And the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” ~ Judges 6:12
You can see the difference between children and the way they act. The ones who are told over and over again, “You’re a failure,” “You can’t do anything right,” “You’ll never amount to anything,” “Look at how stupid you are,” end up starting to play the part even if it wasn’t previously true. Yet the ones who can feel the love of their parents and the encouragement of their words tend to excel beyond what they might have thought possible.
We see this in the way that God treats us.
On the one hand, God is the perfect realist. He pulls no punches in letting us know that we are desperate sinners deserving of death and his wrath. Yet he gives us the hope of grace that we can become his beloved children by receiving the life and righteousness of Jesus through faith.
On the other hand, when dealing with his beloved children, God looks beyond the reality of today and speaks to us as the people he is shaping us to become.
He called Abram Abraham (“father of a multitude”) as God promised him he would become the father of many nations. He called Simon Peter (“rock”) as God would use him as a leader and foundation of the church even after Peter denied Jesus three times. And in Judges, God didn’t rename Gideon but he called him a mighty man of valor.
When you read Judges, Gideon began as anything but. From the moment God first spoke to him, Gideon questioned and made excuses: How can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house (6:15). In other words, Gideon asked God, “Are you sure you got the right guy?” Yet the Lord didn’t relent. Even when Gideon asked for a sign again and again, God remained patient. Even when Gideon carried out God’s command under the cover of darkness because he was afraid, the Lord remained with him. Ultimately, God led Gideon to trust him for strength when he whittled away at Gideon’s army taking it from 22,000 men to a mere 300 men, so that neither Gideon nor any other man of Israel would boast in his own strength over the Lord’s.
Indeed, God led Gideon to conquer the Midianites and others, so that Gideon was truly a mighty man of valor, but it was all by the grace, strength, and guidance of the Lord.
And so it is with us.
God names us what he will make us. Think of the church at Corinth. Paul rebuked them for being divided, for listening to false teachers, for suing each other, for doing nothing to combat sexual immorality, for abusing the Lord’s Supper, for misusing spiritual gifts, and for aberrant beliefs about the resurrection. The church at Corinth was about as messed up as a church could get. Yet the Holy Spirit led Paul to begin his letter with the words, “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (1 Corinthians 1:2).
Despite all of their faults and failings, Paul reminded them that they were God’s people—the holy ones, pure, righteous, and perfect in Christ. That didn’t mean things didn’t have to change—there was much room for needed growth; but, before dealing with the sins and misconceptions about God and church, Paul reminded them who they were in Christ.
On the one hand, if we truly know our sins then we know that like Paul each of us could wear the title chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Yet on the other hand, that title does not define us in Jesus.
God covers over our sins, not by sweeping them under the rug but by flooding them with the blood of Jesus. As such, God doesn’t leave us alone to revel in our sins, rather he calls us and leads us to revel in his grace, to trust him, to cling to him, and to grow in him.
Yet in doing so God doesn’t highlight our failures even when he disciplines us for our sin. Instead, God reminds us of who we are in Christ. If we belong to Jesus, then our sins, failures, and weaknesses do not define us. Rather it is Jesus—and in him we are chosen, holy, blameless, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, lavished with grace, and filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 1:3-14).
So even when we fear, even when we doubt, even when we want to go a different way, God reminds us: you are my child, my mighty man/woman of valor. I am the one who sends you, so go (Judges 6:12, 14). Let us trust in God and let us look to him and be encouraged as we hear him call us what he is making us to be.
This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.