Remember those little sheets or handouts with drawings of the Bible characters that teachers used to teach you in Sunday School as a child?
You could always tell the “good guys” from the “bad guys” because while the bad guys were portrayed mean, sneaky and evil, the good guys always seemed to have these humble looks on their faces. They had smiles and a peaceful demeanor. Some of them, like Jesus, his mother Mary and even some of the disciples had glowing faces and halos over their heads.
Not exactly the look of someone who has experienced many bad days, is it? Because of those pamphlets, I grew up for a while carrying those images in my mind that people in biblical times were holy, perfect and problem-free. It wasn’t until I was much older and started learning how to really read and study the Bible for myself that I realized this wasn’t the case at all.
What makes Scripture so powerfully relevant is the fact that God doesn’t hide the character flaws, warts and sins of His chosen people even as He tells their story.
He wanted us to know that the people He used were liars, murderers, cheaters, extortioners, users, adulterers, fornicators, alcoholics and prostitutes, just as many people are today.
He wanted us to know that these individuals struggled with fears, paralyzing insecurity, trust issues, lust issues, money and stewardship problems, dysfunctional families, dealing with their past, feeling too young or too old, struggles to forgive each other.
Just like we do.
Consider the story of Gideon in Judges 6:12-16.
Gideon was called a “mighty man of valor,” or a “mighty warrior” by the Angel of the Lord. He was also comforted by God’s divine presence when the Angel of the Lord said: “The Lord is with you.” (Verse 12).
But look how Gideon responded: “Gideon said to Him, ‘Please sir, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened?....’ ”
Have you ever felt like that before? You’ve heard God speak to you in some way. But then you look around at life’s circumstances that seem contrary and you wonder: “Okay, is it REALLY God who’s saying these things to me, or is it just my wishful thinking?”
Isn’t it tough to get excited about God’s promise to improve your marriage or family life when it keeps giving you a fresh reason to lose hope every day?
That was Gideon’s issue. He heard the Word of God, and he wanted to believe. But it was too hard because of all the things that he saw around him that weren’t right.
Now we’re starting to see the picture. It wasn’t that Gideon didn’t believe God. He WANTED to believe God. Gideon’s problem was he didn’t believe in HIMSELF. He didn’t think he was good enough to be used by God. He didn’t think he was strong enough or skilled enough. And the truth is, he wasn’t — at least not by himself. Not on his own will and merits.
The first five words of verse 14 are powerful:
“The Lord turned to him....”
We always talk about how people need to “turn to God.” But how often do we consider the grace in the fact that God often turns to us? When He knows we are struggling, when He knows we have questions and doubts. When He knows that our weaknesses and insecurities are screaming louder than our strengths, He often makes the first step! He makes the NEXT steps! HE pursues us. HE is the Aggressor.
That’s why God’s reply to Gideon was so awesome:
“The Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength you have and deliver Israel from the power of Midian. Am I not sending you?’ ” (Verse 14)
When God has something for you to do, your excuses aren’t big enough, your past isn’t strong enough and your insecurities aren’t tall enough for Him to get around. God didn’t give Gideon anything NEW, because He wanted him to rely on what he already had! He had GOD! In verse 12, the Angel of the Lord told Gideon “The Lord is with you.” Then in verse 14, God said to Gideon again: “Am I not sending you?”
In verse 16, God once again canceled out Gideon’s excuses by saying, “But I will be with you. ... You will strike Midian down as if it were one man.
Someone out there is waiting on you to get over yourself and your excuses and your insecurities and all the reasons why you can’t be used by God. Someone is out there floundering around, waiting for your testimony, your story, your wisdom and your ministry to be that light to help them get out of darkness.
And God is waiting for YOU to stop hoping, wishing, waiting and praying for something more than what He’s already given you — HIMSELF.
Go change the world.
Gabriel Stovall covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald Newspapers. He is also the founding and lead pastor of NewLife Christian Church, a new ministry that meets each Sunday at 10:30 a.m. in Forest Park Middle School’s cafeteria. Follow him on Twitter @gabrielcstovall