NOTE: The audio for this message didn’t get recorded on the day that I preached it but I preached it again to our Master’s Commission Students and this is the recording that is posted.
Today I want to talk about “When God calls…” I think it is an appropriate subject to talk about in light of how God has brought my wife Kerryanne and I to Waterloo and to WPA. We’re going to be looking at the story of Gideon this morning because it is a story that has popped up frequently in our journey the past few months and when I asked God what He would have me share with you today it surfaced once again.
The subject of God’s calling is one that we talk about when we want to know what God’s direction is for our life. However when it comes to God’s call, it’s important that we realize that it is not just related to the big things in life, you know like who we marry, our career, where we live, being parents, our ministry, or what we do in church. Those things, of course, are really important and it is good that we seek God’s direction for them, but God’s calling is more often related to the little things in life – the person you hear about who doesn’t have any food, or clothing; the person you work with pouring out their sad story and the Holy Spirit prompts you to offer to pray for them; the single mother you hear about who’s working three jobs to help support her and her family and her lawn is getting out of control because her lawnmower’s broken and even if it was fixed she just doesn’t have time to get it done – the Holy Spirit prompts you to get a crew together and get it done; or what about when you’re sitting down watching a television show and it takes a hard left and goes into material you just know is something you shouldn’t be watching. You see, God’s calling is often more related to the small choices we make in life that when you add up contribute to where God wants us to be!
As I’ve already mentioned we’re going to look at Judges 6 for the introduction to the story of Gideon and when God called Him to do something incredible….
(PRAY and then Give background of story (Judges 6:1-10))
– The Israelites had done evil in the eyes of the Lord and for 7 years they were given into the hands of the Midianites.
– The Israelites went into hiding to avoid the oppression of the Midianites.
– Whenever the Israelites planted their crops they would be invaded, and the crops and all the animals would be destroyed.
– The power and might of the Midianites was overwhelming to the Israelites.
– Eventually, the Israelites became so impoverished that they cried out to God for help.
– When the cried out the Lord sent a prophet who said (vs 8-10), he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 9 I snatched you from the power of Egypt and from the hand of all your oppressors. I drove them from before you and gave you their land. 10 I said to you, ‘I am the LORD your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.”
– Then in verse 11 we’re introduced to Gideon where the Angel of the Lord drops in on him…
Here we have Gideon, threshing some wheat in a winepress probably out of fear for the Midianites even discovering that he has wheat – and so he is working here in secret.
[Give brief overview of story – narrate it – highlight the transformation of Gideon from a reluctant believer to a mighty warrior.]
Today I believe the Holy Spirit wants to teach us through the story of Gideon about how God leads us into the plan He has for our lives and how calls us in not only the “big things” but also in the “little things” of life.
Let’s begin by looking at the first words the angle spoke to Gideon. He greeted Him by saying,
When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”
Judges 6:12 (NIV)
Here’s the first point I want to make about when God calls…
GOD MEETS YOU WHERE YOU ARE, BUT HE CALLS YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE TO BE.
God meets you where you are…
– Notice where Gideon was – threshing wheat in a winepress to hide from the Midianites. Gideon was really not in the place we would think a significant spiritual event would occur was he? But when you think about it, not many famous Biblical characters were in some tremendous spiritual hotspot when God met them…
• Abraham’s father Terah just died when God called Him to leave his country, his father’s household, and take off for a destination unknown with the promise that God would show him it on the way.
• Jacob was fleeing for his life from the fury of his brother (whom he had cheated out of a birthright) and was asleep when God appeared in dream and called Him.
• While Joseph was a small boy God called to Him in a dream.
• Moses was an exile from Egypt, had made a new life for himself in the desert with a wife, a family, and a growing business as a shepherd. He was out shepherding the sheep when God called to Him from a burning bush.
• Saul was out looking for his donkey when God sent the prophet Samuel to Him to pronounce God’s calling Saul to be a King.
• David was taking care of sheep when God called Him to greatness.
• Esther, was busy being the queen of a mighty empire when God called her to put her life on the line and save her people.
• Elisha was ploughing a field with oxen, when the prophet Elijah came up to him and conveyed God’s call to succeed him as prophet to Israel.
• Nehemiah was a cupbearer to the King of Persia when God called Him to rebuild the temple.
