This is part two of a series on stepping out of our comfort zone. You can read part one here.
This week, as I write this blog, we have one of the smallest candidates’ weeks (where we interview potential workers to come join us at 20schemes) ever—just one interview! In fact, truthfully, we hadn’t planned to interview anyone because of the pandemic.
Trying to interview, do teamwork and observation when we have to be two meters apart is difficult. This guy is keen—he’s already been in quarantine for two weeks before this week. Not all candidates have been that keen. One of my all-time favourite interns sat with me before the interview and said something like: “I don’t want to be here, and I only came because I’m being obedient.” ‘Reluctant obedience’, she called it. I don’t know if this made me like her more (I know, I’m twisted). But Gideon was like this. If there was ever an example of a reluctant servant, it was him. But, I think he had good reason to be a bit reluctant—the enemy was real, fierce, and deadly.
Unlike Gideon, for most of us, when the Lord asks us to serve, we aren’t actually risking our very lives. We aren’t as yet, at least in Scotland, the persecuted church. We don’t risk death if we share the gospel. We don’t risk prison if we hold a Bible study. We don’t risk a physical beating for discipling a younger Christian. No, the things we risk are perhaps our lifestyle, family time, pride, potentially our friendships, maybe even our family relationships. Yet all too often we allow fear, pride, or comfort to prevent us from stepping out and obeying the Lord.
Just like Gideon, God will give us all we need. He is faithful and we can trust Him. We need to remember who it is that we serve and rely on Him completely. So, are we thinking: Job done? God asks Gideon to step up, Gideon freaked and made excuses, God reminded him that He gives him all he needs, and he steps up and gets on with it, right? Fairy tale ending, right? That’s how it works for us. In our fairytale ending, everyone who was challenged last week about discipling someone has met with them or texted and arranged the first meet up?
Reality check: maybe ‘everyone’ is stretching it a bit far but, for sure a few will have. I’ll pretend to be shocked about the majority who didn’t.
In truth, this is exactly why I wanted to focus on Gideon because, I think, if most of us are being completely honest, we would have been challenged, maybe even prayed about it, and God would remind us He goes with us, but we would still be reluctant to go. Perhaps we would dress it up in super-spiritual words—“confirmation of the Lord’s leading” but, deep down we’d still be looking for an ‘out’.
Well, Gideon was no different. We see that in Judges 6:17: “Gideon, replied, ‘If now I have found favour in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me.’” Like the big scary angel relaying the message directly to him isn’t sign enough!? We see him do the exact thing again in verse 36: “give me a sign.” This boy took some convincing—he’s pushing the reluctant barrier to the extreme. How many times have we done this when we just didn’t want to do something?
I remember years ago when I was working for Edinburgh City Mission and I knew it was time to move on. I remember sending my CV and requesting an application pack for a new ministry role I’d seen. I knew I should apply but, the reality was, I really didn’t want to leave Scotland (not even Edinburgh in general if I was being honest). I’d pray, asking for guidance from the Lord (‘a sign’) and talk about the application with friends but, I stuck it under a stack of books and never actually filled it in.
Some people say things like, “I am ‘pushing a door to see if the Lord would open it.’” Well, I never even pushed the door. How can you get a role if you never apply for it? God is sovereign and had His way—the organisation called me a day before the interviews, asked me why I didn’t apply, and invited me to interview. Annoyingly, these were ‘signs’ I didn’t even want. Still, I reluctantly went and got the role.
God is so patient with Gideon. I mean, how many times did he need to be reassured of God’s plan and protection? But God did as Gideon asked, because He’s patient. Now, I’m not suggesting that when we want to know the Lord’s will in our lives, we ‘set a fleece’ or ask for a sign over and over. In other words, I’m not holding up Gideon as a shining example here, but, before we ditch him and write him off completely (as some Christians are prone to do), let’s not forget two things:
- He is asking the question of the right person and
- even though he’s reluctant, he actually obeys.
Dale Ralph Davis, when talking of Gideon, says: “Obedience is essential, but heroism is optional.” The same God that patiently nudged, reassured, and reminded Gideon will help us beyond our excuses. Your obedience is essential, but your heroism is optional. In other words, it’s okay to be scared, but you can’t allow fear to rule you.
I’ve talked about this before but, when Mez first started talking to me about working at Niddrie Community Church, it freaked me out. The offer went something like this: “Come work with us, but we’ve no money.” (Enticing offer to a single mum with two kids!). I was genuinely scared I wouldn’t be able to pay the bills and feed my kids.
Choose to Trust
There had been a time, in the past, when I didn’t even have the money for a pint of milk and a loaf of bread, and the memory was lodged in my brain. My kids never went hungry—my family and friends never would have left me without but, that memory fed my fear. What if? ruled, and I fed the fear monster. I swung back and forth for months as I tried to battle my fear before I eventually submitted, trusting God. I can hand-on-heart say, without a shadow of a doubt, that God has never been unfaithful, I have never been without. I came to work at church for a year—that was nearly 13 years ago. I have seen over the years God’s faithfulness time and time again.
What is it that God is asking you to do? Why haven’t you done it?
Beyond the excuses, ask yourself: Why am I really not obeying? I know it will be hard, it may be the hardest thing the Lord is asking you to do. But He will give you everything you need for the task at hand.