When God Calls Us to Greatness
Gloria Fanchiang, guest preacher
Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost
September 16, 2018
Scripture Lesson: Judges 6-7
As we begin the Spirituality 201 sermon series and we’re talking about spiritual growth and getting to the next level in our faith let’s consider who might inspire us. Hebrews chapter 11 mentions heroes of the faith like Moses, Abraham and Sarah, Joseph, Rahab. From modern times we can add people like MLKJ, Mother Teresa, and even John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church. Can you imagine your name in the mix? Would God call any of us to deliver people from their oppressors, save a nation, start a church or ministry that would outlive us and spread around the world? Some of us might be thinking – who am I to be counted among the greats?
If you thought that, you’re in good company with Gideon, a fearful and doubting man who somehow ended up in the list of the greats.
As we heard earlier, an angel and the very voice of God told Gideon that God is with him and will use him to defeat the Midianites. But Gideon had a really hard time believing this promise, so he asked for not 1, not 2, but 3 signs of confirmation…God even gave him a 4th sign just before he went off to battle.
Why was Gideon so insecure and faithless? We don’t know a whole lot about Gideon’s background but in the beginning of Judges 6 it says that for 7 years Gideon’s people the Israelites were severely oppressed and impoverished by the Midianites who took over land, crops, and livestock. Also when the angel visited Gideon, he was threshing wheat out of the sight of his oppressors. Working to feed himself and his family in secret in order to survive.
Perhaps the oppression that Gideon and his people experienced traumatized him and made him fearful. Some of us can relate to this type of fear. When a black man is shot and killed by police in his own backyard because he was holding a cell phone there is reason for African Americans to fear for their lives…or when a young woman is groped by a pastor on stage at a funeral that is broadcast on television, there is reason for women to fear their safety and wellbeing in any and every occasion.
Gideon also doubted himself because he was the least in his family and from the weakest clan. How many of us have doubted ourselves because we’re too young, too old, because we struggle with our health? Don’t look a certain way or talk a certain way? Don’t have a certain level of education or finances…
But God tells Gideon to save his people from their oppressors, to be the solution to a massive problem in his day.
If God would call Gideon, a marginalized, poor, fearful person from the wrong family to take down the powers that be, couldn’t God come to us as well with a big assignment?
As the Apostle Paul said God chooses the foolish to shame the wise, and the weak to shame the strong so that no one can boast before God. Also, we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. God later reduces Gideon’s army so that they could not take all the credit for their victory and forget about God.
The world may disqualify us because of our weakness, but God requires our weakness for us to participate in God’s work.
I’ve found this to be true in my own journey.
My calling to songwriting began in 2014 when someone prayed for me and saw a vision of me writing songs. I was completely caught off guard and had never considered songwriting before. Sure enough a few months later I penned my first songs after a friend invited me to collaborate with him and eventually I sensed God was giving me a message for my congregation through song, so I set out to write and record a worship album for them and to put on a worship concert to share this message. This was the biggest ministry endeavor I’d taken on up to that point in my journey and it came with many obstacles.
The final month before my album release concert was an extremely trying time. I wanted to have CDs printed for the concert and stressed out a lot to get them in time. There were issues when I was finalizing my audio files that caused delays. Then the CD printing company had issues with my graphic file so they had to delay the printing time. I felt so helpless when I couldn’t get in touch with my graphic designer to resolve the issue when she was mid-flight on her way to vacation. Thankfully I got the CDs in time but these little mishaps and unexpected mini crises took a toll on me in the days before the concert. I had to push myself to not give up and keep going though I felt so worn out.
I can imagine the fear and anguish Gideon experienced when he lost 2/3 of his army because I had to come to grips with how much I wasn’t in control of my music project and how I couldn’t simply make things happen as much as I tried or as hard as I worked. Even to print CDs required God’s grace.
But Gideon’s situation becomes even more desperate as God reduced the army a second time, and he ends up with a mere 300 men to face countless Midianites. Gideon must have really struggled and been challenged to trust God.
The night before my concert I had one final rehearsal with my band which was an utter disaster. People showed up late and the music was not coming together. We ended up not even reviewing half the songs and had to abruptly end rehearsal since another group was scheduled to use the space right after us. I was devastated and did not sleep that night. I was angry, disappointed, bewildered, and sad that I had to bear this burden all by myself. I spent a good part of the next day before the concert crying and utterly exhausted. I worked so hard and faced so many obstacles why did this have to happen right before the concert?
One of my pastors was praying for me and counseling me as I tried to get myself together hours before the concert and in our conversation he said he was surprised that as an artist working with other artists I hadn’t had to deal with something like this before and that I would grow and become stronger for enduring through it.
So both Gideon and I got a happy ending. Gideon ends up defeating the Midianites and my concert went really well. There were some mistakes and some things didn’t go as I had hoped but God’s presence was tangible and I was too exhausted to care about wrong notes or being perfect and saying the right things. An unexplainable peace came over me as I walked on stage and somehow I let go and trusted that God would work in spite of our lack of preparation and my exhaustion.
A number of folks who attended said they were touched and sensed God speaking to them through me. It’s amazing that I could bless someone else but I could not claim all the credit that night given the circumstances. I could not have done it without God.
There have been times when I finished a performance or reached some goal but I felt empty and unsatisfied as if I was forever chasing the next thing. But this concert was different. I felt like giving up numerous times and even thought to myself if I don’t do this again I will be ok because of all the challenges I faced… so the act of having a CD release concert lost its importance. When I look back I don’t really remember my ‘accomplishment’. Instead I remember wrestling with God and sensing Jesus inviting me to share in his sufferings, to join him in the garden of Gethsemane and feel the anguish and loneliness he felt the night before he went to the cross. I remember God showing up and working in and through me. Through it all God drew me closer to God. Perhaps making music to bless other people wasn’t even the main thing God was calling me to. As God humbled me, God called me to God’s self.
The story of Gideon is not just a story of a weakling defeating a great army, but it’s a story of God pursuing Gideon and winning over his trust. God doesn’t ask Gideon to change himself but to go in the strength that he has and depend on God to provide what he lacks. So it is with us. As we grow up in the faith and God calls us to greater responsibility, greater vision, God is calling us to let our weaknesses, insecurities, and pain be the keys that open the door of God’s glory. God is also calling us to deeper communion with God and greater trust and greater dependence on God.
Our faith journey is not an easy road. It is risky and uncomfortable to embrace our weaknesses and be a fool for God but the reward of knowing God more and more and seeing God work is worth it… and when we mess up, when we want to give up, God still faithfully pursues us and reassures us with these same words God told Gideon. Peace, do not be afraid. I will be with you.
I began this message mentioning the spiritual greats. Moses who had a speech impediment was called to deliver the Israelites from Egyptian slavery; Abraham and Sarah who was barren were promised numerous descendants even in their old age; Mother Teresa had a crisis of faith for 40 years which began around the same time she started her ministry to the poor in Calcutta. Can you imagine your name in the mix?
Now I invite us to consider 3 questions for reflection
What are the impossible dreams and big visions God is calling me to? (for some of us it may be tackling a major injustice happening in our world; or maybe it is seeking healing in a broken relationship that seems beyond repair.)
How have I discounted myself and kept myself from pursuing those dreams and visions?
How do I sense God inviting me to draw closer to God and to depend more on God?
Copyright © 2018 by Gloria Fanchiang
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