Friday, January 14, 2011
Give the Man some room
In my chronological reading of the Bible I am just about to finish Judges. Before you become insanely impressed at how fast I am flying through it, you should know that I actually started this plan mid-last year. When I wrote that one of my goals for this year was to be into the New Testament by 2012, I had already started Joshua.
There, the jig is up. I have confessed. Moving on.
Like I was saying, I am just about to finish Judges and all I have to say from Judges is…whoa. Just whoa. The Israelites. I mean, COME ON. If you’re ever feeling like a failure, like you just can’t get it right, take a walk through Judges and you’ll feel a whole lot better about yourself. Just over again they were turning their backs on the Lord, refusing to trust in Him, in who He had proven Himself to be so many times in their lives. Oh wait…that sounds kind of familiar. Nevermind.
But He did something really cool with one of the guys that was willing to listen. God raised up this guy Gideon to be a judge, despite the fact that Gideon had an extremely hesitant and sometimes weak faith. God asked Gideon to lead a group of men to deliver the Israelites from the Midianites saying, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.”
Gideon struggled and begged God for signs that He would be true to His word, signs that He graciously provided. On the morning when Midian was to be defeated, Gideon rose and took his army with him, about 32,000 men.
But the Lord said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me.’” And with that God helped Gideon strip his army down to 300 men.
Did they defeat the Midianites with a meager 300 men? Of course they did. How did they do it? By going to the outskirts of the Midian camps and blowing trumpets and smashing pitchers, causing such a commotion that it confused the Midianites and basically set their men against each other until they had defeated themselves. It’s actually a pretty funny situation…well, in my head. I have a feeling that the Midianites weren’t by any means laughing.
But I keep going back to what’s before that. “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful.”
When I first read that, I read it once. And then I read it again. And again. God was first of all setting up His promise. He would deliver Midian into the hands of the Israelites. That was not in question.
But He was not willing to do it in such a way that the Israelites could claim that they, in their own strength, had won this battle.
I couldn’t help but think about the fact that so many hours of our days revolve around accomplishment that comes from our own strength. We are completely trained to live in such a way that gives God no room to work. We overstaff just in case someone calls in sick. We overbuy just in case more people show up. We overwork just in case we get sick tomorrow. We have plan A’s and B’s just in case something doesn’t go as expected. We leave early just in case there’s traffic. We plan, prepare and compensate.
And after all of this, I would venture to say that the vast majority of us feel overwhelmed and tired and anxious because we still don’t feel prepared or like we’ve done enough.
We run ourselves ragged at the expense of not only our physical, emotional and spiritual health, but most importantly at the expense of the glory of our Lord and Creator. We have left no room for Him because we are seeking glory only for ourselves.
God knows His plans. And His plans will be accomplished. But don’t wear yourself out trying to accomplish what He has already promised will happen. Leave opportunities in your life for people to say, “I don’t know how that happened.”
Glory (His, not yours) is found when you say, “Because of God alone.”
I work part time for my church doing children’s ministry every Sunday morning. And nearly every morning we have volunteers who have sick kids or unexpected travel or simply forget they’re scheduled to serve. It happens almost every Sunday. But I have been tremendously blessed to work with someone who does not over plan but simply says, “God will take care of it.”
And every Sunday He does. He either brings less kids or more people.
A couple of Sundays ago we were really in a pinch, right up until the last second. We were short about 4 people. All the volunteers gathered to pray, as we do every Sunday, at 9:30. We prayed aloud together for the usual things adults pray for…that God would show up, that He would speak to the kids, that He would use us for His glory, that all the children would feel loved…
And then Zachary, a 6th grader who had come in that morning wanting to serve, piped into the prayer.
“God, uh, we need help. You know we do. We don’t have enough people. And, uh, You knew this was going to happen. So God please help us. Please send people.”
And God did send people. As people filtered in that morning for church a few of them stopped by and said, “Hey, any chance you guys need help back there today?”
Because of the precious and courageous prayer of an 11 year old boy, and because we had saved room in our hallways for God’s presence, He showed up. And we walked away that Sunday knowing that children’s ministry happened because of God and God alone. Because He wanted it to happen. And He promised it would be okay. And He made good on His promise.
He. will. not. fail.
So give the Man some room.