So You’re Tellin’ Me There’s a Chance…

If we could all be more like Lloyd Christmas in Dumb & Dumber, we would probably live much happier lives. Talk about a man with faith the size of a mustard seed. After being told the chances of him ending up with that chick…what was her name? Mary something. It starts with an S. Swim, Swammy, Slippy, Slappy, Slimmins, Sommins, Simmons, Swenson, Swanson…oh Samsonite! I was way off. (I knew it started with an S though.)

Anyway, after Mary tells Lloyd the odds of the two of them ending up together was one in a million, he believed that to mean the door was wide open. After all, according to Han Solo, the shot Luke Skywalker made to destroy the Death Star was a one in a million shot and it hit the mark.

What would our lives look like if we lived them believing even when the odds are completely stacked against us, God would make a way to come through?

I have to admit, I’ve wasted a lot of my life focused on the stack.

There’s a song on the radio I look forward to hearing every time I get in the car from We Are Messengers called Magnify. The second verse goes, “My sight is incomplete and I’ve made You look small; I’ve been staring at my problems for way too long; Re-align where my hope is set; Until You’re all that’s left.”

Why do we waste so much time staring at the problems right in front of us when all we need to do is take a step back so we can see God’s enormous foot ready to crush them? I suppose it’s human nature. Take Gideon for example.

Gideon’s name means “one who cuts down the enemy”, though he’s hardly living that out when we first see him in Judges 6:11. The angel of the LORD ironically refers to him as “mighty warrior” while Gideon is threshing wheat in a winepress, which is a lot like taking a shower with a raincoat. This “mighty warrior” is hiding from the Midianites who may come to plunder his crop at any moment.

In Judges 6:14-16, the LORD calls Gideon to rise up and rescue Israel from the Midianites. Gideon protests, “But Lord, how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”

This isn’t entirely accurate. We’ll see later in that his father is well-respected in their town and perhaps even a member of the leadership. Regardless, Gideon’s protest reveals how he truly feels inside; he’s no leader. In all likelihood, based on Gideon’s threshing methods, no one else has Gideon listed as a likely candidate for Rebellion Leader either; no one but God’s that is.

Let’s consider for a moment a sampling from God’s list of unlikely Rebellion Leaders.

  • Moses had a stuttering problem.
  • David was young and inexperienced (as was Luke Skywalker).
  • Paul rounded up Christians for execution.
  • Jesus was from the backwater Israelite town of Nazareth and as Nathaniel pointed out the prevailing sentiment of the day, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

Overlooked by everyone, these four men accomplished great things for God’s Kingdom both on earth and in heaven, because God was with them. So how does God counter Gideon’s claim to be the least of all? “I will be with you,” (Judges 6:16). And with those five words, Gideon shot to the top of the list, probably much to his own displeasure.

Gideon’s first assignment was to begin the process of ridding Israel of idols. He is tasked with pulling down his father’s altar to Baal and cutting down the Asherah pole beside it. Oh, and he was also to take one of his father’s bulls and sacrifice it on a newly built altar to God and use the wood from the Asherah pole for the fire! Happy Father’s Day dad.

But Gideon, not yet fully aware of what it means to be at the top of God’s list, did all this under the cover of night so as not to be seen; much like attempting to thresh wheat from within a winepress. He was afraid, this time not of the Midianites, but rather his own family and countrymen.

Judges 6:30 reveals that Gideon’s fears were not unfounded. Once the people of the town discovered Gideon was responsible for the desecration of Baal’s altar, they demanded he be brought out for public execution.

Apparently Gideon’s father, Joash, actually liked his Father’s Day gift. He defends his son to the mob by admonishing them for trying to fight Baal’s cause. “Whoever pleads (Baal’s) case will be put to death by morning! If Baal is truly a god, let him defend himself!” (Judges 6:31).

Shortly after this event, the Midianites, the Amalekites and the people of the east formed an alliance and began to advance against Israel. This time, rather than hiding within the walls of a winepress or the shadow of night, Gideon blew a ram’s horn calling the people to arms. Why the sudden boldness? The Spirit of the LORD clothed Gideon with power (Judges 6:34).

But even with his newfound courage, Gideon was still hesitant. He requests that God provide him not one, but two signs (in addition to the sign he already asked for in Judges 6:17). One request for a sign could be construed as due diligence. A second request simply reveals the insecurity he’s bringing with him to battle. But God is gracious and gives Gideon the little extra he needs to proceed with the plan.

Now that Gideon has mustered both an army and his courage, God decides one of them needs to go away. Courage is necessary, but – apparently – an army is not.

“The LORD said to Gideon, ‘You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands (Judges 7:2).’” Not the word from God Gideon was hoping to receive in his morning devotion, but God had good reasons. “In order that Israel may not boast against Me that her own strength has saved her, announce now to the people, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead (Judges 7:2-3).’”

