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The Power of Your Potential

The Power of Your Potential

 

Judges 6:11-24

11 Then the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the oak tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash had been threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. 12 The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, "Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”

13 "Sir,” Gideon replied, "if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.” 14 Then the Lord turned to him and said, "Go with the strength you have and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!” 15 "But Lord,” Gideon replied, "how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”16 The Lord said to him, "I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.” 17 Gideon replied, "If you are truly going to help me, show me a sign to prove that it is really the Lord speaking to me. 18 Don’t go away until I come back and bring my offering to you.”

The Lord answered, "I will stay here until you return.” 19 Gideon hurried home. He cooked a young goat, and with half a bushel of flour he baked some bread without yeast. Then, carrying the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, he brought them out and presented them to the angel, who was under the oak tree. 20 The angel of God said to him, "Place the meat and the unleavened bread on this rock, and pour the broth over it.” And Gideon did as he was told. 21 Then the angel of the Lord touched the meat and bread with the staff in his hand, and fire flamed up from the rock and consumed all he had brought. And the angel of the Lord disappeared. 22 When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he cried out, "Sovereign Lord, I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!” 23 "It is all right,” the Lord replied. "Do not be afraid. You will not die.” 24 And Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and named it "The Lord Is Peace.” The altar remains in Ophrah in the land of the clan of Abiezer to this day.

 

 

Introduction

 

The book of Judges reveals that Israel was plundered and pillaged by the powerful nations around them.

 

The Moabites, Canaanities and the Philistines had all taken their turn.

 

Each time in the depths of their despair they would remember to call out to God.

 

Each time they would repent of their sins and failure to follow God.

 

And - In their despair they would call on Him to rescue them and He did!

 

Yet each time they once again would forget and return yet again to their sinful ways.

 

Now for seven long years the Midianites, fierce and ruthless desert nomads, had raided the land relentlessly.

 

Their invasion was so massive and so overpowering that Israel had literally gone underground and was living in caves, dens and mountain strongholds to survive.

 

Israel in all of her history had never lived at a more humble and humiliated level. 

 

Finally Israel turned to the Lord but according to verse six it was "because of the Midianites” not because of a recognition of their sins.

 

They were crying out to the Lord in pain and not in repentance.

 

For the first time, God does not respond with a deliverer, instead He sent them a prophet with a rebuke.

 

In verse eleven we are introduced to Gideon:

 

Then the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the oak tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash had been threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites.

 

  More space is devoted to the story of Gideon in the book of Judges (100 verses) than to any other judge.

 

And Gideon is the only judge whose personal struggles with his faith are recorded.

 

Gideon stands as a testament to all those individuals who have a hard time believing that God can make something out of them or do anything with them.

 

When we are introduced to Gideon he does not seem to be much of a hero or an outstanding man.

 

He is threshing wheat in the winepress.

 

Gideon was afraid of the Midianites.

 

Yes – Gideon was afraid.  Before we are too hard on him, let me remind you that just about everyone God used in his word had some kind of character flaw:

 

Noah was a drunk

Abraham was too old

Isaac was a daydreamer

Jacob was a liar

Leah was ugly

Joseph was abused

Moses had a stuttering problem

Gideon was afraid

Samson had long hair and was a womanizer

Rahab was a prostitute

Jeremiah and Timothy were too young

David had an affair and was a murderer

Elijah was suicidal

Isaiah preached naked

Jonah ran from God

Naomi was a widow

Job went bankrupt

John the Baptist ate bugs

Peter denied Christ

The Disciples fell asleep while praying

Martha worried about everything

The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once

Zaccheus was too small

Paul was too religious

Timothy had an ulcer...

AND

Lazarus was dead!

 

What do you have that’s worse than that?

 

If God used them, He can use you.

 

Gideon’s response to the heavenly visitor is fascinating because in the three questions he raises we see Gideon’s personal spiritual struggles.

 

Perhaps even more importantly these are three questions are the same questions that we are still asking today. 

 

Gideon’s First Question - "Does God Really Care What Happens To Us?” (vv. 12-13)

 

12 The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, "Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”

13 "Sir,” Gideon replied, "if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.”

 

       Gideon did not at first realize that this visitation of "the Angel of the Lord” (v. 12) was in fact a direct encounter with God himself.

 

This is what theologians call a Christophany – when Christ temporarily appeared in human form before his birth in Nazareth.

 

       The heavenly messenger begins by saying,

 

"Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”

 

In this statement we see one of the great truths of Scripture…

 

When God looks at us he does not see us for what we are, but for what we can become, as He works in our lives!

 

Other people look at us and see our flaws and failings; God looks at us and sees our possibilities. He comes to us in our weakness with the promise of his presence that will transform our inadequacy into His strength.

 

Gideon’s response to this greeting was unbelief.

 

I’ve got to tell you – Gideon is no wimp when it comes to dealing with God.

