Tony Evans - Men Who Beat The Odds
During the days of Shamgar, nobody was traveling along the highways. They went in roundabout ways. The main highways had been deserted, and if men wanted to go somewhere, if people wanted to travel, they had to go roundabout ways. They had to go on the dirt roads. They had to go on the side roads. They couldn't go on the main thoroughfares. To understand why we're told that, you have to understand the book of Judges. You see, the book of Judges talks about God's people in a failed scenario. Judges 21, verse 25, says that "There was no king in those days, and every man did that which was right in his own eyes".
So during the days of the judges, this was a time of what we would call today, "postmodernism". No absolutes existed. Everybody had their own truth, so people individually became their own god, became their own king, and did their own thing because they were their own standard. There was no superintending, governing guidance to which all the people subscribed. Enter the Philistines. The Philistines were the enemies of Israel. When they saw the chaos in the society, they took that as an invitation to take advantage of a disintegrating culture. "Since the folk can't get along, since everybody else is makin' up their own rules, since there's chaos everywhere we look, we, the Philistines, are going to invade Israel". So you have an invasion occurring, that's why it talks about him slaying the Philistines, because you have chaos.
Now, you don't need to read the Bible to see what that looks like. All you gotta do is read the newspaper or look at the news, and you will see today we are in a chaotic situation. In the midst of the crisis, we have 22 words. Judges chapter 3, verse 31, 22 words about a man named Shamgar, but these are 22 powerful, powerful words that gives each of us, but especially the men here, principles by which, if you grab them, understand them, and inculcate them, how you can make a difference in spite of how bad things are. And, trust me, if we don't make a difference, they're only gonna get worse before they get better.
So let's find out in these 22 words, a few things about Shamgar that will benefit us all but, hopefully and specifically, challenge the men. "After him," that is, "After the previous judge, Ehud, came," we're told, "Shamgar". Now, the first thing I want you to note, first thing I want you to note about Shamgar, is what he did before he became a judge 'cause it says, "He slew 600 Philistines with an oxgoad," so that tells us what his job was before he became a judge over Israel. He's a farmer 'cause an oxgoad is a eight-foot pole with a sharp metal tip on one end and a flat chisel area on the other end. The sharp end of the oxgoad was used to goad the ox and keep them pulling the plow.
So whenever they slowed down, you would prick it, prick it, and prick it, so it would pick back up for completing the farming responsibilities. The chisel on the back end, the flat surface of metal on the back end, was for the farmer to dig up roots and to dig up things that were obstructing the process of tilling the soil so that he could plant his seed. So this was a very important tool in the hand of a farmer. Farmers had oxgoads. So we find out about Shamgar that he doesn't start off as a judge. He starts off as a farmer.
Now, why do you need to know that? You need to know that because the first thing you and I need to do is start where you are. You don't start where you wanna be. You start where you are. A lot of folk are waitin' till they get more money, more education, higher position, more notoriety before they do anything. There are many things in God's kingdom that do not get done because he's waiting on God's people to move with where they are right now. Stop waiting on God 'cause God is tired of waiting on you and me, and us.
Where are you now in your life? What is your situation that God wants you to be faithful to him in where you are right now? Yeah, I know you prayin' for this, this, and this, and keep praying for that, that, and that, but what're you doin' here, here, and now? If there is no movement where you are, then what you're saying is "I don't trust God here. I'm only gon' trust him when I go there". Shamgar, we find him on a farm. One of the great tragedies far too often in the life of men is procrastination. "Serve the Creator in the days of your youth". Don't wait till you get old.
One of the things that far too many of us as men lack is vision. "Vision" means "looking further than you can see". If all you see is what you see, you do not see all there is to be seen. God specifically created men to express vision. When he created Adam, he says, "Adam, here's the garden. Now I want you to take this raw material, and I want you to cultivate it, and I want you to develop it, and I want you to turn it into something beyond what you started with". A lot of times, men are asking their wives to follow a parked bus or a parked car because there has been no vision given for where God wants us to go. It is the responsibility of the man to set forth vision.
