April 29, 2018
Pastor Jeff Struecker
When you get a wrong call on your cell phone, how many of you hang on and try to explain to them that they got the wrong number? How many of you just flat out hang up and don’t even give him the time of the day when you get the wrong call? I’ll tell you a true story. When Dawn and I were newly married, we lived in an apartment here in town, and we had an old phone. We didn’t have a rotary dial on our phone, but it was pretty old, and our phone number was like one digit off from Domino’s Pizza.
I’m not joking; that phone rang all day long. But here’s the crazy thing. You can think I’m making this up. Ask Dawn yourself. Our phone number was also about one digit off from Greyhound. So that means that we got about 30 phone calls a day, and there were 15 phone calls where people were ordering pepperoni pizzas and about 15 phone calls where somebody wanted to know how much tickets were to Birmingham. Our friends didn’t call, our family didn’t call, work didn’t call. But that phone never stopped ringing.
So, one day (I don’t know what I was thinking), but one day when the phone rang, I made the decision to answer it like this: “This is Domino’s Pizza. How can I help you?” Y’all, that was a huge mistake because here’s what happened. I’ll never forget it. I get into an argument with this guy on the phone because I was like, “Hey man, I’m just joking with you. You got the wrong number.” He’s like, “No, I called the pizza place. You picked up the phone and said ‘Domino’s Pizza’. This is the right number.” And the guy wouldn’t let go. He wouldn’t let it go. So, I hung up on him. He got mad and he called right back, and now we’re back on the phone again having this discussion about whether or not this is really Domino’s Pizza. I thought to myself, “Never again.” In fact, as soon as we moved we said, “We’re changing this phone number. This is crazy.”
Now when you get that automated robo-call on your cell phone that says, “Congratulations, you just won the grand prize. You’ve just been selected for this amazing offer,” be honest; how many of you just hang up right in the middle of that call? They don’t even get to the end of the sentence. Let me ask you a question: What if that offer was true? What if that phone call really was true, and you just hung up on it? Would that be any different? Would you treat that phone call any different? -because here’s what we’re going to hear from the Bible today. We’re going to hear about a guy who gets a call from God, gets a call to do something crazy, and frankly, I’m convinced he’s ready to hang up. But instead of hanging up, a guy by the name of Gideon takes the phone call and does what the Lord asks him to do, and God uses this man in incredible ways.
I. Jesus calls you to tackle God-sized tasks
We’re in a sermon series looking at men and women from the Bible who have risked it all for their faith, and one of the guys you cannot miss as you look at examples like this in the Bible is a guy by the name of Gideon. So, we’re going to start back in the book of Judges, and we’re going to take a look at what happens when God first shows up on the scene to this guy by the name of Gideon. I want to remind you of what we’re saying about this whole sermon series. It boils down into this one phrase: If you want God-size rewards, if you want great rewards, you’ve got to be willing to take God-size risks.
You’ve got to be willing to take great risks, and here’s what you’re going to learn as you follow along with me from the Bible about Gideon today. The first thing, if we’re looking at life from Gideon’s perspective, Jesus, when he calls you, he doesn’t call you to do the ordinary stuff; he calls you to tackle the extraordinary. He calls you and challenges you to do God-size tasks, and that’s exactly what God does when he shows up to Gideon back and Judges chapter 6. Here’s how the story begins for us in verse 11:
The angel of the Lord came, and he sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash, the Abiezrite. His son Gideon was threshing wheat in the winepress in order to hide it from the Midianites. 12 Then the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said: “The Lord is with you, valiant warrior.” 13 Gideon said to him, “Please, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened? And where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about? They said, ‘Hasn’t the Lord brought us out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to Midian.” 14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and deliver Israel from the grasp of Midian. I am sending you!”
I probably should explain the phrase “hiding it from the Midianites” to you. Something really bad is going on in Israel. Gideon’s just a farmer. He’s a rancher, and the nation of Israel has been overrun. They have been oppressed by these people called the Midianites, and it’s so bad that the farmers, when they bring the wheat in or the ranchers, when they take care of the sheep or the cattle, they have to do it in secret. They have to hide it because their whole nation is under the oppression of this foreign army called Midian. That’s what’s going on when God shows up to meet this guy by the name of Gideon. Look at the first word that’s out of Gideon’s mouth when God meets with him.
