Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Do I Have a Faithful Walk?

How can I measure my faith? How can I know that I am 'faithful' to my Lord?

The first sign of faith comes when we meet Jesus for the first time, and Scripture tells us that it is by grace thru faith that we come to know Christ and are saved. But saving faith is not what I am speaking of here... I am speaking of a life of faith, a life that says, "I am faithful to the Savior who has redeemed me..."

How can I know that I have been faithful to my Savior? I believe we find our answers to that question in God's Word. I have found that Scripture is replete with examples of 'faithful' behavior and 'faithful' actions. We can see the faithful actions and behavior of others and we can apply those principles to our lives to help us to be faithful in the calling of God upon our journey with Him.

Hebrews 11 is known as the "Hall of Faith" and it defines faith/faithfulness and it also chronicles many of who have been faithful in their walk with God. From Abel to Enoch, from Abraham to Isaac and Jacob, from Sarah to Moses the text lists example after example of people whose faith is made known to us. However, there is a verse that caught my eye toward the end of this wonderful chapter, it is verse 32. It says:
"...and what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets--..."

This verse includes both people who are familiar to the casual reader but also those who may not be easily recognized. There are very few Christians who can readily tell of Barak and Jephthah and there are not many who could name the prophets of old or tell of what Samuel did. David and Samson are the more popular names on this list but my favorite on this list is Gideon.

Before we get to Gideon lets review a little about Barak and Jephthah, just to give us info on these men of faith!
Barak is found in the book of Judges Chapter 4 and 5. His faith was that he followed the counsel of a woman whom God has called to lead the nation of Israel. Many men would have discounted the leadership of a woman and would NOT have listened to their counsel but Barak and Deborah followed God's leading and a great victory was won for the children of Israel.

Jephthah is found in the book of Judges as well but in chapters 11 & 12. He is listed as a mighty warrior, but that his mother had been a prostitute. A man from a more than less desirable situation was being used by God to deliver His people. Jephthah did not cower based on his past but was faithful in God's calling on his life and moved ahead in obedience.

But I come to my favorite character of this verse in Hebrews and it is Gideon. He is my favorite because he reminds me SO much of myself. Let's look at the story of Gideon:

The story begins in Judges 6 thru 9, but he is also mentioned in the book of 1 Samuel and by the prophet Isaiah.

Here is his story in a nutshell. The Midianites had oppressed the Israelites for 7 yrs and it was so bad that the people of God had taken to hiding in caves and other places so that the Midianites could not find them.

The story opens up with Gideon working at the bottom of an old wine press threshing grain so that the Midianites would not be able to see what he was doing.

Gideon is working for his family. His family is a working class family. In the story Gideon himself describes his position and the position of his family as the least among the least.

However, the angel of the Lord addresses Gideon in Judges 6:12 like this: "...the angel of the Lord appeared to him (Gideon) and said, 'Mighty hero (warrior), the Lord is with you!"

When this angel shows up and calls Gideon into service to save the nation of Israel and starts his conversation off like this... can you imagine the look on his face...Who? me? Are you sure you have the right guy? I am a NOBODY!

God calls Gideon into service to do a great thing for the nation of Israel. Gideon is reluctant from the start FIRST because of his position in his own family and the position of his family in their clan and the position of their clan in the tribe he belonged to... he believed that he would be the LAST person God would use to do a mighty thing for the nation.

I believe that when we read the story of Gideon that we can see that Gideon wanted to believe God was calling him, but had great doubts about his own standing and abilities. He lacked experience as a leader or a warrior and so his thoughts were that God may have the wrong guy.

We see that from the outset of this calling Gideon wants proof from God that he is tryly being called of God. First he runs off to get a sacrifice. The angel tells him to place his sacrifice on a rock and touches it and it is consumed by fire. Gideon is convinced that this is truly of God, but is fearful still.

The angel calls on Gideon to go out and tear down his own father's idols, and Gideon does it. The townspeople are furious and want to kill Gideon, but his own father says to let Baal punish Gideon.

After this things get worse with the Midianites and Gideon is emboldened by the Spirit of God to call together the people against this threat. Gideon puts out a call to arms to defend the nation but turns to God and says in v.36-37, "...if You are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as You promised, prove it to me this way. I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor tonight. If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning and the ground is dry, then I will know that You are going to help me rescue Israel as You promised."

In the morning the fleece is wet and the ground is dry, but Gideon is still not convinced. After seeing God consume his sacrifice with fire, after seeing God deliver him when the townsfolk wanted him dead, and after seeing the fleece wet and ground dry, Gideon wants even more proof. He asks God to reinforce his belief by doing just the opposite, to make the fleece dry and the surrounding ground wet.

Now MANY people want to chastise Gideon here for his lack of faith, after all God had already shown who He was and what He could do, why would Gideon test God like this? I see this as a very HUMAN reaction to being called into the service of God!

God indulges Gideon's 2nd request and Gideon then is convinced that he has been called to lead God's mission. After this Gideon follows God's plan and even though it seems difficult, we see Gideon remaining faithful to God's calling and faithful to God's promise of deliverance.

This is where I find myself quite often in life. I KNOW God has called me as I have experienced many 'burning bush' moments where God's presence and providence was abundantly clear, but yet I still find myself saying to God, "God are you sure? Am I really the one for this job?"

Oh for the faith of Gideon in my walk with the Lord. I am currently pastoring a church where I believe God has called me to go in a direction where many have reluctance to go OR flat out have refused to go. I find myself asking the same questions as Gideon. God are you sure? God if this is to be I need a sign!

I believe that God is a gracious and loving God who is NOT too big to accommodate our very finite view and faith. We are so limited in sight and limited in our faith ability that MOST of the time we question when we should act. God is patient with us and willing to reveal His power and direction to us. It is but for us to ask. I do not see Gideon's request as a bad thing, but it merely reveals his humanity while facing the enormity of the task.

He eventually learned to trust in God and led the nation for many years. I have got to learn to trust in Him and have faith that He is not going to lead me into a task where He will not provide the resources to complete that task...even if I cannot see or understand it.  God give me Gideon like faith in my walk!

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