Sunday, August 16, 2020


"The LORD turned to [Gideon] and said, 'Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?'"
– Judges 6:14 (NIV)
Strength? What strength!?

Gideon's curious encounter with the Angel of the Lord (God Himself) starts in verse 11 of that chapter.  Gideon hiding in the winepress. Gideon contradicting God, accusing Him of handing the Israelites over to their enemies.  When the Lord responds with His divine call in verse 14, "Go in the strength you have," Gideon patiently explains to God how he's the youngest member of the weakest family of Manasseh. "Remember, God?  The tribe that's literally split in two! So, like ... weakest of the weakest of the weakest? Am I getting through??"

We all know how this story has a happy ending. But, just WHY did the Lord choose Gideon in the first place?  What extraordinary "strength" did He detect, that He overlooked all the human-splaining and persisted in calling this young man to command the army?
. . .

To better understand, we must take a short detour ... back to around the year 1952, where we'll meet my father -- a pastor in Chile, South America.  To be precise, a burnt-out, jaded pastor without a church.  You see, after a miraculous conversion while in his early thirties, he had quit the university (abandoning his quest for a fifth doctorate) and launched into building a church, then adding a Christian school ... which blossomed into three Christian schools within a few miles' radius. 
But then World War II struck, as well as an earthquake that destroyed one school and left the others badly damaged. He reached out to large church denominations operating in the region, but they had their own problems.  Nobody had time for a rural pastor with a hurting church and three damaged schools. 

So he threw in the towel.  Abandoned what was left of his church and settled into the secular job world.  Until one night there came a heavy-handed knock at the door.  

On his threshold stood a short, middle-age fellow of native (Quechua) physiognomy.  "I hea-hea-hearrr you t-t-t-teach me Spanish?"

He went by the name Simón Molina.  Said he was called of God to preach the gospel.  In Spanish.  To do that, he would need better Spanish, of course.  

"The Spanish I can help with, but you can't even f-f-f-finish a sentence, buddy!" my father thought ... but kept it to himself.  "Sure, you can come two nights a week, and we'll see how it goes," he responded.  "But, can't you just preach to people in your own language?"

"No, it's to b-b-b-b-be S-s-spanish."

As the months dragged on, the young man showed up faithfully to his private classes. With only a second- or third-grade education, the going was slow.  But he bravely fought to understand the fine points of Spanish grammar -- preterite vs. imperfect tenses, irregular verbs, gender-specific nouns ... and on and on. When he hit a wall (which was often), he would just fall to his knees mid-lesson and pour out his soul in Quechua to the God who hears and understands. Then he would return to his seat and pick up with the lesson, a pool of tears still twinkling where he had knelt.

One night Mr. Molina said, "I've come to say g-goo-goodbye.  It's ti-ti-ti... I'm ready now."  So they parted ways, and my father tried to put the whole matter out of mind.  Though he'd come to marvel at his tenacity, the fellow would never be the first Quechua Billy Graham.

Half a year later came another late-night knock at the door, and there stood his short friend.  He chatted for two hours, still in questionable Spanish, about his adventures itinerating around the countryside.  There were two new churches in a nearby town, one over the mountain, three more a day's journey down the highway.  And they were all urgently needing seasoned workers, pastors, schoolteachers.

Suddenly it struck my father what was different about Simón.  He wasn't stuttering at all!

"It happened one night as I was trying to preach," he explained.  "The harder I tried, the more my tongue got in the way.  Until I just broke down crying before the dismayed audience.  But then a miracle happened.  I knew I was cured ... healed.  When I rose and began to speak again, it just flowed.  And it's been this way ever since!  The Lord carried me over to the victor's side!" he said.

"And now I've come to deliver a word from God.  He says, 'What are YOU doing with the gifts and abilities I've given you?'"

The teacher had become the pupil, and it was his turn to shed long-overdue tears of repentance.
. . .

And now, as we reach the end of this detour ... What "strength" did our Lord detect, that called Gideon out of his cowering in the winepress?

The "strength" was his RESOLVE.  Once he was certain that his messenger was truly God, and that He really meant what He said (which required the whole fleece thing, you'll remember ...), NOTHING thereafter could derail Gideon from fulfilling the purposes of God.

See, it's rare for God to choose someone pre-qualified.  Remember, "... Not many wise ... not many mighty, not many noble, are called" (I Cor. 1:26b).  But it's rarer yet for Him to give us all the wisdom, power, and nobility we need for the task right up front.

Rather, what He's looking for is bullet-biting RESOLVE. Unwavering COURAGE and STICK-TO-IT-NESS. Like the priests who stepped into the flooded Jordan across from Jericho with no evidence that they'd make it out alive.  Like young David (later to be king) grabbing that first lion by the beard to rescue a lamb, not knowing how the affair would turn out.  Like the three Hebrew children being tossed into the fiery furnace for refusing to bow down to the king's idol.  None of these people was quite sure of what the outcome would be, but they faced their circumstance with RESOLVE.  And that's when GOD shows up!

When a coworker shares about a meltown with their teen.  "Would you like me to pray with you?"

When a friend calls and says grandpa took a fall and is in the hospital.  "Can I go with you and visit him?"

When that feeling comes on strong, that God is calling for action ... stepping out of our comfort zone takes RESOLVE.  It takes COURAGE.  We're not so sure He's going to show up ... that it's going to have a happy ending.  But we swallow hard, grit our teeth, and start doing what He's told us to do ANYHOW.

Why not pray ...  

"Dear Father, often I'm frozen, discouraged by my history of failure.  I can't take a step, speak a word, make a decision to act when I know You're prompting me.  Please change that.  Give me RESOLVE to act even when I can't foresee the outcome.  I can sure use some of what Gideon had.  And Simón Molina.  Give me faith to expect that You'll meet me with the goods -- the power and grace -- at the point where it's needed. 
In Jesus’ name. Amen"

Originally published as a “Bradstix” devotional on the National Minute of Prayer Facebook page 8/16/2020.

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