When God first shows up on the scene, it’s a real mess for Israel, and Gideon is in the middle of this oppression from this foreign army by the name of the Midianites, and Gideon wants to know, “God, if you really are who you say you are, you tell me why is it this bad.” God could have given Gideon the simple one-word answer to this question. The one-word answer to the question is, it’s because of sin. Go back and read the beginning of the book of Judges today, and here’s the pathetic cycle that you’re going to see over and over again from the book of Judges: God blesses Israel, things get really good for them. Israel gets fat and happy, and they decide, “We don’t need God anymore.” In fact, they start to turn to other gods. They rebel, they get into sin against God, and because God loves his people and he doesn’t just let them die and go straight to Hell in their sin, God sends something to make life miserable for Israel.
Sometimes it’s plagues; sometimes it’s famine; sometimes it’s an invading army, and the Midianites have invaded Israel over and over again. It doesn’t happen once. It happens over and over again in the book of Judges. When life gets rough, they fall on their knees and say, “God, I’m sorry. Please forgive us.” And God raises up a superhero (the Bible calls them judges) to rescue to deliver Israel. That “God, I’m sorry. God, forgive me”, that’s what the Bible calls genuine repentance. That’s what it looks like when somebody is at the soul-level ready to surrender to Jesus, ready to surrender to God.
This is exactly what’s happening when Midian takes over and oppresses Israel, and now God is going to raise up a judge by the name of Gideon, and God calls him a valiant warrior. But when we first see Gideon, he’s anything but a great general. He is anything but a courageous warrior, and God says, “Gideon, I’ve got a message for you. I’m going to send you to rescue my people. You are my guy who’s going to deliver not just your family, but the entire nation of Israel. Gideon’s name, by the way, means the one who cuts down, and God is saying, “Gideon, I’m going to use you to cut the Midianites down to rescue my people Israel.”
Do you know that God is still in the business of making calls like this on people’s lives? -calling you to do something extraordinary, not just ordinary. He’s calling on you to do stuff today like he called on Gideon to do back in the book of Judges. -to do God-size tasks. And let’s just be honest, y’all. It’s terrifying when you get that call, but be careful that you don’t hang up too soon, because you just might miss out on God’s plan for you or for your family. God is still calling, and he’s still sending people today. He’s still sending you to reach people, to build them up, and to send them out until the whole world has heard about King Jesus.
II. Jesus goes into the fight with you
Let me tell you what happens next in this scene between God and Gideon. First, God calls Gideon or calls us to some God-size task, and from Gideon’s perspective, this is totally crazy. So, God has to remind him of something, and here’s the truth (when Jesus calls you to something crazy, you need to remember this too): It’s not like he’s going to leave you alone. He’s going to go with you every step of the way. Every second, he will be with you in the middle of this battle, in the middle of this fight, and frankly, that should make all of the difference. Judges chapter 6 verse 15:
He said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I deliver Israel? Look, my family is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s family.” 16 “But I will be with you,” the Lord said to him. “You will strike Midian down as if it were one man.”
He was saying, “God, you’ve got the wrong guy. All of the odds are stacked against me, and you want me to go to war against Midian? -who’s defeated our entire army, our whole nation?” Here’s God’s response to him: “Gideon, you will be so successful when you go to battle, it will be like you’re fighting against one man, and here’s the truth: It’s because of me that you’re going to be this successful.”
What God originally challenges Gideon to do is, get in and take all of your resource, take all of your strength, you go out to battle, and I’m going to use you to defeat your nation’s enemies. And Gideon says, “Yeah God, you’ve got the wrong guy.” -and sometimes you may feel exactly like Gideon when the Holy Spirit is poking you in the chest and he’s challenging you to do something that’s frankly terrifying. Maybe it’s to forgive somebody who’s just done you really, really wrong. Or maybe God is convicting you that you need to let go of that pain that you’ve been hanging on to for a long, long time. Maybe he’s asking you to make a life change. Maybe he’s calling on you to go share your faith with somebody who’s really intimidating like a college professor or your boss at work and you’re freaking out about it right now, and he’s also telling you, “But by the way, I’m not sending you by yourself. I’m right there with you. I got your back. I’m going to be with you every step of the way. Every second, I’m going to be with you. In fact, Gideon, you’re going to be so successful, it will be like you’re fighting against a one-man army.”
