Vol. 2 Issue 16
April 17, 2008
The Weekly Newsletter of True Potential Publishing
Fear is a part of life. I donâ€™t believe people who say theyâ€™re not afraid of anything. Everybodyâ€™s afraid of something.
I used to be afraid of eighth graders. They terrified me, bullied me, threatened me and laughed at me. Of course, I was a seventh grader at the time. Iâ€™ve gotten over that particular fear.
I donâ€™t like roller coasters. Itâ€™s not that Iâ€™m afraid of them. I can walk up to any roller coaster on the planet and look it right in the eye. No fear.
Riding on them? Thatâ€™s another matter. I donâ€™t like riding on roller coasters. I could probably lose my distaste (did I say fear?) of riding roller coasters if I put my mind to it, but whatâ€™s the point? Is my life really missing roller coaster rides?
I guess fear is either dealt with or itâ€™s not. I dealt with my fear of eighth graders; I grew up, I moved on. I havenâ€™t really dealt with the riding roller coasters thing, but why bother? My not getting over that particular fear isnâ€™t going to change my life much unless Iâ€™m considering the lucrative theme park ride tester profession.
This is the point in the letter, when youâ€™re supposed to say, “Okay Steve, whatâ€™s your point?”
Here it is. Ready?
Courage isnâ€™t the lack of fear. Itâ€™s doing what you know you have to do in spite of your fear.
I read about Gideon this morning (Judges 6 â€“ 8). Gideon was a Judge. Not a black robe, sit on the bench, listen to court cases judge. A Judge back in old Israel was a natural leader/hero that rose up to rule the people of Israel, kind of by default. It wasnâ€™t really by default; God picked them to be judges, itâ€™s just that not everybody knew about God picking them at the time, including the judges themselves.
Gideon was like that. He certainly didnâ€™t see himself as any kind of epic hero. When God went to talk to him, Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress. What that really means is that Gideon was doing his chores in a place he wouldnâ€™t normally being doing his chores because he was hiding from the bad guys.
The bad guys were the Midianites. They would sweep into Israeli territory, trample the crops, eat the sheep, steal the donkeys and do all the other things bad guys do.
This had been going on for seven years and Gideon was just trying to stay out of the way. Thatâ€™s when the angel of the Lord sat down under an oak tree next to the winepress to have a talk with him. The angel said to Gideon, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
Mighty warrior? Not Gideon. Mighty warriors donâ€™t do their chores in a winepress because theyâ€™re afraid of bad guys.
The story gets a little sketchy here. The angel, it turns out, either spoke for God to the extent he felt free to use first person pronouns or God Himself was doing the talking. Any way you shake it, God was having a personal powwow with Gideon. “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midianâ€™s hand. Am I not sending you?”
Well, I donâ€™t think Gideon knew who was talking to him. Gideon answered, “Look, Iâ€™m the scrawniest kid of the scrawniest family of the scrawniest tribe in Israel. You must be looking for someone else.”
The Lord wasnâ€™t easily put off and He knew that it wouldnâ€™t be Gideon doing the heavy lifting on this job. “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”
At this point Gideon suspected that he may not be talking to an ordinary stranger and it just might be You-Know-Who or one of His representatives. Oh boy. “Look,” he said, “If itâ€™s really You, wait right here and Iâ€™ll go get an offering and bring it back.”
The Lord waited.
Gideon came back with a basket full of goat meat, a pot of broth and some bread. The angel, or the Lord, or Whoever, instructed Gideon to put the meat and the bread on a rock. Then he touched the meat and bread with the tip of his staff and WHOOFF! The whole thing went up in a ball of fire (what happened to the pot of broth is one of those Bible mysteries weâ€™ll probably find out on the other side) and Whoever disappeared.
Gideon figured out Who he was dealing with. “Oh man.” “Oh man.” “I saw an angel of the Lord face to face and now Iâ€™m gonna die.” “Oh man. Oh man. Oh man.”
Not quite the response of an epic hero.
The Lord had to reassure him (I know, the story said He disappeared, but Heâ€™s still talking. I hope it wasnâ€™t in an audible voice; otherwise folks would Gideon was nuts). “Relax,” The Lord tells him. “Donâ€™t be afraid. Youâ€™re not going to die.”
So now Gideon knows God spoke to him and he isnâ€™t going to die as a result. His brave-o-meter goes up one point.
