I like the story of Gideon in the Old Testament of the Bible. Gideon was an Israelite who lived in a time when a foreign power, the Midianites, were constantly invading Israel. These raiders would wait until the crops were ready to harvest, then they would descend upon the land and steal everything the Israelites had worked for months to grow. It was a terrible time for God's people.
God used Gideon to free His people, using a small band of men armed with pitchers and torches. It's a fascinating story that can be read in chapters 6 and 7 of the book of Judges.
There's one aspect of the story that sometimes gets overlooked. Gideon was a coward. Time and again, we see him acting out of fear. When we first meet Gideon, he's down in a hole, hiding from the Midianites. God tells Gideon to tear down an idol that has been erected in his village. Gideon does so ... at night, because he's afraid.
The next day the villagers come to Gideon's house, and Gideon hides in the house while his father convinces the crowd not to harm his son.
Later in the story, when Gideon has already raised an army and has received numerous signs and messages from God, God tells him to go eavesdrop at one of the tents of the Midianites "if you are afraid." Gideon went. Because he was still afraid.
I'm not pointing this out to attack Gideon. I'm doing this to show that God can use all of us, even the cowards among us. God shaped Gideon into the very leader his people needed.
The remarkable part of all this comes in the very first words God had for Gideon. We can read them in Judges 6: "When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, 'The LORD is with you, mighty warrior'" (Judges 6:12).
Mighty warrior? Really? Remember, these words were spoken to a man standing in a hole, hiding. A man who would do his acts of heroism under cover of darkness, because he was afraid. A man who needed Daddy to protect him from the townspeople and needed a word of reassurance every step along the way.
I like that. It tells me that God sees us not as we are, but as we can be. He can look at me, with my uncertainties and fears, and say, "I'm with you, mighty warrior." More than that, He can look at me, with all my faults and failures, and say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." He can cleanse me from sin and forget that I ever sinned in the first place.
The story of Gideon is an encouraging one for people like me, people who aren't perfect but are willing to let God make them perfect. Maybe it's a good story for you, as well. Join the discussion on www.hopeforlife.org and tell us about it, or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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