Y’all, here’s what I’m trying to get you to understand: When God calls you, it’s often terrifying, especially if he’s asking you to do some God-sized task, but I want you to hear this clearly from me. I don’t want you to forget that when God calls you to do something crazy, don’t hang up on him, because you just might miss the greatest ride of your life. You just might miss the wildest ride of your life if you hang up the phone when God’s calling on you to do something awesome.
In fact, I’d like for you to write that sentence down to remind yourself when you’re placed in this intense situation. When God calls me to do something crazy, he doesn’t leave me by myself. He doesn’t leave me alone and ask me to handle it by myself. It might seem crazy, but if you take the call, it might also be the greatest ride of your life. It might be the best thing that’s ever happened to you.
Maybe he’s going to ask you to sell your business, sell all of your possessions, go overseas and spend the rest of your life reaching the nations for Jesus. Take that call. Maybe he’s going to ask you to move away from the children and the grandchildren and go with a team of people and plant a church on the other side of America. Take that call. It will be the greatest ride of your life. Maybe he’s going to ask you to downsize and to move into a small house here in the Chattahoochee Valley in the worst neighborhood in our city. Take that call. It’s going to be a wild ride, but he says, “I’m going to be with you every second of the day if you’ll just follow me, follow my lead, and when I do this in your life, you can’t possibly take the credit.”
III. Jesus gets the credit
Because here’s the truth: When God is about to work through Gideon, he’s going to work through Gideon in such a way that Gideon can’t get the credit for it. Only God gets the credit. When Jesus calls on you to do some God-sized task, then Jesus gets the credit for that task as well.
If you’re in sales, let me ask you this: Let’s say that you’re selling a product and you get paid by commission, right? So, you’re selling this really bad product and you’re selling this really bad product at a really high price, and you’re trying to sell it to somebody who just doesn’t need it in the first place. You ought to be ashamed of yourself if you make that sale. But let’s say you’re selling the best product out there. Let’s say you’re selling it at a better price than anybody else can offer it, and you’re selling to somebody who desperately needs it. If you make that sale, you ought to feel really good about yourself because you just connected somebody with the best product at the best price. It was something that they really need, and you ought to take that commission and feel really good about yourself. But can I ask you this question? Do you really deserve the credit for that sale? -because it was actually the product and the price that made the sale. You were just the middleman that connected the product and the price with the right person.
That’s what the Christian message is all about. It’s the Gospel of Jesus Christ that radically changes people’s lives, and when somebody around me is impacted by that, I don’t get the credit for that. It’s Jesus who rightly gets all of the credit for that, and when God asks you to do something crazy, something amazing, it may be so outrageous that only he gets the credit for it. If we were to skip forward one chapter in the book of Judges, it goes from being just a little bit out of the ordinary to, “Okay God, you just crossed over bridge this is now insane in what you’re asking me to do.” Judges chapter 7, verse 2:
The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many troops for me to hand the Midianites over to them, or else Israel might elevate themselves over me and say,D ‘My own strength saved me.’ Now announce to the troops: ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’ ” So twenty-two thousand of the troops turned back, but ten thousand remained. 4 Then the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many troops. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there. If I say to you, ‘This one can go with you,’ he can go. But if I say about anyone, ‘This one cannot go with you,’ he cannot go.” 5 So he brought the troops down to the water, and the Lord said to Gideon, “Separate everyone who laps water with his tongue like a dog. Do the same with everyone who kneels to drink.” 6 The number of those who lapped with their hands to their mouths was three hundred men, and all the rest of the troops knelt to drink water. 7 The Lord said to Gideon, “I will deliver you with the three hundred men who lapped and hand the Midianites over to you. But everyone else is to go home.” 8 So Gideon sent all the Israelites to their tents but kept the three hundred troops, who took the provisions and their trumpets. The camp of Midian was below him in the valley.
