Summary: God equips us with the power to do the jobs he has called us to do.

Iliff and Saltillo UM Churches

June 23, 2002

“Go in the Strength You Have”

Judges 6:12-24

INTRODUCTION: Gideon lived during a terror-filled time when the Midionites did everything they could to steal or to destroy the crops and the animals of the Israelites. the Midianites were Bedouin who lived in tents and moved from place to place. They would swarm in like locust on the area and devastate the land. The Israelites were forced to hide in caves in the mountains almost starved out by these terrorists. This terrorism went on for a period of seven years and was actuly God’s chastisement for Israel’s sins. Although Israel had been warned by prophets that they were doing wrong, they still wouldn’t listen. They kept right on serving the false gods and paid no attention to anyone who tried to get them to change their ways. After this long period of terrorism, the people were so imposverished and so fearful that they finally cried out to God for help. God heard their plea for help but did not immediately raise up a leader. He sent a prophet to them who once again said, “I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live. But you have not listened to me” (vs. 10).

How often we are just like this and God will allow us to experience the consequence of our choices even though he wants the best for us. At this point they were about ready to listen and change their ways. This is when Gideon comes on the scene. Gideon’s family all were worshippers of Baal. Apparently Gideon was one person in the family who was at least trying to serve the God of Israel but in quite a limited state. He was so beat down by all that had happened in the land that his faith was very weak and he was so fearful he was hiding in a winepress trying to do his work.

1. POTENTIAL--The Angel Sees Gideon’s potential: It was at this time in his life when we was about at his lowest point that the angel of the Lord climbed down into the winepress with him and greeted him with, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!” Gideon was called a “mighty warrior” in anticipation of his remarkable bravery. God usually sees our potential long before we do.

I bet that stopped Gideon right in his tracks. Think about a time in your life when you were hiding out in the winepress of despair. One thing after another had caved in on you and you felt there was no way out. You were experiencing job problems, sickness, you felt no one cared what happened to you, couldn’t pay your bills, your car was repossessed, your friends all let you down and you were depressed besides. You name it, and it had hit you. Your self esteem was about as low as it could get and then the angel has the nerve to say, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!” Somebody might have said something similar to you that showed that they could see your potential. You say, “No Way.”

That’s the way it was with Gideon that day. He is saying, “No Way. You must have the wrong person! There WERE mighty warriors in the land land but he sure didn’t consider himself one of them. (See Judges 11:1 Jephthah). Instead he is saying, “If the Lord is with us why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, “Did not the Lord bring us out of Egypt?” But now the Lord has abandoned us and put us in the hands of the Mideonites” (v. 13).

Gideon was so filled with despair that all of the problems just rolled out. He hadn’t experienced anything positive for a long time and all he could talk about was the current situation. This is the way we are when we are living in our problems.

What is interesting here is that the Angel of the Lord did not pay any attention to the hopelessness of the past problems. In fact he didn’t even comment on the whys. He is saying, “Gideon, you KNOW WHY these problems exist.” The angel was there for a specific purpose to call Gideon out--to make something out of the potential he idenfied in this man. He knew that God could make something out of Gideon but Gideon didn’t realize it at the time. God was patient in the process.

When God recognizes your potential, sometimes it takes awhile for us to catch up. He tries to “bring us up to speed” and we are just like Gideon. “Oh, I am not a mighty warrior. Oh, I could never do that. You’ve got to be kidding. I don’t have any money, I’m sick and depressed, and I don’t have...I could never...”

STORY: When Michelangelo was ordered to decorate the walls of the Sistine Chapel, he refused. He had never done any work of that kind, and said he could not do it. But he was told his refusal would not be accepted. When he discovered that there was no alternative without unpleasant consequences, he mixed his colors and went to work. And thus came into being the world’s finest painting. There are few who realize what possibilities are locked up within them until some necessity compels them to attempt something they have always considered impossible. --Friendly Chat

Gideon made excuses and argued with the Angel of the Lord at first. “No way, don’t even ask me...I am the least in my family and my clan is the weakest in Manasseh” (Judges 6:15).

Can you see yourself in Gideon. The Lord asks you to do something and you fight it and make excuses. Can’t do it. And all along God sees your potential. The angel went right on. It’s like he is saying, “Gideon, I didn’t even hear that. “The angel of the Lord wasn’t done working yet. Gideon still didn’t understand what He was trying to say. The angel didn’t expect Gideon to trust completely from the beginning . God brought Gideon along step by step. Can we get our thinking into agreement with what God thinks about us?

2. ACTION--The Angel of the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand.”

STORY: In the movie "PAINT YOUR WAGON," Lee Marvin plays a philosophical drunk named Ben Rumstead. During the closing scene, Ben Rumstead is standing in the rain of a muddy street talking with the proprietor of a local store. The store owner looks at the passing wagons, loaded with people and furniture moving out of town, and says, "There are two kinds of people in this world. There are those who move on and those that stay. Ain’t that the truth, Ben Rumstead?"

"No, that ain’t the truth," Ben Rumstead replies, with a swagger enlarged by the half-empty bottle in his hand. "There are two kinds of people in this world. Them that is going someplace and them that is going no place. That’s the truth." Herb Miller, EVANGELISM’S OPEN SECRET, (St. Louis: CBP Press, 1984).

The Angel of the Lord was trying to get Gideon in the right frame of mind where he was “going someplace” not “going no place fast.” God had a work for him to do but he had to start taking action rather than making excuses as to why he couldn’t do it.

