“Who was he to save the world?
And who would be foolish enough to choose him for it?
He was no one.”
from “Relentless (Dominion Trilogy Book #1)” by Robin Parrish
Forget literally saving the world.
How about just saving a few people?
Maybe just one person?
What about joining with others to save just one person?
Does the thought of any of these make you feel like the little blue person on the right?
Does it make you feel like – I can’t do it! I’m nobody. You need someone who is somebody. You need someone else!
Even a “somebody” can feel like a “nobody”
In order to understand what I mean by that, there’s this awesome scene from the life of Elijah that’s told in 1Ki 18:16-39 –
I think that’s just so awesome!
But – look what happens next.
But – God’s not about to let Elijah stay there, wallowing in fear, And doubt. The mighty prophet Elijah was so shaken by the death threat that he was ready for God to just kill him.
Why? After what Elijah had just done, we’d think that he, of all people, would realize just how powerful God was and that with God Elijah could do literally anything. After all, together they had just done the impossible in a really big way! And yet, Elijah run’s for his life, hides, and wants to die.
There are different ways to look at what happened. I choose to look at this this way –
When we’re scared, running away, even when we know God is with us –
we’re in really good company!
If Elijah felt like that, who are we to get mad at ourselves or feel pity for ourselves when we get like that?
To be sure, Elijah will respond to God again – so he does allow God to work through him after this event. That’s coming up next.
But let’s fast forward a bit to this event with Jesus –
17:1-8 pp — Lk 9:28-36
17:1-13 pp — Mk 9:2-13
Mt 17:1 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
Mt 17:4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
Mt 17:5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
Mt 17:6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
To be sure, Elijah didn’t lose any standing with God over what happened at Horeb, with Elijah hiding and wanting to die.
He shows up at the Transfiguration of Jesus – along with Moses!
Ultimately, Elijah was one of two men taken by God while they were still alive. Enoch was the other.
Ge 5:21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. 22 And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.
2Ki 2:11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart.
Side note – Elijah and Revelation
Because Elijah and Enoch didn’t die while on earth, many think they will be back again – as the two witnesses in Revelation –
The Two Witnesses
Rev 11:1 I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there. 2 But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months. 3 And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5 If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. 6 These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.
Rev 11:7 Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. 8 Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. 9 For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. 10 The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.
Rev 11:11 But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on.
Rev 11:13 At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
Rev 11:14 The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon.
I mention this to show the importance of Elijah to God. Even after what he did.
That may sound odd, given what happens to God’s messengers in the end. However, if we really understand and believe what Jesus said – it is actually to be expected. In The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis has his title character say this of God and “His favorites” –
Now it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else. Lewis, C. S.. The Screwtape Letters (p. 38). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
The peaks that Screwtape talks about are the high points in our lives – where things are going well, and we feel God’s presence in our lives. The troughs, on the other hand, are the times when we’re under attack by Satan and the word, really feeling down and maybe even like God has deserted us (which, of course, He hasn’t). For Elijah, Mount Carmel and the fire was definitely a peak. Immediately after the death threat by Jezebel, Elijah went right down into the deepest of troughs.
If you are interested in The Screwtape Letters, I have a study guide for it here.
Finish up with Elijah
After that little side note from Revelation and The Screwtape Letters, let’s just conclude with a reminder that Elijah did the same kinds of things that we do sometimes. Even when we feel good about things and feel like God is with us – we get scared. For no good reason at all, we feel like He’s not going to be there for us, especially when things get difficult in this physical world of ours. But this world isn’t where the promised result actually takes place. It’s in the next life.
So when we get into something, and feel like we just want to die and “go home” to God, we need to think of Elijah. It would be nice to say I’ve never felt that way – but that’d be a lie. Actually – several lies, since I’ve felt that way more than once. Maybe that’s why I like these events so much. Not that I’ll ever be Elijah – but that I can know that God’s not going to desert me when I feel like that.
An ultimate “nobody”
We just saw the example of Elijah – a somebody who all of a sudden felt like a nobody.
Now – let’s look at someone exactly the opposite – a real nobody, who all of a sudden became a somebody.
Surely, no one can be less prepared for what God wants them to do than Gideon. We see this right away –
Jdg 6:11 The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”
Jdg 6:13 “But sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.”
Essentially, Gideon is saying – “Yeah, The LORD’s with us? So what?
This doesn’t seem like Gideon’s off to a real good start, does it?
God’s apparently not going to let that remark stand though. He proceeds to tell Gideon to do it himself. It’s like God is telling Gideon – I still want you to do this, so if you think I’m no help, then do it yourself!
Jdg 6:14 The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
Jdg 6:15 “But Lord,’” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
This could be an uh-oh moment for Gideon. But not quite yet. He comes back with another quick smart remark – along the lines of “Hey – God – do you know who I am? And you expect me to do this?”
Next, we see the problem with trying to play games with God. Of course God knows who He’s talking to. And God never answered Gideon’s question of “why has all this happened to us” . God often doesn’t answer this kind of question – He just continues to pursue His goal.
In Gideon’s case, God chooses to just ignore the question. You may remember God’s response to Job, after Job was relentless in wanting to talk to God about his particular problem –
Job 38:1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said:
Job 38:2 “Who is this that darkens my counsel
with words without knowledge?
Job 38:3 Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
Gideon might have wanted to just melt into the ground if God responded like that to his question.
We see here that God responds as appropriate to the person / situation.
Job could handle the response he got.
Gideon got a firm “I still want you to do this” kind of response – but not the “who are you to question me” that Job got.
Jdg 6:16 The LORD answered, “I will be with you , and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”
God ignores Gideon’s questions and chooses instead to just let him know that He will indeed be with Gideon and they will accomplish the task.
