Have you ever felt like you had limited resources and support, working on your own on a lonely uphill battle?
In my personal devotional time, I was reminded of an aspect of God’s grace that gave me just that little bit more encouragement to continue pressing forward. It comes from an unlikely place: Judges chapters 6 & 7.
It was a time of great disparity among God’s people. Many professed to be followers of the truth, but few did more than just go through the motions of the lifestyle of a believer. The people had placed their priorities on many other things than God and the furthering of His ‘church.’ They had compromised and placed their money, energy, support, and time in religious ventures that did little to grow the kingdom.
As a last-resort way to help His people realize just how far they had gone from their mission, God withdrew some of His shielding power from them. All of a sudden, they were faced with the reality of the world they were living in, and times were hard.
Every day they lost countless new ‘harvests’ to the surrounding world. Everyday, it became increasingly harder to survive as a people of God.
Then one young adult, nicknamed Jerub-baal (or JB for short), decided to take a stand after an incredible GODencounter. He immediately set out to return the priority of spirituality to the one true God and His mission for his people. He took a stand and went against the focus of the religious ‘church body’ he was a member of. He destroyed the fruitless tradition of his family’s religion and acted on the challenge he received from his encounter with God.
Soon JB felt the call to undertake something so monumental, his ‘church’ organization had no clue how to even begin to fight against. God had called him to attack and defeat the enemy that had been stealing so much of the life force of his people. JB laid grand military plans, and talked to thousands of people to gain support.
However, out of the hundreds of thousands of people in his ‘church,’ only 32,000 actually volunteered to fight against the combined forces of the more than three nations gathered to war. Most were not even fully committed. JB was alone, working uphill, with next to no resources. But he continued on.
The day finally came when JB set out to meet his ‘church’s’ opponents. And here is where I saw the lesson of God’s grace anew. That morning, as JB set out with his 32,000 volunteers (a fraction of what would have been needed for the task ahead), God stopped him and reduced his resources even further! At first I was taken back by what He did. Why would God seemingly make it impossible to succeed? Then it all made sense as God explained:
“You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength. Therefore, tell the people, ‘Whoever is timid or afraid may leave this mountain and go home.’” (verse 2-3 NLT)
You see at this moment in time, God wanted to show His saving grace. And it’s a bit hard to save someone, when they’re busy trying to save themselves. God wanted JB to fight with limited resources, not because he wanted to make his life miserable, but because He wanted to show saving grace to His ‘church.’
Eventually, JB was left with 300 volunteers: less than 1% of his original fractional team. And God showed up in a big way! In fact, victory for JB (aka Gideon) was as easy as breaking pottery!
God has many kinds of grace: sustaining grace, keeping grace, providing grace, forgiving grace. But the greatest grace of all is his saving grace. God wants to save us, and He wants to save His church as well. In a story of oppression, insurmountable odds, war, and victory, I found a God willing to do whatever it takes to save His own. Sometimes, accomplishing that goal means diminishing ours to make us ever reliant on Him. Do you find yourself alone, underfunded, unsupported, facing an insurmountable ministry goal?
“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it” (Eph 2:8-9 NLT, emphasis added).
In this same way, and in the same way He worked for the Israelites through JB, God wants salvation for all his family. Take courage! Stay true to your calling! God’s saving grace is already in play.
Previously serving as a worship leader and youth pastor in the South Pacific and North American Divisions, Kasper Haughton, Jr. is currently a Masters of Divinity graduate student at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University. You can follow his blog atkasperjr.wordpress.com