God believes in you. No, you didn’t read that wrong. The God we petition for our needs, the God we seek for protection, the God who is in the process of restoring the earth to Himself…believes in you. I understand that as this is read, most of you will cock your head to one side, lift one eyebrow, and be tempted to quit reading and question the accuracy of the statement – “God believes in you.” I understand your questioning because I, too, was puzzled by this concept at first. But it’s true, God believes in you.
My whole life, I was taught the importance of believing in God. Faith that God really is out there somewhere looking after us is a fundamental truth that was pounded into me for as long as I remember. I recall preachers proclaiming proudly from the pulpit the existence of God. Without much effort I can recollect Sunday school teachers intensely teaching with their flannel boards the reality of God. I read so many books during my education that were centered on intellectually proving that God exists and our need to believe. My mom and dad, my grandmother and grandfather, taught me to believe in God. They all educated me on the fact that believing in God is eternally important and bears the potential to change lives forever. While I believe and embrace what they taught, something was missing. Even after I left home at nineteen to start my own journey, I never found anyone who told me the transforming concept that God believes in me. I’m convinced that this truth has the potential to change the way you approach your life, your story, and God.
I would like to expand on this point by looking at the Biblical story of Gideon. God’s chosen nation of Israel was being held captive. In the previous verses of Judges chapter 6, we’re told that they could not do anything. They were so afraid of their captors, the Midianites, that the entire nation of Israel was hiding in mountains and caves. They weren’t just hiding; they had been living there for seven years. Seven years of hiding. Trying to grow wheat and raise animals just outside the mouth of the mountains that were their temporary home. Every time they would grow some crops or start to gather livestock, the Midianites would come, take anything they wanted and destroy everything else. The Israelites were being literally starved to death, while being demoralized daily watching their labor and livelihood trampled right before their eyes. For seven years, they endured this terror, living worse than animals. Then they cried out to God for deliverance. This is where we pick up the story.
Then the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the oak tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash had been threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!” Judges 6:11-12 (NLT)
Here we have Gideon, hiding from the bad guys and trying to harvest food. He is hunkered down in the bottom of a winepress, threshing wheat ever-so-quietly as to not be discovered. I can almost see him, like a small animal afraid of the hunter. Just trying to get something to eat before the predator visits again. Paralyzed by fear, infested with anxiety, Gideon hides. Looking over his shoulder and listening for footsteps between each thresh of the wheat.
God comes where you are
Gideon has hit bottom. Existing terrified of capture and starvation. Gideon, in hiding, is visited by God. God comes to Gideon. He meets Gideon in this place of ultimate humility, in his depression, and in his defeat; but that’s the character of God. He comes to us. From the very beginning of time we see God initiating interaction with man. He came to walk with Adam and Eve in the Garden. He met Moses in the desert. He came to David while attending sheep in the field. He transformed Saul on a busy road. God comes to where we are and on His timetable. He doesn’t insist on us presenting ourselves to Him self-renovated and ready to do what He has called us to. He comes to you. The one who names the stars, controls the sea, and holds the universe together with His fingertips, joins you where you are, even if it’s in hiding. He doesn’t want you to come to Him perfected. He wants to repair you now, when everything is broken. When everything falls apart, He repairs, He rebuilds, He restores. Every time, without fail, He will meet you where you are, initiate healing, remedy your sickness, and empower you towards eternal purpose.
God calls you by name
God visits Gideon while he’s hiding from the hunter in the winepress. The first time we are ever introduced to Gideon, we see a defeated man, reduced to the prey of his enemies. God comes to Gideon to initiate his healing, sits down, and calls him by name.
The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!” Judges 6:12 (NLT)
I don’t know about you, but “mighty hero” doesn’t seem to fit Gideon too well. If you had to label Gideon from his actions as he is introduced, I assume your description wouldn’t contain the words bravery, hero, mighty, strong, bold, or anything else resembling courage. In fact, the words that I would choose to assign to Gideon’s name would be the polar opposites of those. Other translations say that God addressed him as “mighty man of valor.” I can almost see Gideon look around to see who else was there. “Who is this guy talking to, because it can’t be me?” God looked at Gideon and saw right through his cowardly actions into his soul. With a single word, God peeled back all the calloused layers, all the years of defeat, and peered deep into the heart He created and called it by name.
