the first resolution, Resolution One: I will see the unfortunate events of my life as faith builders leading to the greatest accomplishments of my life. 

Make a commitment to live by this first resolution. I will see every unfortunate event, the unfortunate events of my life, as faith builders leading to the greatest accomplishments of my life. In Judges 6, we meet Gideon. He's anxious, depressed, with little hope of recovery. He lives in a time when Israel, his people, and himself, have abandoned God. Let me give you the summary of Gideon's time, in Judges 6:1-6, “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds.

Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count them or their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help.” A summary of the manner in which Israel is living in the day of the judges, especially Gideon, is summarized in Judges 21:25, “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” So here we are, think about what Gideon is facing according to the narrative. At every harvest time the Midianites are just waiting for the crops to ripen and then they come down out of the mountains.

They're too numerous to count, which means you look out and all you see are Midianites and they destroy and burn all the crops. So they're trying to commit genocide, not by warfare, but by simply exterminating through starvation. They don't want to enter into a battle, they don't want to fight, even though it's difficult to see why not – because they significantly overpowered the Israelites, I mean we're talking about 135,000 according to the texts that we'll get into later. There's 135,000 well-trained Midianite warriors, and you only have about 32,000 Israelite farmers at this point. That's better than a four to one odds. They're warriors versus farmers who don't know how to fight. Gideon looks at this and says, where on earth is God? What happened to that great God of Israel who opened the Red Sea for His people and who fell the walls of Jericho?

Then we're told in Judges 6:11-12, “The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.’” Now think about what we're told here. Gideon is not a man of courage. He's terrified. All the people, when the Midianites come down, nobody stands up to fight. They all hide in caves and holes and behind the rocks waiting for the Midianites to ravage the land before they can return to their homes. Gideon is in the wine press trying to save the wine and the grapes with one eye looking probably over the wall, waiting for the Midianites to come. He lives in total fear and it's at this moment, with one eye on the task and one eye over the wall looking for the enemy, that the angel of the Lord–basically it means the Lord Himself – shows up and says ‘O valiant warrior.” In verse 13, Gideon replies, “‘If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all His wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.’” 

Now think about this. What is Gideon saying? 

Gideon said, look, God, what gives? Now what I like about this is that Gideon and his people are in this situation because of years of total disobedience to the precepts of God. Now, if you and I were God, we would probably say to Gideon, “Why are you in this situation? You want the truth? You can't handle the truth.” You've been doing evil for the last seven years. Idol worship, adultery, no gratitude for the promised land. You've lived with a sense of entitlement. You only come to Me when things are bad. Worship and My precepts have become an inconvenience to you. You're distracted by all the milk and honey that comes from My hand, and yet there's no gratitude or generosity. And by the way, what about the Ashtaroth pole and the statue of Baal? In Judges 6:25b, God says to Gideon, “Tear down your father's altar to Baal and cut down the Ashtaroth pole beside it. Then build a proper kind of altar to the Lord your God on top of this height.” And they wonder why things aren't going well. Yet, notice that God does not say to Gideon, let's talk about your sin. 

Isn't that amazing? God doesn't go there.

He simply says to Gideon, do you want out or not? I mean this is amazing to me. It's like God says to Gideon, it's not about your sin right now. It's not. You prayed, I'm here. Do you want out or not? 

God seldom tells you everything you did wrong to get where you are. It's almost like He's not interested in that, at that moment. He's always interested in repentance, but at this moment, sometimes your desert experience has nothing to do with your sin, but more to do with God's glory. 

God, if He's going to use you for extraordinary things, has to go into a season where He builds your faith and trust in Him, because the battles you're going to face in your life, you're not going to win them without Him. He's got to get you to a point where you're not putting your faith and trust in you but your faith and trust in Him. The victory, the battle belongs to the Lord. God nowhere reprimands Gideon and was very compassionate in giving what his faithlessness requested.

The reason is that God needs to build Gideon's faith and trust. Desert life is always a training ground. The reason for this is that it is not God's purpose or plan that any of us should live a mediocre spiritual life. No way. God never planned for us just to get saved. We're going to receive Christ, get into the water, come out and then… mediocrity? 

No. Our entire life is a bootcamp where God is training us to accomplish extravagant, extraordinary things. 

Now the question is, if God is preparing Gideon to slay a giant, how does God prepare us for a giant killing? Do you remember what happened when Saul asked the shepherd boy, David, what makes you think you can go up against this well-trained warrior giant of a man, Goliath, and win? Here's David, the Shepherd boy's response in 1 Samuel 17:37, “‘The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine.’ And Saul said to David, ‘Go, and the Lord be with you!’” What's David saying? David's saying, God has prepared me for this day. He gave me victory over the lion. He gave me victory over the bear. This was my bootcamp. This is my training ground. I have slain lesser enemies and now I'm ready to slay the big one. 

Can I just tell you part of the reason that God allows these unfortunate events into our lives is because we have to deal with the idols in our lives. We have to deal with the things we put our trust in. God has to strip those away so that, ultimately, our trust, our faith is in God. When our ultimate faith and trust is in God and what He's doing, in any event, no matter how unfortunate, that's when, in our weakness, we become strong.

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About the Author
Pastor Jeff Vines is the Lead Pastor of ONE&ALL Church. He spent twenty years on the mission field (Zimbabwe, New Zealand) planting churches and training leaders. Jeff is the author of Dinner with SKEPTICS: Defending God in a World that Makes No Sense (2008, 2011) and Unbroken: 8 Enduring Promises God Will Keep (2012). Jeff and his wife, Robin, have been married over 30 years and enjoy life with their kids Delaney & Sian, their daughter-in-law Jessica and sweet grandchildren Ada, Owen, & Layla.

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