Jack Graham - How We Fight Our Battles
Take your Bible and turn with me to the book of Judges in your Old Testament and the sixth chapter. We're talking about some heroes of faith and how they were fearless in the face of the battle. And this man Gideon was really an unassuming hero. In fact, he didn't consider himself a hero at all. And we're going to find out how God raised him up and used him to win a great victory, and how we can win victories as well.
Judges, chapter 6. Let's read the Scripture, beginning in verse 11: "Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belongs to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon", there's our man, "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, 'The Lord is with you, O mighty warrior.' And Gideon said to him, 'Please, my lord, 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?'" Key verse; underline it in your Bible, "'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, and I am the lest 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.'"
Now, you gotta love this story because it teaches us truth about fighting our battles and winning them. And I want to give you three truths right out of this passage and the first one is this: I am who He says I am who God says I am. When the angel of the Lord, and there's evidence in the Scripture that this angel of the Lord is actually a pre-incarnate appearance of the Lord Himself. In other words, this is more than an angel, but God Himself showed up that day. But when the angel of the Lord came, the presence of God was sitting there right next to him and announced to Gideon, "Hail, mighty man of valor". Now Gideon felt like anything but a mighty man of valor. The Midianites were in charge in dominion; they had decimated the crops and the people of Israel. They were large and in charge and in control. And Gideon who says, "I am the least of the least; least of the tribes of Israel. I am a nobody; I'm a nothing". He was literally hiding in a hole beating wheat with a stick because he was living in such great fear. He did not feel like a hero; he felt pretty much like a zero.
So here he is down in the hole, trying to just hide and make a living, and the angel of the Lord shows up and he says, "You are a mighty man of valor". Just remember that the Bible does teach us there are angels all around us. And we know God is with us in Christ, that His presence is around us. We also can know that there are angels all around us. If you believe your Bible, you will believe in angels. So this angel, the angel of the Lord shows up and says to Gideon, "You're going to be a great warrior, a great victor. You're no longer going to be a victim but you're going to be a great victor". And that's what God wants us all to hear today, as we're fighting our battles: that we are not who we say we are or someone else says we are but we are who God says we are. Because God defines our lives not by our family, not by our past, not by our failures, not by our mistakes, but God defines us in Christ. I am who God says I am!
Now Gideon was filled with doubt and desperation. And when the angel says to him, "You are going to be a great warrior and God is with you". He threw up his doubts. He said, "Well, if that's true, if God is with us then why are all these things happening to us? Why are we crushed and living in bondage to this wicked enemy, the Midianites? And, oh by the way, why don't we see the miracles that we used to see, that we hear about? Our forefathers told us about all the miracles of God in coming out of Egypt and where are the miracles today"? You know, every time we have a crisis in the nation, in the world, or so often when we have a personal crisis, we start asking those why questions, don't we? And those "where-is-God" questions, and "God, why don't you show up and do something right now"? And we often tend to doubt in the dark what God showed us in the light.
The fact is, that God has given us great promises. We don't live by explanations; we live on the promises of God. And this is a time when you are in a personal crisis whether it's this corona virus crisis or some other crisis or circumstance in your life, this is not the time to lose your faith. This is the time to live your faith! And you can live your faith if you know who you are in Christ! And that's what God is teaching us. Every time we have a crisis, God is testing the genuineness of our faith. That's what Peter tells us in 1 Peter, chapter 1, verse 6 and 7: "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while if necessary you have been grieved by various trials so that the tested, genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ". You know what that's saying? That's saying "because you're going through a trial or a test, even right now, that God is proving you, God is preparing you and God is using tests, trials, difficulties in our lives to glorify Himself, and ultimately when we see Jesus, we'll stand complete in Him".
Gideon soon discovered who God is and what God can do. And God can do anything but fail. But first, before God could use him in a great way, Gideon needed to discover who he was; that he was God's man. Too many Christians think negatively about themselves. I don't know if it's past circumstances or I don't know if it's what others have told you about yourself, or experiences in your life, but so many Christians live in shame. They live in such failure and they're always saying to themselves things like this; things that Gideon was saying. Said, "I'm not worthy". I'm worthless, I'm a loser, I can't do this, I'll never get out of this hole that I'm in. I'm going to spend the rest of my life just beating, eking out a living.
But you know what God says? God says, "In Christ, because you are a follower of Jesus, you are called, you are chosen, you are blessed, you are redeemed. You are a child of God"! Start telling yourself who God says you are right out of the word of God. This is not at all a psychological pump-up. This is the reality of God's Word. Say about yourself what God says about you in His word. Just as God spoke to Gideon and told him "You are a mighty man of valor". You're not worthless, you're not just a nobody. I'm calling you, I'm sending you, I'm going to use you to win a great victory that will be told throughout all of history.