The Bible says in Joel chapter 2, verse 28, repeated again in Acts chapter 2, verse 17, it says, "Your younger sons shall have vision, and the old men will dream dreams". Doesn't bring the women into that. He says, "The women shall prophesy," but he says it will be the men who will have visions, and it will be the older men who will dream dreams, so every man in here is supposed to be a vision caster and a dream maker. So even though you may not have much right now, you should be sitting in front of your family, discussing with them the vision God gives you for where he's taking you, your family, your kids, where we're taking us, the community, the church. You're supposed to be a vision caster. Why? Because "Without a vision, people perish".
The reason why many men are having trouble with their wives is they've never given their wives a vision for where the family's goin'. So since she doesn't have your vision to follow, she creates her own. Then you'll get mad that she goin' in her own way, when you've not given her a dream to go your way. So it is the man's role to cast a vision. This is where we are. I don't like things as they are, so I'm going to seek God to give me a vision for what he wants to do, to take it from where it is to where he wants it to be. Shamgar was dissatisfied. He's a farmer, but he sees that he can't travel down the main highway now. The main highways are blocked, and so he takes an oxgoad, an oxgoad... wait a minute. An oxgoad, that's for farmin'. That's what you do. You prod the animal along so he can keep pullin' the plow. You dig up the roots and the brushes that are in the way. But because he's a man of vision, it dawns on him, "I can use this oxgoad", it's pronounced "oxgoad". "I can use this oxgoad for more than farmin'".
It says that he slew 600 Philistine with the oxgoad. He has one oxgoad, and this one oxgoad gets rid of 600 problems. How many problems are in your life, in your world, in your job, on your career? How many problems are in your home, in your family? You say there are dozens and dozens of 'em. He had 600. He had one tool, but because he knew how to use the one tool the right way, under divine influence, it was able to get the job done. When God is ready to move, he don't need a bunch of stuff, but he needs to own the stuff. Sometimes God will ask you to demonstrate your faith by asking you to do something opposite to your logic 'cause what's gettin' a lot of us in trouble is our human understandin', our human logic: "This is the way we're raised," "This is what they taught me in school," "This is what I'm used to," "This is what I think," "This is how I feel," and God said totally somethin' else, and we never get around to the "somethin' else," so we never see what our oxgoad is.
If God could ever get ahold of the oxgoad in your life, what he has handed you that he wants to use for something bigger than just your little small world, because you're dissatisfied with the confusion, you're dissatisfied with the crime, you're dissatisfied with the chaos, you're dissatisfied with the terrorism, but now you want to take what God has given you, hand it back to him. All David had was a stone. That's all he had. Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that would taunt the armies of the living God? He just had a stone and a slingshot, but he also had one thing. He says, "You come to me with all that equipment, Goliath. I come to you in the name of the Lord. So let's see what he does with this stone when I let it go".
Holy Ghost took the stone, drew it into Goliath's head. He chopped off Goliath's head and said, "Hey y'all". In other words, all he needed was what he had. It just had to get sanctified by God so that it could now do something bigger than it could ever do on its own. So the question on the floor now is "How do you defeat 600, when it's only you, and all you have is an oxgoad"? I mean, how do you do that? Well, you don't do it all in one time. There's 600 come at you at one time, okay? They had cut off all the roads, all the highways, which means they weren't all in one place at one time. See, they're spread out among the different highways, so he had a bunch of gangs he had to deal with.
So they may have 25 here and 50 here. He looked at his oxgoad and said, "Mm, yeah, this could be a Tomahawk Missile. It's sharp on one side, fat on the other side, and I know how to use it 'cause I've been farmin' with this thing for years". God has given you something. Every man has an oxgoad. You may not even know what it is now, but if you are a man and you are a Christian, in fact, if you're a Christian at all, woman or man, but especially as a man, you have an oxgoad. God has given you something that he wants to grab and use for his glory and the good of others. I want you to have a bigger vision. You must start where you are. You must use what ya have.
