One of the misconceptions many of us believe is that when God is with us and for us, we won’t experience bad things. It can be quite a shock when we go through a very long season of difficulties. We question our faith, we question what’s going on and we question God. Almost every time, there are no answers. I remember crying out, “God, where are you? If you’re with me, why is this happening?” I didn’t get any answers, but I did find out that God’s Grace is deeper than any trouble I went through. It was sufficient to carry me through the darkest times.
In Judges 6, Israel was constantly being attacked by the Midianites for seven years. When Israel’s crops would start to grow, the Midianites would come destroy them. They stole their livestock as well so that Israel was without food and became impoverished. Israelites lived in constant fear because of it. That’s when the Angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and called him a mighty warrior saying God was with him. In verse 13 he replied, “‘Sir, 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’” (NLT). He didn’t get answer, but he did get a mission to deliver Israel.
Even when we face the longest, darkest struggles, we have God’s promise to never leave us. Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be determined and confident. Do not be afraid of them. Your God, the Lord himself, will be with you. He will not fail you or abandon you” (GNT). It’s hard to be confident in those times. Gideon wasn’t, but God called out the confident warrior in him. There’s a confident warrior in you too. You are able to face any struggle, fight every battle and survive any difficult season because God is with you. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Don’t back down or lose hope now. Be determined and confident in Him. He will not fail you or go back on His promises.
One of my favorite people in the Bible is Gideon. I’m reminded of his story so often because I find myself in need of all the lessons it teaches. In Judges 6, the Bible explains that times were bad in Israel. The Midianites were destroying crops, killing animals and harassing the Israelites. There wasn’t anything anyone could do to stop them. The Israelites lived in fear because of all the bad things that were happening. If they had grain, they had to thresh it in hiding. If they had goats, they had to keep them hidden. Anything in the open would be taken.
Gideon was threshing his grain in the bottom of a wine press so no one would see him. An angel appeared and called out to him, “Mighty hero, The Lord is with you.” Gideon, who was hiding because he was afraid of the Midianites, didn’t think twice about the angel calling him a hero. What caught his attention was that the angel said, “The Lord is with you.” He took a double take at the angel and must have thought this guy didn’t know much. How could he say that when so many bad things were happening?
He confronted the angel and asked, “If The Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” Have you ever felt that way? When everything in life is going wrong and you feel abandoned by God. It’s an uncomfortable place. A dark place. Fear of the future grips your mind. You find yourself constantly worrying about things that you have no control over. You feel like God has forgotten you or worse, abandoned you in need. Your mind tells you that God doesn’t care. That He doesn’t see you in your pain.
In this verse, the angel reminds us that God’s presence in our lives isn’t proven by our circumstances. Our lives can be falling apart and God can still be with us. We’ve somehow come to believe that God is with us when things are good and has abandoned us when times are bad. His presence is with you no matter what. He is with you even when you can see His hand or feel His presence. He is with you when your life is so dark that you can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. He is not only with you, He’s preparing you for greatness in those times. Greatness doesn’t come from an easy life. It’s forged in the darkness and in the fire.
Whatever you are facing today, I say to you, “Mighty hero, The Lord is with you!” You may not feel like a hero, but you’re still standing through everything. You may not feel like The Lord is with you, but He has never left your side. He has been standing next to you through everything you have faced and everything you will face because He will not abandon you. He will not forsake you. He will not forget you. He will deliver you when the timing is right. He will lead you to better times when you have learned all He wants to show you in the dark. Stand strong today because The Lord is with you.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
My three year old son surprised me the other day. We were sitting down talking and he wanted to get my attention so used both hands to grab my face to look at him. He said, “Joshua 1:9, Dada.” It took me a minute to figure out what he was talking about, but then I remembered it was his memory verse a few weeks back. I thought for a second how they had taught him, then I recited it to him, “Do not be afraid. God is with you.” He smiled and said, “Yeah. God is with you. Joshua 1:9.”
What a great promise to us to hold on to. The full verse says, “This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” This was God speaking to Joshua before he entered a land of giants and walled cities that he was to conquer. It was 40 years earlier that he had been there as a spy and was outvoted 10-2 because the people were afraid of what they saw. I’m sure the ones who were scared told their kids what the Promised Land had in it. They might have been afraid of what their future held.
Like them, you may be looking at your future and are starting to feel scared. There are uncertainties, giants even huge walls up around the things you feel like God has called you to. When you look at those things, you may be wondering, “How can I accomplish that?” The path to it may be unclear. There may be huge obstacles in your way. But if God has called you to do it, there are no walls high enough that He can’t push down. There are no walls thick enough that He can’t break. There is no enemy strong enough to keep you away from all He has promised. He just needs you to step out in faith.
That’s the hard part. The scary part. When that fear arises, go back to Joshua 1:9. God commanded us to be strong and courageous. He didn’t merely suggest it. He told us not to be afraid or discouraged by the obstacles in our way because He is with us. He doesn’t expect us to do these things in our own strength or abilities. He will do the work as long as we are willing to cross the Jordan and enter the Land of Promise. Our step of faith pushes back fear and activates God’s strength. Don’t hold back because of fear. Go and conquer all that God has for you.