Number two, God uses whom He chooses. It's often surprising the people that God uses and the people that God chooses. God is looking for people just like you and me who are surrendered to Him, who are weak enough and know we're weak enough that God can fill us with His strength and use us. So the first thing after Gideon worships God, so much in this story I wish I could tell you. But the first thing that he did after he understood who he was, who God was, that God was sending him, he worshipped God; worship comes before the war. And he tears down the idols of his household, the family household, and then he goes out and he blows a trumpet to gather an army, to say rise to the challenge.
Now I brought something that was given to me several years ago. I keep it in my office. You may recognize this: this is a shofar and it is basically a Hebrew trumpet. And they're still blown today in Israel and other places. And I'm going to try to show you what this sounds like. It won't raise much of an army but it might tell you a little bit about the call of God and the call of Gideon. Are you ready for this? Now if I pass out, if all the air rushes from my head, they're going to come and get me and revive me, and I'll come right back. All Right. Are you ready for this? We're going to do this. Yeow, let's let the blood get back into my head and I'll keep talking. But that was a trumpet and Gideon goes out and he blows this trumpet and 32,000 volunteers show up, ready to fight the Midianites. They were ready, they thought, to fight to the bitter end.
Well, the end came nearer than they expected because God gave them a couple of tests-the army, because he wanted to make sure the army was right sized. Right now Gideon's thinking, "I've got 32,000 and we're undermanned, we're under-armed. We're going against a Midianite army of 450,000: 450,000 to 32,000". That's not a fair fight but Gideon thinks with God we could take them 32,000 to 450,000. And, oh by the way, the Midianites, they were the first warriors and soldiers in the ancient world to ride camels into battle! Now can you imagine that? I mean, you've seen these camels. These camels are ferocious! A camel can be a very mean animal. And so they are riding on camels. They are a vicious fighting force. And Gideon's got 32,000. And God says to Gideon, "You have too many". Gideon says, "What"? He says, "Yes, you have too many". And because God's going to right size his army, he says, "Tell anybody who is afraid just to go home; go home". And 22,000 went home! They were not courageous; they were cowardly. They were not fearless; they were fearful.
So they went home. They trampled poor Gideon. He gets up, shakes off the dust and now he's got 10,000 left. And he's thinking these odds are decreasing. We've got 10,000 against 450,000. And he said, "But we'll do it. God says we're going to win this battle". And then God says to Gideon, "There's still too many". "Say, what?"! "There's still too many"! And he took them down to the spring of Harran When we go to Israel even today you can go to this very place where this event happened, when these soldiers were tested. He said, "Tell them to go down to the spring and get a drink of water. And those who are on guard". In other words when they get their water, perhaps they would do something like this: they would get on a knee and they would have their sword here. They would make sure the enemy was not behind them and they would drink the water like this. The others would just throw their mouths down in the water and lap like a dog. God said all the soldiers who stayed on guard, keep them. The rest of them, send home. Those who were unfaithful.
You see, God needs fearless people in the battle and He needs faithful people in the battle. And I believe those 300 now that remain represent the fearless and the faithful, a strong fighting force. I mean, these are Navy Seals. These are the best of the best. These are the strongest fighting forces guys you can imagine and yet it is 300 to 450, odds 450 to one. And impossible situation. You see what God is doing? God is bringing Gideon to a place of absolute surrender and dependence upon Him. The way we win our battles is to surrender first to the Lord. But something very wonderful happened, recorded in verse 34. Verse 34 says: "But the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon", very illustrative language. Literally it says the Spirit of the Lord clothed Himself with Gideon. In other words, Gideon was saying, "Lord, wear me like a suit. Wear me like a suit of clothes. Clothe me with Your Spirit". And that's what we ought to be praying every day. "Lord, walk around in me. Wear me like a garment. Fill me with Your Spirit. Because this is a spiritual battle".
The Lord clothed Himself with Gideon. Is the Lord clothing Himself with you? Is He covering you? Gideon is prepared and now he has an army that is ready. When we fight life's battles, we must be courageous people. Because fear will defeat us every single time. Now is the time to rise up and fearlessly face the challenges of our days. It's so critical. But fear can be contagious. Fear can be contagious in a family. It can spread like a virus in a family. Fear can be contagious in a church. I know many churches that are held back because of fear rather than living in faith and risking things in faith. Fear can be contagious in a nation; it can be contagious in your life. It can spread and it can be cancerous in your life. Fearless people know that "If God be with us who can be against us"? And that's the lesson Gideon learned, his army that day. It's the lesson that we must learn, and that is: "If God be with us, who can be against us"?
Truth number one, when you fight your spiritual battles, I am-you are who God says we are. Truth number two, and that is that God uses whom He chooses. But here's the final word that I want to give you. The battle is the Lord's. That's what the Bible tells us again and again when we fight our battles. This is how we fight our battles. We give our battles to God. We're engaged, we're involved but the battle is the Lord's. And we see that so powerfully taught to us in this story of Gideon and his magnificent minority- now 300 soldiers. They're totally outnumbered. I know in a godless culture like ours today, sometimes we as believers and followers of Jesus feel totally outnumbered. But this great story tells us that one plus God is a majority. One church surrendered to the power of God is a majority. You are a majority with God. And God brings us to a place of absolute dependence upon Him.
