Jack Graham - The Person God Uses
I'm bringing you this message on the story of Gideon today on the subject "The Person God Uses". When we meet Gideon, he is broken, he is beaten down, he is afraid, he is fearful, he is eking out a living with a stick in a hole, a wine press just threshing wheat. Normally you would thresh wheat in the wide open where the wind could blow the chaff. But he's down in a hole. He's so low he's down in a hole hiding, and beating this wheat and the chaff is blowing in his face; for fear of his own life. And yet God broke through; God intervened, and in chapter 6 we meet this man for the first time. Verse 11: "Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, 'The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.'"
At this point Gideon looks over his shoulder to see who he's talking to because he figures it can't be him. He's anything but a mighty man of valor. He's a loser. He's the least of the least by his own admission. "And Gideon said to him, 'Please, sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.' And the Lord turned to him and said, 'Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?' And he said to him, 'Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh; I am the least in my father's house'. And the Lord said to him, 'But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.'"
God, the angel of the Lord appears to Gideon, "The Lord is with you, oh mighty man of valor". And Gideon begins to argue with the Lord! "Why has all this happened to us? If you say God is with us, why are we living like this? Why are we so beaten down? Why are we so broken? And what about all those miracles that our fathers talked about? Where are the miracles"? Now get this; he's asking where are the miracles and an angel of God is standing right in front of him! He's losing it and he wonders, "Where is God"? Like a lot of people do today. I heard about a little girl, her mother was telling her all the great Bible stories, the great victories and adventures of the Bible, the great heroes of the Bible and what God did; the parting of the Red Sea and the walls of Jericho falling down. And the little girl said to her mother, "God was a lot more exciting back then, wasn't He"?
I think a lot of people wonder where is God, why is God not more exciting? Why doesn't God do what He used to do? As if God were dead or "Maybe God's just older now and He can't do the things He used to do. He's in retirement mode". No, God is the same as always. Hebrews 13:8, "Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever". He's still a God of might and miracles. I'm excited about Him everyday! But Gideon did exactly what people do today; they start blaming God for their troubles. "Why has all this happened to us? Why has God allowed this to happen"? Like someone who chooses to marry an unbeliever. You know the Bible strictly commands us as believers and followers of Jesus to marry a believer.
2 Corinthians 6:14, "Don't be unequally yoked together with unbelievers". But you thought you were smarter than God and you were in love or in lust or in something. And you got married outside the will of God, outside of God's best plan for your life, and ten years later you're wondering why your marriage is in such a mess and saying, "God, where are you"? And yet when we cry out to God the Scripture says He gives, Isaiah 61:3, "beauty for ashes". And God can take our messes and turn them into a message of redemption and salvation. How grateful we are for that! But it's always wise, it's always right to obey God. But don't blame God for your own failures! God just ignores Gideon's objections and says to him: "Now is the time", verse 14, "Go in this might of yours and save Israel". He's saying, "Gideon, I'm not here to discuss the philosophy of suffering and evil, why bad things happen to good people, or bad things happen to bad people. That's not what I'm here to talk about! I'm here to call you to go and get something done in My name! You can change the situation in My name, in My power if you will follow Me! Go in My name"!
You know, people that God uses, they have a bias for action. I'm not the kind of person who wants to sit down and talk about a problem day after day after day after day! Give me the facts, tell me what the situation is and then let's do something! Why do we want to sit around and talk about what God wants us to do? God has told His people what He wants us to do, and that is to advance His kingdom, to pray, to reach the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to fulfill the Great Commission, to raise up Christian families for His glory, to take our families into heaven! Let's do it! Let's quit talking about it and get it on! Gideon then says, "But wait a minute, Lord, I'm just a nothing. I'm the least of the least, I'm a nobody. I'm like the runt on the litter in my own family". And that brings me to the first characteristic of the kind of person that God uses.
God uses ordinary people who are dependent upon Him. It's a simple but profound thought that God uses and chooses those people, not because they're the most talented or they're the superheroes... Gideon wasn't a hero; he was more like a zero. But not just the Phi Beta Kappas and the brightest and the most beautiful, the most handsome man, the captain of the football team, the most beautiful girl, head cheerleader. God may use people like that if they're dependent upon Him, but for the most part, God doesn't use the super talented, the super wealthy, God uses ordinary people like you and me, the lowest of the low. Not those who think lowly of themselves, but those who don't think of themselves; the selfless but surrendered people. The people that are available to God! God uses unexpected people in unusual places. Why does He do this? So that God gets the glory. So that God gets all the praise.
