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hope for churches in stress


God performs mighty works in ways that confound our expectations. When we trust him, he saves by many or few, by strong or weak, by much or little.

When we first meet Gideon, he is a wimp, as frightened as everyone else in Israel. Yet an angel greets him: “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

Incredulous, Gideon requests a sign. He sets out meat and bread for the angel messenger, and a burst of flame consumes the food.

In a surge of holy confidence, Gideon blows a trumpet to summon Israelite fighters to repel Midianite marauders massed in a valley in Israelite territory.

Sure that the Israelites will be hopelessly outnumbered, Gideon asks for two more signs: a sheepskin wet with dew on a dry threshing floor and, the next morning, a dry fleece on a wet floor. God grants both faith-building signs.

When 32,000 fighters show up, God instructs Gideon to announce that anyone who trembles in fear may go home; and 22,000 men leave!

God further directs Gideon to have the men drink. Most drink from hand to mouth, alert for enemies. 300 put their faces to the water, lapping like dogs, unaware of any impending danger.

The odds now are suicidal. Though courageous, the 300 fighters are not proficient in military skills. The trumpets, clay pots, and torches are unconventional equipment. And Gideon still emits a trace of fear.

God gives one additional sign. Gideon overhears a perimeter guard at the Median camp interpreting a dream: “This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon!”

Finally, Gideon’s faith is strong. Surrounding the Midianite encampment in the night, the Israelite forces blow the trumpets, shatter the pots, hold up blazing torches, and shout: “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” In terror, the Midianites slaughter one other; the few who survive flee in panic.

In the challenges we face, the number of available people is not an issue. Limited skills are not an obstacle. A lack of resources is no deterrent. All God needs is our faith and trust in Jesus, and he patiently trains us even in that!

You may want to read three more underdog stories. When we face challenges beyond our capabilities, it good to remember biblical heroes who prevailed against great odds. Moses, David and Paul all knew that God works in ways that confound our expectations.

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