This should be a reminder to us that when we ask God and don’t get any kind of answer – or get one that ignores our question and tells us to just keep going – maybe there’s something that we should already know? Maybe there’s something that we are choosing to ignore, and God wants us to search ourselves and realize that the problem isn’t Him, but us.
So far, if all of this sounds like you – it’s supposed to.
One would think Gideon has caught on by now.
We’d probably also like to think that, if we were in Gideon’s place, we would also have caught on.
He didn’t. Chances are – we wouldn’t have either.
Jdg 6:17 Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me.
Jdg 6:18 Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.” And the LORD said, “I will wait until you return.”
Wow. God is still patient with Gideon!
So Gideon makes his offering, God gives a sign, and we see –
Jdg 6:22 When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the LORD, he exclaimed, “Ah, Sovereign LORD! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!”
Yes! Gideon got it! Everything is going to be OK!
God asks Gideon to tear down the altar to a pagan God that Gideon’s father had put up.
Gee – could this be part of the reason that God had turned away from the people?
Could this be the answer to Gideon’s question if why all those things were happening to the people?
But Gideon had some problems fulfilling this request –
Jdg 6:27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the LORD told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the men of the town, he did it at night rather than in the daytime.
Oops. Gideon didn’t quite have the “I’ve got this” promise from God.
Interestingly enough, Gideon’s father got it.
Jdg 6:28 In the morning when the men of the town got up, there was Baal’s altar, demolished, with the Asherah pole beside it cut down and the second bull sacrificed on the newly built altar!
Jdg 6:29 They asked each other, “Who did this?” When they carefully investigated, they were told, “Gideon son of Joash did it.”
Jdg 6:30 The men of the town demanded of Joash, “Bring out your son. He must die, because he has broken down Baal’s altar and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.”
Jdg 6:31 But Joash replied to the hostile crowd around him, “Are you going to plead Baal’s cause? Are you trying to save him? Whoever fights for him shall be put to death by morning! If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.”
Gideon should have seen that God does have his back after this.
But – he didn’t.
Jdg 6:36 Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised—
Jdg 6:37 look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.”
Jdg 6:38 And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water.
Maybe this time Gideon gets it?
Sorry – no.
Jdg 6:39 Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew.”
Jdg 6:40 That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.
Finally – Gideon stops asking for proof.
He got it.
Or did he?
Even those of us who feel like we are the last one on earth that God would ever choose to do anything have seen ourselves by now in the person of Gideon.
If God can use this little wimp – he can use any one of us – for anything he chooses.
With what happens next, we almost get the feeling that God thinks Gideon must be getting over-confident after all these signs – because look what happens now –
God gives Gideon one more sign – a sign that Gideon didn’t ask for (not verbally anyway).
It seems Gideon still didn’t really get it.
Then – God reduces the number of men with Gideon from 32,000 to 10,000.
Then – God reduces the number of men again, this time to 300!
Gideon has to do this with almost 99% of his men sent back home!!
Fear should be setting in big time right about this time.
But it doesn’t.
Gideon finally knows – God really is with him.
And it’s a smashing victory.
So – we’ve seen the ultimate somebody turned into the ultimate nobody and then back into the ultimate somebody. (Elijah)
And, we’ve seen the ultimate nobody turned into the ultimate somebody. (Gideon)
Just in case that’s not enough of an example to show that God really can use you, me, literally anyone –
here’s one more – this time things from the Apostle Paul. Remember Paul, formerly known as Saul. He was the ultimate Jewish Pharisee, persecuting and killing Christians. Until God called him to be an Apostle, when he did a complete 180 degree turnaround and became a Christian leader and author of much of the New Testament.
1Co 1:20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.
1Co 2:1 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
Paul’s Vision and His Thorn
2Co 12:1 I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. 5 I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say.
2Co 12:7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Think you’re too weak for God to use?
When we are weak – we’re perfectly prepared for Him to use us.
If we have committed our lives to God, and God wants to use us – one of three things will probably happen –
- we are ready, humble before God, and appropriately giving Him the credit He deserves for the things, not that we do, but that He does through us.
- we are too proud, overconfident in ourselves – and He will, as I put it for myself, pop my bubble and bring me back down. Then we’ll be ready.
- we are too scared, too “Gideon-like” – and God will help us to understand that He really is with us, that it’s really Him doing the things through us – not us having the strength to do anything other than allow Him to do the work. Yes – been there too. Then we’ll be ready.
Ultimately, there’s only one real question –
Do you want to commit yourself to God?
I mean really commit? Not just say some words – but really truly mean it?
If you do – just be open.
Be honest with God about how you feel – like both Elijah and Gideon were.
And then listen.
And act according to His will.
If we do these things – He will use us.
Probably not Elijah or Gideon style –
but in some way that is important..
We may not even know what we did in this life.
But we will find out.
Mt 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. 28 I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Too many people read verses like this and think that we need to do “deeds” – we need to do things.
But they are ignoring the lessons of Elijah and Gideon.
They are ignoring – big time – even the first sentence that Jesus says here –
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Combine that with what Jesus told Paul –
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness
and we should realize that it’s not us doing the deeds and the works.
We’re just the vessel that He is using to accomplish His goals.
Just in case you think that’s nothing –
consider how many people refuse to do that.
Think how hard it was for you to do it.
Think how hard you fought God initially, before allowing it to happen.
Then, be glad you surrendered,
and realize that it’s not Him sharing our victory –
it’s us sharing in His victory.
the quote and details on the book are available at amazon.com — http://amzn.to/2anFFDX
|↑1||Lewis, C. S.. The Screwtape Letters (p. 38). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.|