If God just used all the talented people, then people would say, "Hey, well done"! But when God uses people like us then when the victory comes we know it's His victory and not our own! God said, "You mighty man of valor". A mighty man of valor was a brave warrior in the face of courage and conflict. He was not. But you see God saw Gideon and He sees you, not for who are but for what you can become. When Jesus called Simon Peter, called him to fish for men, He gave him a new name. Rocky. Everyone around him knew Peter was not solid. He was not rock-like. He was vacillating and weak and stumbling around. But Jesus saw the promise in this man when he gave a prophetic word about who he was and what he would become. Gideon said, "Who am I"? That's not the question. It's not "who am I". It's not about me! The question is: Who is God?
And if you have a great God, He will use you in a great way for His glory. He sees your promise; He sees your potential. God doesn't call the equipped; He equips the called. And His commandments are His enablements to do what He calls us to do. God says, "I will be with you; I am with you and that's all that matters". Really the key to this entire passage, the key to the point that I'm making, the kind of person that God uses is seen in chapter 6 and verse 34. Mark it: "The Spirit of the Lord came upon him and clothed Gideon". The Spirit of the Lord came within him and wore Gideon like a suit of clothes. Wouldn't that be a wonderful prayer for you pray each day? "Lord, I'm up. Here I am. Would you just wear me like a suit of clothes? Would you walk around in me and live through me and love through me and serve through me"?
The Spirit of God wore Gideon like clothing. Before I got up here and preached, I did something that I often do when I put on my jacket before walking in here and I put on my coat, I just breathe a prayer and said, "Lord, wear me like a suit! Use me". This is a picture of the power of God in us, the presence of Christ in us. You say, "God can't use me". You're like Gideon, "I'm just a little ol' nothing. I'm just a... I'm not anything. I just serve God in my poor little old weak way". Well, cut it out! Quit serving God in your poor little ol' weak way and start serving God in the power of His Spirit, in His strong and mighty way!
So God filled His man with His Spirit and he began serving God and taking a stand in small ways. First, in his own home, and then on the battlefield. That's the second thing: God uses people who are faithful in small things. Small things. God uses little things and secret things and small things to do a great work. Jesus said in Luke chapter 16, and verse 10, "He that is faithful in that which least shall be faithful also in that which is much". You do what's right in front of you even if it's a seemingly small thing. You take care of business at home. Now Gideon was the son of an idolater. His father who was a Jew was a compromised Jew. He had erected altars the Baal gods were among the worse. There were poles, an asherah which signaled the place to worship Baal, these altars. And Gideon grew up in a home where Baal was worshipped! And God said, "Before we go to battle I want you to start in your own home and I want you to go tear that altar down".
Now that was a scary thing to do because to defy your father was worthy of death. And all the people in the community had joined in the idolatry. And to tear down one of these altars of so-called worship that puts you in people's target zone. And so Gideon obeyed God. It says that, this is verse 25, "That night the Lord said to him, 'Take your father's bull, and the second bull seven years old, pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it and build an altar to the Lord your God'". In other words, tear down the altar of Baal and build there an altar to the one true God! The last verse of that section, verse 27, says that he was afraid of his family and of the men in the town to do it by day so he did it by night. His faith is not fully formed but at least he started with the faith that he had. He didn't do it in the broad daylight, but he whaled on that altar of Baal at night and tore it down.
The men of the city were so angry they demanded his death but his father defended him and they said he tore down the altar of Baal and his father said, "Okay, well, if Baal's god let Baal contend with him. We don't have to kill him. If Baal exists, let Baal deal with him"! And Gideon began to be known as the contender with Baal-Jerubbaal. That's where he got his name. But the fact is God uses ordinary things, small things. He started with his own home. You know, isn't it interesting that sometimes, really most of the time our own families are the hardest for us to reach, especially if they're compromised like Gideon's family. They don't believe in God. But you just simply must start loving your family and living for Christ so that they can know Jesus, too. And take a stand in your own family! Compromise never works! It may work in politics but not in your home, not in your family, not in your faith! Take a stand! You're never going to reach...