Have you ever tried to get something done, but kept getting distracted? The distractions weren’t there until you decided to start. The moment you engage the project, it seems that the whole world falls apart. Someone calls and needs something right away. You realize you forgot to do something else that you were supposed to do. What you’re using to complete the project breaks or quits working. It gets pretty frustrating doesn’t it?
I gotta say, it happens to all of us and I’m not sure why. Then there’s the whole procrastination thing. When you’ve got a big project you need to be working on, sometimes starting it is the hardest thing to do. Where do I begin? What if I get into this and the distractions start? How long is this going to take? Do I have time to complete it? Why do today what I can put off till tomorrow? We question ourselves and talk ourselves out if starting. It’s easy to do, and I’m pretty sure I’m the king of it.
As Solomon was becoming king himself, his father David handed him the blueprints for the Temple. It was a daunting project that would require years to complete with thousands of moving parts. Combine that with trying to run a country and you’ve got both distractions and procrastination creeping at your door. In I Chronicles 28:20, David encouraged him by saying, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you” (NLT).
Let that be an encouragement to you today. Do the work that you’re called to do. Push past the procrastination and stay focused through the distractions. Don’t be afraid of the outcome or discouraged by what others may say. You are uniquely qualified to do what God has called you to do. If He didn’t think you could do it, He wouldn’t have called you to it. Be strong, courageous and confident. Take your next step today and trust that God is with you and will be faithful to help you complete it.
The story of Gideon has got to be one of my favorites in the Bible. In Judges 6, Israel was being tormented by the Midianites. When they planted crops, the Midianites would come camp on top of them to destroy them. If they had cattle or sheep grazing, the Midianites would steal them. It says the Midianites would show up in numbers too high to count. The Israelites were in fear and had hiding places in the caves and mountains to get away from them. It was a dark time for Israel.
Gideon was threshing wheat hidden from sight when an angel showed up. He greets Gideon in verse 12 with, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!” (NLT) Gideon then questions how the Lord could be with Israel in this time of suffering. He even goes as far as saying that the Lord has abandoned them. The angel calmly replies, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!” Just like that, Gideon received his calling.
What sticks out to me in this verse is that Gideon was told to fight these people, who were too numerous to count, with his own strength. God wasn’t offering supernatural strength, just the promise that He was with him and that he was called to do it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prayed for God to give me supernatural abilities to fulfill my calling. I don’t see myself as able to do what He’s called me to do in my own abilities, but this story gives me hope.
I feel like a kid who’s scared even they first learn to ride a bike without training wheels, tThe parent holds the back seat and says, “You can do this. I’m with you holding the seat.” That’s the image I get from this story. God was telling Gideon, and us that we can do what He’s asked us to do in our own strength because He’s back there holding the seat running with us. It’s up to us to pedal in our own strength.
Whatever God has called you to do, He’s equipped you to do in your own strength. It may seem, impossible, but because He has called and is with you, it is possible. Don’t look at the task ahead. Look at the One holding the seat and trust Him to fulfill His promise through you. You are more capable than you think. You are more qualified than you believe. You are stronger than you know. Don’t be afraid to walk in your calling. The Lord has sent you.
I always enjoy reading about Gideon. There is so much to glean from him and how God used him. At the time, Israel was being bullied by the Midianites. When their crops would grow, the Midianites would trample them. They would also steal their livestock so they had no meat to eat. It was a scary time to be an Israelite. Even Gideon was hiding when God called him a mighty warrior. He couldn’t see how he was a mighty warrior or that God was with him because of what was going on in Israel.
In Judges 6:14-15, the conversation continued, “Then the LORD turned to him and said, ‘Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!’ ‘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!’” (NLT) Not only did he feel like God wasn’t with him, he thought of himself as a nobody from nowhere.
God doesn’t care where you’re from, how unimportant you think you are, or what your circumstances look like. He doesn’t pick His leaders that way. God looks at the posture of your heart and your availability. You will never have the capability on your own to accomplish what He’s calling you to. However, with His help, you will be the mighty warrior He sees in you and is calling out. It takes faith and courage to come out of hiding in order to be all that God has called you to be.
Gideon had to come out of the wine press if he was going to lead Israel against the Midianites. You’re going to have to come out of where you’re hiding too so God can accomplish His will. He won’t force you out. You have to choose to step out. He has already spoken to you. He has already called you more than you are. It’s time to quit making excuses and be who God called you to be. If you do, God’s promise to you is found in verse 16. The Lord said to him, “I will be with you.”
In Deuteronomy 20, Moses gave the Israelites a reminder that is good for us too. In verse 1 he said, “When you go out to fight your enemies and you face horses and chariots and an army greater than your own, do not be afraid. The LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, is with you!” (NLT) He knew that there would be battles they would face where they were outnumbered, outgunned, and outresourced. He knew that as people we would look at those things and be afraid.
