One thing that worries me as I read the story of Gideon is the willingness with which the twenty-two thousand accepted their disqualification.
THE CHOICE OF FELLOW OVERCOMERS.
As we have seen, God needs leaders. For each major task, He needs a man, a spiritual man, a man after His own heart to lead. God does not need committees. He needs, first of all, a man. When He finds that man, He entrusts to that man the task and the duty of recruiting his helpers for the task. There may be many able helpers but God cannot move until He finds the right leader. In Gideon, God found such a man. He then set out to select those who would be entrusted with the serious responsibility of helping the leader to win the victory.
A) THE SELECTION OF TEN THOUSAND
Those who came out of the different tribes and rallied around Gideon in preparation for war were thirty-two thousand. The Lord said that the number was too much. He would not be given all the glory for the victory (Judges 7:2). This tells us something about the heart of God. God is concerned that all the glory for His actions come to Him. He can neither tolerate anyone taking the glory due to Him nor can He allow any sharing of His glory. In order to accomplish this end, God always uses men and situations that are near impossible. He will work where it will be obvious that He did it. He did some of His mightiest works through fishermen and one of His greatest servants was a “foremost of sinners.” That is God’s way and He is perfectly right. If anyone thinks that he should be used by God because of his natural gifts and talents, he is in for a shock because God will keep him aside and use someone else.
Since God could not use a large number of people, what was Gideon to do? Was He to choose arbitrarily? No! He never does that. He allowed the people to exercise their own wills and chose whether or not they would continue in the battle. So, He brought them to a test. God is always testing people for promotion. Many pass with flying colors and are promoted to very high ranks. Some barely pass. Others fail and have to repeat. Some fail so hopelessly that He is compelled to demote them. How are you faring in your examinations with God? He does not advertise that there will be an examination. His tests come suddenly and some are taken unawares.
When God brings a person to a test, He does not present the person with five or more choices and then allows the person to be confused. He presents one thing and then an alternative and people choose.
With the thirty-two thousand people He brought them to a simple test. It was the test of fear. He ordered Gideon to say to the people,
“Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home” (Judges 7:3).
What was involved in this test?
The first thing that was involved was faith. Those who believe God need fear no foe. The battle was to be one of faith and how could God take along with Him a people that were faithless? All who are faithless will be eliminated by the Lord.
The second thing that fear betrays is the love of self. They were afraid of being eliminated, afraid of suffering in the battle. They were unwilling to endure suffering as good soldiers. All battles need sacrifice. All who are not prepared for sacrifice will be eliminated. The demands that are made by God on the overcomers and the battles that are to be fought are not jokes. No one should enroll without counting the cost. If he does, he will regret bitterly in the battle. No one should be coaxed to join the army of Christ. People should be told of the austere demands of the fight. Were you warned before you enrolled? If you were not, it may be advisable for you to consider returning home.
The third thing that came through with this test was the nature of their “coming out”. They did not all come out completely. Some hearts were still at home. They were divided. They moved forward physically but their hearts remained at their homes with their wives, children, and the rest. They loved their land, their tribes, and other possessions. They wished they were back home. They wondered as to when they would be back home and because these things lingered in their hearts, God gave them the opportunity to have their hearts’ desires. Today there are some who fear what preaching the gospel will cost them. When others preach they tremble saying in their hearts, “He is saying too much. He is going too far. He is endangering my life, position, property, and so on.” There are others who love their tribes. They will distort Christian standards for the sake of the tribe. Think of a girl who says, “I will marry the believer who comes from my tribe,” or the father who tells his sons, “Make sure that you do not fall in love with a sister from another tribe”, or those who even go as far as arranging or wishing for marriages between believers and their unconverted tribesmen! These are terrible.
The following people have already been eliminated from the class of overcomers. They have failed the preliminary test:
Those who are divided at heart because they love the comforts of home, marriage, a wife, (or husband), children, and so on.
Those who are afraid that the gospel, fully preached will cost them some cherished idol.