Later that night God tells Gideon to take bull number two from his fatherâ€™s herd, tear down his fatherâ€™s Baal altar and cut down his fatherâ€™s Asherah pole. Then heâ€™s supposed to build a real altar and use the wood from the Asherah pole to burn up the bull as a sacrifice to God.
Courage is a funny thing. Sometimes you do something you fear because you fear the consequences of not doing it even more.
Gideonâ€™s dad and the men of the town are going to be royally ticked off if he kills the bull, cuts down the pole, busts up the altar and sets fire to the whole kit and caboodle. On the other hand, this is God talking. Do you really not want to do what He commands?
Letâ€™s see what the brave-o-meter does on this one.
Captain courageous waits until nightfall to do the deed; figuring nobody will catch him. The next morning comes. Heâ€™s right about one thing; the men of the town are ticked. Gideonâ€™s lying low; no sense taking credit for this one.
The men of the town find out who did it and come for Gideonâ€™s hide. Gideonâ€™s dad, Joash (itâ€™s nice that he wasnâ€™t upset over the bull), comes out the house and says to the men of the town, “Are you fighting Baalâ€™s battles now?” “Anyone touches my son and heâ€™ll be dead by morning” “Go away and let Baal fight his own battles.”
That backed the townsfolk down and Gideonâ€™s brave-o-meter goes up another two points.
After all this happens the bad guys, the Midianites, join forces and invade Israel again. Gideon, whoâ€™s had some pretty good courage boosters lately, is filled with the Spirit and calls his tribe and the neighboring Israeli tribes together to go attack the bad guys.
Not being ridiculously brave, he double checks with God. Gideon puts out a sheepâ€™s fleece one night and asks that if God really wants him to go after the bad guys, to make the fleece wet with dew but everything around it bone dry. That happens.
Attacking bad guys is serious business and Gideon want to be sure heâ€™s got his signals straight. He pushes his luck with God by throwing the fleece out one more night. This time he asks for the fleece to be dry and everything else sopping wet. That happens.
Okie Dokie. Time to go after the bad guys.
But wait! Thereâ€™s more!
The Lord wants to teach Gideon one last lesson about courage. It seems that 32,000 Israelis is really way too many for an attack on a valley full of Midianites too numerous to count. Gideon sayâ€™s to the troops, “Look if youâ€™re so scared about this operation that youâ€™re shaking, go on home; we wonâ€™t be needing you.” The announcement didnâ€™t go over well. 22,000 men left that day.
Apparently 10,000 Israelis is way too many to attack countless Midianites. God has Gideon dismiss 9,700 more.
Great. Now heâ€™s got 300 men to attack a sea of bad guys. Godâ€™s right on one point, He is going to have to do the heavy lifting on this one.
You know the rest of the story. Each man gets a horn and a torch and a clay jar. They surround the Midianites in the middle of the night, break their jars, blow their horns and raised their torches â€¦ all at the same time.
The Midianites were completely freaked out by the noise and the torches. They had no clue if they were being attacked by 300 men or 300,000 men. Those who didnâ€™t turn on each other in the confusion ran out into the desert in terror. All the bad guys were caught and killed.
Gideon was a hero.
The moral of the story?
Courage isnâ€™t fearlessness. Itâ€™s doing what you know youâ€™ve got to do, even if youâ€™re afraid.
Hereâ€™s the good part: God knows what youâ€™re supposed to do and He makes sure itâ€™s not more than you can handle. He doesnâ€™t mind showing Himself, just so you know itâ€™s really Him thatâ€™s talking. And most times Heâ€™ll give you something to do thatâ€™s scary, but not overly scary â€“ like cutting down an Asherah pole. He knows that overcoming a little scary thing helps to prepare you for the big scary thing.
And when the big scary thing comes?
Hey. He told you to do it. He said Heâ€™d be right there doing the heavy lifting. And you know it was Him because He showed Himself to you. Also, youâ€™ve got a track record; Heâ€™s given you some little scary things to conquer so you know the system works.
And after the battle? When youâ€™re the hero and the thing that terrified you is lying at your feet? What have you learned?
The same thing Gideon learned. The battle is the Lordâ€™s. You just showed up for the fight.
Weâ€™ll stay on Courage for another week. Thereâ€™s more to be said.
Until then, let Him fight your battles; but remember to show up.