The Bible says in Romans 2:3-5 “And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? (4) Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? (5) But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;”
This is where my testimony of salvation begins. I was raised in a preachers home. I heard the Word of God preached every week of my life. Still when I reached the age of twenty-one, I was unsaved. I had “despised the goodness, and forbearance and longsuffering of God.” I was, with a “hard and inpenitent heart, treasuring up wrath unto myself.”
Most people would have said that I was a good person. I was faithful to attend the services at church. I had grown up being outwardly obedient to my parents. I had lived my life never getting into any real trouble.
I had a show of religion. When I was eight years old I prayed and asked Jesus to save me. I did this because I knew people needed to be saved and because many of my friends had. But the Bible does not say that praying a prayer saves us, the Bible tells us we must repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. These two things were still missing in my life.
When I was thirteen years old I prayed another prayer and again asked God to save me. This time I had heard a message on Hell and I was afraid of going there. But a fear of Hell is not enough for Salvation.
For the next eight years I lived a lie, pretending to be saved. Pretending to be a Christian.
The Bible says in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” In 1999 The Lord began to seek me! He used the faithful preaching of God’s Word in His church. He used difficult circumstances in my life that made me stop and examine who I was and where I was going. He also used the influence of good, truly born again, Christian friends who showed me what a Christian really was.
With the Lord using these things to speak to my heart, I attended a family camp hosted by my church. The preaching at this camp was usually directed at husbands, fathers, wives and mothers. As an unmarried young man I was not there for the preaching. I was there to have fun with my friends.
To my surprise, the first night the preacher preached the Gospel. The death of Jesus Christ for our sins, His burial and His resurrection. He preached our need to be born again. He preached the necessity of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
When the invitation came, I resisted. My foolish, stubborn pride would not let me admit the lie that I was living. So I went home that night still lost in my sins.
The next 24-hours were the most miserable of my life. I could not escape the thought, “James, you are a sinner and you need to be saved.”
I went to the service the next night. When the preacher went forward to begin preaching he started by saying something like this, “The Holy Spirit is telling me there is someone here who still needs to be saved, so before I preach, we are going to start with an invitation.” I knew it was me he was talking about. At first I again resisted. There were more than 400 people looking around, all of whom thought I was Christian. Again my pride was holding me back. But true to His goodness, the Lord extended the invitation until I could resist no more. I went forward and a man from my church took me outside and asked me something like, “Do you know what you need to do?” I answered , “Yes”. I then got down on my knees and called upon the Lord in repentance and faith and He saved me!
Today I do not ask you if you have prayed a prayer asking God to save you. I do not ask you if you have a fear of Hell. I do not ask you if you have responded to a preachers invitation. I ask you, Have you repented of your sin and called on the Lord Jesus Christ in Faith? Have you trusted in Him alone for the salvation of your soul? Have you been born again?
iBhayibhile ithi kwabaseRoma 2:3-5 “Ucinga na ke, mntundini ugweba abo bazenzayo izinto ezinjalo, ube usenza kwazona nawe, ukuthi, uya kusisaba na wena isigwebo sikaThixo? Okanye ùyabudela na ubutyebi bobubele bakhe, nonyamezelo, nokuzeka kade umsindo; ungazi ukuba ububele bukaThixo bukusa enguqukweni? Ke ùthi, ngokuba lukhuni kwakho, nentliziyo yakho engenanguquko, uziqwebele ingqumbo, ngemini yengqumbo nokutyhilwa komgwebo onobulungisa kaThixo;”
Ubungqina bosindiso lwam buqala apha. Ndikhuliselwe ekhayeni labashumayele. Ndilivile iLizwi likaThixo lishunyayelwa ebomini bam qho ngeveki. Ndithe ke ndakufikelela kwiminyaka engamashumi amabini ananye, Ndandingasindiswanga. “Ndandibudela ubutyebi bobubele bukaThixo, nonyamezelo, nokuzeka kade umsindo wakhe.” Ndandingumntu, onentliziyo eqinileyo kwaye enganamonde, ndandiziqokelelela umsindo wakhe kum.”
Abantu abaninzi ngebatsho bathi ndingumntu olungileyo. Ndandithembekile kwiinkonzo zecawa. Ndikhule ndithobela abazali bam ngokwangaphandle. Ndiphile impilo yam ndingazange ndingene engxakini eyinyaniso.
Ndandibonakalisa inkolo. Xa ndandineminyaka esibhozo ubudala, ndaye ndathandaza ndacela uYesu ukuba andisindise. Ndayenza le nto kuba ndandiyazi ukuba abantu kwakufuneka basindiswe, kwaye nangenxa yokuba abahlobo bam abaninzi babesindisiwe. Kodwa iBhayibhile ayitsho ukuba ukuthandaza kuyasisindisa, iBhayibhile iyasixelela ukuba kufuneka siguquke, kwaye sikholwe kwiNkosi uYesu Kristu. Ezi zinto zombini zazingekabikho ebomini bam.
Xa ndandineminyaka elishumi elinesithathu ubudala, ndaye ndathandaza omnye umnye umthandazo, kwaye kwakhona ndacela uThixo ukuba andisindise. Ngeli xesha ndandisele ndive umyalezo othetha ngesiHogo, kwaye ndandisoyika ukuya phaya. Kodwa ke uloyiko lwesiHogo alonelanga ukuze umntu asindiswe.
Kwiminyaka esibhozo elandelayo ndaphila impilo yobuxoki, ndisenza ingathi ndisindisiwe. Ndizenza ingathi ungumKristu.
iBhiyibhile ithi kuLuka 19:10, “kuba uNyana woMntu weza kufuna nokusindisa oko kulahlekileyo.” Ngo 1999 uThixo waqala ukundifuna! Wasebenzisa intshumayelo ethembekileyo yeLizwi likaThixo, ebandleni lakhe. Wasebenzisa iimeko ezinzima ebomini bam, ezandenza ndama, ndazicikida umntu endandinguye, nendawo endandisiya kuyo. Kwakhona uThixo wasebenzisa impembelelo elungileyo, yokuzalwa ngokutsha kwenyaniso, kwabahlobo abangamaKristu, abandibonisayo kakuhle ukuba umKristu wokwenyani unjani ni.
uThixo ke wasebenzisa ezi zinto ukuze athethe nentliziyo yam, Ndaya kwiCamp yosapho, eyayikhokelwa yicawa yam. Intshumayelo kule Camp yayisoloko ibhekise, kubayeni, notata, nabafazi, kwaye noomama. Njengomfana owayengatshatanga ke ndandingayelanga ntshumayelo phaya. Ndandiye phaya ukuze ndonwabe nabahlobo bam.
Ndingalindelanga ke, ngobusuku bokuqala umshumayeli washumayela iVangeli. Ukufa kukaYesu Kristu ngenxa yezono zethu, nokungcwatywa nokuvuka kwakhe ekufeni. Washumayela ngesidingo sethu sokuzalwa ngokutsha. Washumayela ngemfuneko yenguquko, nokukholwa kuYesu Kristu.
