By Matt Capps
One of the most notable differences between the message of Christianity and the message of American society is found in the relationship between power and weakness. In our culture, power is found in self-trust and subjecting others to our will. In Christianity, power is found in trusting God and submitting to His will. In Christianity, weakness is the way to true victory. Christianity is counter-cultural in the ways that it demands absolute trust in God from believers.
The testimony of Scripture recounts the many ways God has used the inadequacy and weakness of His servants to accomplish His will and His victory. The pattern is simple: When we fall at the Lord’s feet in our weakness, we will find the victory and power that comes from His hand. Judges 7 may be the most striking reminder that weakness is, in fact, His way.
In Judges 7, God taught Gideon and his army to depend on Him in light of insurmountable odds they faced. The enemy armies, the Midianites, were 135,000 troops strong in facing Gideon and his 32,000 men. Place yourself in Gideon’s shoes for a moment and consider how terrifying this prospect would be. Based solely on human calculations, Gideon and his army have no chance.
In light of these odds, we read one of the most amazing sentences in the Bible. God told Gideon, “You have too many troops” (v.2). Yes, you read that right—too many troops. The reason for this assessment is even more staggering. Even though Gideon has more than 100,000 fewer men in his army, if God were to grant them victory, they would still be tempted to claim that victory by their own power. Therefore, God commanded Gideon to send the fearful men home, resulting in 22,000 troops departing, and leaving 10,000 to fight. But that is still too many. God further shrunk the total to just 300 men. Gideon and his army were stripped down so much that they had two choices: either fully trust God or perish.
Isn’t it often the case that in times where we are tempted to trust in our abilities and power, God often removes our foundations of self-confidence in order that we would more fully trust in Him? Have you ever considered that one of the greatest dangers of victory is that of increased self-reliance? Spiritually, that can be more dangerous than defeat.
Let us be reminded of Gideon, a man from a weak family, from a weak tribe, with only a handful of men to fight the enemy. All of these factors led Gideon and his men to understand that their victory came from God’s power, not their own. When it came to their victory, not one Israelite lifted a finger in battle; the only thing they did was trust and obey God. Therefore, the glory of victory belongs to God and God alone.
God’s power is most fully displayed in our weakness. Sometimes God insists that His people be reduced to utter helplessness so that they recognize that their deliverance can only be credited to His power and His power alone. This is why Paul argues in Ephesians 6:10, “Be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength.”
It is comforting that God knows the fears of His servants and how scared we can be in our circumstances. Yet He does not ridicule us in our fears or mock us in our fragility. You see, God’s saving power moves through us when we admit that we have no power in ourselves. And in all of this, by God’s grace, we are brought to a place where we can say that any victory we experience is from the hand of God. Just as the hand of God saved Gideon and his army, every Christian has experienced the same grace in Jesus Christ. Did you clean yourself up before God saved you? Or did God save you while you were still dead in your sins, weak and inadequate? We have no chance for victory over sin apart from Christ. Praise be to God that He is our strength, and that His power has been made known in our weakness.