History is full of unlikely heroes. This year we’ve all marvelled at the astonishing story of Captain Sir Tom Moore, who started walking 100 laps of his garden in March and ended up being knighted and raising over £30 million. But even our ‘traditional’ heroes are often more unlikely than they seem. Read the following paragraph: who is this?
At the age of 7 he was the worst in his class. His school report declared that he ‘seems unable to learn anything.’ He was denied the secondary school of his choice by his father who considered him ‘such a stupid boy’. His father later wrote to him at college ‘Not only are you a complete failure… I see nothing ahead of you but failure.’ Who is this failure, hampered by a loveless childhood and a cold, disappointed father? None other than Winston Churchill.
The story of Gideon touches our hearts for many reasons. There is humour – Gideon means ‘mighty warrior’, but the bearer of this name is initially found hiding in the winepress. There is humanity, in Gideon’s very cautious response to his commissioning and the famous ‘fleeces’. There is also, ultimately, a happy ending (more or less), as Gideon’s tiny army miraculously defeats their adversaries. Along the way, we also encounter surely the strangest recruitment strategy in literature, as just 1% of Israelite army applicants were selected, determined by how they drank water from a stream.
But what we learn from Gideon is that identity comes before destiny. God calls us according to what He knows that we are, not what we see that we are. His Spirit looks inside our hearts and reveals our true identity. And from that, our calling. Gideon saw a frightened dropout; God saw a mighty warrior. And that should give us all hope.
‘Go in the strength that you have.’ This is a double encouragement. In human terms, God calls us to be ourselves. We don’t have to try to be someone else. In divine terms, us plus God is enough. When the Spirit finally comes upon Gideon, the strength that he has is more than sufficient to change the destiny of a nation.
Winston Churchill’s spirituality has always remained something of a mystery. But like Gideon, his childhood did not determine his future. He believed he would one day grow up to change the destiny of a nation. Nevertheless, what took the remarkable Churchill decades, God did by His Spirit through Gideon in a matter of weeks.
‘Go in the strength that you have.’ Us plus God is always enough.