Have We Made It Too Easy?
Judges 7:3, “Now therefore come, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is afraid and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead.’ So 22,000 people returned, but 10,000 remained.”
Can you imagine? Put yourself in Gideon’s sandals for just a minute. You are about to engage an army that the Bible defines as innumerable. Look at verse 12, “…and all the sons of the east were lying in the valley as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore.” In the words of my 7-year-old son? That’s a lot. Gideon only had 32,000 men. And God wants to cut it down??? The only thing more surprising than God’s plan is Gideon’s obedience. Gideon obeys God’s command and then he stands there and watches as two out of evey three men walk off into the horizon. This is not some minor excursion. No, this is a mass exodus!!! 22,000??? That’s an entire army in and of itself. And as the dust of their departure settles Gideon finds himself left with only 10,000 remaining men.
We need to remember that it is God who had orchestrated this significant military cutback. He was the One who had informed Gideon that the 32,000 was too many. God is the One who gave the initial call to Gideon. And now it is God who is giving the command. Gideon trusted God in the winepress. He was also going to trust Him on the eve of battle. I find that simply amazing. I would have questioned God. I would have tried to soften His words to the 32,000. I would have tried to lessen the impact of His command. I would have used human reasoning, rationalizations, excuses, bribes, false promises, anything and everything that I could think of to keep those men in place. But Gideon didn’t do any of that. Instead, he brought forth God’s word exactly as it had been conveyed to him and he trusted God with the results.
As I reflect on this portion of Gideon’s story a question comes to my mind. Have we made it too easy today? Understand, I am not talking about salvation. Salvation is the free gift of God. It is a divine grace. We didn’t choose Him. He chose us. If anything, we do our best to make salvation harder than God ever intended (but that’s another message). In this note I am referring to the call to discipleship. Our churches are full. Mainstream Christianity appears to be flourishing. It’s all over the TV. All over the radio. We have more books, CDs, DVDs, websites, and conferences then at any other point in history. Bumper stickers. T-shirts. Billboards. The Church is everywhere. And yet, our influence has all but vanished from the surrounding culture. We have a lot of adherents but not many disciples.
I wonder if part of the problem is that we who are in leadership are guilty of massaging the message. Gideon gave it to the people straight. “If you are scared or faint-hearted, go home.” But us? I wonder. We water it down until it’s barely recognized as truth. When was the last time you heard a message on denying yourself, taking up your cross, or loving not your own life? Words like service and sacrifice are rapidly disappearing from our vocabulary. Jesus called men to abandon all for the sake of the call. We ask them to commit to once a month if at all possible. Holiness? Righteousness? Sanctification? We have lost sight of God’s call to be a people that are set apart from sin and unto Him. Yeah. I wonder that we have made it too easy?
Most people want substance. Most people want something tangible, something real. We fill our churches but all the while we tell them that discipleship is somehow optional. We’ve taken away the Cross and replaced it with coffee. We have abdicated true devotion in favor of doughnuts. Their bellies are full but their spirits are starving. And because we have made it so easy to be a “Christ-follower” there are very few that are truly following Christ. Like cars without an engine so is a church that lacks commitment. It looks nice from the outside but it ain’t going nowhere.
Gideon obeyed God’s command to declare God’s word. As God’s leader his first responsibility was to God. That meant faithfulness to God’s Word. Not just the delictable parts. But also the meaty, hard to digest parts. God needed a man who would trust His leadership. Gideon proved himself to be that man when he obediently declared God’s word. We desperately need to follow that example. Sure, I’d hate to see the masses walk away and leave our churches. But last time I checked lies and compromise profit no one. Yeah, numbers look good in the annual report but they mean nothing in light of eternity. Stop making it so easy. Declare His Word. Speak it in love. Speak it in truth. Leave the results in His hands. Gideon watched 22,000 people walk away. But in the end, God demonstrated that we never lose when we speak His truth.