In the last post we saw that God often puts us through tests. We may not like it but there’s an important point in our story: Power in our Christian life always comes after testing not before. We all need power to break bad habits and power to live as Christ has called us to. The path to power is through a test.
In Luke 4, Jesus demonstrates this for us. Luke records that Jesus was full of the Spirit and He was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. For forty days He went without food and He was in the middle of the desert. And the devil tempted Him. Jesus was perfect but was still tested. It was a tremendous test. Notice in below in Luke 4:1 how Jesus went into the test and in Luke 4:13 how Jesus came out of the test forty days later.
Luke 4:1 “Jesus, full of the Holy spirit, returned from the Jordan. He was led by the Spirit in the desert.” Does the Spirit lead us into testing sometimes? Yes, definitely. Sometimes God specifically leads us into a test. “Where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” It says he was led of the Spirit and He was full of the Spirit going in.
But look at how he came out. Luke 4:13 “At the end of forty days when the devil had finished all his tempting he left him until an opportune time. And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.” The way that we get power in our Christian life is by passing the tests.
How do you handle tests? When you have a trial in your life, do you get cranky and irritable? Cuss God out? Say, “I’m not going to be a follower of Christ anymore!” And quit church? How do you handle the irritations in your life? If we handle them incorrectly, we may have to take the test again. If we pass we grow in power!
After the test, that’s where Gideon receives God’s power in his life. Judges 6:34 “Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon.” Now he’s ready for service, ready to be a leader. God says, I’m going to help you. I’m going to put my power in your life. He’d promised His Spirit, now it’s a reality. The secret of Gideon’s life is that now God is working through him. “The Spirit came upon Gideon” literally in Hebrew means “the spirit clothed himself with Gideon.” It’s like saying “Gideon, I’m going to take over your body.” God works in the world but he does it through people that are usable. God and Gideon — one plus God equals a majority. Now he had the power, now he had the confidence, now he had the strength to take on this mighty army. And the Spirit was going to help him. Gideon was transformed by God’s Spirit from fearful to faithful, from loser into a leader.
Gideon responded correctly. When we read the rest of Judges 6 and 7 we have the conclusion of the story. Gideon was now ready. He was transformed into a leader. He goes out, blows a trumpet and says, “Everybody rally around!” and thousands of people rallied around him — a man, who a few weeks before, was in the bottom of a wine press hiding out. He cries out, “Who wants to follow the Lord into battle?” and 32,000 people showed up!
God says, “Gideon, that’s too many people. I want you to thin the ranks.” That doesn’t make sense. It tells us that the enemy had 135,000 in their army. They were camped out in the valley in their tents with their camels. Thirty-two thousand is still grossly under rated compared to 135,000 in a battle. God said, “That’s too many because I don’t want the people to get the credit for it. I’ll take the credit. It’s going to be a miracle. So, Gideon, you tell every one of those 32,000 people who are afraid to go home.” So Gideon gets up and says, “Everybody who’s afraid, go home!” and 22,000 went home. Evidently there were a lot of people like Gideon during this time.
God said, “That’s still too many. I want you to do a test. Take them down to the river. Those who get down and lay on their stomachs to get a drink, drinking straight out of the water, send them home. Those who hold their spear to their side and lap up water with their hands, and keep looking for the enemy, those are the trained ones.” Some were careless and some were careful.
So he took them down and gave them that test and sent another 9,700 home. That left 300 men. God not only often uses unlikely people, he uses an unlikely strategy! Three hundred men against 135,000 are odds of about 450 to one.
Then God says, “Here are the tools you’re going to take into battle. Number one, give every one of those 300 men a clay pot. Gideon must have thought, “Of course Lord! I’ve always thought clay pots were a very effective weapon!” Then not only that, give everybody a horn. Gideon could have thought “Of course! That’s standard issue weapons a horn and a clap pot!” And number three, “give everybody a torch.”
In the middle of the night, Gideon takes his little band of 300 men and circle around the valley and spread out into a complete circle. Each man with his torch lit but the clay pot over it so that the light would not shine out. God says to Gideon, “When I say `Go!’ you tell the men to blow the trumpets, to shout `For the Lord and for Gideon!’ and to break the clay pots. Why? That will make a noise which the enemy won’t know what it is; it will scare them. The light will shine out and just a few men will look like thousands. In their panic the enemy will begin to fight each other.”
That is exactly what happened. Gideon gave the shout, they cried out, they blew the trumpets, they made the statements, they broke the pots, the light shone out and the Midianites woke up, began running around in their tents with their pajamas on, pulling out their swords and began to fight each other. Judges records that over a hundred thousand soldiers were killed that day while the Israelites stood there and watched! It was psychological warfare of the finest degree. The little group looked like a thousand. It was a tremendous victory.
Gideon became a national hero, someone who a few weeks before was afraid of his own shadow. That’s how God works in our lives.
Do you think God could use you in a way like that? We always live up to our view of ourselves. If not, God has to start with a new view of you.
Some of us are at number 1 and need encouragement. We talk at church about how we need to believe in God. True, but God also believes in you! The Bible says, “We love because he first loved us.” And God is saying, “I know you. I made you. I see your potential. I know that you’re only using two percent of your brain capacity. And you ain’t seen nothing yet!”
I think the whole point Gideon’s life is that we limit God by our own unbelief. God could do so much more in our lives than we have ever imagined if we’ll be available. Let God give us a glimpse of our potential. We can do something significant for God.
Some of us are at number 2. We are ready to experience God personally. Maybe you’ve had a religion but you’ve never had a relationship. God wants to know you. Jesus said, `I have called you My friends.‘ He wants you to know Him personally, be able to just drive down the freeway and say, `Lord, here’s what’s on my heart today’ and talk to Him. No thee’s or thou’s or fancy phrases. Make a simple prayer of commitment in your heart, “Father, I want to know You. Jesus Christ, make yourself real to me and let me have an encounter with God.”
Some of us are at number 3 and we’re getting ready to enter a test. It’s a test of compromise. Will you compromise what you believe? It may be a test at work. It may be a test at home. It may be a test at school. What’s going to have first place in your life? Status? Career? Money? Things? What’s going to have first place in your life? Anything that is not God that’s in first place becomes an idol. Maybe you need to do some spiritual housecleaning. Say, “Lord, what is the Baal in my backyard? What is it that competes for my time and energy, that really replaces You?” Is it the search for a spouse? Is it the search for a new job? Is it trying to become famous? What is it, Lord, that competes with You in my life?” We like to compromise. We want the best of both worlds. Yet God says, “I want total allegiance.”
Some of us are ready for number 4 to be transformed. Are you trying to fight God’s battles in your power and you’re tired? We need God’s Spirit in our lives. If we’ve committed our life to Christ, the Holy Spirit is in our life. Now we need to depend on His power. It’s not only onetime experience where all of a sudden God zaps us and for the rest of our lives we’re super Christians. It’s also a moment by moment experience where we daily say, “Lord, I need Your strength in my life. Spirit, live through me.”
Gideon was a fearful individual who became faithful and powerful when he trusted God. Will you join me in trusting God?