Kuthe kwakuza isimemo, ndaxhathisa. igugu lam lakudala, lalingandivumeli ukuba ndivume ubuxoki endandibuphila. Ndagoduka ndaya ekhayeni lam ngobabusuku ndabe ndisalahlekile ezonweni zam.
Kwiiyure eziyi24 ezilandelayo zaba zezona zilusizi ebomini bam. Ndandikwazi ukuyibaleka ingcinga ethi, “James, ungumoni kwaye kufuneka usindiswe.”
Ndaphinda ndaya enkonzweni kwakhona ngobunye ubusuku. Xa umshumayeli waqhubekekayo waqala ukushumayela, waqala ngokuthetha into efana nale, “uMoya Oyingcwele undixelela ukuba kukho umntu osadinga ukusindiswa, ngoko ke phambi kokuba ndishumayele, sizakuqala ngokwenza isimemo.” Ndasazi ukuba uthetha ngam. Ekuqalekeni ngaqala ukuxhathisa. Kwakukho abantu abangaphezu kwe400 ababebhekabheka, bonke ke babecinga ukuba ndingumKristu. Kwakhona igugu lam landibambezela. Kodwa ukulunga kwakhe kwakunyanisekile, uThixo wasongeza isimemo ndade andakwazi ukuxhathisa kwaphela. Ndaya ngaphambili kwaye indoda yasecaweni yam yandithatha yaphuma nam, kwaye yandibuza ngoluhlobo, “Ingaba uyayazi na into ekufuneka uyenzile?” Ndaphendula, “Ewe”. Emva koko ndaguqa ngamadolo, ndabiza kuThixo ndiguqukile, kwaye ndinokholo, Wandisisa!
Namhlanje andikubuzi ukuba wakhe wathandaza ucela uThixo ukuba akusindise. Andikubuzi ukuba unalo uloyiko lwesiHogo na. Andikubuzi ukubangaba wakhe wasabela kwisimemo somshumayeli na. Ndiyakubuza wakhe, waguquka esonweni sakho, kwaye wabiza kwiNkosi uYesu Kristu ngokholo? Wakhe wabeka ithemba lakho kuye yedwa, ngenxa yosindiso lomphefumlo wakho? Ingaba wakhe, wazalwa ngokutsha?
And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.
Earlier he told us thirty thousand had come and as I mentioned we are told at least one hundred and thirty thousand Midianites possibly more and God says “Gideon, you’ve got too many men.” Here I see that the battles are for God’s glory and we need to remember that. As a Christian, the battles that I fight are for God’s glory. If I ever forget that it’s for God’s glory then many of the things God asks me to do are going to seem unreasonable. From a purely human standpoint, God saying to Gideon “Those that are with you are too many.” makes zero sense.
When we face that trial of faith, when we face those difficulties, if we forget that it’s ultimately for God’s glory, it will make no sense. “Why did I have to go through that? Why am I going through this? Why is this so difficult? Why is God letting it be so hard?” If I think it’s about me it won’t make sense but if I remember that it’s about God and it’s about God’s glory it makes sense. Think of the battle of Jericho. The strongest most fortified city in the land of Canaan. How much human sense does it make for your battle plan to be, walk around the city once a day? What did Joshua think when the Captain of the Lord’s host told him “This is the plan, now go tell the nation of Israel that this is what they going to do. You’re their great, vaunted military leader, you’re going to go back with this plan. Tomorrow morning we are going to get up and we are going to walk around the city and then we are going to be done. And tomorrow we will do it again and we will do it again the day after that but don’t worry, on the last day we going to do it seven times.” Nothing about that makes sense unless it’s for God’s glory.
Think about Elijah and the widow of Zarephath, “Everybody is running out of food so I’m going to send you to someone who wouldn’t have food even if there wasn’t a drought.” Because that makes sense and the Bible says that he had commanded the widow to take care of him– because that would make sense. “You have no food so I’m going to send a prophet to you to take care of.” Humanly speaking it makes no sense but for God to receive the glory, it has to be.
Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand. 4 And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there: and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go. 5 So he brought down the people unto the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink. 6 And the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water. 7 And the LORD said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place.
Here I see that a mighty man of valour trusted the Lord to choose his fellow soldiers. Often times we have an idea of who we want to go into battle with and sometimes we get disappointed when the army doesn’t look like we think it should.
Sometimes we get discouraged as a pastor, as a missionary when that family leaves the church. “They had so much potential, they had so many gifts. They were really the ones that could make the difference.” As church members, we can feel the same way sometimes. We think, “Look at whose left, look at what we have left. Look at who we are, we have no strength.” We need something else and sometimes we’re looking for that saviour of the church. You know that family that has all the gifts and the talents and they’re going to come in and they’re going to make the difference. Rather than just trusting the Lord, who puts/places, members in the body to choose our fellow soldiers.
Do you think at any point Gideon was thinking, “Lord I don’t think this is going to work.”? Why did twenty two thousand leave? They had come; I think they had an idea of what they were coming for. I think it was an understanding that once they got there and they saw only thirty thousand; they knew how many Midianites there were. Maybe they were hoping that Gideon could raise an army of two hundred thousand and then they arrived and saw, “Oh there’s only thirty thousand of us. Thirty two thousand of us, “I’m out of here. He gave me an option, I’m gone.” Because they decided it’s not going to work with thirty thousand. Then it’s down to ten and God says “This isn’t going to work either.” Gideon’s like “Well yes, I could have told you it wasn’t going to work. Why did you let the other twenty two thousand leave?” “No, there’s still too many.” And then He tells him to divide them and you know I can imagine sometimes Gideon sitting there like he watches all the guys drink and he divides “Okay, three hundred, nine thousand seven hundred. Ah, I only lost three hundred this time.” You know maybe there was that thought for just a minute. God says “With the three hundred, the ones that I have chosen, those are the ones you going in to battle with.”
He trusted the Lord, the Bible tells us in I Corinthians 1:26-29, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should be glory in his presence.” Let God choose the soldiers.
And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude.
The strength of his enemies and the difficulty of the battle don’t matter. When you look at the weighing out of the sides, this is kind of the pre-game show, it’s like when you watching the sporting event you know they’ve got the pre-game show and they start to, start checking off the boxes. “Who has the better defence?” “These guys.” “Who has the better athletes?” “Oh these guys.” “Oh who has the more confidence?” “Oh these guys.” And starts checking off all the boxes and it’s like Midian, Midian, Midian. There’s no way this is going to happen. The strength of the enemy doesn’t matter. David said to Goliath “Thou comest to me with a sword and with a spear and with a shield but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of host, the God of the armies of Israel whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand and I will smite thee and take thine head from thee and I will give the carcasses of the host, of the Philistines this day unto the fouls of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth and all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel and all his assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear for the battle is the Lords and he will give it into our hands.”
