The Coronavirus phenomenon we’re living in is a threshold moment in our world, in our nation, and – if we let it – in our lives.
There is a very important account in the biblical book of Judges, about a man named Gideon. Gideon was the leader of the Israelites, and they were harassed by a bloodthirsty tribe known as the Midianites. Something had to be done. Gideon had a strong army, 32,000 men, and he was fired up to rally the troops and take care of the Midianites once and for all. But God had other ideas—not about the Midianites, but about Gideon and Israel. [Read Judges 7.1-7]
Never mind HOW the cut got made; the army was whittled down by more than 99%–from 32,000 to 300. God wanted to make sure that there was absolutely no mistake who was responsible for this victory. That concern is at the heart of this passage, and it’s at the heart of the matter for us.
Here’s the question: In whom do you actually place your confidence? Here’s one way you can tell: look at how you spend your time and your money; check the levels of your worry, your anger, and your prayer.
Now if I were Gideon, I would be deeply unsettled, wouldn’t you? All I could think about would be how numerous and how mean those Midianites were. I would be deeply worried about how I was going to pull this off with such a handicap, wouldn’t you? But that very thought reveals the heart of the matter. John Calvin said that the human heart is capable of infinite self-deception, and the most common way we are deceived is by approaching our life—individually and as a community—as if we were in charge of it, and we want all the resources at our disposal so we won’t have to be afraid of failing. And we get frustrated and even angry when life isn’t going our way.
But God calls Gideon not to take a leap of faith, but to have a faith of leap. He says, Can you trust me? Can you trust that when this army looks like less, it’s actually more?
Have you ever considered that sometimes what might seem to us like the situation getting worse and worse, losing our strength or our security or our advantage might just be God at work for a bigger purpose? In the gospel of John, Jesus says that God “prunes” us to make us even more fruitful. I won’t lie, being pruned back is no fun, but any gardener will tell you that it is better in the long run, producing something more beautiful, more fruitful, giving more glory to God and therefore more joy to us.
Sometimes—maybe more than sometimes—we place our confidence in our own abilities, our own timelines, and our own opinions about how things should be. We want to make our life just so…and our family, and our school, and our work, even our church.
It’s not that we don’t have abilities or timelines or opinions, it’s that we allow those things to make the game plan. Our God, on the other hand, is a God who is dying to give us his vision for the way things should be, and to so inspire us with it, and to so fill us with confidence in his ability to pull it off, that we become a different kind of person. A person (and therefore possibly a community, or a church) with a faith of leap, and overwhelming confidence in God.
Peter writes, “…you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2.9) “Our very identity as God’s people is bound up in the collective identity of being an ecclesia—a group of people called, named, redeemed, ruled, and loved by Jesus.”
We’ve all got a case of Midianites. People, situations, loss of our army, disappointment, this virus. The Apostle Paul spoke of the “thorn” in his flesh. But God said to him,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12.9-10)
In whom is your confidence?
Bob Jacobs is Pastor of Westminster Church, Rapid City. If you're interested in more of Bob's writings, check out his personal blog at www.brittlecrazyglass.wordpress.com.