Charles Stanley - A Call for Courage
Well, God has a plan for your life, but not only that, He has many plans for your life. He may have an overall plan for your particular life as He does all of us. But there are many plans among that plan, decisions we have to make, things He wants us to accomplish in life. But whatever they are we know this for sure. His plan is always the best plan. It'll always bring Him glory. And we know that we always have His presence and His power in our life to fulfill whatever that plan may be.
Now, you may be in a situation this morning that things aren't going too well for you. You feel discouraged; maybe it's in your relationship with somebody; maybe it's your finances; maybe it's your health, whatever it might be. You just feel like you're being tested. You're not sure what God is up to in your life. You just can't figure it out. And you're wondering why He doesn't answer your prayer. And you feel like you're being tested over and over and over again. Well, if He is testing you over and over again it's for a reason. And what you and I need to do is to learn how to respond to those tests and ask ourselves the question, "God, what are You up to in my life? What is it You want to accomplish"? Because He always has a purpose. God doesn't do anything without a pre-ordained purpose.
And remember this, that He's omniscient. He knows exactly all the details; past, present and future. So, whatever you're facing in life, He has something that He intends to bring out of that that is very good. Well, our Scripture today is two chapters in the book of Judges. And I want to talk about this whole issue of the call for courage in our life. Many times, what we face in life demands courage. Sometimes we don't have it. And one of the interesting things about this passage is this, how often God is willing to encourage us; how often He's willing to step out far beyond what we think or expect to encourage us in whatever we are facing in life.
So, if you'll turn to the sixth chapter of Judges and the seventh chapter, and let me give you a little background of what's happening here. And if you will notice in the sixth chapter, the people of Israel have sinned against God and here's where they are. The Bible says in verse one, "Then the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord gave them into the hands of Midian seven years".
For seven years, they've been captive and this is the way they've been treated, "The power of Midian prevailed against Israel. Because of Midian the sons of Israel made for themselves dens which were in the mountains and caves and the strongholds. For it was when Israel had sown, that the Midianites would come up with the Amalekites and the sons of the east and go against them. So, they would camp against them and destroy the produce of the earth as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel as well as no sheep, ox, or donkey. For they would come up with their livestock and their tents, they would come in like locusts for numbers, but they and their camels were innumerable; and they came into the land to devastate it. So, Israel was brought very low because of Midian, and the sons of Israel cried to the Lord".
Now, why were they in such a terrible condition? Well, the Scripture says in verse ten, "And I said to you, 'I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live. But you have not obeyed Me.'" They were where they are because they disobeyed God. And I think this is the same question some people ask, they say, "Well, Lord, why are You allowing these things to happen in my life"? And it's this very issue here that brought Gideon to face the fact of where he was in his life.
So, the first thing I want you to notice is this, that God calls those whom He's equipped for the task He has in mind. That is, whatever God calls you to do, He's already equipped you. It would be unfair for God to call you to do something He's not equipped you to do. That doesn't mean that you're not to improve on your particular call and get an education or keep training, whatever it might be. But whatever He's called you to do, He has equipped you to do it. And oftentimes people will say, "Well, you know, God just hasn't called me to do thus and so. And I can't do this and I can't do the other". But oftentimes we're the ones who make that determination. And if you already decided that you can't do something that God wants you to do, then you won't be able to do it.
Listen to how God spoke to Gideon in this eleventh verse and twelfth verse of chapter six. With all of these things going on now and the Midianites and Amalekites just giving them a terrible time, "Then the angel of the Lord came and sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, to his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press in order to save it from the Midianites". They'd come up and take everything they had, "The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, 'The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.'"
Well, you can imagine how he thought. "What do you mean 'valiant warrior'? Because we're hiding and trying to escape the Amalekites and the Midianites because they steal and take everything we have". And the Scripture says, "The Lord looked at him and said, 'Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?'" And of course, he was probably shocked at this, didn't feel qualified, capable. So, when God begins to work in our life, He understands that sometimes we need courage. And what I want you to see in this passage; and I'll say this over and over again. He uses this passage to be an encouragement because here's Gideon to whom He said in the very beginning, "O valiant warrior".
So, He could not have said anything to a young Israelite that would be a greater reason for him to have courage and so forth, "O valiant warrior". Now, he didn't feel that-a-way. Why did God say it? Watch this. Because God knew what He was going to do in Gideon's life. And oftentimes God will speak to you in prayer or through His Word and say something to you that maybe doesn't make any sense to you at that particular point; and yet God is doing something, getting you ready for something very significant. So, when you look at Gideon's life here and how God used him, and I would say even the most courageous person oftentimes needs that encouragement.