Did you catch that? David is talking to Goliath and he had no reason to think he was going to beat Goliath, humanly speaking, but he says “I’m going to feed the carcasses of the host of the Philistines. Goliath, once I brush you out of the way, the rest of you, I’m coming for you too because your strength doesn’t matter.” The strength of the enemy doesn’t matter because it’s God’s battle. In verse ten to fourteen, God further assures Gideon, he tells him “Go down to the, if you’re still worried, go down to the camp of the Midianites.” And he goes down and he hears two men talking and one shares his dream. “I had a dream and this rolled in and it wiped out the whole host and our tents.” And the other responds “This is none other than Gideon, the son of Joash.” The enemy held him in higher regard than he held himself.
The Bible tells us in James 2:19, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” We often forget that we’re on the winning side when the devil doesn’t. Matthew 16:18, “And I say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” That is God’s promise to his church. Now as most of you have probably heard, gates are not offensive weapons. When I go out to invade a land, I don’t bring my gates with me. Gates are defensive and so God is promising his church as you go out there and you go to battle, the enemy can’t stand against you and the devils know that and they tremble. Can we have the same confidence?
And he said unto them, Look on me, and do likewise: and, behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so shall ye do.
A mighty man of valour leads by example. Husbands, fathers, men we need to lead by example. I want my sons to grow up to be servants of the Lord. That’s only going to happen if they see me being a servant of the Lord. I want them to grow up and be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and that’s only going to happen if they see me being a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ and that means more than showing up at church two or three times a week. Jesus called his disciples to make disciples and they need to see that by example, me sharing the Gospel with others.
And the men of Ephraim said unto him, Why hast thou served us thus, that thou calledst us not, when thou wentest to fight with the Midianites? And they did chide with him sharply. 2 And he said unto them, What have I done now in comparison of you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? 3 God hath delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: and what was I able to do in comparison of you? Then their anger was abated toward him, when he had said that.
This mighty man of valour was willing to share credit for the victory. Here are those that wanted no part of the battle really, once the victory is being won and Gideon’s got them fleeing and enemies being killed and decimated then they jump in and they clean up a little bit and they come and claim, “Why didn’t you invite us to the party?” “Who am I compared to you? Look at what you’ve done.” Did they have any right to this victory? Were they willing to go up three hundred against a hundred and thirty thousand? Harry Truman is credited with this quote, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” We should be willing to share the credit, an act of humility.
And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them. 5 And he said unto the men of Succoth, Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they be faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian. 6 And the princes of Succoth said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thine army? 7 And Gideon said, Therefore when the LORD hath delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into mine hand, then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers. 8 And he went up thence to Penuel, and spake unto them likewise: and the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered him. 9 And he spake also unto the men of Penuel, saying, When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower. 10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their hosts with them, about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of all the hosts of the children of the east: for there fell an hundred and twenty thousand men that drew sword. 11 And Gideon went up by the way of them that dwelt in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and smote the host: for the host was secure. 12 And when Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued after them, and took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and discomfited all the host.
He came to a couple of cities, cities of Israelites and he asked for provisions. “We chasing after these princes and we’ve got the enemy on the run and we want to pursue them and destroy them” and they said, “Are they already in your hand? Is your victory really assured? We don’t think so, so we’re going to stay out of this.” And two different cities said that to him. Cities that were of his kinsmen, those that should have been his allies. I see here that this mighty man of valour was not discouraged or dissuaded when even his own allies stood in the way.
Christians, sometimes we can get that idea that I get to quit because another Christian stood against me. I get to quit because another church member caused me some trouble. I get to quit because my pastor wasn’t all that I thought he should be. I get to quit because some missionary didn’t live up to my expectations. A mighty man of valour rests on the Word of God, not on the help of his allies.
And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you.
This mighty man of valour would not usurp God’s place. Never should we be promoted to a place of leadership that belongs only to God. Husband, you’re under God. I’m given a place of authority in my home but only in as much as I’m under God. Pastors, we’re given a position of authority in a church but Christ is the head. We can never usurp authority that belongs only to God.
And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house.
Here we see this ephod was made from the spoils of this war. He collected the earrings of the Midianites and the necklaces from around the camel’s necks and he makes this ephod and it becomes an idol and we see here the danger that the spoils of victory can become our greatest defeat. At the point where it seems like the victory has been won, when the goal has been accomplished and then we can relax and then we can make some very poor decisions. We can allow idolatry to creep in, we can turn and worship something other than God. We can be lifted up in our pride and our accomplishments. And really when you think about it, what was he creating as an ephod? The victory. “Here’s the spoils of the victory, look at what we’ve done and we can sit back and bask in the glory of our accomplishment.” And it becomes an idol and we turn from God.
And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives. 31 And his concubine that was in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he called Abimelech.
If you go on and read chapters number nine and ten, Abimelech kills the other sixty nine sons. Sets himself up as king, lives a wicked life and ultimately results in his own destruction and the destruction of the people in Shechem and a terrible story, based on Gideon’s failure in his family. He had many wives and many sons and then one extra son from a concubine. A man who had a life of such great victory but failed in his family and that taints his legacy. There are others in scripture. David, a man after God’s own heart but when I think of David, I can’t help but think about Bathsheba and when I think about Bathsheba, I can’t help but think of Amnon and Absalom and his legacy is tainted.
I think of a man like Samuel, great man of God. Prophet, judge but then I think about his sons. I think of on the other hand, of someone like Hannah. We know almost nothing about Hannah except that she was Samuel’s mother and we revere a woman like Hannah. She is looked to as a woman of great faith. We think of people like Zechariah and Elizabeth, we know next to nothing about them except that they were chosen to be the parents of John the Baptist. Jesus Christ would say “There is none greater born of women than John the Baptist. The next generation depends on us and my ultimate legacy as a mighty man of valour or as one that led people to stray will often be carried out in the lives of my children.
And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.
Here I see that this mighty man of valour was determined to verify that he was acting upon God’s word. When we set out in a course of action, men, it’s a good idea to stop and double check, and even triple check that we’re standing on the Scriptures. Verify that I’m acting on the Word of God. When I make a decision, when I choose a course of action, when I set off in a direction, I want to be sure, I want to be absolutely sure that I am standing upon, resting upon, entrenched in the Word of God. Gideon says “You’ve given me a great job to do here and I’m not going to just set off on this on a whim. I have to know. I have to know 100% sure, certain that this is the Word of God. That this is God’s will.” In I Thessalonians 5:21. We are encouraged. “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” Check it out, let’s go to the scriptures. Let’s make sure this is what God wants and where God is leading.
And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Take thy father’s young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it:
Here I see that a mighty man of valour stood for truth even against his own family. Take the bullock, throw down the alter, your father’s alter. That wouldn’t be an easy thing to do. Stand against your own father; take an obvious and public stand for truth against your own family. But we know that is what God requires.