Uh, when you’re going to battle, this is life and death. It’s natural for you to be scared. I mean, there’s something psychologically wrong if you go off the war and you’re not afraid about the circumstances, about how this thing is going to unfold. But what you’re seeing from the Bible, this isn’t rational fear. This is the kind of fear that they’re so terrified that they’re paralyzed by fear. When the bullets start flying, they’re not going to be able to react. So, God says, “Hey Gideon, I want you to thin the herd, and here’s how you do it. Just simply ask them, ‘Hey, raise your hand if you’re scared.’” And 22,000 out of 32,000 warriors to say, “Yeah, I’m freaking out right now.” And Gideon says, “You all can go home.”
Now we’ve got a problem, because now Gideon is about to go to war against an invading army that is much bigger and much stronger than him, and God just cut his forces by more than 2/3. Alright, this is beyond crazy, God. We’re now getting into the this-doesn’t-make-sense-at-any-level. Wait, it gets worse.
They’ve been training all day long. They’ve been preparing for battle. It’s imminent. They’re tired; they’re thirsty. Gideon takes them to the edge of the water and says, “Y’all get something to drink.” And of the men, most of them just bury their head in the water and start drinking because they’re thirsty. But 300 of these men grab some water with their hands, and they start drinking out of their hands, and they’re still looking out for their enemy, and God says, “You see those 300 guys over there, Gideon? You take those 300 guys with you and tell the other 9,700 to go home. This is less than 1% of Gideon’s original force. This is really, really bad.
But wait; it gets worse. God took him to the very edge of war, and then he narrowed the force down to 300 men, and this is beyond rational. “God, this is crazy, because I can see them down there and I can see how many warriors are in that valley now.” The Bible just did something very interesting, but you might have missed it if you didn’t pay close attention to the words. Back in chapter 6. God said to Gideon, “Gideon, gather up all of your strength. I want you to go off to war. I’m going to use you to deliver Israel.” Then in chapter 7, God uses a different word, a very different word for strength. God uses a word that means my arm, my fist.
I want you to make a fist. This is what God is doing right now. He is saying, “Gideon, if I were to let you go with all of those warriors, you would think it was your own arm. You would think it was your own fist that won the battle. So, I’m going to remove any doubt that you did this on your own. I’m going to make a fist, Gideon. I’m going to roll up my sleeves. I’m going to show my muscles. I’m going to prove everybody my strength, and when the dust settles and this battle is over with, you won’t be able to miss this. Gideon didn’t do this. This was a miracle of God.”
In fact, this would be like God saying, “Hey y’all, I want you to go invade North Korea, and I want you to go invade North Korea with just a very small group of guys from Fort Benning, Georgia. In fact, just leave most of them there. About 300 of you, let’s go. We’re going to go to North Korea. We’re going to invade, and don’t take any weapons with you. It’s going to feel crazy; it’s going to be a little bit insane. And the truth is, sometimes when God calls you to do something, you’re going to want to hang the phone up.
This is the point: I’m convinced Gideon wanted to hang up the phone like, “Alright, God, you just crossed the line. This is nuts, and it feels a little bit terrifying.” It’s like a roller coaster. Sometimes, this is what it feels like when God is asking you to go on a wild right. It’s terrifying, and your freaking out. That’s just natural, until you remember that God is with you. So, can I might remind you of something that most of you already know, but I’m just going to say it again? God isn’t really too concerned about your comfort, and he really doesn’t care that much about your convenience. God is much more interested in your obedience, in your usefulness to his Kingdom. He will do that to you if he has to in order to make you useful for King Jesus. Sometimes it feels scary. Sometimes it’s terrifying, but if you will hang on, it may be the greatest ride of your life when it’s all over with. It’s just terrifying when it’s going on.
