What were you doing two years ago?
Most days, I can’t answer that question. I hardly know what I did two days ago. But today is different. I know exactly where I was on August 12, 2018.
Over the last several months in the quiet of quarantine, I believe the Holy Spirit has given me some insight, and I feel compelled to share it here with you.
Two years ago, I attended service at Christ Community Church — the place I was set to start working the next day (you can read more about my residency experience here).
It was a big day at the church. It was the start of a new series called The Story, which went through the entire Bible in chronological order. And the church’s freshly renovated worship center was opening for the first time.
I walked in alone, welcomed by friendly faces and the smooth sounds of a live jazz band. I remember feeling overwhelmed by the amount of people packed into the atrium.
I can’t recall much about the service itself … except it was PACKED, and because I walked in late, I had to sit near the front.
A few weeks ago, I decided to dig up the service on YouTube and watch a few minutes. You know what stood out? The sheer amount of people on the stage. Probably close to 100, counting the choir.
Fast forward to this spring: the church CLOSED its physical location in response to the pandemic. This situation would have been inconceivable on August 12, 2018.
I’m struck by this crazy contrast — from worshiping with thousands that first Sunday to being blocked from entering the building.
I don’t believe it was a coincidence. God knew, perhaps even planned, that my CCC residency experience would be defined by these two extremes.
As I was reflecting on this situation, Gideon came to mind. One of Israel’s judges during a dark and corrupt time, Gideon was tapped to deliver his nation from oppression — the result of Israel’s turning away and doing evil in God’s eyes (see Judges 6:1).
Despite Israel’s sin, God is faithful to save his people as they cry out to him for help. So the Lord chose Gideon, flaws and all, to fight the Midianites, who invaded their land like “swarms of locusts” (Judges 6:5).
Lacking courage, Gideon made objections and excuses. He saw himself as weak, yet God called him a warrior and promised his presence.
So Gideon rallied 32,000 men — a decent amount maybe, but not great considering the Midianites in number were “impossible to count” (Judges 6:5).
And here’s where the story gets really interesting:
The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.Judges 7:2-3
I wonder how Gideon felt in that moment, watching all those “warriors” walk away. More than 60 percent bailed before the battle.
Fear tends to have this effect, doesn’t it? It disqualifies and tempts us to turn back.
We so often choose self-sufficiency over surrender, familiarity over freedom, failing to factor in God’s strength and saving power.
Fear can also compel us to follow the crowd, to take the path of least resistance.
God tells Gideon to lead the remaining 10,000 men to the water and watch how they behave. The majority followed each other, kneeling down to drink, while a tiny group — 300 total — drank differently, cupping their hands.
Honestly, I’m not sure about the significance of the drinking styles. What strikes me, though, is that God chose the men who behaved differently.
Guiding the entire ordeal, God empowered Gideon to lead this tiny team and take down the Midianites. It was only by God’s Spirit that Gideon could claim the victory.
I can’t help but see some loose connections for Christians and our current cultural moment.
Many churches have reopened, but only a small fraction of people are returning (not to mention online attendance is also dwindling). According to Barna, one in three practicing Christians has stopped attending church during COVID-19.
Please hear me: I respect those who need to stay home for health reasons. However, I also believe that God’s people are meant to gather corporately, whether it’s a group of 10 or 10,000. It’s where the power is.
Neil T. Anderson in his book Victory Over the Darkness makes this important observation:
When the church limps along in unbelief, it is viewed as an infirmary where sick people go. The church is not an infirmary; it is a military outpost under orders to storm the gates of hell. Every believer is on active duty, called to take part in fulfilling the Great Commission (see Matthew 28:19-20) … Our real calling is to be change agents in the world, taking a stand, living by faith, and fulfilling our purpose for being here.Neil T. Anderson
Do you feel fired up after reading that? I do!
It seems to me that God is exposing our idols of comfort and complacency. He’s sorting casual churchgoers from committed disciples of Jesus.
He’s thinning out the crowd — dividing those who bend under social pressure from the few who are upright, thirsty for truth and ready for action.
Similar to Paul’s plea in Ephesians 5:14, God is wooing us to wake up and return to active duty.
A spiritual war is raging, and there’s no neutral ground. It’s not about blue or red, black or white. It’s about good versus evil. God and the devil.
Without God, we’re on the losing side. But thank God, we’re not without hope.
Jesus has made a way for you and me to find forgiveness and gain the gift of eternal life, exchanging our sin for his righteousness — through faith in his death and resurrection.
As followers of Jesus, we’re called and equipped to fight on the winning side, shining his light in the darkness and taking back what Satan has stolen.
We’re living in a pivotal time. Many are looking for hope and truth in the wrong places. The social pressures are crushing. The fear is palatable.
I believe God is calling his people (yes, you) to stand up, to seek his heart and speak his Word — not some watered-down, easy-to-swallow version but rather the all-sufficient gospel of Jesus Christ.
Feeling afraid or disqualified? God calls you a mighty warrior. He promises to be with you. It’s his strength that saves. It’s his Spirit that empowers.
He isn’t asking you to fight alone. He pours out his presence and enlists others who will have your back.
If you’re alone or estranged from church, reach out to someone today and take steps to plug into a Christ-centered community. (I’m always here to help!)
If you’re feeling fired up and called out, take a step of faith with Jesus. Get out of the boat and on to the waves. It doesn’t have to be big or flashy. One small spark can ignite a movement.
The stakes are high. The fields are ripe for harvest. We each have a unique purpose and role to play.
Thankfully, battle belongs to the Lord, and there will be victory!
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.Acts 20:24
Fulfill your purpose. Stand firm. Finish the race. I’m here to help and cheer you on, friend.
Did you hear the news?
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