There have been times when God has looked at his people and said, “I told you so.” Sometimes, this was really good news, as when he appeared to his female friends following his resurrection. Other times, it was not so happy, as in the case with Gideon and his contemporaries. The Israelites had forsaken God, and he gave them into the hand of the Midianites. After many years, they came to their senses and repented. They called out to the Lord who saves. However, before rescuing them, God rebuked them through his prophet, “I said to you, ‘I am the Lord you God. You shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.’ But you have not obeyed my voice.” (Judges 6:10) God, in essence, was looking at his rebellious children and saying to them, “I told you so. Now won’t you please remember this the next time you decide to disregard my sovereign and wise instruction.”
After God’s admonition, he determined to save his people. The Lord, in the form of an angel, appeared to Gideon and called him to duty. Chapter six contains the dialogue between Gideon and the Lord. It took some coaxing, some reassuring, and numerous signs, but in the end Gideon’s weak faith was increased. His first act of valor involved the tearing down of the beloved altar of Baal overseen by his father. He then followed this up by boldly sounding the trumpet of war, and gathering 32,000 Israelites who were ready to risk their lives and fight for the welfare of their families and the honor of the Lord.
It was then that God made a strange statement, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’” (Judges 7:2) God, in his infinite wisdom, understood the arrogance and pride of his people. God saw their ongoing tendency to take credit for that which God had accomplished. Therefore, he was going to help them overcome this temptation.
God began the process of trimming down his army, and what started with 32,000 men became 300 warriors. The odds were stacked against them, for the enemy had at least 145,000 troops. (450 vs. 1) However, God had done a good work in the heart of Gideon and his assault team. With a lantern in one hand, a sword in the other, and God in their hearts, these brave men went to war and an impossible and incredible victory was achieved. When the battle was over and the men returned to their homes, it was impossible for them to say, “My own hand has saved me.” No Israelite, in arrogance and pride, could take credit for that which God had accomplished.
Friends, there remains a great temptation and tendency for us today. We still have an uncanny ability to arrogantly take credit for that which God accomplishes. Perhaps we wrongly glory over our climbing of the corporate ladder, our corporate insights, or our well-funded retirement portfolio? Perhaps we proudly take the credit for our blue-blooded family history, our striking spouse, or our well-adjusted children and grandchildren? Maybe we are arrogant over our intellect, artistic style, musical talent, external beauty, or athletic dominance? Many glorify themselves and find reason to gloat over their noteworthy possessions such as their large house, lavish jewelry, fancy china, expensive cars, and shining boats. Spiritually, men and women can give themselves undue credit for their brilliance in choosing Jesus and consistency in holiness. Arrogantly, church leaders can take credit for church revivals, church health, and church growth. Yes, different people find success in different ways, but with any measure of success comes the temptation to glorify self and dishonor the Lord. Too often, in great arrogance and pride, we take credit for that which God has accomplished.
Therefore, I can think of three ways we can be both successful and God-glorifying today.
First, we should pray and thank the Lord for his blessings. We should spend time talking with the “Giver of all good gifts” about his goodness in giving us gifts. It reminds us of our place, and puts a smile on his face, when his children express their gratitude in prayer.
Second, we should pray and ask the Lord for additional blessings. We should recognize our inability to find success apart from his providential pleasure. From our daily bread, to the deal of a lifetime, he controls all that takes place in his universe. The wise worshiper spends much time on his knees in gratitude thanking the Lord. He also spends much time on his knees in need supplicating the Lord.
Third, we should cease the braggadocios language and behavior. The world does not need to see our success on Facebook and Twitter; neither does it need to hear of our dominance in the locker room or board room. Stop the pride. Stop the arrogance. Stop the bragging. People are weary of seeing and hearing how great we think we are, and even if they are not, God is.
May we be humble, grateful, promoters of God’s glory. May we testify loudly about how he has done the impossible with the unlikely. When people see and hear our success, may they be more inclined to praise God than worship us.