Sometimes we have the idea that we can reach people better if we, you know, just kinda out world the world, be like the world. Do the same things my friends do. No, stand up, stand out, take a stand for God! Don't be a compromiser! Tear down the idols! Every stronghold must be torn down! Every high place must be torn down. The high places were where these altars were built! Tear it down! So after he deals with his own family, God told him to choose an army and this brings us to the third point: God uses people who are obedient to Him. And Gideon, to his credit, was able to put together an army of 32,000 men, 32,000; fairly big army.
Now they were facing an army of Medianites of over 100,000. 135,000 with their ferocious camels. But at least he had 32,000. And verses 1 through 3 of chapter 7 tells us what happened next: "Then Jerubbaal", that is, Gideon, "and all the people who were with him rose early and encamped beside the spring of Harod". You can go there today. I've been there many times. We take our Israel groups to this very place, the spring of Harod. "And the camp of Midian was north of them", you can look out there and see where the Midianites were encamped, "by the hill of Moreh, in the valley. It's all still there. And the Lord said to Gideon, 'The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, "My own hand has saved me". Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, "Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead".'" God says, "As it stands today you've got 32,000. That's too many because at this point if there was a fight, when the battle is on and Israel wins than Israel will just say, 'Great fight. Look what we did!'"
So we're going to thin the ranks, Gideon. And what we're going to do is to tell all the people that are afraid to go home. I don't know what Gideon was expecting but I'm sure he wasn't expecting a stampede when 22,000 left. Out of here! And God thinned the ranks of his army down to just 10,000 because God can't really use fearful people; people who are unwilling to stand for what is right, who are afraid for whatever reason, afraid of the culture, afraid of the media, afraid of their family, afraid of their friends, what others are going to say, who are ashamed of the Gospel. God can't use people like that. If you're scared, go home! That's what all these people did.
You say, "Well, I lost my faith". Why? "Well, things were hard. I had a tragedy". It's a good thing you lost that faith because it wasn't real if you had a faith like that. Tragedy and struggles and battles make real faith stronger! Maybe you ought to get rid of the faith that you so easily lose and get a real faith in Jesus Christ. Because faith will make you courageous and strong in the day of trial! The faith that can't be tested is the faith that can't be trusted! So he said, "Just go home". And then God said you've still got too many. What? He said, "Yes". He said "Give them this test". And here's what God told them to do. We won't read the text. For the sake of time let me tell you what happened. He said do a simple test. It's a secret test while nobody knows their being tested.
Have you ever noticed how God measures us when we don't realize it? He marks us whether we know it or not in a secret place in a small place? So there were a certain group among the soldiers who went down on all fours like a dog and stuck their snout right in the water and began to lap like a dog. They were more concerned about their comfort and themselves and careless about the battle. They turned their back on the battle and on the enemy, and just stuck their face in the water. There was another group who got down like this, with their sword bearing, and they cupped the water like this and they were alert, they were alive, they were ready, stayed ready, and God said, "That's your army". Guess how many. Three hundred-450 to 1 odds. Impossible! I mean this would be like sending a Prestonwood sports organization little league team against the Rangers. I mean, no way you can win, right? And God said here's how we're going to win. And He gave them a battle strategy.
He said, "Gideon, give everybody a clay pot, a torch for the pot and a trumpet. And get in companies of 100, 100, 100 and when you hear the word shouted 'For the sword of the Lord and for Gideon!' then tell everybody to crack their pot, to light and lift their torch and to blow their trumpet". Really? That's your plan? And they obeyed God. And when in the middle of the night those pots started breaking and those lights started streaming and those trumpets started blaring and those 300, that magnificent minority began to shout, "For the sword of the Lord and Gideon"! Those Midianites, in the middle of the night they started turning on each other; pandemonium broke loose. They're stabbing each other, they're killing each other, they're running away, and the children of Israel, they're just standing by, "Hey, tell us when you're dead. We'll come in and clean up"!
And God gave them a great victory that day! "For the sword of the Lord and of Gideon"! They overcame insurmountable odds. You know sometimes we look at the 300, and I even kind of said it this morning the first service. "These are the Seals, these are the elites, these are the Delta Force". Not really. They were just three hundred guys who weren't afraid, who were alert to the battle, who let God use them because they were obedient to Him. God is looking for people like that. God's not waiting on our clever strategies or our plans or our money or our resources. The way we're going to win the battle is through prayer, the Word of God, blowing the trumpet of faith, and letting God use us in the power of His Spirit. Because we're all nobodies. I'm just a nobody. I'm just a nobody trying to tell everybody about a somebody who will save anybody who will trust in Him!