Sometimes it feels like life is moving along quite nicely – things fall into place, there’s harmony in relationships, work is profitable and enjoyable. It can be tempting to think we were responsible for the current favorable outcome. We can quickly attribute success to our hard work, talent, sacrifice, or ability. But Proverbs 16:9 reminds us that “the heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” God is perfectly sovereign over every detail and every outcome. He invites us to be a part of accomplishing His work, and what a freeing joy it is to give Him the credit and glory He deserves.
In the Old Testament book of Judges there is a story about God reminding His people of this truth. God used Gideon, a somewhat timid man, to lead 300 Israelites into battle and defeat their oppressors, the Midianites. This story has been on my heart and mind for the last month and a half. You may already know the story from Judges 7, but if you don’t, it goes like this:
“Gideon got up early the next morning, all his troops right there with him. They set up camp at Harod’s Spring. The camp of Midian was in the plain, north of them near the Hill of Moreh. God said to Gideon, “You have too large an army with you. I can’t turn Midian over to them like this—they’ll take all the credit, saying, ‘I did it all myself,’ and forget about me. Make a public announcement: ‘Anyone afraid, anyone who has any qualms at all, may leave Mount Gilead now and go home.’” Twenty-two companies headed for home. Ten companies were left.
God said to Gideon: “There are still too many. Take them down to the stream and I’ll make a final cut. When I say, ‘This one goes with you,’ he’ll go. When I say, ‘This one doesn’t go,’ he won’t go.” So Gideon took the troops down to the stream. God said to Gideon: “Everyone who laps with his tongue, the way a dog laps, set on one side. And everyone who kneels to drink, drinking with his face to the water, set to the other side.” Three hundred lapped with their tongues from their cupped hands. All the rest knelt to drink.
God said to Gideon: “I’ll use the three hundred men who lapped at the stream to save you and give Midian into your hands. All the rest may go home.” After Gideon took all their provisions and trumpets, he sent all the Israelites home. He took up his position with the three hundred. The camp of Midian stretched out below him in the valley. That night, God told Gideon: “Get up and go down to the camp. I’ve given it to you.” (Judges 7:1-12)
When Faced With the Unattainable
I was by myself driving home from Nashville on February 26, where I had been blessed to visit old friends and share at their church about El Salvador and our call to missions. At that time, God had provided 58% of our total monthly financial need through the prayers and support of many ministry partners, but it had been a grind to get from 50% to 58%, and we were bone-and-soul-tired. As I was driving, I said a prayer and asked God to provide 2% in the next two days so we could start out the month of March at 60% of our monthly financial need. In order to attend our mission organization’s Pre-Field Training in July, we had just found out we had to reach 80% by April 15 – and that seemed unattainable. So, I prayed.
By March 1, we were at 64%. And God would make a way.
God Wants Us to Know It’s Him
I am reading through the Bible in a year with the Bible Project app, “Read Scripture.” As March began, I was starting to read the Book of Judges. When I read the story of Gideon and the 300 men, I was immediately struck by the reason God gave for sending 21,700 men home before Israel’s impending battle against their greatest enemy at that time.
Verse 2 says: The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own hand has saved me.’”
As I thought about the way God often delivers, I realized that while Hannah and I had work to do in this season of support raising, ultimately it is God who moves the hearts of those he has called to partner with us. I was humbled and encouraged by this truth. We are called to honor God by sharing what we believe He’s doing, but the outcome is on Him.
It’s the Lord Who Grants Success
When we are preparing to speak at a church or talk with an individual, it is easy to think that we must get this presentation right. There is a temptation, every time we share, to shoulder the responsibility to persuade those listening to choose to join our team.
But this story of Gideon and his 300 men stands as a reminder that it is foolish to even entertain the thought that we have gained one dollar in support by our own hand or in our own strength.
It is the Lord who grants success. God alone moves hearts and issues the call to those whom he has ordained to be part of sending our family to El Salvador. It is an incredibly freeing truth to embrace, “It is not by my own hand”. All along it has been His vision for the work in El Salvador, His team, His children, His church. And it will ALL be for His glory!
The truth from the story of Gideon and his 300 men can be applied to all of life, not just our support raising journey. What successful work have we accomplished that the Lord has not been the one who deserves all credit and glory? There is great freedom when we give the responsibility for success over to God. When we do, and when God provides, it causes our hearts to worship Him alone with great joy.
Oh, and that deadline… we had to be at 80% by April 15. God did it! He raised up 85% of our monthly financial need by April 15! God provided in amazing and mind-blowing ways through his people, through you. It was silly, looking back on that prayer as I drove home from Nashville, asking for 2%. Our God is able to do far more that we could ever ask or imagine. And when He does, all honor and praise and glory is His and His alone! Hannah and I are truly blessed to get to see God work and move in the hearts of His people.