The story of Gideon in the book of Judges is a really interesting account. He trickles onto the scene in less-than-impressive fashion, as our first notice of Gideon occurs when he is hiding from the enemy and trying to get his daily chores done without being killed. An angel sent from God comes to Gideon and declares the human-twig to be a powerful man who is full of courage. Huh? Gideon basically responds with, “You’ve got the wrong guy, mister.” Yet the Lord would not be deterred from developing the servant He had chosen for a very important task. Gideon was going to become the leader whom God used to deliver Israel from decades of persecution by the enemy. Gideon just needed to go through a crash course in leadership development before the victory became a reality. So how would God make the loser into the leader?
Firstly, Gideon needed some convictions about the need for spiritual cleansing in the land. The first assignment given to Gideon from God was to tear down the false shrines that his own father had built. Welcome to ministry, Gideon – raze to the ground something your daddy established! Gideon rose to the task and tore down those altars and other altars in the surrounding area. He passed the test of choosing God’s ways above that of his family traditions and the wayward paths of his culture. Those altars were destroyed and Gideon was subjected to intense misunderstanding from others for having obeyed the instructions of his God. He was steadfast and lived out his convictions nonetheless. In the aftermath, even Gideon’s dad recognized the righteous actions of his son. Though the neighbors were incensed at Gideon’s reformations, even some of them who initially wanted to end Gideon’s life came around and later joined his army. Now about that army…
In Judges, chapter seven, Gideon’s influence skyrocketed and he suddenly became the leader of an army of 32,000 soldiers. What a confidence booster for a new leader who had quickly migrated to prominence! The enemy could now be potentially defeated by Gideon and his mighty band of warriors. Gideon’s powerful convictions had paid off at this point in the story. He would fight the enemy of God, he would bring back honor to Israel, and he would turn the hearts of God’s people back to Him. Yes, Gideon had convictions!
But did Gideon have courage?
To ensure that Gideon was not simply some fleshly crusader, God did the unthinkable. God set things up so that two-thirds of Gideon’s army packed up and went home in one afternoon. Can you imagine how his heart must have sunk when the outward momentum of the mission was lost and two out of every three soldiers left because they were afraid? Apparently, those former soldiers had personal convictions but they did not have the personal courage to walk out those convictions. God wanted an army comprised of people who had both, so he sent the ones lacking courage packing. Eventually, the remaining ten thousand soldiers was further whittled down by God to an anemic three hundred remaining fighters. 32,000 to 300? Not a great day at the office for Gideon. The resources had faded, the momentum had disappeared and the odds were clearly stacked against the young leader. This is when Gideon discovered that he not only had convictions about what was right…but he had the courage to stay in the fight and trust God for the victorious outcome. In the end, Gideon and his three hundred warriors defeated the Midianites in glorious fashion as God did what Gideon could not do, and incredible breakthrough came to the people of God.
The lesson for us today is clear: when you know that you have been given the proper convictions from God, will you live that conviction out in courage? Will you accept the associated losses when people walk away because they lack the courage that God is fostering in you? Will you refuse to wait on man’s approval as you consider God’s assignment? You must defy the temptation to live in that detestable place where God has shown you what is true and right, but you retreat from living it out because it will cost you something. Two-thirds of Gideon’s army went home – not because they lacked the awareness of what was the right thing to do, but because they would not operate in the sacrificial courage that was required to complete the plan of God. When convictions are coupled with courage, reformation and revival become a strong likelihood, and people of honor become known. By the way, this is a rare combination in people of your generation. Many have strong opinions about various matters. They hurl their input from the safety of the sidelines but refuse to put on their pads, get on the field and risk taking the hits in order to secure the victory. I believe that God is presently raising up some men and women who can draw their convictions from His Word, and simultaneously draw their courage from His Spirit. When this occurs in a person’s life, God is glorified and His mission is advanced. I have no doubt that He is working this rare combination of conviction and courage within some of you reading this today.
When people have convictions but lack courage, the result is a storehouse of pungent but impotent opinion which gets mildewed as it continues to sit in the barn without ever being attached to action. That’s not the way for me, friends. I hope it will not be the way for you. If the enemy is to be defeated, we will need to receive from God the conviction to know what is good and right, and the courage to walk it out until the breakthrough comes.