I am not brave.
I recently heard someone differentiate between bravery and courage, saying that bravery is the ability to take on difficult situations without fear, while courage is taking on difficult situations even when you’re afraid. When I think of courage, I am reminded of Gideon.
I relate to Gideon; he lives life afraid. We find him “beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites” (Judges 6:11). When the angel of the Lord comes to him, Gideon immediately expresses his doubts about God’s faithfulness to the Israelites (Judges 6:13). When Gideon realizes who is speaking to him, he insists that as the least member of his undistinguished clan (Judges 6:15), he can’t be given an assignment.
Gideon isn’t confident to do anything himself. He’s fine complaining about how bad things are, but when he is asked to do something to improve the situation, Gideon backs away. It’s easier to complain than to act.
When God makes it clear that he himself is calling Gideon, Gideon wants a sign — just to be sure (Judges 6:17). After he receives the sign, Gideon obeys God and cuts down the altar to Baal. But rather than doing it out openly by day, Gideon is afraid of the townspeople and even his family, so he destroys it by night (Judges 6:27). Later, when the irate townspeople come for him, Gideon lets his father defend him. Gideon was not brave.
God Knows We Are Dust
It’s easy to criticize Gideon for his doubts, but I’ve doubted as well. I have seen God work in my life, enabling me to do things that I would have thought impossible. But then I still doubt that I can do the next thing. I look at myself and my resources, and I feel inadequate all over again, convinced I can’t accomplish what’s before me. I know that for me, further physical weakness and loss are constants. When I consider the future, I often cry out, “Lord, I can’t do this. I’m not as strong as you think I am.”
“The Lord isn’t looking for your strength, or bravery, or natural gifts; he wants your reliance on him.”
The Lord wants to save Israel by Gideon’s hand, but Gideon wants proof. Twice. He first wants the fleece to be wet on the dry ground, and then wants to see dry fleece on the wet ground, just to be extra sure. From our perspective, Gideon might seem overly skeptical. Why does he keep asking for proof? But then I think about all the times I keep asking for assurance from God. When I feel inadequate to face something, I ask for signs, encouragement from friends, verses that apply to my situation. God understands my frailty; he deals with my weaknesses just like he did Gideon’s — without scorn or chastisement. The Lord remembers that I am dust.
After giving Gideon all the signs he requested, God prepares him to lead the Israelites into battle against the Midianites. Twenty-two thousand people showed up for battle, which the Lord declared was too many (Judges 7:2–3). With that army, the Israelites could take credit for the victory themselves. The Lord tells Gideon to let the fearful warriors go home and choose for battle only those who lap the water instead of kneeling to drink, resulting in an army of just three hundred. The victory would not be credited to the strength of the Israelites; God’s power alone would deliver his people.
What God Sees in You
When Gideon is left with three hundred men, he’s scared. Though he doesn’t voice his fear, God knows his heart and reassures him by offering, “If you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp . . . and hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened” (Judges 7:10–11). One would think that if God unequivocally told you what to do, that you’d trust him without proof. But not Gideon. Of course he goes immediately to the camp and must hear for himself why victory is assured. Then finally Gideon believes and moves forward (Judges 7:15).
Throughout this encounter, Gideon doubts, is afraid, and feels inadequate and weak. He only acts when he has proof that he’ll succeed. He wants to trust God, but he keeps doubting himself. Yet, from the beginning, God sees him as a “mighty man of valor” (Judges 6:12), which seems to contradict Gideon’s insecurities and doubts. God sees what we are in him, not in ourselves.
So, if you feel inadequate, weak, or afraid today, take heart. God chooses the foolish “to shame the wise” (1 Corinthians 1:27). Some of the greatest undertakings in the Bible were accomplished by weak people who felt they didn’t measure up to their calling.
‘Lord, Choose Someone Else’
Moses parted the Red Sea and delivered the Israelites from their Egyptian pursuers, but when God first called Moses, he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else” (Exodus 4:13). This was immediately after God had assured Moses, “I will . . . teach you what you shall speak” (Exodus 4:12). When God called the prophet Jeremiah, his first response was, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth” (Jeremiah 1:6).
“God sees what we are in him, not in ourselves.”
Paul wanted God to remove this thorn in the flesh, but the Lord reminded him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul then said, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9–10).
All He Requires
Today, if the Lord is calling you to a task for which you feel inadequate, remember that the Lord isn’t looking for your strength, or bravery, or natural gifts; he wants your reliance on him. His power is made perfect in our weakness. We know that God saw Gideon as mighty. In the celebrated Hebrews “Hall of Faith,” we are reminded that Gideon conquered kingdoms and the Lord made him strong out of weakness (Hebrews 11:32–34).
We too will be made strong out of weakness when we put our trust in the Lord. As the hymn “Come Ye Sinners” beautifully reminds us, “All the fitness he requires is to feel your need of him.”