• Peter and Andrew were busy cleaning their fishing nets when Jesus called them to become fishers of men.
• Matthew was collecting taxes when Jesus called out to Him to follow.
• Zechariah was up in a tree when Jesus called Him to a new life.
• A prostitute was drawing water from a well when Jesus called her to drink of the living water.
• A man named Saul was on his way to Damascus to persecute and kill Christians when Jesus appeared and called him to serve Him as an apostle to the Gentiles and a church-planter. Saul had his name changed to Paul and He became one of great instruments of God in building the early Christian church.
There’s so many more people I could draw your attention to but did you notice, that these Biblical characters are from many different “walks of life” and were called by God?
God meets you where you are when He calls you. In what you are doing, in your daily life. It is not necessary for you to be perfect, or have it all together, in order for God to call you. He chooses the time, the place, and the means of calling and meets you where you are. One of my favourite verses in the Bible is Romans 5:8,
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 (NIV)
So God meets you where you are…
…but He calls you to where you are to be.
Notice how the aol greets Gideon, “The Lord is with you, Mighty Warrior” (vs12) Okay, hold on a minute, let’s recap the situation Gideon is in……is he really a MIGHTY WARRIOR? Give me a break! Master Hide and Seeker perhaps, but surely not a mighty warrior! Here’s the thing though, although God met Gideon where he was – He had in mind what Gideon could become. God does that – again we could go through the Bible and highlight different examples of that (refer to list if time). Hear me folks, God meets you where you are – He doesn’t always wait until you are in the optimum spiritual moment, He doesn’t wait until you are perfect – no, God meets you right where you are, but then, He always calls you to where He wants you to be.
Here’s the thing… God always calls us to something greater and something better. It doesn’t always necessarily mean a change of location, or a change of our career BUT it does always mean moving towards becoming more like Him. To becoming the vessel and instrument of His great purposes. Sometimes this means something huge but more often it means simply obeying and doing something small.
– Notice at first that the name the AOL gave him didn’t even seem to register with Gideon. Why?
* Gideon knew he was a mighty warrior and it was just a restatement of fact. Didn’t mean much.
* Gideon was thinking…”if you think I’m a mighty warrior fine, ha! But I know the truth…”
* He didn’t even hear it because he was still processing the first five words… “The Lord is with You” I think this is the more likely reason, witness the next verse…
But sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.”
Judges 6:13 (NIV)
In other words, Gideon was looking at the circumstances of the Israelites and the situation they were in (no doubt including his position in the winepress)- He was looking at where He was – and was voicing his thoughts – “if God was really with us we wouldn’t be in the place we are right now”
Don’t you sometimes feel that way when life is throwing you a hardball and you’re in one of those places where everything just seems to be working against you and nothing is going right and then someone comes up to you and says these words, “Just remember the Lord is with you”. And we start thinking a little bit like Gideon here, “Oh come on! If he’s really with me then why am I dealing with this, why am I going through this, why am I not seeing God’s power in my life then?” Something I’ve noticed, and I don’t know any other believers here have noticed this too, but something I’ve noticed is that whenever I’m in the very beginning of transitions in my life tends to be the time where I feel like God is the farthest away. You ever feel like that?
Here’s another observation. God tends to call us when we are in the place of humility and brokenness. Or he will humble us and then call us (eg. Saul -> Paul)
Listen carefully to God’s response to Gideon:
The LORD turned to him 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)
First, God had called Gideon, “Mighty Warrior” and then here God elaborates why He called Him that – it’s because He is choosing to use Gideon to save Israel from the Midianite problem. Here’s the cool thing. Gideon asked, “If God is really with us then why are things the way they are and where are the great things that God can do” – God answers, “I am about to do something great by rescuing from the Midianites, and I’m going to use you, because I am sending you.” Here’s the thing…we look at our situation and our circumstance in our lives and we wonder where God is when all along He is with us and about to work through us in this particular moment to resolve the perfect outcome – all it takes is for us to recognize His voice.
Here’s another lesson about the call of God:
God calls us to what He has already prepared/equipped us for!