 

He wants answers to his questions, the first one being:

 

If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?

 

Gideon has brought up the age old theological complaint about the problem of evil;

 

"If God is all-powerful and all good, why does he allow bad things to happen, especially to his own people?”

 

Gideon was set up for a life of frustration, he was bitter with God for not coming through for him!

 

Notice if you would that the angel of the Lord did not say that the Lord was with Israel at this time; He said he was with Gideon.

 

Frankly, He was not with Israel because of their sin.

 

The angel said, "The Lord is with you”—singular—with you, Gideon. But Gideon cannot believe that God would be with him.

 

He wants to know where all those miracles are that their fathers had told them about.

 

He believed that the Lord had forsaken Israel.

 

He was as wrong as a man could be. The Lord had not really forsaken them; they had forsaken the Lord.

 

This man is in a bad state mentally and a bad state spiritually.

 

Actually, he not only had an inferiority complex, he was skeptical, he was cynical, he was weak, and he was cowardly.

 

That is this man Gideon. But this was the man that God called.

 

There isn’t a person here this morning that God cannot use if they are willing to let god flow through their lives to touch another.

 

       Gideon’s first question questions God’s heart, his second question doubted God’s wisdom. 

 

Gideon’s Second Question - "Does God Know About My Limitations?”  (vv. 14-15)

 

14 Then the Lord turned to him and said, "Go with the strength you have and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”

15 "But Lord,” Gideon replied, "how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”

 

          Gideon, overwhelmed by the commission given to him, did what so many do, he argued!

 

Like most of us when we are given a job to do for the Lord, he began to dredge up a score of excuses why it could not be done.

 

How many of you have become good at excuses?

 

At first all Gideon could see were the odds that were seemingly stated stacked against him.

 

       Gideon seemed to think that God could do nothing because he and his family were nothing.

 

Gideon was not a man of strong faith or courage and God had to patiently work with him to prepare him for leadership.

 

God is always ready to make us what we ought to be if we are willing to submit to His will. 

 

       The real question is not Gideon’s adequacy or inadequacy, but God’s wisdom and power.

 

God once asked Abraham in Genesis 18:14, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?” The answer of course is still the same, "Absolutely nothing!”

 

 

Gideon’s Third Question – "God How Can I Know That You Are Really In This?” (vv. 16-24)

 

Listen again to verses 16-19, and Gideon’s interesting method of confirming God’s guidance in his life:

 

The Lord said to him, "I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”

Gideon replied, "If you are truly going to help me, show me a sign to prove that it is really the Lord speaking to me.18 Don’t go away until I come back and bring my offering to you.”He answered, "I will stay here until you return.”19 Gideon hurried home. He cooked a young goat, and with a basket of flour he baked some bread without yeast. Then, carrying the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, he brought them out and presented them to the angel, who was under the great tree.

 

The question of discerning God’s will is an on going problem in Gideon’s life.

 

Gideon wanted concrete confirmation that it was indeed God who was calling him into action, so he therefore asked for a "sign” (v. 17).

 

The angel affirmed that the presence of the Lord would be with him, and power to defeat the Midianites (v. 16)

 

 But this was not enough for Gideon - he wanted a sign, some unmistakable proof that God would enable Gideon to carry out what he considered an impossible mission.

 

       The proof came when Gideon presented his offering to the angelic visitor.

 

In verse twenty-one we are told:

 

"Then the Angel of the Lord put out the end of the staff that was in His hand, and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire rose out of the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. And the Angel of the Lord departed out of his sight.” 

 

       In a dramatic fashion the angel of the Lord extended his rod and touched the food Gideon had provided, in the blink of an eye fire sprang from the rock and consumed the offering.

 

The angel then vanished and left the terror stricken Gideon with the realization that he had been talking with the Lord, and he exclaimed in verse twenty-two,

 

"…Alas, O Lord God! For I have seen the Angel of the Lord face to face.” 

 

Gideon asked for a sign and then after he had received it he was sure that the God who had granted it was now going to kill him.

 

But the Lord reassured him in verse twenty-three, "Then the Lord said to him, "Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die.”

 

       The Lord however reassured Gideon who in turn built an altar and called it Jehovah-Shalom or "the Lord is peace.” 

 

Conclusion

 

What all of this comes down to is that Gideon comes to realize that the power of his potential is without limit because God’s faithfulness is without limit.

 

Folks – we really need to get this.

 

When chapter 6 opens, we find a scared Gideon threshing wheat, frightened to death of the Midianites.

 

I am sure in his wildest dreams Gideon never imagined that God would use little him to deliver Israel from Midianite oppression.

 

But – as God brought him to the place where he realized that his potential was directly tied into God’s enablement, he was able to rest in that and as a result God used Him mightly.

 

It all begins with you and I coming to the same place that Gideon had to come.

 

When you give God control of your future – and you tie your future into His faithfulness – watch out!

 




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