When I was a kid, my brothers and I would always want to take things to a vote because we knew we had more votes than our parents. My dad would say, “Ok, but our vote counts as one more than yours.” Without knowing it, he was demonstrating what it’s like to have God on your side. It doesn’t matter how many problems you’re up against, you have one more solution than problems because God is on your side.
God wants to remind you today that with Him on your side, you are never outnumbered, outgunned, or outresourced. You don’t have to be afraid of what you’re up against no matter what the physical odds are. The spiritual odds are in your favor. In Joshua 1:9, God again reminds us of this promise. He said, “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” So be strong and courageous today. God is with you. There is no need to be afraid. Walk in victory.
One of my favorite Bible stories when I was a kid had to be of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The King ordered that everyone bow down to his golden statue when they heard the music played. Of course the three Hebrew boys refused to do it. The king summonsed them and ordered them to bow or to be thrown into a furnace. They told him to his face that they wouldn’t do it. He got so angry, he heated up the furnace seven times hotter than normal, bound their hands and feet and had them thrown into it,
The fire was so hot that the men who were throwing them into it died. When the men didn’t return right away, the King went to look. He turned and asked the people around him, “Didn’t we throw three into the fire?” The people around him said, “That’s right.” He replied, “But look! I see four men walking around freely in the fire, completely unharmed. And the fourth one looks like the son of the gods!” He then called out to them to come out of the fire. When he examined them, not a hair was singed nor did they smell like fire.
Many times in this life you and I will feel like we are bound up. There are times when we feel like we are in prison. Our hands and feet are shackled. We feel like we aren’t going anywhere and we can’t do anything. Being physically tied up is bad enough, but to be mentally or spiritually tied up is worse. It’s a real feeling of helplessness. When you couple that with walking through the fires of life, it can make things feel hopeless. Even in those times, we are to trust in God and His plan.
These three guys were not alone in the fire. In fact, it was in the fire that they were set free from their bondage. The scripture says they were walking around freely in the fire. God did not abandon them in the worst of times. He was standing there with them. It reminds me of the promise He makes to you and I in Isaiah 43:2. He said, “When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end – because I am your God, your personal God.”
That’s a promise you can hold into when you’re walking through deep waters, between a rock and a hard place or in the fire of oppression as the New Living Translation puts it. That version says, “You’ll not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” It goes on to say He won’t let any of these things destroy you because you are precious to Him. He gave His all for you. He loves you and will not let these present circumstances destroy you. He says you can walk freely in the fire. Trust in Him. He will not let you down. When you come out on the other side, you won’t be burned.
Some coworkers and I were talking about all the online dating sites. There are ones dedicated to Christians, black people, those looking to get married, those who are already married and even one for farmers. The last one mentioned has most people thinking it’s a joke. The commercials are very low budget and goofy, but their jingle is catchy. It says, “You don’t have to be lonely at farmers only dot com.” While their commercials are notoriously bad, their slogan resonates with so many. “You don’t have to be lonely.”
In today’s world, we are connected more than ever, but somehow feel alone. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, you’re still susceptible to feeling lonely. Since creation, God has been calling out to us telling us we are not alone. He has tried to grab our attention in each sunset and sunrise. He has called to us in the beauty of nature. He paints us a picture each night with the stars. He calls to us with each wave that crashes on the shore, “I’m here. You are not alone.” He has tried to let us know since we were born that we are loved, but we ignore His signs.
We try to fill that loneliness with imperfect relationships, sports, exercise, addictions, online gaming and the Internet. None of it really satisfies us, but we keep trying to fill that void. There is something in each one of us that desires companionship. God placed it in us. His desire is that He would fill that void in each of our lives. When humanity ignored Him long enough, He became one of us so that we would listen to Him. On His mission here, He told us how much He loved us and that we weren’t alone. In fact, one of the very last things He told us was that He would be with us always.
In the last verse in Matthew 28, Jesus’ last words were, “And you can be sure of this: I am with you always.” He knew that we would feel lonely and wanted to encourage us that we would never be alone. He wanted us to know that even though He was taking His place back in Heaven, He would still be here to guide us and to comfort us. He has no desire that any of us would ever feel alone. Hebrews 13:5 reiterates what God told Joshua in the Old Testament. He said, “I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake you nor let you down or relax my hold on you (AMP).” He was emphatic that He will not leave you so that you would know you are not alone.
What things have you put into your life to try to keep from feeling lonely? In what ways are you ignoring God’s voice calling out to you that you aren’t alone? What can you do today to start recognizing His presence in your life? The jingle to that commercial is right: you don’t have to be lonely. You have a God who desperately loves you and wants you to know that He is with you in whatever stage of life you’re in. When He is in His place in your life, everything else will fall into its place. He has not left you alone. He is with you all the days of your life. Will you recognize Him and let Him fill that void?