The Bible tells us over and over that God sees the heart of man. I was always told He looks through our actions. He goes past our thoughts, into our hearts—that was always followed by “so you better make sure your heart is right.” While that is true, it’s not complete. God knows what He has purposed your heart to accomplish. He knows your story; He knows your worth and your potential. From the beginning of time, your heavenly Father took a plan, a purpose, a passion, a mission for you and weaved it into the innermost part of your being. Unfortunately, that purpose often gets hidden by life. Often it’s covered up by years of abuse, a lifetime of disability, disappointment heaped on disappointment—but God sees past that. God does not define us by our past or even our present—that’s what humans do. God’s definition of you is not based on your actions. With one glance, God saw right past the coward in the winepress to the heart of the hero He purposed Gideon to be, and called the heart by name. So when I say that God knows my name, it means more than He knows what my boss calls me. He has a deeper name for me than what is on my tax returns, driver’s license, birth certificate, or divorce decree. God knows the name He has assigned to my innermost person. The same is true for you. He looks past all your failures, all your hurt, and the mountain of reasons that you live hiding in the winepress. He sits down beside you and titles you something perhaps you’ve never heard before—your name.
Gideon’s reaction to God’s proclamation is worth considering. When I read a story in the Bible that shows God talking directly to a person, I’m always convinced that I would never react like they do. At first pass, I thought that about Gideon, too. I would never respond to God with as much doubt and disbelief as Gideon. But once I dwelt on the story for a while, I realized that this is a perfect example of how we behave as God meets with us, peers into our souls, and calls us our purpose.
We discredit God
Then Gideon said to him, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” Judges 6:13 (NASB)
Even this morning, at 5:53 a.m., as I sit here reading Gideon’s first response to God almighty, I wince, because that is often my response. Nine times out of ten, I respond to God this way. These words have literally passed through my lips as I try to counter what I know God’s calling me to do. Our most common initial response to God when He calls us out of our defeated lives—in which we’ve become quite comfortable—is to disbelieve the source because of circumstances. We basically disbelieve God’s calling to live extraordinarily with the life He’s given us, based on what is happening. Like Gideon, our willingness to embrace our new name is directly linked to how we feel about the faithfulness of God; and like Gideon, the “faithfulness meter” we place next to God is usually short-sighted. If God has made us comfortable recently, then we consider God favorably. However, if the circumstances in our life are unpleasant, we deem God absent. We wonder, “Where are His miracles that we have heard about?” “Maybe God was with them, but He certainly is not with me.”
We discredit God’s creation
“But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” Judges 6:15 (NLT)
First, we reject the fact that God is even involved in our lives. Second, we refuse to believe the calling based on who God is calling. Now it gets even more personal. We can no longer discredit the presence of God, so we discredit ourselves. We refuse to believe that He has purposed us for significance because of who we are, what we’ve done, where we’re from, or our family history. We have a myriad of reasons why this calling couldn’t possibly be for us.
Look at Gideon’s argument. When he wants to discredit God, Gideon calls attention to Israel’s current affliction with no thought of the centuries of God’s faithfulness to Israel before his day. But, to discredit God’s creation (himself), Gideon goes back as far as he can remember to pull an example. Gideon uses his ancestors to help prove his inability. Yet, to make a case against God’s presence, he uses an example from that day. We do the same thing. To question the faithfulness of God and His involvement in our lives, we only look back as far as the last hurtful experience, the last time we felt God left us out in the cold. But when it comes to doubting ourselves, God’s creation, we will look back over generations and pick out all the reasons why we are inadequate for this calling.