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. 37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
We’ve got to stand on God’s truth no matter what. No matter who it’s against, no matter who would stand against us, we must be willing to stand on truth. That is what a mighty man of valour does. Stands on truth.
Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as the LORD had said unto him: and so it was, because he feared his father’s household, and the men of the city, that he could not do it by day, that he did it by night.
I’ve heard Gideon given a little bit of a hard time for this. “Mighty man of valour” was afraid of the men of the city and his father and so he couldn’t do it during the day, so he did it by night. I look at that in a little different perspective. If God told you, there’s church a block over from where you are at. Then God told you to go tear that church down. Go rent a bulldozer from plant hire over here and just go over there and raze that building to the ground. Just plough it down to nothing. When would you do it?
Sunday morning 10:00 while they trying to have their services? When there’s a bunch of people, the parking lot’s full, people are standing around the building watching you drive up in your bulldozer? Somebody would stop you. And I believe that is where Gideon’s fear lay. If I try to do this during the day, I’m not going to get it done. So he feared that he would not be able to do it during the day so he did it at night. Sometimes as Christians, we would try the day because we know someone would stop us, but we can make a big blustery stand, “Halt! See how righteous he was? How righteously indignant?” but we didn’t get anything accomplished. All we did is make a big show but God had given us a job to do but we didn’t actually get it done. We can do this sometimes in our witness, particularly on social media. We come wading into this ongoing debate on some subject and we just start throwing condemnation. We’re throwing fire and brimstone and then people are like “Well I’m not even going to talk to you.” And we sit back and think “See what I did? See how I stood for righteousness? See how I ran them off so that they would never listen to the Gospel ever again?” I’ve made a big show of how righteous I am and Gideon could have done that; showed up with his few servants, the bullock and a rope and roped onto that alter only to have the men of the city come and say “Stop it! You’re not going to do this. Get out of here.” And he would have made a big show but he wouldn’t have accomplished God’s purpose and God’s will. When we’re given a job by God; our job is to get it done, not to make a name for ourselves. Just get the job done and that’s what a mighty man of valour did.
But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him.
He had the spirit of God! When it comes to our work for the Lord; we need to be plugged into our power source.
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
We need the Holy Spirit; we need the filling of the Holy Spirit. I won’t go into great detail on the difference between the filling of the Holy Spirit and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Simply stated, I heard a preacher once define the difference as this, “At salvation, we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit and we get all of Him.” We get all the Holy Spirit we’re ever going to get. “At the filling of the Holy Spirit, that’s when the Holy Spirit gets all of us.”
I’ve seen it illustrated, you could take an empty glass and I fill it with stones and I say is the glass full? And our first response would be yes but then I come back and I pour sand in and I can pour a cup of sand, was the glass full of stones? No. Is it full now I can ask? And someone might say yes, now it’s full, but then I can bring a half a cup of water and still pour it in and then I can ask, is the cup full of water? And the answer is obviously no! because so much space was already taken with stones and sand that it is not full of water, to truly fill the glass with water I must first empty out the stones and sand. That is how being filled with the Holy Spirit works. If I’m going to be filled with the Holy Spirit, I have to empty everything else out. I can’t be full of self and pride and arrogance and sin and distractions if I want to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I have to remove everything else to allow him to have everything and if we want the power of God, that’s what we need. We need Him to have all of us.
And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh; who also was gathered after him: and he sent messengers unto Asher, and unto Zebulun, and unto Naphtali; and they came up to meet them. 36 And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, 37 Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said. 38 And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water. 39 And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew. 40 And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.
God has called Gideon and given him a job to do and verified it with a sign. And then the Holy Spirit comes upon Gideon and he blows the trumpet and he gathers the troops and now Gideon is still questioning. And again I’ve heard people go both ways with this one. A lot of people like the idea of putting out a fleece you know; “I want to be sure this is God’s will so I put out the fleece.” Other people say, “Come on Gideon God’s already told you what he wants you to do, what’s your problem? Just go do it.” What I see here is the responsibility of leadership. See, sometime before, we don’t know if it was days, weeks or months, God had come to Gideon and said “I’m going to use you to deliver the nation of Israel.” Then later, God called, brings His Spirit upon him and now Gideon gathers an army and they’ve come and now he’s looking out and he sees these thirty thousand men. That changes things.
If you’re a husband, you know that things changed when you got married. Decisions became weightier, you know as a single guy, “Hey, let’s take off on a road trip this weekend, let’s just drive as far as we can, get halfway through the weekend turn around and come back. Let’s just do it.” And you do it. You know “Let’s go watch the rugby match up in Joburg.” It’s like “But we don’t have any money.” “Ah don’t worry about it, we’ll hitchhike, we’ll sleep on the side of the road, we’ll do whatever we have to. We have enough money for the game tickets so let’s make it happen.” And you go. Once you get married, you don’t make decisions like that anymore. You now must count the cost. You understand now there are people that you’re responsible for and then children come into the mix and it’s like “Wow, I better be sure about this.” There’s a lot hanging in the balance.
When a man becomes the pastor of a church. Spiritual decisions when it was “What do I believe about this?” and it was just me, “Flip a coin. Okay that sounds good, we’ll ride it until something changes, what’s the worst that can happen, I get three months down the road and I’ve got to change.” You start leading an entire church of people, you start to feel that weight. “This question comes up, I better get it right.” And I believe that is where Gideon is now. He sees thirty thousand men going up against an army we know to be at least one hundred and thirty five thousand. “These men are going to follow me. I better be sure.” But we also see a tremendous blessing here. I see here that God understood his doubts and met the need. God understands the doubts I’m going to have related to leadership and God will work with me and God can give me the assurance and God can give me the strength and God can give me the knowledge and confidence that I need.
I want to share some thoughts with you taken from the life of Gideon, one of the judges of Israel. We take a look at Judges chapter six verses one to twelve which will kind of give us the context and bring us up to the starting point where we want to start.
And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. 2 And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds. 3 And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them; 4 And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass. 5 For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it. 6 And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD. 7 And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites, 8 That the LORD sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage; 9 And I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land; 10 And I said unto you, I am the LORD your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice. 11 And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. 12 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.
We’ll end up looking at a number of things over this and the next couple chapters, some good things, unfortunately in the life of Gideon, we also see some negative lessons that we can learn from. First of all, I draw your attention again to verse number eleven. The angel came unto him, there he is under the oak and we see Gideon threshed wheat by the wine-press to hide it from the Midianites. I’ve heard it remarked before, the angel in the very next verse is going to call him, “Gideon, thou mighty man of valour” and our first introduction to him we see he hiding behind the wine-press. There could almost seem to be a contradiction there but I don’t believe that the Lord speaks and I don’t believe that the angel of the Lord speaks tongue-in-cheek.