Those who have given to their tribe and tribesmen the love that should be given to the people of God. Let me ask you again, “Are you in any of these classes? If you are, you can be sure that you have already been eliminated. God cannot use you in a mighty way because of your impure passions. If you will repent deeply, God may carry out the radical surgery that is necessary to take away the defect in you.
One thing that worries me as I read the story of Gideon is the willingness with which the twenty-two thousand accepted their disqualification. They never pleaded with God to give them another opportunity. They seemed to have said “Wonderful! At last, we are free. We have been saved from the uncertainties of war”. Such people must grieve God’s heart enormously.
Finally, the large number of people who were disqualified by this test alarms me. Nearly sixty-nine percent of those who were called out failed the preliminary examinations with God. This is cause for great concern. If the Lord were to announce the results of His preliminary examinations in our midst, how many would pass? What percentage of our assembly would pass? These things weigh on my heart. Would all the elders pass? Would all the deacons and deaconesses pass? How many of the believers would make it? Think about it and pray, but begin by considering your own position before the Lord.
THE THREE P’S OF LIFE
Every human being is called to have three P’s and to love them wholeheartedly.
The first P is a PERSON
Everyone is called to love the Lord Jesus Christ supremely and to manifest that love unashamedly. I say again, all are called to love Him. All love that is not manifested is wasted love. Unfortunately, many instead of loving Jesus supremely, love Him partially and love some other person. This person may be themselves, their wives, their husbands, their children or just someone else. Their love for the Lord is not total. They are divided at heart. It is not that they do not love the Lord. Their problem is that their hearts are divided, and divided hearts cannot satisfy the Lord. They are disqualified.
The second P is a PLACE
Everyone is called to love heaven – the dwelling place of God and the future home of all who love the Lord Jesus with a pure heart. Those who love heaven live with heaven’s view in mind. They are single-hearted; they invest all that they have in heaven. They love heaven. They live with heaven in mind. They long to be there. For some, they, instead of loving heaven, love the earth. They love their village, their tribe, their province, their nation, with the love that only heaven should have. They are divided at heart. The problem is not that they do not love heaven. The problem is that they give to the village, tribe or nation some of the love that heaven deserves. Such people, when faced with a choice, are confused. Divided hearts are confused hearts. A man may possibly be confused in his thinking and understanding and not be disqualified by the Lord, but when a person is confused in his heart, he is a finished man. Do you love heaven or some place on earth? The only love that any place on earth can have and not hurt the heart of God is the love that it receives as an overflow of a love for heaven. Natural love will not do. This natural love for a place can even be made to look holy. For example, a person may want a place won for Christ out of a natural love; a worldly love. He may then invest in it, and do many religious things there. Such work is not God’s work. It does not spring out of a desire to satisfy God, but out of a desire to satisfy self.
The third P is a PROFESSION
For the disciple, there is only one true profession – the service of the Lord Jesus. He loves that profession and he commits himself to its head and toe. He protects that profession and promotes it with his all. He judges everything by its impact on his one profession – the service of the Lord. He will consider things like teaching, medicine, administration, building, etc. as:
Ways of earning a living in order to pay the expenses of the one profession of his heart,
Places where to practice the profession of serving Christ. In this way, the classroom, office, building site, and all other job sites become places where the profession of serving Christ is to be practiced. He teaches well, studies well, administers well, sells well… because he is there preaching his one profession and that is how and where to practice it.
Unfortunately, many see their professions as a place for honor, fame, popularity, promotion, money-making, all kinds of wrong influences. Such will then fear that the gospel, fully preached and lived will cause them their jobs, or any such thing. They will fear thinking, “How will this affect my job, my promotion, my salary?” They will ask, “How will my boss react to this truth? Must I not keep my mouth shut in order not to offend him? Must I not let him know that I am open-minded, broad thinking and sociable?” All who love their jobs and make them professions in place of “The Profession” are automatically disqualified from the band of overcomers. They have, by their wrong choices, eliminated themselves. What about you?