Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Walk with Jesus Tuesday: 10,000 Reasons

My family recently attended a National Invitation Tournament (NIT) basketball game at Clemson University.  The placed was packed.  We had the great and awesome privilege of sitting in seats at the very top row of Littlejohn Coliseum - where the air was warm, the seats packed, and the fans loud. 

Near the end of the game, the announcer shared that 10,000 people attended the game.  I believed it.  Very few empty seats remained.  Men and women unlucky enough to not find the correct number of seats together stood around the circular wall.

I find it much easier to watch sports games on television than I do in person.  Never have I been a huge sports fan, and for most of my life I spend as much time at sporting events daydreaming and checking out the environment of the arena as I do watching the game - and imagining what good snack I can find at the concessions stand. 

Having a great view of the crowd from the top-down, I mused, "So this is what 10,00 people look like.  What a large number of people to have in one place.  I am sure through the history of the United States, many battles have been won with fewer than this number of people." 

My mind returned to a biblical account.  As God prepared his servant Gideon to experience the Lord's work and lead God's people, the "mighty warrior" watched as God sifted His battle army from 32,000 to a much-less 10,000.  I looked around the stadium and realized, "This is the number of troops Gideon had after the first group went home."  Still, with 10,000 remaining, Gideon must have taken some comfort in the size of the group.  One feels protected and cushioned with that many people.  A measure of safety and strength comes in such an atmosphere.

Then, the unexpected instruction came from the Lord: "There are still too many men." 

What, Lord?  What?!?  Still too many!  Do you remember that our enemy has 135,000 warriors?  And even now they outnumber us about 13 to one?  And you tell me that there are "still too many?"

The Lord sifted the men again - and this time only 300 remained.  I looked at one of the sections in the noisy stadium.  Yes, one section would approximately hold about 300 people.  I tried to imagine the sheer shock and nakedness that Gideon and the remaining 300 must have felt when 9700 men left the camp for home. 

I imagined that many people suddenly leaving the basketball arena - and only one section of people left.  Then, I tried to visualize Gideon facing that section in Littlejohn and saying, "OK guys, now - the 300 of us are going to defeat an army of 135,000.  In case you are not good at counting or left your calculators in your tents - that means they outnumber us 450 to one!"

I would be tempted to quip, "Get a grip, Gideon!"  The reality was, however, that God had a grip on Gideon.

The Lord chose to break the odds and do the impossible with that small group of 300 - a group that originally numbered 32,000.  Less than 10% of the original army remained.

God was about to work in a way that only He would receive the glory.  He explained to Gideon, "You have too many men for Me to deliver Midian into your hands."  God reduced his army in "order that Israel may not boast against Me that her own strength has saved her."

When God worked, the Bible says that "all the Midianites ran, crying out as the fled."  The Lord even caused the "men throughout the camp to turn on each other."  At the end of the day, Gideon and his small group of men knew that God had worked for His glory.

When Clemson beat Belmont that night, many fans cheered and shouted for the Tigers.  However, the night that God won His victory for His people, I expect that praises went up to Jehovah more than they did for their leader Gideon.

To help us grow - and to teach us to trust Him - God sometimes sifts us.  It hurts.  It is often unexpected.  And it can be downright scary. 

But at the end of the day, the Lord wants us boasting not in our efforts, circumstances, or resources but in Him. 

Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey.

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