So, in this sixth chapter and the thirty-sixth verse, I want us to look at that for a moment. God had called Gideon for a task. It appeared to be an impossible task and he did sort of what anyone of us would do. So, what did he do? Scripture says in verse thirty-six, "Then Gideon said to God, 'If you will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken.'" "Here's what You've said, God. You said You're going to deliver Israel from the Midianites and Amalekites. If this is what You're going to do, behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. And if there is dew on the fleece only, and it's dry all around on the ground then I will know that You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken".
So, what happens? Next morning, he wakes up and the Scripture says, "He arose early in the morning, squeezed the fleece, he drained the dew from the fleece, a bowl full of water". Well, what did he ask for? He said, "God, if you'll do this, I'll know this is it". Now, I just love this verse, "Then Gideon," probably ducked his head and said, "God, please one more time. I just need to know, just please give me just a little more assurance". And so, what does he do? He says, "Then Gideon said to God, 'Do not let Your anger burn against me.'" Which is what we'd feel. "'Now, Lord, don't get upset. But what I'm asking is if You'll do this once more, that I may speak once more; please let me make a test once more with the fleece, let it now be dry only on the fleece, and let there be dew on all the ground.' God did so that night; for it was dry only on the fleece, and dew on all the ground".
Here's what God is saying to us. He says, Look, I know where you are. I know sometimes you have doubts. I know sometimes you feel like you can't do what I'm asking you to do. Trust Me. Just trust Me. And so, what happens? He says, "Lord, if You'll just show me this, this is what I'm willing to do". Little did he know that that was one test in his life, but that was not going to be the last one. And so, God is getting him ready to go to war. He called him, "O valiant warrior". And now He's been testing him and finding him true. And He has been encouraging over and over and over again.
Now, when you find out what God is asking him to do, you'll understand why he needed encouragement and why God gave it to him. And sometimes I think we feel weak if we say, "Now, Lord, you know, I don't know how to handle this and, I just need some help". All of us have been there. And you know what? All of us are going to be there again and again and again. When we don't know what to do in a given situation, or it looks like that situation's impossible. And how many times have I heard testimonies of people who'd say, "You know, I just knew it was all over and there's no way in the world to save this marriage, and God did thus and so". Or, "I knew that there's no way for me to get this promotion because other people were much more qualified than I was and so I just, you know, I just prayed, 'Oh God, please help me.'"
And sure enough, they got it. And you could just go list after list after list of things that people have 'bout given up on and trusted God and how He came through. Because, listen, listen. He's a God of awesome love. He wants to demonstrate His power and His love to us. If we will keep our hearts clean and obedient to Him and just trust Him, just trust Him, then He'll do exactly what He asked us to do because He'll do it through us and in us. And we said in the very beginning, whatever He calls us to do we have His presence and His power. We have the promise of those two things. "God, You called me to do; You've got to be with me. God, You've called me to, got to have Your strength and Your energy, Your power and Your wisdom and Your knowledge to get it done". He's always there to help us get it done.
Now, when you come to this next test of Gideon, all of us would have had a reason to say, "Oops"! And yet God had answered His prayer. He said, "Lord, now, I'm throwing out this fleece". And he did it twice. Now, for it to happen twice, that leaves Gideon without any defense and argument. So, look if you will in the seventh chapter now, and beginning in this first verse, "Then Jerubbaal," that is, Gideon, "and all the people who were with him, rose early and camped beside the spring of Harod; and the camp of Midian was on the north side of them by the hill of Moreh in the valley. The Lord said to Gideon, 'The people who are with you.'"
This is his army now. "The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, 'My own power has delivered me.'" So, He tells him why, "Now, therefore come, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, 'Whoever is afraid and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead.' So, twenty-two thousand soldiers returned, and left ten thousand". God, are You sure You did the right thing here? Twenty-two, in other words, that's two out of every three left. Suppose you'd have been the general and what you said, you said, because you probably were totally convinced that all those men were courageous and bold. I would never let you down, Gideon. And two out of every three of them go home. And what they were saying is, "We're scared".
