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Judges  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  36:19
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On-Call

This week, for the first time at my new job, I have been “on-call”.
On-Call is a big deal at our company. If any of the dozens of websites and apis that are serving thousands of users per minutes… if any one of a thousand things that could go wrong goes wrong…
They are going to call me. And I am supposed to figure out the problem and solve it and save the day.
When there’s something strange, in the neighborhood. Who you gonna call? Call Dusty!
And that’s terrifying because I haven’t been there all that long and I don’t know all the things. I can’t fix all the things, and the weight of responsibility is WAY too heavy.
The responsibility is on me.

The Weight of Responsibility

But that’s nothing. The other day, a very good friend of mine called me in crisis. And we got together and started talking and he was asking questions about his purpose, and my purpose and what does it all mean...
and basically asking me to “give a reason for the hope that I have.”
And the weight of the moment crashed in on me. I am supposed to share Jesus here, and if I do a good enough job, he could repent and then he’d cry, and then I’d cry and then we could pray right here in this restaurant… and it’s my job to SAVE my friend!
Now I know that isn’t quite right… but I pick up the weight of that responsibility and put it on me.
Or, I stand up here week after week with the purpose of bringing God’s Word into my life and into your life, and praying that you are learning, and following Jesus, and taking Next Steps and the responsibility of all of that can be absolutely crippling and I hear so many stories of pastor’s crashing and burning because they can’t bear the WEIGHT of it!
And God has placed you in ministry. In your neighborhoods, in your families, in your workplaces, in your schools and in this church. Calling you to lead, calling you to serve...
Do you ever feel the weight of that? The responsibility? To win the prize, or to save the lost, or to help the hurting… whatever that goal is, the weight of responsibility to achieve it!
God doesn’t need you.
You don’t have to achieve or create the result. You don’t have to win the victory.
You are privilege to play a part. Your responsibility is to do

Gideon and the 300

Narrowing down the men.
Judges 7:1-2
Judges 7:1–2 ESV
Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him rose early and encamped beside the spring of Harod. And the camp of Midian was north of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley. The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’
Judges 7:3 ESV
Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’ ” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained.
Judges 7:3
Now if you are an insecure leader… that’s a major issue. If you are a battlefield commander with a brain, that’s a problem. You just lost 2/3rds of your army.
And think about the morale of the army! Did they hear God? No, but Gideon says he “heard the LORD” and sent 2/3rds the army home.
Judges 7:4–7 ESV
And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” So he brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.” And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.”
Judges 7:4-
<Picture of me lapping at stream>
No apparent rhyme or reason for why the men who lapped get to stay. Were the other men more cautious because they kneeled and looked around? Were the lappers more trusting because they didn’t? Who shoves their face in a stream and laps???
300 guys, that’s who!
What about the ones who had canteens? Nobody brought a canteen with a water filter?
The text doesn’t say. Likely it’s just about the numbers, a divinely arbitrary reason to send people home.
And forget about losing 2/3rds the army, how about 97%! That is insane. What is morale at now in those 300? Do they feel like a lucky elite, or sacrificial dummies. These guys are lapping water with their faces, maybe they aren’t the sharpest bunch and they don’t know what’s going on!
Judges 7:8 ESV
So the people took provisions in their hands, and their trumpets. And he sent all the rest of Israel every man to his tent, but retained the 300 men. And the camp of Midian was below him in the valley.
He goes to the camp. He hears the bizarre dream.
A cake smashes the tent flat.
His friend has a bizarre interpretation: This is the sword of Gideon and we’re all going to die!
(If I were making this story up, I would have made up a dream that made WAY more sense).
Judges 7:15–18 ESV
As soon as Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped. And he returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the Lord has given the host of Midian into your hand.” And he divided the 300 men into three companies and put trumpets into the hands of all of them and empty jars, with torches inside the jars. And he said to them, “Look at me, and do likewise. When I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then blow the trumpets also on every side of all the camp and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon.’ ”
Judges 7:15-18
Judges 7:19-
Judges 7:19–23 ESV
So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just set the watch. And they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands. Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow. And they cried out, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” Every man stood in his place around the camp, and all the army ran. They cried out and fled. When they blew the 300 trumpets, the Lord set every man’s sword against his comrade and against all the army. And the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath. And the men of Israel were called out from Naphtali and from Asher and from all Manasseh, and they pursued after Midian.
They called out now to all the tribes again. Gathered

