In Judges 6:11-40, the life of Gideon shows us a man who was too fearful to stand up when God called upon him to do His will. Repeatedly, God had to show him His power, and redefine him by His grace. Grace makes us grow up.
Failing at adulthood
In a fascinating article in the Guardian entitled ‘We millennials lack a roadmap to adulthood’ by Zach Stafford, the writer confesses that today’s young people have a profound challenge with growing up. Stafford writes, “I recently turned 25 and I am failing at being an adult. I don’t see myself buying a house anytime soon or investing in property. I don’t want to have kids any time soon because I honestly don’t know how I afford to feed myself half the time, let alone a child. And the only person I want to marry is the barista at the cafe by my house, but I haven’t even told him my name.” Milennials in their 20s, Stafford says, are in a time where they “don’t see themselves as adults and go through: identity exploration, instability, self-focus, feeling in-between and a characteristic he calls “a sense of possibilities.”
And most of us feel that this state of not-yet-maturity is perfectly fine – give us some time, we’ll get there eventually.
Seek Biblical maturity
The Bible however, is crystal clear that maturity is something God intends for us to desire and seek:
“Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” (1 Corinthians 14:20 ESV)
“…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” (Ephesians 4:14-15 ESV)
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.” (Hebrews 5:12-13 ESV)
“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22 ESV)
Why not grow up?
In summary, Christians are urged to be mature in thinking, growing up in every area of character and doctrine, refusing to be children “unskilled in the word” and “free of youthful passions”. Clearly, we are to aspire to maturity and adulthood, and make every effort to grow up.
So why don’t want many of us want to grow? I suggest that we resist this because of an instinctive sense of fear.
This fear of growing up is manifest in many different ways:
I am afraid of growing up and then missing out on other options
I am afraid that if I grow up I’ll have to be accountable for my decisions and that’s too much stress
I am afraid and I can’t deal with adulting right now
I am afraid that I’ll get it wrong
Graciously, the biblical account of Gideon is precisely the story of prolonged adolescence, and God provides an antidote to this fear of growing up: grace.
Gideon didn’t want to grow up
In the story of Gideon, the nation of Israel was doing “evil in the sight of the Lord” and living in a state of spiritual decline. As a result, God gave up to the oppression of their enemies, the Midianites. When we are introduced to Gideon, we see him presented as a coward of sorts: beating out wheat in the winepress, hiding from his cruel oppressive masters, and afraid of what they will do if they find his secret subsistence. It is nothing less than ironic that the angel of the Lord, when he appears in Judges 6:12 calls him “mighty man of valor”, because Gideon is anything but.
In Judges 6:27, we get another glimpse at his fearful character when we find out that “he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town” to take down the idols of his community, and does so by night for fear. Gideon is a second generation believer and he references his “fathers” recounting and teaching about the power of God. Gideon complains that the Lord has forsaken them, and puts to voice our childish whining when we doubt God and cry out out of a weak faith. Gideon whines furthers when he tells God he can’t do anything about his circumstances being from the “weakest” clan in Manasseh, and that he is the weakest in his father’s house (Judges 6:15). In essence, even though God had come to visit Gideon and bolster his faith and rescue his people, Gideon, like fearful Moses before, declined to be used of God. Gideon, like so many of us, did not want to trust God and grow up.
Gideon’s problem was a perpetual one
This trait of Gideon’s is not a once-off characteristic manifesting itself either. In the next act of the Gideon narrative, he further doubts God and doesn’t trust that God wants to save His people. He puts God to the test not once, but twice with the miraculous wet and dry fleece, and God is patient with him, enduring both his fearfulness and childish testing. In case the point isn’t clear, Gideon is far from the mighty man that he is called throughout Judges 6. He is a child, a fearful coward unwilling to stand up in maturity.
Gideon’s gracious God
The antidote to this fear of growing up is patience grace of God. God is perpetually gracious to Gideon, choosing him, speaking words of comfort to him, assuring him in personal displays of power through the wet and dry fleece miracle. In fact, it seems that God is going out of His way to nurture and build the faith of this chosen “Savior”. When God chooses His man, He does not give up on him. What a comfort for us who are weak, that God chooses the weak things of this world to shame the strong, the foolish things to shame the wise.
God underscores this point by showing His grace and power to Gideon, and to us. As Gideon rallies an army to do battle with the Midianitse, God shrinks Gideon’s army to show that his security is not in recruitment and numbers, but in the living God who works for him. In v1-8, God demands that Gideon make his small force even smaller, and uses the drinking water test to show Gideon that he only needs 300 men. Notice God’s words of gracious kindness in Judges 7:9-11: “…I have given it into your hand. But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. And…afterwards your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.” What a gracious God, first to give Gideon verbal encouragement, second, to arrange Gideon’s faith strengthening excursion, and third, to permit Purah to be his wingman en route. The grace of God strengthens the fearful. No wonder when Gideon scores a resounding victory, the text says that “the Lord set every man’s sword…” and is the source of Gideon’s victory.
Grace makes us grow up
You see, grace makes us grow up. The God of Gideon is the same God of you and me. This God has always been faithful – He made Gideon the coward a mighty man of valour and we see this throughout the passage in Judges 6: 11, 12, 14, 16. Did Gideon deserve this victory and transformation? No, it was grace.
When you feel like you can’t deal with the challenges of growing up, remember the God who has brought you here and bids you stand. Remember what He has done by giving you His Son your Savior. Remember the victory that He has won for you, the way God routed Gideon’s Midianite enemies and gave him the victory. That victory is eclipsed when we think of the mercy of God towards us in Christ that saves us from sin and selfishness and secures for everything we need for life and godliness. Remember His Spirit dwelling in you, giving you more than you need for difficult decisions, fearful obstacles, and other challenges. God is with you mighty man of valor!
Grace grows us towards faith, and we, like Gideon and the other heroes of old described in Heb 11:32-39, are enabled to do more than we can ask or imagine. Grace helps us grow up. It helps do more than we think. It helps us to desire what God wants for us. It frees us from fear. It gives us strength, courage, confidence, assurance and the blessing of peace.
Written by Caleb Yap, who has just a bit more life experience than most of us.