Not the announcement Gideon was hoping to make to his men after his morning devotion either. The army was reduced to a third of its size as twenty-two thousand fearfully trembling men turned back. Perhaps Gideon wished he could join them.

Then, in the same way Gideon asked for a second sign before leaving for battle, God cut the armed forces for a second time. I wonder if God would have let Gideon take the ten thousand had Gideon not doubted God? Nevertheless, trim the troops once more He did. This time, the number dropped from ten thousand down to three hundred. Gideon was left with basically one percent of his original army.

Good thing Gideon is a “mighty warrior.”

Talk about the odds being against you. Not only did Gideon have his army routed before he even got close to engaging the enemy, but Judges 7:12 describes the enemy camp as being so full it was as if the people were as thick as locusts and their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore. In fact, we learn from Judges 8:10 the allied forces of Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples numbered around a hundred and thirty-two thousand.

300 vs. 132,000

If the Midianites (and company) came like swarms of locusts – too numerous to count, Gideon’s army came like roly-poly potato bugs – ripe for the picking. (I hope Gideon took notes from watching Gerard Butler take on the one hundred thousand plus Persians lead by King Xerxes.)

Here’s the thing: if God had delivered a victory with the original thirty-two thousand against one hundred thirty-two thousand, I’d still be impressed. Those are rather long odds. What are the odds that an “army” of three hundred could defeat one hundred thirty-two thousand? Apparently, they’re right in God’s sweet spot.

Why?

Because Yahweh is a God Who loves to come through.

God is our Deliverer and He revels in His role. He doesn’t do it begrudgingly. It doesn’t annoy Him. He isn’t bored like Metro Man in Megamind, longing for a way to enjoy a quiet retirement. He lives to deliver. He died to deliver. He resurrected to deliver.

Why do young boys (and grown men for that matter) want to play the hero? Because men were created to reflect that aspect of God’s image. We long to show that we have what it takes because God longs to show He has what it takes.

I love the picture John Eldridge paints for us in Wild at Heart:

Look at the stories (God) writes. There’s the one where the children of Israel are pinned against the Red Sea, no way out, with Pharaoh and his army barreling down on them in murderous fury. Then God shows up. There’s Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who get rescued only after they’re thrown into the fiery furnace. Then God shows up. He lets the mob kill Jesus, bury Him…then He shows up. Do you know why God loves writing such incredible stories? Because He loves to come through. He loves to show us that He has what it takes. It’s not the nature of God to limit His risks and cover His bases. Far from it. Most of the time, He actually lets the odds stack up against Him.

The account of Gideon is a great example of how God loves to set the stage for an incredible display of His ability to come through. The bigger the obstacle, the more dramatic the deliverance, the greater His glory.

Gideon’s army was whittled down from thirty-two thousand with swords to three hundred with Pampered Chef and Scentsy products.

Why?

Because God loves to come through.

We applied in January for our fifth grader to attend a wonderful charter school in the Vancouver School District for sixth through twelfth graders. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say our oldest and traditional school simply don’t mix. The option of this charter school came as an answer to prayer. But there’s a catch. In the effort to make the admission process and student demographic as fair and objective as possible, it’s a straight up lottery system. A certain number of students from each zip code in the district are selected by drawing names out of a hat. Guess whose name was not pulled from the hat: our son’s.

God, what are you doing!? This school is an answer to prayer. What’s going on?

Oh yeah – God loves to come through.

Our son was put on the waiting list and five days later we received an email inviting him to become part of next year’s incoming class.

Have you ever gone through the mortgage or refinance? Fun right? We began the refinance process back at the end of October with a goal of closing by the end of November. Perfect! No mortgage payment right before Christmas!

Yeah, that didn’t happen.

One thing after another kept stacking the odds against us even getting the deal done at all. But do you know what happened during that five-month period? The value of our house went up and opened the door for us to do much more financially than we originally hoped for. We just signed papers last week.

God loves to come through.

Gideon, David, Moses, Paul, my son and my wife and I watched the obstacles stack up against us in one way or another and it was very easy for all of us to get lost in the futility of the odds. But we all had one thing in common: God was (and is) on our side.

As Kent Crockett wrote in Slaying Your Giants, “Without God, (the odds are) one in a billion.” But when God is on your side, the odds change. No matter how bleak it may look on the surface or how vain our efforts may appear in light of the seemingly insurmountable odds, when God is on our side, the odds become one in one.

The next time I’m faced with crazy odds, rather than giving into the fear that accompanies them, perhaps I should take a page out of Lloyd’s book and simply say with a smile, “So you’re tellin’ me there’s a chance…”

God is setting the stage.

God has what it takes.

God loves to come through.

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