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MONDAY— When they cried out to the LORD because of Midian, the LORD sent a prophet to the Israelites. Judges 6:7-8

When we cry out to the Lord, we may not expect Him to write His answer across the sky, send Chip and Joanna to do a renovation, or the drive the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes Winner-mobile to our house. But when our backs are against the wall and we cry out to the Lord, we think we know what He should do. So that’s what we expect and we often ignore anything else. When Israel cried out to the Lord, what did they expect? An apology from the Midianites? A tsunami sweeping away the enemy? A sudden cease-fire? Maybe. But when Israel cried out to the Lord—He sent them a prophet.

Sometimes God’s interventions don’t look like we pictured them. We prefer that He part the Red Sea or bring the dead to life. And He might, but more often He sends a person with a message: “Stop doing that.” “Hang on a little longer.” “God is about to bring good from this.” “God is teaching you something.” But we don’t want a message; we want miracle, so we don’t recognize God’s answer when it comes. God has been known to step in and wow our socks off, but most of the time He works through people to accomplish His goals. He speaks through His servants, empowers through His Spirit, and provides through His church. Even when we feel helpless, God is not. So when you cry out to Him, don’t be surprised if He sends a prophet.

Final Thought: Can you think of a time when you cried out to God and He sent a person with a message?

Prayer: Father, I remember the times I’ve cried out to you and your answer didn’t look like I thought it would. But in the long run, it was better. Help me to recognize your answers when you send them through your people. In Jesus’ name, amen.
TUESDAY— The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the LORD is with you!” Judges 6:12

–“Timmy is gonna do great things one day,” Mrs. Smith said, nodding toward a small back facing the Timeout corner. “He’s got leadership potential.” Everyone else saw a troublemaker; Timmy’s teacher saw a leader.

–“Her beauty will captivate audiences one day,” Nurse Jane said as she handed the Down’s Syndrome newborn to the new parents. “I see life and joy in her eyes.” Everyone else saw a badly deformed infant; Nurse Jane saw a world changer.

–Gideon was hiding in a shed, terrified of the Midianites, when the angel of the Lord found him. Everyone else saw a timid follower; God saw a mighty hero.

And because God saw him that way, Gideon stepped up to the challenge. We tend to live up to the expectations placed on us. But sadly, the reverse is also true. When we’ve heard nothing good about ourselves from those who ought to know, we believe we are nothing but failure and disappointment. But we forget one critical truth: No one knows us better than the One who designed us. The Lord who designed Gideon knew exactly who he was and He addressed Gideon as the mighty hero He had created. Because God spoke truth to Gideon, the timid follower became a mighty hero. God speaks truth to each of us, too. Instead of validating the opinions of flawed human beings, what if we started believing what our Designer says about us?

Final Thought: What if you saw yourself and every individual the way God sees them? Would your world change?

Prayer: Father, I want to see myself and others through your eyes. I tend to see only the negative, but you see more. You designed me for purpose and expect me to live up to it. Help me treat other people that way too. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
WEDNESDAY— “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel?… I am the least in my entire family!” Judges 6:15

“Okay…sift the rest of this grain, bag it, hide it, and get out of here before some soldier spots me,” Gideon muttered to himself. Ugh! Midianites. A spear in Israel’s side. Gideon had once believed, along with everyone else, that God would protect them. After all, weren’t they God’s chosen people? But it seemed that the Almighty had abandoned them. Then he remembered the idol shrines that dotted Israel’s landscape and grimaced. They couldn’t say God hadn’t warned them. If only they had a leader, a mighty man of God who could defend them. Israel needed a courageous warrior. A hero. A man totally unlike Gideon.
We have terms for people like Gideon: Runt of the litter. Tag-along. Baby of the family. Some people (Gideon may have been one of them) have grown up having their hair tousled, their opinions ignored, and their arms blue from punches. As a result, they believe themselves inferior to the rest. So when a challenge comes along, the baby of the family may see him/herself as helpless. “Who me?” is their response. “I’m just a…just a…just a kid! I can’t do that!” But God loves using the most unlikely people to do great things because they are humble. He can do nothing with the proud and fancy; He wants the runts.

Final Thought: What challenges are you facing that seems too difficult for you? What if God chose you for that reason?

Prayer: Lord, so many challenges in my life have seemed impossible for someone like me. But as I think about it, you always came through. You’ve done stuff through me I could never do alone. Thank you and help me remember that next time. Amen.
THURSDAY— “…tear down your father’s altar to Baal, and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. Then build a proper altar to the LORD your God on the top of this stronghold.” Judges 6:25-26

Before Gideon could be used of God, he had to do a little spiritual housecleaning. It’s one thing to be chosen by God to do mighty works, but you can’t serve God as a Benedict Arnold. If Gideon was going lead a nation to victory, he had to get his act together. Gideon’s family had gone right along with Israel in embracing the idolatry of surrounding nations. His own father had a goddess-on-a-pole in his backyard. God would not stand for that, so He had allowed the Midianites attack them. When Israel finally cried out to God, He chose Gideon to rescue them. But first Gideon had to declare his allegiance.

We may love the idea of being used mightily the way Gideon was. Our names would go up in lights and down in history. But we’re not willing to tear down our goddess-on-a-pole. We imagine using our gifts to heal, teach, or evangelize millions—but we want to keep our Baal altars in the backyard. God won’t stand for it. Before God can trust us with a great work, we have to declare our allegiance. And that can be painful. Old friends don’t understand. Family may think we’re nuts. Habits and lovers must become ex’s if we’re going to tear down pagan idols and build an altar to the Lord. We can play the church game, impress a few people, but spiritual victory only comes when our lifestyles declare our allegiance.

Final Thought: If you wonder why God isn’t using you in mighty ways, check your backyard.

Prayer: Lord God, am I keeping idols in the back of my heart? Do I pretend to serve you wholeheartedly while also serving my own gods? I want to be used by you in ways that have eternal significance. I’m ready to tear down those strongholds. Amen.
FRIDAY— The LORD said, “You have too many men… Israel would boast, ‘My own strength has saved me.’” Judges 7:2

Too many warriors? Common sense told Gideon that he could not have too many warriors to fight the mighty Midianites. Those pagans were highly trained, courageous, fighters. Gideon would need as many soldiers as he could get to defeat this army. So he brought his best efforts to God, expecting a pat on the back. Instead, the Lord said, “Nah, that’s too many. I’m gonna strip you of everything you might boast about so when we win, you’ll know it wasn’t you.” Then He whittled down Gideon’s army to a laughable number. They might as well have been a box of toy soldiers thrown at a ravenous lion—except God was in charge.

Too much education? Too many talents? Too much money? Common sense tells us that we can’t have enough of all of those if we want to be successful. But common sense also tells us that if we worked hard, played smart, did all the right things, we should also feel proud of ourselves when we win. Then we bring our shiny trophies to God with a bet-you-can-use-this attitude, expecting a pat on the back. Instead, He sees what we have to offer and says, “Nah, that’s too much. I’m going to use you in a way you did not expect so that when you accomplish great things for my kingdom, you’ll know it wasn’t you.” God keeps us slightly off balance so we don’t rely on our own strengths. We may be inadequate for the job—except God is in charge.

Final Thought: “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise…the weak things of the world to shame the strong…the lowly things of the world…to nullify the things that are so that no one may boast in His presence” (1 Cor. 1:27-29).

Prayer: Father, thank you that you can supernaturally use me to do amazing things and you don’t need my best efforts. Help me learn to keep my ego and fleshly opinions out of your way so you can flow through me in power. In Jesus’ name, amen.