At first when I read this I thought that the angel was saying, “Go in the TINY bit of struggling strength you have.”

God in the PITIFUL LITTLE BIT you have and try to make the best of it. It is just a drop in the bucket but maybe you can manage.

I think we have to BEGIN where we are, that’s true. But when God is asking us to do something, he is going to EQUIP us to do the job better than that. As I walked around in this scripture all week, I came out with some different insights on this verse 14 than when I first started. The angel said “Go in the strength you have.” (NIV).

Another version says, “Go in THIS YOUR MIGHT” (Amplified)

KJV says, “Go in THIS THY MIGHT.”

NLT says “Go with the strength you have.”

NLB says “I will make you strong”

This scripture can be traced to Hebrews 11:34 which gives us a little more insight. “...whose weakness was TURNED TO STRENGTH.”

STORY: On a particularly rough airplane flight, a lady became very airsick. Her shoulders drooped, and her head slumped forward - she was totally wiped out. The stewardess came by to help her. "Come, come now," she said, "buck up and get control of yourself. Sit up and take courage." She put her arm under the lady’s arm and helped her sit upright in her seat, gave her gum to chew, and then went to get her some water. With the help of the stewardess, the lady finished the trip in far better condition than she began it in. This is like the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He comes alongside to help us when we are in hopeless defeat. He admonishes us, encourages us, strengthens, and restores hope and faith in our lives.

How does this happen? How does it happen for us? Verse 16 says, The Lord answered, “I will be with you and you will strike down all the Midianites together.” Gideon could not have done it with a “pitiful little bit of strength within himself” and he didn’t. We don’t either. The strength that Gideon was promised was the promise of the Lord’s PRESENCE with Him. If you have His presence with you, wouldn’t you have power to do whatever He asks of you? If we have God’s presence with us Matthew Henry says “this will justify us and bear us out in our undertakings. God gave him the qualifications he needed for the execution of it.”

Most of the time we are focusing on our own limited strength and abilities. Gideon failed to see how the Lord could work through him. If the Lord strengthens us by HIS PRESENCE, then we are EQUIPPED. We’ve got the goods! We can see our potential actualized.

How does this happen? Another key verse in this chapter is verse 34 which ways, “then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon...” You remember when we talked aobut in the Old Testament where the Spirit of God would come UPON certain individuals to do somekind of special work but in the New Testament that ALL believers were filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost?

Acts 1:8 in the Amplified Bible reads, “But you shall receive power--ability, efficiency, MIGHT, STRENGTH when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”

Luke 24:49 talks about this STRENGTH that is promised to believers today as well as was promised to Gideon in the time he lived. The KJV says, “And tarry in the city of Jerusalem until YE BE ENDUED with power from on high.”

The Message Bible says, “EQUIPPED with power from on high.”

The Amplified and the NIV says, “CLOTHED with power from on high.”

The strength that Gideon possessed here was not his own pitiful little strength but Verse 34 says the Spirit of the Lord “clothed Gideon with HIMSELF--HIS PRESENCE--HIS SPIRIT.”

The Lord said “I will be with you” (vs. 16).Gideon did not grasp this truth immediately but the Lord was very patient with him in the process. He is very patient with us too.

3. EXPERIENCE--Gideon’s Recognition of the Angel: Gideon didn’t know who he was dealing with at first. He didn’t recognize the angel ofr who He is. But finally he did. He came to recognize the supernatural character of the visitor only gradually. He began to experience for himself gradually. How long does it take us to realize that the Lord is with us? When we begin to EXPERIENCE the reality of His presence in our individual life. Gideon asked for a sign and went to prepare a sacrifice which the Angel of the Lord

1. consumed with fire

2. and then vanished

Gideon finally recognized who he was dealing with after these two things happened. It became real to him as he EXPERIENCED it for himself.

Is God present but unrecognized in your situation today? There is much more to the story of Gideon before his potential is finally developed. He asks for more signs--the fleece and God patiently grants this request twice.

Gideon sometimes was so sure in vs. 22,24, and 27 and the next minute was so unsure in verses 13, 15, 17. How are you like Gideon? I think we all have times of absolute certainty as well as uncertainty.

CONCLUSION: How do you identify with Gideon? Are you just beginning to notice “an Angel of the Lord” in your life? Are you looking for assurance that God is with you? Are you beginning to ask the Lord for confirmation of His will? Are you beginning to tear down some idols in your life and get the sin cleared out?

Almost immediately God asked Gideon TO RESPOND.

STORY: In Meredith Wilson’s MUSIC MAN, the professor tried to get Marion the librarian to go out with him. He asked her to meet him at the footbridge across the stream running through the park. She wanted to, but she refused. She said, "Please, some other time. Maybe tomorrow." The professor persisted, yet she continued to put off their meeting. Finally, in exasperation, he said, "Pile up enough tomorrows and you’ll find that you’ve collected nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays."

We don’t want to find out at the end of our life time that we have “collected nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays.” That’s why God asks us to respond to his call also. He gave Gideon an assignment to do. An assignment right in his own family. Would he run the risk to step out to do it or would he say no? When he asks you to take decisive action do you repond or continue to make excuses? When he says, “It’s time for you to give your life to me and get saved, to start to shape up your life, to get rid of your careless, self centeredness, will you repond realizing that whatever He asks of you He will equip you with HIS STRENGTH to do it?

Realize that He will clothe you with HIS PRESENCE when you GO IN THE STRENTH YOU HAVE. Begin today to step out to respond.