Out of all the possible people He could have chosen, God chose Gideon for the task of leading the Israelites to victory over the Midianites. Notice God said, “Go in the strength you have!” One of the greatest promises we have as believers is the reality that our lives have purpose and that God has prepared us and equipped us as a unique creation for the specific and amazing things He wants to do through us! Your interests, your strengths, your personality, your experiences are all things that contribute towards what it is that you are wired to do!
One of my favourite verses of the Bible and one that you’ll probably hear me quote a lot is found in Paul’s letter to the church of Ephesus,
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV)
Repeat that last line with me, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do” what? “to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” When did God plan these good works out? In advance. And who are we? God’s workmanship… Amazing!
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28 (NIV)
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
2 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV)
God said to Gideon, “Am I not sending YOU!” God dropped by to talk to this man in a winepress because God’s desire for this task was unique to Gideon! But let’s not get the emphasis mixed up here. God said, “Am I not sending you?” God’s calling in your life is unique and even though He has prepared us and equipped us for the task our own strength will never be enough to complete what He’s called us too… in fact, the funny thing is, the things God asks us to do sometimes seem a mismatch for what we’re really good at! Certainly Gideon recognized this for his situation when He said,
“But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
Judges 6:15 (NIV)
Students of the Bible will recognize that this is a pattern that God repeated through history – let’s go through that list of people that I’ve already mentioned…
• Abraham’s father just died
• Jacob was a liar and a cheat
• Joseph didn’t know when to keep his mouth shut, and was sold into slavery by his brothers
• Moses was a murderer and not a good speaker
• Saul kept losing things
• David was the youngest of his family
• Peter was a hothead and spoke before he thought,
• Paul was kind of ugly, and was kind of mean to Christians…
• ** or share about the Cooledges
Why does God do this? Listen closely, because God wants us to experience His power at work through us. He wants us to know that He is with us. God’s response to Gideon began with,
The LORD answered, “I will be with you…
Judges 6:16 (NIV)
I will be with you Gideon, I will be with you He says to you as He calls you as well – and friends, that makes all the difference in the world.
OPTIONAL (as an aside – and is not on a ppt slide)
The apostle Paul understood the significance of this with an incredible revelation from the Spirit of God,
7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “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. 10 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 12:7-10 (NIV)
Next I want you to draw your attention to the second half of God’s response to Gideon, let’s read the whole verse together again, verse 16:
The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”
Judges 6:16 (NIV)
…and you will strike down all the Midianites…what? Together
God’s calling always involves working with others (the “together”) in community to accomplish Kingdom purposes.
A major component of God’s calling is always the “together” part. This is something that I could devote a whole message to but I want just simply highlight this, and focus on this:
A lot of grief could be avoided in your life if you remember that it’s not meant to be done alone. Often times in the Christian church we spend a lot of time talking about what we’re saved from (and it’s good to be reminded about) but not nearly enough time talking about what we’re saved for. We’re not only saved from the penalty of sin, the destination of hell, and the finality of death. But we are also saved to an incredible relationship with the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, and the creator of the Universe. And finally, We are saved for life in community with our God and Saviour and the building of His kingdom together with other citizens of heaven. This kingdom is something that becomes a reality in the midst of people who are living out God’s unique calling for their lives that fit’s like “pieces of a puzzle” with what God is doing through each and every citizen of His kingdom.
The apostle Paul understood this when He used the metaphor of the body to describe the church of Christ…
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
Ephesians 4:1 (NIV)
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Ephesians 4:16 (NIV)
Sometimes, (and often in the small things God calls us too) we can’t see how what we do makes a difference. But your obedience to God’s call in combination with everyone else’s faith-filled response is all part of God’s purposeful plan. No matter how insignificant you may feel your part to be, in the purposes of God – everything has significance. Remember that when God calls…we’re in this together
OPTIONAL – (NOT ON PPT SLIDE)
17 Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. 18 Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.” And the LORD said, “I will wait until you return.” 19 Gideon went in, prepared a young goat, and from an ephah of flour he made bread without yeast. Putting the meat in a basket and its broth in a pot, he brought them out and offered them to him under the oak. 20 The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And Gideon did so. 21 With the tip of the staff that was in his hand, the angel of the LORD touched the meat and the unleavened bread. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the LORD disappeared. 22 When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the LORD, he exclaimed, “Ah, Sovereign LORD! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!”