God Doesn’t Need You

How many men does God need to deliver Israel from its enemies?
Not 30,000.
Not 10,000.
Not 300.
Not 1. Zero. God needs zero men, zero help. He is fully and completely and perfectly capable of just defeating Midian on his own, or changing their minds so they go home, or rending space and time so they never were…
The “problem” is not a problem for God. He has literally infinite options at His disposal.
And, in this story God wants to make that so absolutely clear:
Judges 7:2 ESV
The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’
Look guys, I can do this without an army. With one hand tied behind my back. It isn’t about the challenge… it never is. It isn’t about “solving” the problem!
So what does it mean that He does invite Gideon into the story?
What does it mean that He does invite 300 Israelites to participate?
God doesn’t use people to get ministry done.
God uses ministry to get people done.
It isn’t using people to get ministry done.

Working with my Dad

Using ministry to get people done?
Growing up in a construction zone. There were always projects and, when we weren’t breaking windows and injuring one another, my Dad would often have us join in on a construction process.
I remember replacing windows together, painting walls.
Now, did my Dad need my help? No, at that age he spent far more time teaching me and correcting my mistakes then the entire job would have taken. And it wasn’t really the long game either, though I got better I don’t think the net gain of my construction skills ever paid off for that house.
But to this day, I learn more about my Dad, I connect more with my Dad while working beside him than any other time.
Now what are all the reasons why? I grew. I grew in my relationship with him. I grew in my understanding of him and the task and myself. We can recognize in retrospect all the ways in which we benefit from being included in the process.
But what God emphasizes in this story is that he doesn’t need the army. He doesn’t need the help. He is going to win the victory and whether he does it through 30000 or 300, it will be his victory.
God doesn’t use people to achieve the victory.
God uses victory to rescue the people.
God doesn’t use people to get ministry done.
God uses ministry to get people done.
This completely changes the equation.
It is not yours to achieve the victory or create the result.
You don’t have to achieve or create the result. You don’t have to win the victory.
You are privilege to play a part. You still have a responsibility, but your responsibility is to be faithful to the task he has called you.
Faithfulness, not result. Obedience, not victory.

Faithfulness, Not Victory

God doesn’t need me to accomplish it, he invites me to be part of it.
When I preach, it is not for me to change lives and hearts and minds by the power of His Word. He does that, His Spirit making His words alive in His people. My responsibility is to be faithful in the study, faithful in the preparation, faithful in the preaching. That doesn’t make it easy, that’s going to take everything I got.... but the weight of the outcome is not on me. I am responsible and faithful before the audience of one.
Because God doesn’t need me to preach, he invites me to be a part of some of what He is doing in your life, and that is a ridiculous privilege.
When I share the gospel with my friend, whether he comes to Jesus in that moment or later or never, the responsibility of “saving him” is not mine. Jesus has and is working salvation for him, loves him more than I ever will. When I have that opportunity to share, it is mine to be faithful to give an answer for the hope that I have. Faithful to tell what Jesus has done for me and in me. God doesn’t need me. He could appear in power and glory before my friends eyes and say exactly the right words at the right time. I am privileged to be invited into the process, to get to be a part of it.
You are called into ministry. In different ways and in different places. Some of you may be having conversations with our nominations committee (that’s coming up). Now that can be such a challenging thing, a stretching thing, a growing moment.
But God could do this thing with one hand tied behind his back.
What a privilege it is, then, to be invited into the process. To get to be a part of it. And that changes the whole game.
The ultimate responsibility is His. The glory is His. What we really do when we try to take the first is try to steal the second.
He is God alone, from before time began. Not created by human hands, and not needing anything that human hands can do.
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