We try to appease God by doing something good
“Please do not depart from here, until I come back to You, and bring out my offering and lay it before You.” And He said, “I will remain until you return.” Judges 6:18 (NLT)
Gideon can’t debunk the presence of God. His lack-of-ability argument was going nowhere, so he decides to try a different approach. Gideon is faced with the inevitability of a calling he does not believe. So instead of continuing to argue with God, he tries to serve his way out of God’s purpose. “Wait,” he says, and then runs off to prepare an offering. Our churches and our cities and our homes are filled with people that say, “wait,” and then proceed to spend their lives trying to serve their way out of God’s purpose. We live our lives saying, “there’s no way I can do what you have purposed for me, but look what else I can do.” This is why so many of us are miserable with our professional and spiritual lives. We know that we are not doing what we’ve been called to, and spend our whole careers trying to prove to God that what we are doing is enough. What makes it worse is that it’s often followed by a weekend of service in our church somewhere in an attempt to show God what we can offer. Today’s Christian is trying to volunteer their way out of a divine calling, and the local church gladly accepts. Somehow we have been convinced that if we can just serve enough, do enough, give enough, that we can talk God out of what He has destined for us and gain His blessing on what we are comfortable with.
We demand proof
Then Gideon said to God, “If you are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised,  prove it to me in this way. I will put some wool on the threshing floor tonight. If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised.” Judges 6:36-37 (NLT)
Prove it to me, God. Prove to me that You are here, prove to me You’re calling. Prove to me, God, that You have more planned for me than this and that You won’t leave me. Something lies deep in the heart of man that needs proof. We need a contract. We need to make sure of what we are getting and that the other person is committed as well. The demand for proof stems from the desire for safety and self-preservation that dwells within all of us.
The demand for proof is also a painful indicator of the condition of our relationship with God. As you look back over the men and women of the Bible, there is a direct connection between those who demanded proof to act and their mistrusting relationship with God. Moses, who was on the run from his calling, needed a sign that God was with him before he left for Egypt. Aaron needed proof before he joined with Moses on his destiny. As we’ve seen, Gideon, who was living in hiding, needed proof that God was with him.
In contrast, we see several people in the Bible whose lives were so close to God that they needed no proof. Noah needed no proof before he began construction on the ark. David needed no proof before he traded his pasture for a battlefield and his sheep for a giant. Joshua and Caleb didn’t need a sign from God before they were ready to take the Promised Land against all odds. It’s a sliding scale. The more intimate you are with God, the less you need Him to prove Himself to you. The opposite is also true. A constant demand for proof is evidence of a relationship with God that could use some improving.
There are a number of reasons for this, but the overarching reason is memory. The more intimate your relationship with God becomes, the more you are able to see His faithfulness upon faithfulness that has brought you this far. God loves to prove Himself to us by the past. God wants us to look back and remember how He has been faithful, and then use that to inspire us toward trust for what He’s asking us to do next. “Remember” is a key theme throughout the entire Bible.
Every time in Scripture that you see the word “remember,” its underlying purpose is to produce faith in the future loyalty of God.
God’s presence trumps your understanding
Throughout the banter between Gideon and God, one thing is clear. God’s response to Gideon’s doubts is simple. “I am with you.” Nothing profound—I am with you. You don’t have to be great, because I am great. You don’t have to be strong, because I am mighty. You don’t have to be well-educated, because I am all-knowing. You don’t have to be able, because I am. And most importantly, you don’t need a past free of failure, because I forgive, I heal, and I restore.
When we look around and see great men and women of God doing amazing things, the tendency is to think that they have some great understanding about God that we will never attain. God has let them in on some secret that leads to greatness. They know the key piece of information that separates those who sit and watch and those who go and do. The opposite is actually true. What this small community understands is that they don’t have to understand. They have grasped the key to greatness with God. Understanding is not a prerequisite to God using you. It’s not that you’re not allowed to understand or that you’re incapable of understanding; rather it is simply that you don’t have to understand. Once we embrace this truth, it frees us to do what God has destined for us. God has destined you for greatness. He has purposed you for significance, and the best part is that you don’t have to understand it. You don’t have to understand when, you don’t have to understand how, or why. You can pick your feet up and let the current of God carry you away to join the patriarchs of the past in following God with the reckless abandon that only comes from trusting Him completely.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways submit to Him, And He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)