Judges 6:17-22 (NIV)
Here’s Gideon, he’s been threshing wheat in a winepress because of the threat of the Midianites. He knows that if he gets caught he’ll probably die and the food will be gone that his family needs. It seems like there’s no way out for this situation and that God has abandoned them. Then all of a sudden, this person appears and says the Lord is with Him (and calls him “Mighty Warrior” no less). Says that he’s going to be the one to lead the Israelites in battle against the Midianites. Go to war, so to speak. You know, bloodshed, the risk of dying (and the odds are kind of stacked against them – or at least on the surface). Then, when Gideon brings an offering to test if this is really a message from God, this person lights up the offering with fire from his staff and all of a sudden Gideon realizes that he has been in the presence of God.
But the LORD said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”
Judges 6:23 (NIV)
Then Gideon builds an altar,
So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The LORD is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
Judges 6:24 (NIV)
Okay, hold on a minute here, what did Gideon name the altar again? “The Lord is Peace”. Interesting choice for a name wouldn’t you say? Here’s the thing…
Obeying the Call of God for your life brings peace.
Gideon rightly understood, that in spite of the circumstances of God showing up in His life – in spite of the where God was meeting Him – in spite of where God was calling Him to be – in spite of how difficult obedience to this call would be and the cost of obeying – God had promised Gideon He would be with him and friends when God calls and you obey you are with Him who is peace. God does not abandon those He calls and in His perfect will and direction, chaos may be swirling around you but you still know His peace. A peace that “surpasses all understanding” as the apostle Paul put it… a man for whom obeying the call of God led him into places where He was beaten, scorned, wrongfully put on trial, imprisoned, whipped, and shipwrecked.
It is a peace that sustained Gideon later on when he gathered the assembled motley crew of men, all 32,000 of them, ready for battle against a better equipped and more numerous Midianite army of over 100,000 men. A peace that sustained Gideon when God directed him to send 29,700 of those men home leaving just 300 to go into battle. A peace that dwelt with Gideon and these 300 when they rushed into the Midianite camp and God gave them victory.
Friends, when God calls, it may be tough and it may be difficult but “IT IS ALWAYS WORTH IT!”
I want to finish with this quote:
“Make no mistake about it, this drama and this Kingdom’s agenda is at the center of the meaning of cosmic history and your own individual story. Like a grand conductor who calls in the flutes at just the right time, your Father has brought you into the Cosmic Symphony at your unique place in time and space so you can be a vibrant outpost in your sphere of influence. In short, you are here to be an apprentice of the Lord Jesus to learn how to live your life well as part of God’s broader purposes. This is your calling, this is your destiny, this is your only chance to have a life of genuine, full human flourishing.” – J.P. Moreland, Kingdom Triangle (Zondervan, 2007)
PRAY and CONCLUSION:
Maybe some of you here today really don’t believe in this God stuff or put your faith in Jesus Christ – maybe you are here because you’re just checking things out or because someone invited you – I want you to know that God is calling you to Him this morning. God’s first call is always into relationship with Him. The first words God spoke to Gideon were, “The Lord is with you”. Do you know that God wants that for your life today?
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.
Revelation 22:17 (NIV)
Won’t you heed His call to you today?
Maybe some of you are stuck in a rut. You know that it’s time for things to change and the Holy Spirit has pricked your conscience for some time – I want you to know that God has been calling you. You know what it is – maybe it’s something significant like a change in career, or to give up something that isn’t good for you. Maybe, it’s to offer your gifts and abilities to help someone in need or to serve His church. Maybe, it’s to do something in your place of work that will be an act of service to Jesus. I don’t know what it is but today you can choose to heed the call of God in your life. You’ve been restless, and discontent and without peace. Don’t let the difficulty or the weirdness of the call put you off any more – remember God is meeting you where you are, but He’s calling you to where He wants you to be. Won’t you heed His call to you today?
Then there might be some of you who are in the place you know God has for this season, you are heeding the call of God, let this message encourage you and reassure you even in the times where it seems like nothing is happening that God placed you where you are for such a time as this. We’re in this together – your part is an important component of God’s purposes for His kingdom. Rest in the peace God gives you for being obedient to His call. Continue to rely on His strength for accomplishing the purposes He has called you to. And be ever vigilant for His voice as He leads you forward.