I don’t think he uses a lot of sarcasm and so I believe Gideon was a mighty man of valour but I see here, a principle. Gideon was doing what was necessary to provide for his family. His country had been invaded by a neighbouring country, they would just come through at the time of harvest and they would just wipe the country out and from one coast to the other. All the way across, they would take everything. It says here that “They came as grasshoppers” on the land. Later, when it talks about them being destroyed, it records that one hundred and twenty thousand had been killed and only fifteen thousand remain. So this was an army of at least one hundred and thirty five thousand men.
We see here, a man in fear of his own life, still doing what was necessary to see that his family was taken care of. Men, this is a lesson that we can take to heart. In this day and age, it’s getting harder and harder to make sure our families get what they need and I’m not necessarily talking physically, although that is certainly true. We all know a rand doesn’t go as far as it used and so the idea of a simple work week and nine to five and being done and having all of our needs met doesn’t always work and I believe a man should be willing to do what is necessary, physically and economically to take care of his family. But spiritually, we certainly see this to be true. You know our children are facing things that my generation didn’t face. My sons already are growing up in a world where evil is certainly called good and good is called evil and everyone is out to get them. If I send them to school, if I let them go to the shopping centre, if I let them buy a kids book, the things that they can read, see and hear, things that are in direct opposition to God and His Word. I have to make sure that they get what they need.
I must see that they are introduced to the God of the Bible and that they are introduced to spiritual truth and that they are raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; that is my responsibility and I need to do whatever it takes to see that my family’s needs are met.
1 Timothy 5:8
But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
I have been given a job to do and I need to be willing and determined to do whatever is necessary.
And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?
“Have not I sent thee”, Gideon was sent by the Lord and this was the guarantee of his success. I am guaranteed success in as much as I am going to do the work that God has sent me to do. If my goal is my own work, if I have my own hopes and dreams, if Gideon had set out to accomplish whatever it was that would fulfil Gideon’s hopes and dreams and whatever would make Gideon famous and whatever would accomplish Gideon’s goal for Gideon’s life, there would have been no guarantee of success. He was guaranteed success in as much as the Lord said “Have not I sent thee?” We need to firmly establish that we are in the work that God has given us to do. When we think about the realm of a church, God has given us a commission, “Preach the Gospel to every creature”. “Go ye therefore and teach all nations,… teaching them to observe all things.” That is the job, that is what God has sent us to do.
God has not promised us success in building great buildings, He has not promised us success in having nice furnishings, He hasn’t promised us success in being renowned in the community for our abilities and our talents but He says “If you do what I told you to do, you’ll have success in that! I’ll give you the power and the strength to accomplish that.” So we need to be sure that we are firmly in God’s work and God’s will for our lives and then we can have success.
And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.
Here I see that this mighty man of valour had a clear understanding of his own insignificance. Now all of you are members of the human race, right along with me, you are my brothers and sisters in humanity and so I know you struggle with something I struggle with because we all do, it’s called pride.
It’s that point where we start to think that we are something, that there is some measure in and of ourselves, that we have some great value, ability, talent, gift; something to offer God but this mighty man of valour was very clear on the fact “I’m nobody! I don’t bring anything to the table; I don’t have anything to offer. Why are you looking to me to do this?”
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
As a preacher, when I read that verse and I see the testimony of the Apostle Paul, it doesn’t give me a lot of room to think anything of myself. I mean here’s a guy who wrote Romans, here’s a guy who I believe wrote Hebrews, I mean when you talk about having a grasp of Theology proper, here’s a guy who did. He wrote the church epistles. Everything we’ve studied in church doctrine; yes he’s the guy who wrote it.
And he says “I’m less than the least of saints.” There’s nothing special about me, that I was given this honour of preaching the Gospel. How much more true is this of me? That God’s called me to do a work, God’s entrusted me with a job both in ministry as well as in my family, in being a husband and a head to my wife and a father and a leader to my sons and I’m the least of saints. We need to understand our own insignificance.
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
You want to know how to make a job hard? Have God push against you. Have you thought about that? “He giveth grace to the humble.” And that’s a blessing, that’s a help but he gives the other side, He says “I resist the proud.” It’s not like either God is behind me or God just steps away. When I’m His child, He says “If you’re going to be lifted up in pride, not only am I going to leave you to do it yourself without my help, I’m actually going to step in and I’m going to push against you. I’m going to provide that resistance.” We need to understand, I need to understand my own insignificance.
1 Peter 5:5
Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
2 Timothy 2:2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
The things that thou has heard of me among many witnesses. Now there’s several different parts to what is going on here. First of all, Timothy was a hearer, so in order for us to apply this verse, first and foremost we must be a hearer. Where do I hear? Particularly where do I hear among many witnesses? In church! We need to be under the teaching and preaching of God’s Word, in His assembly. That is where we are hearers among many witnesses. So we need to be a hearer. And then he says, the things that thou has heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men. Now this again requires a few things. I have to know them well enough to now be able to teach them.
When Paul tells Timothy to commit these things to faithful men, he is saying in essence, “Timothy, you need to learn these things and you need to become grounded in these things that you’ve heard, you need to understand them, you need to make them a part of you so that you are now able to teach them to others”. But then he says to faithful men, who are the people I need to be surrounding myself with and investing myself in? People that are faithful. “Timothy, you need to focus on those that are willing to be faithful”.
Paul is telling us to invest ourselves in faithful men. If you can’t be faithful, I’m under no obligation to invest myself. The faithfulness needs to come first. The determination, the decision that I’m going to be there and I’m going to learn and I’m going to understand and I’m going to follow.
He goes on and He describes a little bit more. The things which thou have heard of me among faithful many witnesses the same commit though to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also. Faithful to listen and faithful to learn but also faithful to be able to teach others. Our primary goal in investing in others is that those will then invest it in others. Who will invest it in others, who will in turn, invest it in others. This is to be ongoing. This is to be never ending. God never intended for a pastor to be pouring himself into a pool. Where the pastor just pours himself into study and into preparation and into teaching and into preaching so he can just pour it into a big pool of water that just sits there. What happens to water that just sits? It smells, it stagnates. When we want to go and get good drinking water, we want to find the stream. We want to find the river, the water that’s moving.
That is God’s plan for the teaching and preaching in the church. The pastor is to find faithful men and women whom he teaches, and then those faithful men and women teach others who then teach others, who then teach others. This is how a church grows. Faithful men who are able to teach others also.
2 Timothy 2:3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
Reminding us a little bit of what He talked about in verse one, “endure hardness”. What is hardness? Hardness is difficulty, trouble, hard times. We say in English, “He fell on hard times”. We often use that phrase when someone lost their job and was without one for an extended period of time, “He fell on hard times”. A person who everything went wrong, you know, it’s like he was doing well but then the car broke down and he couldn’t get the car fixed and because he couldn’t get the car fixed he couldn’t get to work and because he couldn’t get to work he lost his job and because he lost his job he couldn’t pay for his house and so he lost his house and he’s fallen on hard times. Hard, difficult, that which would press against you, that which would oppress you. And he says Timothy, endure. That word endure means go through. Continue through. Endure hardness. We hate hearing that advice. We find our friend, we find someone and say man, things are going so bad at work, the boss is always giving me trouble, my co-workers are always giving me trouble. It’s just terrible. I hate being there, it is so hard. We want someone to give us a solution. “Well here’s what you need to do” or maybe we talk to someone and we hope that they can go and talk to the boss’s boss or something to fix it. We hate hearing an answer like, “that’s too bad, why don’t you just endure it?” “Why don’t you just show up and do what you’re supposed to do and not worry about it?”
