In confusing times and difficult circumstances, God has a way of getting our attention.
Whatever you may think about yourself and the world around you, the Lord has His eye on you and desires to break through the racket of everyday static to reach into your heart and pull you into the center of His will.
It’s is obvious that we are living in troubling times. But the times are NOT troubling simply because of terrorists (although I’ll not deny that terrorism is truly troubling).
The times are NOT troubling because of economic instability (although the difficulties associated with recession are troubling obstacles for any family).
The times are NOT troubling because of the increase of drug abuse associated crime (as troubling as those things are).
And the times are NOT troubling because of the collapse of divinely appointed morality (as troubled as we should be by such things).
No, the times are troubling because of our calloused hearts and indifferent attitudes towards our Maker. It’s all too rare a thing to find a man or woman whose greatest desire is to serve God wholeheartedly. Such a one allows Him to not only bring comfort and encouragement, but follows His leading into a life of purity and service.
But God-centered devotion like that is sadly the exception and not the rule. If there is a danger to which we commonly fall prey these days, it is our tendency to regard God selfishly and attempt to find contentment in Him on our own terms. And in doing so the natural consequence is a subtle drifting into idolatry (wherein we sacrifice to some “god” other than the Maker of heaven and earth).
Idolatry isn’t found only when stone statues adorn our mantel shelves or carved “good luck” charms reside in our pockets. Nor is it found only when we consult the horoscope section or local palm reader for advice about choices before us. While each of these examples are all indeed idolatry, we also tiptoe into it when we devote our time, energy and resources to our own interests or we try to make God something that He is not. If all God is to us is a great, big “wish granter” or some vague “force” that we hope will see to it that we live pleasant enough lives, then we are bowing down to an idol.
Historically speaking, it’s the human thing to do. But God has higher hopes for you and for me than that. The Bible tells in the book of Judges how God found His people slip-sliding into idolatry again (they, like us, had a knack for it). Consequently, He permitted troubles to wash over them until they simply couldn’t stand it anymore.
Baal and Asherah (a Canaanite form of Ishtar) were the idols of choice. Perhaps it was because they were easy to understand and people feel most comfortable with things they understand. Whatever the case, God’s people had so muddled their worship of the Lord God with their trust in the Baals and Asherahs, that they really weren’t worshiping God anymore: to really worship Him, one must bow to His supremacy in all things and depose competitors.
As a result, foreign invaders not only oppressed them but so effectively impoverished them that they had to keep secret places of safety for themselves and for their crops.
“When the people of Israel cried out to the LORD on account of the Midianites, the LORD sent a prophet to the people of Israel. And he said to them, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: I led you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of bondage. And I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. And I said to you, I am the LORD your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But you have not obeyed my voice.’” (Judges 6:7-10 ESV).
But in spite of their obstinate refusal to give up their idol worship, God showed them grace. It so happened that in this particular instance, God sent His angel to an unsuspecting man named Gideon who was secretly threshing his wheat in a winepress (since the bad guys would come and swipe it if they caught him doing it).
By the way, you might want to make a mental note of the fact that God sees you wherever you are and isn’t going to be deterred in interrupting your schedule just because you thought that maybe He forgot you or others have overlooked you.
“And the LORD turned to him and said, ‘Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?’ And he said to him, ‘Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.’ And the LORD said to him, ‘But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man’” (Judges 6:14-16 ESV).
And so began the greatest adventure that Gideon had ever known. The very first thing that Gideon did was to offer genuine worship to God (see Judges 6:17-24). The very next thing he did was become a catalyst for his family, his town, and his people for spiritual truth and radically challenged their worship of idols (see Judges 6:25-32). Remember that God wasn’t going to just wink at their spiritual adultery while setting them free from their oppression; He was determined to attack their spiritual oppressors first!
When the Lord had addressed their spiritual need, He set Gideon to the task of preparing an army which God promptly whittled down to a mere 300 men — any more than that would have raised some doubt about who really was going to win the battle for them (see Judges 7:1-7). I
t’s time to make another mental note: God is NOT interested in you serving Him in your own strength, nor is He especially enamored by service to Him that does not permit Him to demonstrate His power and His presence through you. If you can do His work in YOUR strength and in YOUR way, where is the glory for God in that?
At any rate, God used this teeny-tiny group of 300 men to overthrow an army of about 135,000 warriors. Now, if the Lord can take a small force like that to accomplish such an astounding victory, what can He do through you in the face of such adversaries as doubt, hate, grief, greed, hate and violence? What could He do with a man or woman who would render Him sincere and unadulterated worship and a life of wholehearted service?
Make this one last mental note: He can take someone like you and change the world. All He needs from you is a willingness to trust Him and to follow Him onto the path of true and genuine worship.
Pastor Thom Mollohan leads Pathway Community Church in Gallipolis. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.