What was Shamgar's secret? What was the key that shifted his life so that he became a judge, and one man saved the whole nation? Says, "He saved Israel," one man with an oxgoad. What was his secret? Well, you have to understand how you got to be a judge. Let me show you the first judge: Chapter 3, verse 10, "The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel". There it is. You know how you became a judge? God took over your life. That's how you became a judge. The Spirit of the Lord came, and the Spirit of the Lord grabbed the man and now empowered him to do stuff out of the ordinary. He wants us to cultivate such a deep, dynamic relationship with him all the time so that he owned your thoughts, owned your decisions, owned your feelings, owned your perspective so that he could overrule you 'cause he owns you.
We talkin' about one man gets rid of 600 Philistines, and he saves a whole nation gettin' ready to fall apart. Hear me now, if Jesus Christ comes back tomorrow, we don't have to worry about what's happening in our nation, but if he doesn't come back for another 200 years, you better worry about what's happening in our nation, and God needs some men with some spiritual oxgoads, who will step up to the spiritual plate, who will make a relationship with him, the number one driving force in their lives, who will operate underneath his rule so that he can sanctify the oxgoad and do things that will blow your mind as he starts slaying things that are trying to get rid of you, means he's gotta give you a vision. That means you gotta be close enough to hear his voice.
See, if you have a long-distance relationship with God, a smo Sunday mornin' only, if that's your relationship with God, you're not gon' hear him. See, it's the job of the Holy Spirit to tell you what he wants to do with you, what your oxgoad is, what he wants you to move, the new thoughts he wants you to have, the vision he wants you to cast, the movement he wants you to make. My sermon can't tell you that. That's once a week. You need a relationship with the Holy Spirit so that he can speak to you directly. You say, "But how does he speak"?
Well, let me explain how the Holy Spirit speaks. When you in close proximity to him because he whispers, see, he doesn't scream. He whispers. And because he whispers, you gotta be in close proximity. When you're in close proximity, what he does, the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 2, he brings the thoughts of God, and he puts them in your mind. So he brings God's thoughts, and he registers them in your head so that now you begin to think God's thoughts after him. So when you begin to pray and you talk to God, you begin to speak things that your mind is thinking, but your mind is now thinking thoughts that the Holy Spirit has now put in your brain so that, when you talk to God about what the Holy Spirit has put in your brain, the reason God has to answer it is he told you to think it in the first place, which made you say it when you prayed.
So he wants to hook you up in an intimate relationship so that you "see what eyes have not seen, hear what ears have not heard, and experience", the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 2, "what you never thought about," historically. God wants to give you new ideas as a man, new brainstorms, new initiatives, new ways to use old talents like the oxgoad. He's got all this stuff he wants to do... But he's speaking in a whisper. So that's why you wanna make time for God. You wanna make time for God 'cause that's makin' time for you. That's giving him the right to give you new thoughts and visions by what he wants to do.
"You young men will have visions. You old men will dream dreams". So even when you get old, you're not supposed to be cold. And then your wife comes along and says, "How can I support? How can I help? How can I infuse? 'Cause I see you goin' somewhere. I see God takin' you somewhere. I see you movin' somewhere, and so I wanna get in on what God is doing with you". Wherever you are now, you start where you are, and you pursue God's presence and his ownership so that he can now show you what he wants you to deliver.
As you've heard before, one of my favorite shows is "Rocky V". Not "Rocky I," not "Rocky II," not "Rocky III," not "Rocky IV" - "Rocky V". Whenever I see it's on television, I'm either gonna watch it over again, of if I don't watch the whole thing, I'm gonna watch the last 15 minutes because it's the last 15 minutes that tells the whole story. In "Rocky V," Rocky Balboa is now too old to fight and too injured to fight. He can't fight now, and so he's tryin' to make sense of his life when along comes a up-and-coming fighter named Tommy Gunn. Tommy Gunn has always admired the Italian Stallion, and Tommy Gunn runs into Rocky, wants his autograph: "I've always, you know, I'm a fighter, and I've always admired you". And they strike up a friendship.
