On a bright afternoon one day in the little town of Gaza, a young Israelite man gathered the wheat he had previously harvested from his father’s farm with the aim to separate the grain from the chaff so it can serve as food for his family. Before he could do so he had to make sure it was safe, so he walked around the house to make sure no one was watching. When he was certain no one was watching, he lifted the bundle unto his shoulders, snuck out the back door and ran into an abandoned wine press behind the family house.
The young man is Gideon, the last son of Joash, an Israelite farmer who settled in that town several years beforehand due to the richness of the soil fit for agriculture. Joash and his family were doing well until a few years later when soldiers from the neighboring town of Media started to harass and steal from the farmers of his town. It used to be a small theft from any farmer that fell victim to their tactics, however, in the past seven years, it has become a wild and constant raid that stripped the whole town of food, leaving many families at the point of near starvation. The inhabitants of Gaza felt helpless to confront these thieves especially since many of them were soldiers. Instead, the Gaza community stealthily harvested, processed and stored their food in secret.
That afternoon, as Gideon worked quietly and quickly, but he was startled when from the corner of his eye he noticed a man sitting under the large oak tree a few meters away from him. He could almost swear that no one was in that spot when he ran past the tree with his sack of wheat. The face looked unfamiliar so he prayed under his breath he was not a Median. He quickly covered the wheat in an effort to hide it.
“Can I help you?” Gideon asked nervously
“Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!” The man nodded at him politely.
“He sounds friendly. Maybe he is not an enemy.” Gideon thought to himself but it was too early to conclude. He moved closer for a closer look. The man is elderly and does not have the arrogant aural of a Midian. In fact his disposition is completely serene. He must not be from around here. And he if mentioned ‘The Lord’ he must be familiar with the God of Israel.
“Sir,” Gideon replied, “If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.”
The man stared steadily at Gideon and instead of replying his questions he said “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”
Gideon was astonished at the way the man addressed him. He concluded that it is either this man has lost his mind or is a total stranger. First, his father has many sons and he, being the last, does not come close in strength or experience to any of his seniors. Besides, anyone who has stayed in that town would know how notorious and dangerous the Midian soldiers were. They would squash anything that attempts to stand in their way. Gideon decided to help this stranger understand the situation.
“But Lord,” Gideon replied, “How can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”
The man said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”
Gideon was stunned for a moment. “I will be with you….I will be with you.” Why does that line sound familiar? Then as if a veil was lifted away from the eyes of his mind he sensed he was not talking to an ordinary person. His father had told him stories of how many of his ancestors encountered and entertained Angels unaware. Angels are servants of the most High God and this man could be one but to be sure he decided to test him.
Gideon replied, “If you are truly going to help me, show me a sign to prove that it is really the Lord speaking to me.” He asked the man to stay where he was until he returned.
The man agreed. “I will stay here until you return.”
Gideon went away and prepared his offering and afterwards proved that the stranger was indeed an Angel. Yet, he maintained that he was not good enough to go on such a mission as the Angel was suggesting. He did finally obey and rescued his people from the oppression of the Midianites but not until he had tested and retested the word of the promise to him.
Meaning that if God had not appeared to Gideon through an Angel, he would never have realized his own strength nor done anything that heroic in his lifetime. Note that the potential to carry out the great feat was already residing in him when the Angel came to him. I believe that at different times before his encounter with this Angel he must have nursed the desire to do something to bring the activities of the Medians to check but never physically saw himself as capable of doing so. That feeling still holds true for many people today. The burning passion to do something or make a difference would be present but the fear of inadequacy has a way of preventing action.
I retold this story to illustrate that the fear of inadequacy can be so great that it undermines ability and limits achievements. In our world today, this kind of fear can present itself as avoiding to apply for a position one is well qualified for or not publishing a book for fear of criticism and many more.
God, however, knows our capabilities but understands our fears. Thus, when He needs a man, He does not look at the physique or the limitations the man may be surrounded with rather He looks inwards because He knows the potential of any man, He created all.
But because He understands the impact fear can have on a man, so many times He assists. For example, when biblical Joshua was taking over leadership from Moses, God visited him and repeatedly reassured him that he will do well as a leader. Therefore the first chapter of the book of Joshua is spilled over with phrases ike “Don’t be afraid,” “Be courageous,” “I will be with you.”
I believe those words of encouragement apply to Christians today because 2 Tim 3:16 says “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true.” God rarely sends Angels as messengers to men these days but the records of the Bible and the Holy Spirit are available to us. Therefore, a christian can embrace those words of God to Joshua as if it is to him/her and build courage to lunge forward into action.
Some practical things to do to overcome this beast called fear include.
- Verify with God: in the illustrations given above (Gideon and Joshua), God was fully involved in their assignment which was the major reason for their success. Now, God may directly call one to an assignment like he did with Gideon, but in some cases a man may not hear an audible voice rather a burning passion to do something. Regardless, a man should wisely submit the desire/passion to God in prayer to determine if it is God’s will for him/her to pursue and the right time to do so.
- Start somewhere
- Sincerity: when you actively start pursuing the passion, be honest about your level of growth and seek help and counsel where necessary. Pray often and be open to criticism – they are instrumental to growth.
- Practice: invest time and resources and be deliberate about growing. Acquire and master the skills needed. It is a disaster to become overly confident in inadequacy.
- Passion: keep it aglow even if it takes finding mentors and friends that support and encourage you.
In conclusion, fear is debilitating to any vision. A man, nonetheless, is a tool in the hands of God. Throughout history, it is humans that God has often used to change many narratives, and even history – Think of Moses, Gideon, and in more contemporary times, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr etc. For a Christian, therefore, it is important to see oneself as a tool for change in the hands of God and rise to action, believing. And also have it at the back of the mind that even God knows our limitations and helps.
“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
Philippians 4:13 NLT
This article is culled from the Bible (Judges 6:11 – 18).
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