South Africa has fallen on some hard times. Unemployment is high,and even those who have jobs, the pay is low. Cost of living is too much. Hard times. And we can cry to God and say it’s not fair, it’s not right. And we wouldn’t want to hear God say, “I know, endure it”. But he then goes on and he describes that endurance a little bit more now. Thou therefore endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Now some think that he’s making a comparison here. You know, you need to be willing to endure hard times just like a soldier endures hard times.
Soldiers have to endure some pretty tough conditions sometimes. Often times their boss is not nice. I’ve heard that rumour from people I know that serve in the military that when you’re in the military you’re immediate superiors don’t even try to be nice to you. They just tell you what to do. They endure some hardness. They have to live and work in hard conditions whether it be in battle or for training. And so some people think we have to take that same mentality and we have to look at the way a soldier endures hardness and we have to endure the same way. That’s not exactly what he is saying. He is saying endure hardness because you are a soldier.
This isn’t a matter of comparison, this is a matter of statement. You have to endure hardness because you are a soldier. So as a soldier endures hardness, you endure hardness because you’re in the exact same position. And we’ll talk a little bit more about that in the next verse but we need to understand that we’re in a battle, we’re in a war. Yes, it’s going to be hard. Yes it’s going to be difficult. Yes, there’s going to be an enemy. Yes, there’s going to be a need for sacrifice but we are to endure this hardness as a soldier of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:3-4 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
Notice verse number 4, “For the weapons of our warfare”. So we’re not just soldiers. We are soldiers in a war. You know, many soldiers have lived and died and never fought in a war. They signed up, they do their two years, their four years in the defence force, never see any kind of combat, never involved in a war. So really, we have to endure hardness in a way that they never did. Because as a Christian we’re a soldier. We’re a soldier in a war.
Ephesians 6:11-13 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Again, talking about the fact that we we need this whole armour for we wrestle not against flesh and blood but we are involved in this fight against the devil and against spiritual wickedness and it’s a serious thing.
Therefore Paul says to Timothy, you are involved in a war. You know when a soldier is in a war, there’s a lot of things he doesn’t worry about. You know, he’s not going to complain about the quality of his bed. He doesn’t complain about not getting enough to eat when he’s on the battlefield. When somebody is over there shooting at you, whether you had three spoons of sugar for your coffee or not this morning, doesn’t really matter. A soldier will endure hardness understanding what is at stake.
2 Timothy 2:4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
If you’re a soldier and you’re involved in a war, you do not entangle yourself in this life. Now what does it mean to be entangled in this life? How can I entangle myself in this life? Well the difference here is between the physical and the temporal, versus the eternal and the spiritual.
One of the easiest ways we entangle ourselves in this world is money. They came to Jesus and they said, “is that is it right to pay tribute to Caesar?” And Jesus’ response was, “show me a coin show me whose image and super scripture is thereon”. South African Reserve Bank. That’s the super scription on our money. These are the things of this world. And if I allow myself to become focused, entangled with, always concerned with, where is my next one coming from or better yet, where is my next two hundred coming from? Maybe my next four thousand or ten thousand coming from, and that becomes the focus of my life. I’m entangled in the affairs of this world. Anything that will not be in heaven is the things of this world. Do you think SABC 1, 2, 3, 4, however many they have now is going to be in heaven? Do you think Mnet and DSTV is going to be in heaven? Or are they of this world? If I’ve got to be home every Thursday night at 18:00 to watch this show, am I entangling myself with the affairs of this world? Suits and ties, shiny shoes and expensive watches, are they going to be in heaven? There won’t be any watches, there won’t be any time. So if this becomes my priority, I’m entangling myself in the affairs of this world. Political parties, will the ANC be running for office in heaven? The DA? The EFF? The republicans or the democrats from America, are any of them going to run for office in heaven? Or are they an entanglement of this world? No man at war will entangle himself. Why? So that he might please him who called him to be a soldier.
When you see a soldier out there and I’m in the trenches on this side and there’s an enemy over there and they’re trying to kill me, I don’t stand up and say, “You know what, they’re not paying me enough, I’m laying down my weapons until they give me better pay. I’m going on strike.” What would happen to a soldier in a war who got entangled with how much money he was making? There are two things that happen to a soldier in a war who gets entangled with how much money he is making, he dies or he becomes a traitor. No man at war entangleth himself. You know, my car isn’t going to be in heaven, my house isn’t going to be in heaven, my friends aren’t going to be in heaven unless I lead them to the Lord. We’re not going to be watching Chiefs versus Pirates in heaven. We’re going to be sitting around the throne of Jesus Christ. Worshipping and praising Him. Am I entangled in the affairs of this life?
2 Timothy 2:5 And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.
“If a man strives for the masteries”. Paul is using the example of an athletic contest, “striving for the masteries” probably best relates to wrestling. Me and another guy, we get into the circle and the idea is that I want to throw him on his back, hold his shoulders to the mat for the allotted time and then I win. I gain the masteries. It could be related to a race. We’re going to run one hundred meters. We start, we get in the blocks, they fire the gun, one of us crosses the line first. If I cross the line first then I achieved the masteries. But Paul says he’s not crowned unless he strive lawful. Sometimes in the race, the guy is standing there with the gun and before he fires the gun somebody starts running. Now in big races like that I think they give you two tries. You start once to early, they restart the race. You start twice too early, you’re out. You don’t get a chance to win any more. Strive for the masteries, we have to strive lawfully.
Now what Paul is talking about there is, “Timothy, you’ve been given a job, you’ve been given a race to run but we’ve been given a set of rules.” God wants us to live a holy life. So He’s given us a race to run, a job to do in serving Him, but we can’t do it while not living holy. We will not be crowned. You know if I think that I can, as long as I’m busy, I’m inviting people to church, I’m coming to church, I can go and live however I want. God says no it doesn’t work that way. In order to receive the reward you have to strive lawfully.
2 Timothy 2:6 The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.
Here we see Paul is making an application specifically to Timothy. Timothy, you as the pastor, you as the one working in this situation you are the one trying to work in people’s lives to produce fruit, to produce faithful men, to produce good soldiers, to produce those that could endure hardness, to produce those that will teach others also. Timothy you are trying to produce these things but he makes this illustration, “the husbandman must first be partaker of the frui”t. What he means by that is, before you can set about trying to do this in anyone else’s life, you have to do it for yourself first. As the husbandman, if you want to try to produce spiritual fruit in others, you must first be sure that that spiritual fruit is being produced and tasted and seen in your own life. You can’t go out and try to work on others when the problem is with yourself. And that begins with salvation.
