By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 12, 2008
The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” “But sir,” Gideon replied, “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 up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.” The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” “But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.” (Judges 6:11-16)
The past several years the church I pastor has been trying to find someone who would be willing to come and serve bi-vocationally as our Minister of Youth. Being bi-vocational means they would have to serve in their ministry and also have another job that would provide their income. This is common in smaller churches that desire to grow. However, I must confess we have had a difficult time in finding someone of a godly caliber that is willing to come and serve. You may wonder what does this have to do with the Scripture today? Well, sometimes I know, after being a pastor of 23 years, I have to “gently instruct” folks. Here’s what I mean:
As I look throughout Scripture I do not find anywhere that those who went to serve, start missions, or new ministries ever depended upon being provided for before they went. In fact, quite the opposite. They followed God first and trusted Him to provide since it was He that had called them in the first place. I know what I am speaking of. I began serving at GBC, leaving a $50,000 to $60,000 a year salary in 1987 to earning $7,200 a year! I went totally on faith that God would provide. He did.
Recently, GBC voted to provide for a missionary to Canada who has totally trusted the Lord to provide for her as she goes to serve for the next three years. Completely by faith she has gone and is there now. God has provided.
Sadly, although GBC has contacted well over 60 Bible Colleges, Seminaries, and has posted the bi-vocational ministry on the SBC national web site, none so far are willing to come on faith to serve. Why? Is it not our duty as believers to go where God sends us no matter what the cost to ourselves? Yet, time after time we have heard “I have prayed about it and God is not directing me.” Some, have been a little more honest and bluntly stated that they wanted “more money and benefits.” Now, all of this has caused me to pause and wonder if any of this is truly biblical? Why? Often, when people say they “pray” about such things it usually goes something like this: “Lord, if this is Your will, then give me a sign, help me to see that it is Your will, or show me what to do.” Did you not know that this is simply the wrong way to pray? This kind of praying places the lack of results or our lack of faith squarely where it does not belong — on God! We falsely conclude that if we get no answer, which we usually do when we pray these kinds of prayers, then it must not be of God! HOG WASH! This is weak faith and weaker prayer!
Folks never ever forget that Gideon got into trouble for laying out the fleece, yet myriads erroneously still blindly do it! Believers are to watch to see where God is working and then join Him. That is what Jesus, Peter, and Paul always did! In fact, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19) Gideon did not do this! Gideon should have immediately told the messenger from God, “YES! I will go!” He did not and he hesitated. It took a generation, but Gideon and his family suffered for his indecision and weak faith. Folks, if we hear from the Lord by seeing Him working, we are to respond immediately and when we do not hear specifically from the Lord, we are to continue in what we have been doing until He directs otherwise. This is the example of God’s faithful throughout history!
Notice that the angel comes to give God’s command to a man who cannot see over the mud wall of the wine press he is hiding in. Gideon focuses on the past and on only what he can see. The angel reminds this narrow-minded weak-faithed individual that he would “go in strength,” that it was God Himself who was giving Gideon his marching orders, and that He “would be with” Gideon and it would be Him who would “strike down all the Midianites together!” Does Gideon believe it? Does he immediately say, “You betcha! Where’s my sword?” Nope, he begins to whine, beg off, and make excuses. He asks for a “sign” after hearing from God’s own messenger! Is it any reason that Jesus would exasperatingly declare, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah!”? (Matthew 12:39) As Christians we have all the “signs” we need, we have the sign of Jesus Christ! When God calls us to His ministry to serve Him wherever it might be, at whatever the personal cost, we had better be willing to respond immediately or we will depend on ourselves, what we can manufacture, and what we can produce rather than on the marvelous work of the Lord in our lives doing wonderful things.
Now, least you think that GBC has not lived its faith in this manner, you would be completely wrong. It is amazing what God has done and is continually doing here at GBC. I write this to remind a younger generation that has begun to see ministry as a means to an end rather than as following God where He directs. Manufactured ministry can be successful, but not be necessarily of the Lord. Manufactured prayer that depends on our weak faith will only lead us “safely” but not where God would use us to His best benefit. Few want to discuss the possibility of what God could have done with a Gideon who immediately jumped out of that winepress and said, “Wherever You lead, I’ll go!” As great a Gideon was, his service was limited and was only used for a time. What if God wanted to use him to thoroughly change the nation of Israel back to Him, but Gideon limited not only God’s use of him but the ministry God wanted to call him to? Remember Gideon continued in his questioning faith walk, instead of being immediately obedient. It was only when he finally learned to immediately do what God asked that he experienced the power of such a faith-walk, but he did suffer the consequences of not immediately following God when He called him to.
Dear child of the Lord, if you are asked to serve by the Lord do not hesitate and say, “Let me pray about it.” Respond by following God and allowing Him to provide. Certainly pray as you go, but go where God has directed.
NOTE: This article is copyrighted by Lee Hemen © 2008 and the property of Lee Hemen. You are welcome to copy it, email it, or use it but please if you copy it, email it, or use it you must do so in its entirety.