Well, that left him ten thousand. That's ten thousand against a hundred and thirty-five thousand. That's pretty bad odds. So, God said to him, "Well, that's pretty good, that's not good enough". "Then the Lord said to Gideon, 'The people are still too many.'" And I imagine Gideon was about to flip over at this point. "You better say that again, God. I didn't quite get that". "Then the Lord said to Gideon, 'The people are still too many; bring them down to the water and I will test them for you there. Therefore, it shall be that of those I say to you, "This one shall go with you," he shall go with you; but everyone of whom I say to you, "This one shall not go with you," shall not go.'"
So, He said, "Now, I'll determine who's going. You've got ten thousand. I'll determine who's going to be with you and who's not," and then, "So, he brought them down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, 'You shall separate everyone who laps the water with his tongue as a dog laps, as well as everyone who kneels to drink.' Now, the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouth, was three hundred men; but all the rest of the people knelt to drink water". Now, here's what He's saying. And this is the way God was working. He said, "If he stoops down and does this, you keep him. But if he kneels down and he's looking at the water, send him home because that says that he's not sensitive. He's not being cautious. He's not being alert. He's looking at the ground instead of looking to see where the enemy are".
So, what does that leave him? Three hundred. He had to be thinking, "God, what are you... let's go back and recount this a little bit, Lord, and reevaluate this and see... if what we can do". "The Lord said to Gideon, 'I will deliver you with the three hundred men who lapped and will give the Midianites into your hands; so, let all the other people go, each to his own home.' So, the three hundred men took the people's provisions and their trumpets into their hands. And Gideon sent all the other men of Israel to his tent but retained the three hundred men; and the camp of Midian was below him in the valley". And I'm sure Gideon must have thought, "Now, let's go back and count this again. Do you mean three thousand"? "No". "Well, maybe thirty thou.". "No, three hundred".
Now, watch this. Listen carefully. It doesn't make any difference what you and I have or don't have. When God commands us to do something, remember two things you have. You have the power of God and the presence of God with you. And when you have those two things, it doesn't make any difference what somebody else has or how armed they are or how much they have or whatever it might be. When you have the power of God and the presence of God, you're always a majority and you're always better armed, better equipped. At every turn, He's encouraging him.
Now, so now that he has three hundred, what do you do with three hundred men against a hundred and thirty-five thousand? Have you ever been in a situation that looked impossible to you? So, let me ask you, if you were, what did you do? Did you give up and quit? What did you do when you felt like you, the odds were against you in life no matter what? You could give lots of reasons, just give up and quit. But remember this. It doesn't make any difference who you are. When Jesus Christ is your Savior and the Lord of your life, and you're walking in His will, you are always a majority no matter what. Because that is the will and purpose of God. It's when we get discouraged. It's when we forget who we are. It's when we forget what God has said to us. It's when we forget the fact that He said, "I'll never leave you nor forsake you". "I'm going to be right there with you".
The Holy Spirit will be living on the inside of you giving guidance and direction and empowering you for your life, whatever it might be. And so, with that promise of Almighty God, here's what Gideon did. God showed him what to do. Now, remember, all these other folks are in the valley. So, in the mountaintops all around. He said, "We're going to split up in three groups, a hundred in each group. And we're only going to have a pitcher and a torch and the trumpet". Now, I'm sure they had a weapon at some point there. "And so, here's what we're going to do. We're going to all line up around the valley. And so, when they look, all they are going to see is light. And when they look, they're going to be shocked. Because what they are going to see is going to be different from what's going to happen".
So, what do they do? They get in position and Gideon breaks his pitcher; they all break their pitchers. And remember this. They've been down there asleep; some of them were at least, most of them probably. And all of a sudden, they heard this crash all around the mountain. Well, having it all around the mountain sent them a bad message, we're surrounded. And when after that happened, all these torches go up. And what does that say? We are really surrounded. All this noise and all this fire and everywhere you look, everywhere you look, there's no way out of here.
So, what do they do? They get excited. They get up in the night. They get their sword. They go out. They can't see who the enemy is; and they probably feel like the enemy's already there, so they start killing each other. And the truth is, they wiped out enough of each other. And those who escaped, they finally caught them and killed them, that God gave them an overwhelming victory.
Now, Gideon didn't even have to draw a sword. Think about how ridiculous this is. You're going to war with a torch and a pitcher to cover it and a trumpet? That's for orchestras and bands. That's not for warfare. But listen. God, listen carefully, can use anything and anybody to accomplish His purpose. And you'll recall, what did He use with David? Stone and a sling, not a sword nor a shield. Which says that God can use you no matter who you are, if you'll be sure that your life is clean and obedient before God. No matter what you face in, what situation, what the problem may be, God and you together can be victorious no matter what. That's who He is.
