Thursday, November 15, 2012

Chapter 4: Gideon & Samson: Stories of Weakness and Strength

(My favorite thing about John MacArthur is how successful he is at telling each Heroes story.  I encourage you all to take the time to read each chapter.  Below is just a brief synopsis of the points that meant the most to me.)

Gideon and Samson...two very unlikely heroes that couldn't be different.  One is full of fear and weakness.  The other is full of himself and strength.  Yet, God was able to use these two men and turn their faithlessness into honor for God. 

In Chapter 4 of Twelve Unlikely Heroes by John MacArthur, we learn about Gideon and Samson.  Below are the points that the author made that meant the most to me.  (I'd love to hear the things that stuck out the most to you!)

*  Gideon and Samson were both men with serious faults and would have been rejected by wise men from any critical duty of leadership.  Yet the Lord chose them to sustain His people and to fulfill His redemptive purpose.  Their weaknesses only serve to highlight God's infinite power-which triumphed through them in spite of their imperfections.  p. 68

*  From the onset, he (Gideon) is depicted as a man whose fear was greater than his faith.  p. 68

*  But Gideon would have been even more surprised to hear the Angel speak to him and say, "The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!"  (v. 12).  From Gideon's perspective, both parts of that greeting were questionable.  "If the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?" he asked in verse 13.  "And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about saying, "Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?' But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites."  Driven by doubt, Gideon went on to deny that he was a man of bravery:  "O my Lord, how can I save Israel?  Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house" (v. 15).  Clearly, faith and fortitude were qualities Gideon sorely lacked.  p. 69

*  Yet in calling him a man of valor, the Angel of the Lord was not referring to what Gideon was, but what he would become by the strength that God provided.  p. 69-70

*  Nonetheless, he had shown a willingness to obey the Lord, and that was progress in his faith.  p. 71

*  As Christians, we do not ascertain the validity of God's Word by asking Him for miraculous confirmation.  Instead, we live according to His will by believing Him and being obedient to His Word.  p. 72

*  God had chosen timid Gideon to lead the attack so that His glorious power might be the only explanation for victory.  p. 72

*  But when he was weakest, the Lord used Samson in the mightiest act of his astonishing life.  p. 76

*  Ultimately, Samson's wild disregard for the Lord's clear commands would make his life a legendary tragedy, with his infatuation for Philistine women at the center.  p. 77

*  In spite of Samson's flagrant sin, for which he paid a terrible price, God still had a purpose for him to serve in rescuing Israel from Philistine aggression.  p. 77

*  Though he was only interested in serving himself, the Lord would superintend Samson's selfish choices to secure Israel's deliverance and ensure Philistia's demise (cf. Judges 14:4).  p. 79

*  For the first time in Samson's life, he experienced severe physical weakness and cried out to the Lord for help.  p. 82-83

*  The closing drama of Samson's life features a man who completely failed to advance from the reckless impulsiveness of his youth.  p. 83

*  To be sure, Samson's motives were not entirely pure; his faith was mixed with an unrighteous attitude of personal revenge.  Yet as with Rahab and her lie (in Joshua 2:4-5), God honored Samson's faith in spite of his sin.  p. 86

*  His final act of valor shows that, in the humiliation and brokenness of his last days, he had come to truly depend on the Lord.  He became a hero of faith by trusting God to use him in death and bring him into His presence.  p. 87

*  ...both their stories teach the same basic lesson-God's mighty power can override human weakness to accomplish His sovereign purposes.  p. 87

*  Left to ourselves, we are foolish, base, and weak.  But in Christ, we who are inherently worthless and sinful are transformed into vessels of honor, fit for the Master's use.  p. 87

*  Spiritual victory and usefulness begin with genuine humility, brokenness, and self-distrust-turning to God as the only true power.  p. 88

I have to admit, I was a little confused as to why John MacArthur would name a person full of faithlessness and a person full of pride as a hero.  I didn't get it.  How can someone who is full of fear and the other full of sin become a hero for God? Then, I realized we are all full of fear, full of sin, full of worry.  We are all sinners in this world.  God still wants to use us.  God wants to take our weakest moments and turn them into moments of praise for Him.  What makes us a true hero is when we turn our weaknesses over to God, tackle our biggest fears for Him and become that person He needs us to be for His greater plan no matter how scary it may seem.

While reading about Gideon when he was questioning God, I found myself getting frustrated with him.  How could he have kept questioning God?  What more proof did he need?  Then, I quickly humbled myself as I remember saying to God..."Lord, if we are to move forward with this certain therapy, please give me a sign."  "Lord, give me a sign if you want us to move."  "God, please show me a sign that we are on the right path."  It is so easy for us to do.  Yet, what we need to be doing is having faith in God and knowing that He will speak to us when we listen out for Him.  When we hear Him, we don't need to question Him as Gideon did.  This is not having faith in God.  This is us, as human beings, needing some sort of physical assurance that we heard correctly.  But that's not having faith.  Faith is believing in and trusting in God.  Not questioning Him.

I think about our journey through autism.  I've had many days were my faith was at it's weakest.  However, I've also had plenty of days where my faith is strong and unbreakable.  I can tell you that when my faith is the strongest, those are my easier days through autism. However, God was still going to use me during my moments of weakness.  I pray that you too will find the strength to remain faithful, to not question God and to move forward with God's plan for your life.  If you are unsure as to what His plan is, I encourage you to spend some time reading His Word in the Bible, pray and listen for God to speak to you.

And what more shall I say?  For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson...who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, (and) out of weakness were made strong.  -Hebrews 11:32-34A

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