It was John Wesley, the great Christian of yesteryear who said, "Give me 100 men who fear nothing but sin and love nothing but God and I will shake the gates of hell". I believe God is preparing an army, that God is giving us a future, coming out on the other side of this international crisis, this pandemic, that God is preparing us to fight the enemy. Spiritual victories are going to be won. We are going to experience not just survival but revival! That's the word! Not survival, but revival! And so God assures Gideon in verse 14 of this passage of the victory. He says, this is no other than the sword of Gideon, the son of Joash a man of Israel. God has given into his hand Midian and all of the camp.
Now quickly, let me summarize the end of this story. Once they get to the battlefield, Gideon, he slips into the camp himself. He's the general but he goes into the camp himself, the camp of the Midianites. And he's listening inside the tent, or outside the tent rather, of the conversation going on between two Midianite solders. One can't sleep; he wakes up and he said, "I had a terrible dream, an awful dream. I don't know what it means. A barley loaf coming down the hill and collapsing all the tents of the Midianites. A barley loaf! What does that mean"? And his fellow soldier says, "I'll tell you what that means. I'm afraid to tell you what that means. That means that Gideon and his army, Gideon who was the barley loaf. You know the barley loaf was the most coarse and cheapest kind of bread. But this barley loaf, Gideon, full of the power of God, God clothing Himself with Gideon, like that barley loaf will smash and crush the tent of the enemy".
And when Gideon heard that, he heard the fear from those Midianites, he knew right then that God had given him the victory. We have nothing to fear. So many things frighten us, but God has given us victory in Jesus. And here's the great truth of all truths: that we don't fight for victory, we fight from victory! Let me say that again: We don't fight for victory in Christ; we fight from victory which means, Christ won the victory at the cross when He burst forth out of the grave, because Christ has won the greatest victory of all over sin, death and hell. That He has dominion and power and authority over Satan. And because we are in Christ, we also have this victory in Jesus! God had a strange battle plan for Gideon and his army. He told them to get a trumpet, a jug and a torch, a trumpet, a jug and a torch, and then to blow the trumpet, to break the jug or the pitcher and to light the torch. And I don't want to go off the deep end with too much symbolism here, but what this reminds me of when it speaks of taking a trumpet into the battle, it means that we with a clarion voice declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We blow that trumpet.
The Bible says, "How will the world hear unless there is a clarion call, unless there is a clear voice"? This speaks of our witness for the Gospel of Christ. We go, blowing a trumpet. And then not only the trumpet, but the jug; the jug was to be shattered. And that speaks of our weakness. We have this treasure in earthen vessels. And when we are broken the light shines out. And of course, the torch speaks of the the light of the world. We have this treasure in earthen vessels, and the treasure is Jesus. We are a light; we are to shine forth to the nations. I'm telling you all of this story very quickly just to teach you this truth: the battle is the Lord's. And when we use spiritual weapons, not carnal, human, fleshly weapons, but spiritual weapons, mighty to the pulling down of strongholds. Something as simple as a trumpet and a jug and a light. We are a light! We are a trumpet! When we declare the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit! When we shout out and stand up for Christ in our generation, God gives us the victory! You don't have to live in defeat.
So many are living in defeat like Gideon before he met God. Down deep in that hole. You feel like you're in a hole and you don't know how to get out. But the way out is Jesus Himself because He has provided victory for you. I'm going to ask you to bow your heads with me and right now we want to pray a prayer. We always want to invite people to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. If you want to trust Christ as your Savior right now, you can do it right where you are. Jesus died for you; He rose again on the third day. And if you will believe in Him, the Scripture says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved". To be saved, you say, what does that mean? It means that all your sins are forgiven, past, present and future. Doesn't that sound wonderful? You don't have to live in your sin, your shame; all your sins are forgiven. We're saved from sin. "You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins". And it means not only that, but Christ will live in you. We talked about that in the message.
How God will wear us like a suit of clothes. God's Spirit is in us; Jesus is alive in us! And we can live a full and fulfilling life, an abundant life, an eternal life beginning now in Christ. And it also means to be saved, not only your sins forgiven, and Christ living in you, giving you this abundant life, but it also means that you have the hope and the promise of heaven. Do you know for certain that if you were to die today that you would go to heaven? You need to know; you can know. "These things are written", the Bible, "that you may know", K-N-O-W, not think so, hope so, maybe so, but know so, "that you are on your way to heaven". And you can settle that issue in your life today. The Bible says "Prepare to meet your God". Are you prepared to meet God? Pray and receive Christ right now. Pray like this: Lord Jesus, I invite You to come into my life. I turn from my sins and I trust in You. Come into my life. Be my Savior; be my Lord, and help me to live for You in the power of Your Holy Spirit, until You come for me or call me home.