And so, what happens? Three hundred men watch all these Midianites and all of these enemies, all of them. Amalekites, Midianites wipe out each other. And the ones that were left, they caught them and beheaded the leaders. And Gideon had an awesome victory. And over and over and over again what did God do? He gave him enough encouraging experiences that he didn't get discouraged. So, when you look at this whole chapter and you see how God worked in their lives, what's the message? What is the message from the Scripture?
So, I want you to get the following things, so I put them on the screen in just a moment. I want to give you five statements, because these are five of the things I want you to remember primarily. First of all is this. Don't underestimate what God can do in and through you. No matter who you are, He does the most amazing things through sometimes the people who expect the least. Don't underestimate what God can do in and through you. Secondly, God will always be with you in whatever He called you to do. He's always there. "I'll never leave you nor forsake you," no matter what. All your friends may forsake you. You may feel alone. You may feel deserted. You may feel helpless, but you're never helpless because you have Him.
The third thing is this. He's ready to give you assurance when you doubt Him. Everybody doubts some things at some point in life. And there's not anybody who says, "I've never doubted". We've all hit those situations where we have doubted at least for a few moments or a brief period of time until God did something in our life to remind us and to show us that we can trust Him. So, He's ready to give you assurance when you doubt Him.
Number four, His ways are often surprising and challenging, but always the best and the most successful. Everywhere Gideon turned, He was being tested. And the greatest test of all was when he took upon himself to war against the hundred and thirty-five of thousand of his enemy. God was with him and he surprised his innumerable hosts, and he simply did the will of God. Suppose he'd-a said, "Now look, God does, we have got to do this some other way. First of all, we're up on a mountaintop, they're down there. How are we going to defeat them if we're up here and they're down there"? In other words, if you'll think about it, it was totally unreasonable.
Now, watch this. Sometimes God will do things in your life that are totally unreasonable. I could name a few in my own life like you probably can, totally unreasonable. But what happens? If it's of God, it works. There is no way to fail being obedient to God. And that brings me to the last point. He always works in a way that exalts Him and brings Him glory. That's the way He operates. If you're willing to die to yourself and surrender your life to Holy God through His Son, Jesus Christ, He will accomplish in your life more than you expect; more than you anticipate; more than you think you're worth. He will accomplish in and through you His perfect will.
So, I want to ask you this question, who's running your life anyway? Are you living by your decisions? Are you asking the Lord to give you guidance and direction each day of your life? You say, "Well, I'm not even a Christian". Well, let's talk about it. If you're not, here's what you're saying. "I'm sufficient; I'm adequate; I can handle my life the way I am. I don't need God". This is the God that created you. This is the God who's given you breath, life. This is the God who's given you opportunities and abilities and talents and skills, and you're telling Him you don't need Him. That is a foolish statement. It is a disastrous statement.
You're looking God Almighty in the eyes and telling Him you don't need Him when your next breath's coming from Him. What you really need is the death of His Son applied to your life. What He did at the cross paid your sin-debt in full. And the only way you're going to die and go to Heaven is accepting Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, who died an atoning death; a sacrificial death; a death that made it possible for your sins to be paid for and you to have your sins forgiven and spend eternity with Him. That's the only hope that you have. Look around you. Look at what's happening to people who are living in sin. You don't even have to read the Bible, just look around you. And then look at people who are trusting God and walking in relationship to Him.
God will transform your life. He will do in you and through you more than you ever expect. But first of all, He must have your heart. He must have your surrendered will, so He can call the plays and because He wants the glory. That's the opportunity you have. And if you're willing to ask Him to forgive you of your sins and surrender your life to Him, He'll do it instantly. You say, "Well, then what do I do"? You just keep listening and keep watching; week after week after week, God will lay one truth on you after the other; teach you how to walk a godly walk and to live a godly life. And that's my prayer for you.
Father, how grateful we are You've made it simple for us to be saved. To simply confess our sins to You, acknowledging that You're the Lord God; and that our sins have separated us from you; and only by the shed blood of Jesus at Calvary are our sins atoned for. I pray for every person who's listening or watching that Your Spirit would speak to that person right now. You know where they are; the kind of trouble they're in, heartaches, burdens, emptiness, loneliness, frustration, fears. And Father, You know exactly what it will take to change all of that. Give them the wisdom and the courage, God, to call upon You and seek Your face and believe in their heart that You will hear and answer their prayer. And we pray this in Jesus's name, amen.