I can’t go and preach the Gospel until I have believed the Gospel. I cannot go out there and preach holiness until I have studied and learned and done my best to live a life that is holy. I can’t go out there and preach endure hardness when I myself run from it every time it shows up. I can’t go out there and tell others you need to be a good soldier when I never pick up my sword and go to battle. Timothy, as the husband man you’ve got to have this fruit first, then you can begin to prove, to work, to see it brought forth in others.
The Bible tells us in Luke 24:47-48 that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations beginning at Jerusalem. And so this is Luke’s giving his account of what we call the Great Commission, that which we should be busy doing, as disciples of Jesus Christ. But notice when he goes on, he has one final phrase, “and you are witnesses of these things”.
What is a witness? Someone that has seen and experienced, someone who has personal experience from which they can speak. If I’m going to be a teacher and preacher of God’s word, it can’t be because I heard somebody else teach and preach God’s word. It has to come to rest in me. It has to be alive and bearing fruit in me. I can’t tell someone you have to believe the gospel just because I heard someone else say you have to believe in the gospel. I need to be a witness.
We talk about sharing your testimony, it should be your most powerful tool in sharing the gospel. And I’ve told people before, you look at the Apostle Paul, the Apostle Paul wrote the book of Romans. I would refer to the Book of Romans as the best commentary on the Gospel ever written. In chapters 1 to 11, revealing the sinfulness of all men and the salvation that is available in Jesus Christ, the power of sin being broken and destroyed, the wages of sin destroyed, the gift of God being granted through Jesus Christ, tremendous, he had a way of presenting the truth of God’s work.
He wrote the book of Hebrews which reveals so much of what was pictured in the Old Testament law and in the Old Testament sacrifices. Teaching on Jesus Christ being the fulfilment of those sacrifices and of His Priesthood. He’s presenting this truth of the Gospel. This man knew the gospel and yet we see on two separate occasions when Paul had the opportunity to present his faith He didn’t go into some deep doctrinal text book presentation. To paraphrase he said, let me tell you about a man named Saul of Tarsus. A Hebrew of the Hebrews of the tribe of Benjamin concerning the Law, blameless a Pharisee of the Pharisees and then one day he was on a road to Damascus and a light shown and a voice from heaven, saying, Saul, why persecute thou me? Who art thou Lord? It is me Jesus. Jesus? What have I done? I’ve been putting them in prison, I’ve been putting them to death. Jesus, you are Lord. Lord, what will thou have me to do?
Paul told them about the day that he became a witness. The day that he met Jesus Christ himself. The day that Jesus Christ forgave him of his sins, washed him of His own blood. The day that he repented and placed his faith and trust in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone. So let me tell you about that time, because he had the fruit. He had the fruit, this is what God has done in my life. Tremendous truth. So we see here Paul encouraging Timothy, be strong. Encouragement for a soldier.
And so I leave you with this again, stand strong in His grace. Are you here today? When did you come to stand in His grace? Are you standing in His grace? Christian, do you stand strong in it? Do you share it with others? You know, if every time the subject of religion comes up and I think I should say something about salvation, I’m too shy, I’m too proud. I am not standing strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Are you hearing? Things that thou have heard of me among many witnesses. Are you faithfully hearing the Word taught in the assembly? And then sharing with faithful men who shall be able to teach others also. Do you endure hardness or do you allow the difficulties to come and stop you? Paul under inspiration of the Holy Spirit said endure hardness. When the hard times come, keep going. When the difficulties come, keep going. When the attacks come, keep going. Endure. Have you untangled yourself of the affairs of this life? Or is this life the priority? Is it about entertainment, pleasure, fun, money, education, prestige, influence?
You know, I don’t think when I get to heaven there will be too many people who look up to me as a great teacher and preacher. You know, when we have the opportunity to go and stand at the very throne of God and listen to Him speak, I’m not going to draw a big crowd. That prestige can be an entanglement of this world. My prestige, my honour is not going with me into the next life. It will all be for Him. Unto Him be glory forever and ever. Amen. Am I entangled in the affairs of this world? Do I strive lawfully? Do I make sure that my life is in accordance with God’s Word? Have I partaken of the fruits?
Hebrews 13:7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
IITimothy 2:1-6 Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. 3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. 5 And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully. 6 The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.
The book of 2nd Timothy was written by the Apostle Paul to a young man by the name of Timothy. Timothy had followed Paul, had been one of his disciples, had been trained in the ministry, had now been sent and is widely believed to be in the position of pastor of the Church at Ephesus. So 2nd Timothy is one of what we call the Pastoral Epistles, a letter Paul wrote to a pastor, 1st Timothy, 2nd Timothy and Titus would all be what we call pastoral epistles and so the primary application of those books is to pastors. Pastors, others that would be training for the ministry of Pastor but as we read in the beginning, Hebrews 13:7 where Paul, writing to a group of believers among the Hebrews, encourages them to listen to their pastor and to follow his faith. So what we see is God does give direction and specific direction to a pastor and then he gives direction to the church to follow the pastor. Thus in a manner of speaking, anything I would preach to a pastor, he is to then live, and the church is then follow. And so there is certainly an application for every one of us here today as we look at this passage of Scripture.
I want to draw your attention to a few things through these verses. First of all verse one again, “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” I want us to consider for a moment that phrase. Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. I want us to consider two possible and likely applications for this idea of being strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
First of all we certainly need to consider the need for us to rest in the strength that is in God’s grace for us to receive our strength from the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
II Corinthians 12:7-10 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
Paul speaks here about his own thorn in the flesh, we don’t know exactly what that is, most people agree it was some kind of a physical issue. Many people believe it had something to do with his vision, his eyesight. He might have been virtually blind at this point in his life. But whether his eyesight or some thing else, he had a physical condition that God had given him for the purpose of humbling him.
A little bit of extra here, on the subject of humility, you know often times I’ve heard and Christians will say things like I’m so humbled by what God has used me to do. I am so humbled by the attention that you’ve given me, and there can be some truth to that but we have to be careful because Paul here presents something very different. God using me does not naturally humble me. Being given a position of preaching God’s word does not naturally humble me. Having people come and listen and respond to my preaching does not naturally humble me. The Apostle Paul said God used me in a great way, gave me me visions and used me to write Scripture and so that I wouldn’t be lifted up in pride, He gave me a thorn in the flesh. He gave me hard times and difficulties. See, Paul didn’t think, “You know, God blesses me so much that it makes me humble” because Paul understood that’s not how it works. James and Peter talked about humbling yourselves, that is where we, on purpose, have to humble ourselves.
Humility does not come naturally to men. That’s just a fact. Pride comes naturally to men. And so, sometimes God is going to send us, as He did Paul, very difficult times and that is for our humility. You know the blessings that He gives us we should be thankful for but we should be careful because they will tend to lift us up in pride, not lower us in humility.
