Summary: Aids to advancing in adversity.
The title of this message is from the yet-to-be released book by Pat Williams (Senior Vice President of the Orlando Magic), Jay Strack (Founder of Student Leadership University), and Jim Denney.
In an advance synopsis of the book the authors say that Shamgar’s brief notoriety in the Bible lends itself to three success secrets.
1. Start where you are.
2. Use what you have.
3. Do what you can.
We’ll take a closer look at these three success secrets during the course of this message. But first, let’s review the background to the story.
The time period covered in the Book of Judges was intended to be an era of advancement for God’s people. By this time they should have been fully enjoying the Promised Land but their inconsistency in obeying God and their imitation of the idolatrous culture around them led to failure.
This last verse of Judges chapter 3 and a few verses in chapter 5 comprise the sum total of his biblical biography.
Judges 3:31 - "After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an ox goad. He too saved Israel."
Last time we considered Ehud, a valiant left-handed judge who led the people to victory against the Moabites. Israel’s peace with the Moabites then lasted for 80 years.
But the Israelites had more than one enemy. It would be nice in life if there were only one problem at a time to solve but that isn’t normally the case.
The Philistines were Israel’s enemy too. They would frequently invade and plunder Israel.
Judges 5:6 describes the lack of public safety caused by these raids. "In the days of Shamgar son of Anath...the roads were abandoned; travelers took to winding paths." Verse 7 says, "...village life in Israel ceased..." And verse 8 continues, "...not a shield or spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel."
These desperate circumstances motivated one man, Shamgar, to remedy the situation. The Bible simply describes his valor - he "struck down six hundred Philistines with an ox goad."
An ox goad was a farm implement. Oxen were used to plow the fields, and to assure their cooperation the plowman used a long wooden rod, anywhere from five to ten feet in length and up to two inches in diameter, to prod these sturdy animals into working. On the one end of the goad was a sharp point. On the other end was a broad, chisel-like blade, used to clean the plow of clay or roots.
This farmer’s tool became a lethal weapon in the hands of a courageous man of conviction. He defended his family, his countrymen and his property against the invading marauders with a farm implement.
Let’s apply Shamgar’s success secrets to our lives.
1. Start where you are.
Where was Shamgar? What was the starting point for him?
He was living in a time and place when his life and property, and the lives and property of his family and countrymen, were at the mercy of Philistine thieves and thugs.
He could have seen himself as helpless and hopeless but he didn’t.
There was a pretty good article in the paper this past Wednesday (11-3-04) that describes Shamgar’s attitude. The title of the article was, "Job anxiety can lead to career success" and the subtitle, "Psychologist says those who take pressure as part of life handle it best."
The article included "Three C’s of stress". "Salvatore R. Maddi, professor of psychology at the University of California-Irvine, says stress-hardy people are more successful and stay healthier. People who want to become better at dealing with stress should practice the Three C’s: Commitment, Control and Challenge."
Professor Maddi describes Commitment by saying, "When stress hits you, stay involved and don’t pull out."
Control: "Take charge of the stressful situation. You should control the situation, not the stress."
Challenge: "Think of the stress as normal. It’s an opportunity to learn. Don’t let yourself fall into self-pity."
Sounds like Shamgar practiced the "Three C’s of Stress" a long time ago!
He didn’t wait for perfect circumstances or perfect materials to start. He started where he was.
Even the most hopeful of people can be trampled down under a weight of worry and fear caused by the stress of life’s multiplied problems. That’s one of the many reasons why we need God. The Communists used to say that "only weak people need God", and in today’s culture that is what the psuedo-intellectual illitists also say. But the truth is - everybody is weak - therefore everyone needs God.
We’ve already seen in this series on the Book of Judges that God placed His Spirit upon these leaders in spite of their weaknesses. Beginning from a place of weakness is not necessarily a bad thing. It can actually be a good thing because it can lead to a God-thing!