Tommy Gunn then asks Rocky Balboa to train him. Rocky decides, "Hey, this is a great way for me to stay in the fight game even though I can't fight anymore. Let me train this young guy". So he trains Tommy Gunn, and Tommy Gunn becomes the champion of the world, the heavyweight champion of the world. The problem is, when Tommy Gunn becomes the heavyweight champion of the world, he starts... Smellin' himself. He's now all that and a bag of chips. He's now "the man". He's got the money, he's got the girls, he's got the popularity, he's got the notoriety. And he enters into a conflict with Rocky, who he has fired as his manager 'cause he doesn't need him anymore. He's kicked him to the curb.
In the last 15 minutes, after Rocky has refused to get into a bout with Tommy Gunn, Tommy Gunn goes to a tavern where Rocky Balboa is sitting with his brother-in-law. When Tommy Gunn comes in, he confronts Rocky: "You scared of me? You don't wanna fight me"? He said to him, "I'm through with that. I'm too old". "You a chump," basically. Rocky's brother-in-law gets in between Rocky and Tommy. Tommy hits Rocky's brother-in-law, and he knocks him to the ground. Rocky Balboa tears his shirt and says, "Hit me like that," and there, they get it on. The rumble starts in the tavern, and it's now gone out into the street. It's become a street brawl. The problem is Tommy Gunn is too young, too strong, and too fast for Rocky Balboa, who's an aged fighter now. Rocky does the best he can, but it's not good enough against this younger, stronger, faster, fighter. Finally, Tommy Gunn reaches back, and he hits Rocky Balboa, and he knocks him to the curb. He is beaten, he is broken, and he is defeated. While he's in the gutter, he remembers. He remembers "Rocky I, II, III, and IV".
Now, we know what he's remembering because they show clips of it above his head, so he is in the gutter, but he's rememberin'. So he remembers Apollo Creed, "Rocky I" and "Rocky II," and how everybody wrote him off but how he fought back, and he won the championship from Apollo Creed, and when he remembers, he tries to get up, but he can't. He's too beaten. Then he remembers Clubber Lang, Mr. T, and how Clubber Lang beat him for the championship but how he fought back and won the championship back from Clubber Lang, and when he remembers that, he tries to get up, but he couldn't.
Then he remembers Ivan Drago, the Russian fighting machine and how he went over to Moscow and how they were cheering Drago until he fought back at the end of the fight, and the people started sayin', "USA, USA, Rocky, Rocky". He remembered that comeback. He tried to get up, but he couldn't. But then he remembered one more thing: He remembered his own coach, Mickey, his own coach Mickey, who had already died, but his old coach, he remembered what he said one time when he was knocked down, and Mickey leaned over and said, "Get up, get up, get up, you bum 'cause Mickey loves ya". Now that's when the music came on. Dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dahh-duh-duh-duh. Dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dahh-duh-duh-duh. Duh-duh, dahhh, duh-duh, dahhh. Rocky Balboa shakes his head. Rocky Balboa gets up.
Tommy Gunn has walked off in the distance. Rocky says, "Yo, Tommy, come on back. We goin' one more round". He found power that he didn't possess, ability that he didn't have, in spite of his defeat, because he remembered somebody who had died, who had now come back alive, who had given him hope and another opportunity. I don't know how long you've been down, and I don't know how much Satan is taunting you, but I do know somebody who died 2.000 years ago, who has now come alive, and he's sayin' to all the men of Oak Cliff, "Get up, get up, get up, you bums, cause Jesus loves you".
God is calling every man to beat the odds. I don't know, and God is not limited to how you were raised or what limitations people or family have placed on you, the unfairness that may have come against you. All that is real, and we cannot deny it, but neither should we succumb to it. You can beat the odds just like Shamgar. I don't care how long they've been there and how big the odds are. You can beat them if God is covering you, guiding you, directing you, leading you, and if you are submitted to his authority, you can change the odds, not only for yourself, but for the society in which you live and the family that you oversee, so don't let the odds discourage you from moving forward with your life. Don't get trapped by numbers. Don't ignore them, but don't be limited to them. You exercise God's authority in the sphere he's given you. You lay out the odds that are against you before him, based on the realities of your life, and then you lay claim to his victory, and watch him turn the numbers in your favor.