But back to what we’re talking about. Paul prayed and asked God to remove this thorn, remove this difficulty and God said my grace is sufficient. My grace, that which I provide, the strength and the blessing and the provision that comes only from God. We need to understand that word grace means that it is undeserved. We use the definition “unmerited favour”. That means there is nothing that I have done that deserves what God gives me. When God gives me strength it’s not because I deserve it. When God gives me help, when God gives me assistance, when God provides for my needs, it is not because I deserve it, it is by grace. We need to understand that. You know, often times as Christians we say it is by Grace, but then we get mad when God doesn’t give us things. Now if I say it’s by grace, I cannot get mad when I don’t receive because I don’t deserve it.
A gift is something that is given, not that is earned. When we talk about standing in God’s grace, it is something that he gives that we do not deserve and that includes our strength and our provision and our health and the provision He makes in our lives, but we need to stand in that. Now Paul understood that Timothy was going to face hard times and we’ll see more of that as we go through the rest of this passage, but standing for Christ will lead to difficult times. Paul could be telling Timothy, “You know, things have been hard and they’re probably going to get worse. You need to stand strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus”. In this world standing up for truth becomes increasingly more and more unpopular. When we stand on the truth of God’s word, there are many in the world that don’t like that. There are many in religion that don’t like that. When we stand up and say that salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ, by grace and that alone, there are many churches that say “You’re too narrow! Don’t you know all religions are the same and we could just all agree that you know, each way to salvation is okay and it’ll work?” Timothy was going to run into these things. You’re going to run into hard times, you’re going to run into difficulties, be strong in the grace. And so I encourage each one of you here today, know that following Christ will lead to hard times and the necessity is to stand strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
We can’t look to the ANC or the EFF or the DA to provide the strength that we need. Paul didn’t say, “Timothy, stand strong in the Jewish freedom fighters organization! I know that the Romans are going to persecute you but but stand strong in your political party and you’ll be okay”. He said stand strong in the grace this is in Christ Jesus. He didn’t say, “You’re a good man Timothy and you have some good character and you’re a hard worker and you’re a strong man so Timothy, stand strong in your own strength”. Paul knew well man’s strength will fail. If we determine to stand in our own strength, it will fail. So He says stand strong in the grace which God gives you.
Now let us consider another application of standing strong in the Grace that is in Christ Jesus.
II Timothy 1:8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;
In beginning this letter to Timothy, Paul encourages him to not be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord nor of the testimony of Paul who was at this time in prison for what he was preaching and for what he believed, and to be a partaker of the afflictions of the gospel, according to the power of God.
II Timothy 1:9-10, Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, 10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:
Timothy is being encouraged to stand strong in the grace but he is literally talking about standing strong in the Gospel, in the grace of salvation. One of the things we must stand strong in is the grace that is in Christ Jesus related to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, related to our salvation.
Now I’ll make two quick applications. First of all, you must stand in the grace of God. You cannot enter into heaven any other way. You cannot enter into a peaceful eternity. You cannot enter into God’s presence any other way than standing in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. It is a must! If you are trusting your good works, if you are trusting your church, if you are trusting your baptism, if you are trusting your religion, if you are trusting your ancestors, you are going to die and you are going to spend an eternity in the Lake of Fire because we must stand in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Each man has to stand strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. What would your answer be if I asked you, “when did you come to stand in the grace that is in Christ Jesus”? We’re not born that way. We’re born dead as trespassers in sin. There has to be a time when we come to stand in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And I ask you today, when did that happen? Can you tell me? Can you tell me what that means to you? How it happened?
You know, I was talking to a young man the other day, I asked him about this question, when did you come to stand in the grace that is Christ Jesus? He said in 2013 I gave my life to Jesus. It doesn’t sound like a bad answer. I asked another question. What does that mean? You gave your life to Jesus? Well He forgave my sins and I gave Him my life. That sounds like a good deal for both of you, I said. And the man said yes. Now we’ve got a problem.
If I think I can trade my life for salvation, that’s not the Bible way. There is nothing about my salvation that is a good deal for God. Nowhere in the Bible does the Bible say trade me your life and I will give you salvation. Now God does want your life but not in trade for your salvation. That’s a barter system. It’s not a gift. Salvation is available by grace. God has said repent and believe the Gospel. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved”. “Except you repent you shall all likewise perish”. “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me,” Jesus Christ said. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life”. Whosoever believeth on Him. Not whosoever believes that He has something to trade. How and when did you come to stand in the grace that is in Christ Jesus?
Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 1:15 This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.
Paul in chapter one had been talking about the same idea of standing in grace, standing for grace and then he makes the comparison of those that have turned away from it, and this is one where again, specifically speaking to pastors, and to preachers who are in training. We must stand strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. We must preach salvation from this book and this book alone.
Paul is saying, “you know how some have departed, some who used to preach the same grace and the same truth that we preach, they now preach a false gospel. They’ve gone and they’ve embraced error and they have turned their back on the Truth of God’s Word and the Truth of Bible salvation. So Timothy, I’m telling you, you must stand strong.” There will be many that want us to change our message, to tone it down, to take it easy to allow for other ways of salvation.
I just recently had a conversation with a man, I don’t really know him, he knows my father, he befriended me on Facebook and then he started posting some crazy things. So I talked with him a little bit but he made a statement something like, “we’re all going to God, whatever your religion. If you’re a Buddhist, if you’re a Muslim, if you’re a Hindu, if you’re a Christian, if you’re a pantheist, if you’re an atheist. It’s all the same”. Rubbish. As a man my mind can make that decision. I can look and say well, that seems the same to me, that seems the same to me, it looks the same to me, but I’m not the authority. When it comes to preaching salvation, I don’t get to decide what salvation is. When it comes to believing for salvation, when it comes to standing on salvation, when it comes to preaching salvation, I don’t get to decide because it’s not my salvation. I didn’t make it, I didn’t buy it, I didn’t purchase it. I’m not the one who gives it. God does. So when I find out what salvation is, I have to go to God and see, what does God say salvation is? And when I go to preach the gospel, I must go to God’s Word and say thus sayeth the Lord. And now understand me, the Bible is our thus sayeth the Lord. If I stand and I don’t look at Bible and I don’t quote from the Bible and I don’t read from the Bible and I don’t teach from the Bible and I say, “thus sayeth the Lord”, I’m a liar and should not be trusted. You ever hear a preacher and he says something and you’re like, that’s interesting, I’ve never heard that before? You go to that preacher when he is done and you say, show me that in God’s word. If he can’t show you from God’s word, you don’t listen to him anymore. I don’t care how many doctorates he has after his name, what title he’s given himself, whether he’s just a preacher or a pastor or an evangelist or a prophet or an apostle or whatever title he’s given himself, if he can’t show you from God’s word, he’s a false prophet. Stand strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The Living Word, the Written Word.