IV. Jesus gets the glory
You see, Jesus calls us to these impossible tasks. He says, “I’m going to go with you,” and when he does that, he gets the credit for it. And because he gets the credit, only Jesus should get the glory for the great things that happen. When God calls you to do something and you pick the phone up.
Here’s how we’re going to end the story from Gideon today. In Judges chapter 7. I want you to notice the way that this battle goes down, starting in verse 19.
Gideon and the hundred men who were with him went to the outpost of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch after the sentries had been stationed. They blew their trumpets and broke the pitchers that were in their hands. 20 The three companies blew their trumpets and shattered their pitchers. They held their torches in their left hands, their trumpets in their right hands, and shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 21 Each Israelite took his position around the camp, and the entire Midianite army began to run, and they cried out as they fled. 22 When Gideon’s men blew their three hundred trumpets, the Lord caused the men in the whole army to turn on each other with their swords. They fled to Acacia House in the direction of Zererah as far as the border of Abel-meholah near Tabbath.
Did you see what the Bible just said happened here? God didn’t just ask Gideon to go to war with a very small group of guys. He said, “Y’all, we’re going to go invade North Korea, and don’t take your weapons. Don’t take your bullets; don’t take your bombs; don’t take your artillery. We don’t need any close air support. I’ll tell you what. We’re just going to take torches and trumpets. That’s all we’re going to take.” Now, you don’t even need to know the military to know those are not fighting weapons, and God has given Gideon the battle plans for this mission. “Cover the torches with the pitchers so that they can’t see them. We’re going to raid at night, this daring raid at night.” Gideon is a commando, and when I blow the trumpet, when I give you this symbol, you smash the pitchers so that now the whole Midianite camp can see the torches. Then I want you to blow the trumpets really loud. This is our battle plan, and we’ll sit back and see what happens next.
When that goes down, God causes a panic, and everyone inside the camp of Midian is so terrified that they picked their swords up and they just start to fight each other and they kill each other. Gideon doesn’t even have to do anything, and God gives him this great victory on the battlefield. When it’s over with, the whole world knows this wasn’t one man who won this battle. This wasn’t even 300 great warriors. It’s not just the best warriors in Israel who won this battle. This is supernatural. Only God can get the credit for this. Only Jesus gets the glory when he does something wild, something crazy like this in your life.
So, I want to ask you, what happens if God called you to sell everything that you own and to leave the perfect job to go to the worst neighborhood in the Chattahoochee Valley, maybe the worst city in Georgia or Alabama. And oh, by the way, when you go there, you’re not going to get a paycheck. You’re going to have to figure out on your own where the money’s coming from. Would you take that job?
Here’s what I want to challenge you to do. When God calls you and he calls you to something crazy, it’s natural to want to hang up and to say, “God, that’s outrageous.” But if you hang the phone up, you just might miss the greatest ride, the wildest ride of your life. So, I’m going to ask you, would you be willing to do it? Would you be willing to do what Gideon did? Would you be willing to sell it all to go to the worst neighborhood in town, to do it with no future and no job? -just knowing that God says, “I’m going to be with you every step of the way? Would you be willing to pray a dangerous prayer today? Would you be willing to pray this prayer: “God, use me like Gideon. Whatever it takes, I just want to be right in the middle of this wild ride called faith.”
• I’m ready to take the step of faith. Today, I surrendered to Jesus for the first time.
– I’ve let fear hold me back from taking some big risks for God. Pray for me to respond in faith the next time I’m facing a big challenge.
+ I’ll take the challenge, no matter how big, if the Holy Spirit is with me!
- Fill in the blank: Gideon was reluctant to follow God because _________.
- Read Matthew 12:39. What is the difference between being reluctant to follow God and being rebellious toward God?
- What is the craziest thing God has ever asked you to do?
- Do you know anyone who said “no” to God? If so, what happened as a result of their disobedience?
- Has there ever been a challenging time when you felt like the Lord wasn’t with you? (Explain.)
- Since God can win a battle with a lot of soldiers or a few soldiers, why do you think he didn’t allow a lot of soldiers to go to battle with Gideon?
- Pray for faith to follow Jesus no matter where he leads you this week.