September 24, 2023

Watch this if you feel inadequate

If I were to take you back to the first century, if we were to go back and go into all the theaters that were there, if we were to watch the plays, we would know something. We would know something because, hundreds of years before, a guy named Aristotle, who was a disciple of Plato, had realized that when you tell stories or put a play together, whether it's a play, a story, or something that's written, there are really only four ways to tell a story, and he categorized that. He said, “There’s a lyric, and a lyric is a story of love. There's an epic, and an epic contains both tragedy and comedy. Then there's tragedy and there's comedy.”

One of the things that we would notice if we went back into the first century, or if we could go back to the time where the theaters were there, where the great comedies were going on — Aristophanes had written all kinds of Greek comedies — we would notice something about comedy that we don't necessarily intuit today, or understand, because when we think of comedy, we think of something that we would go laugh at. If I said, “Hey, let's go see the new comedy,” we would probably judge that movie by how much we laughed. If we didn't laugh a whole lot, we'd be like, “Well, it really wasn't that great of a movie.”

Or we think of sitcoms and whatever else. The ancient understanding of comedy definitely had humor, but that wasn't the convention of comedy. The convention of comedy was a trajectory, and it was the opposite of tragedy. Tragedy started high and it ended low. Comedy started low and ended high. An epic would include both comedy and tragedy. But comedy is something that was known by its trajectory. You started low. There was a guy or a group of people that there was no way at all they could win the game, or there's no way the guy could get the girl, or there's no way this ragtag group of people could defeat the evil empire, or there's no way this group of people could go and get the ring, or whatever it may be. There's just no way. And then, as the comedy proceeded through mishap, through other stuff, and through bodily humor. People would laugh and whatever, but it was the trajectory of watching the lowly rise to the end, and it lifted everybody's spirit because, by the end, you felt so good. Maybe you had laughed along the way, but by the end you felt so good because the lowly had been brought high.

There’s something about us, if we're honest, that that's the story that we love. Tragedy we know. We’ve experienced it. It hurts to watch the fall, but when it's the other way around, when you think about that, and when you think about all these great stories, they speak to us. They speak to us because they tell us, “Hey, somebody who was sweeping the chimney, who was covered in ashes, through some magic, through a little whatever, might end up at the ball, and the king's son may actually want to marry her.”

It would end happily ever after. In all the ancient Greek comedies that we have, you know how they ended. They ended in weddings. So, if you went to a show or saw something where it started off low and it ended high in a wedding, you would know that you were watching a comedy. If it started low, you would already know, right away, this is where it's going to go. If it started high, you probably knew it was going to fall. You knew the conventions. So, if you heard about a bunch of churches, seven of them, who were sort of struggling to make things work, wondering if they would get it together, wondering if they could make it, and by the end of the book you have a wedding, you have just read a comedy.

The book of Revelation’s literary form is comedy. So, comedy is really important that we understand, but what I want you to remember, right now, is low to high. I want you to remember the feel-good story. I want you to remember how it moves you and I and makes us feel, at the very end, when the guy who couldn't get the girl, or the team that couldn't win, through mishap and misfortune somehow ends up at the end, and we all leave the book or movie, going, “That’s awesome.”

Hold that thought because we're going to come back to that at the very end of the message. I really hope that we will be pulled all the way up, too, and see what God might be up in our lives right here this weekend.

So, we're in a series called “Blind Spots,” and we're looking at areas in our lives where we maybe don't see the blind spot. By not seeing the blind spot, we might be missing something that God has for you and I. So, we've been looking at some letters, and we've been looking at some passages. This weekend, I've got a daunting task. The task that I have is I'm going to tell you a story that many of you are going to be familiar with. Now, if you grew up in church, especially if you're my age or older, you grew up in church probably at Sunday school, and you heard this story at least once a year. If you grew up as a kid in church, you heard this story on a regular basis. Now, if you've newly come to faith, you may not know the story, and that's great, but many of us who know stories, who have heard stories in the Bible, there's a real concern when you try to preach on these stories that everybody knows. It’s that everybody already thinks they know the story, so it's like, “Okay, great. I've heard this before,” and we don't really pay that much attention. There's that old phrase that familiarity breeds contempt.

I want to tell you a story that you may know very well. You may be able to go, “You know, if there was one story in the Bible that I could tell, I probably could tell this story, or at least be pretty good at telling this story out of the Old Testament.”

Many of us would know this story. So, I want to ask you, if you feel like you sort of know this story, to just really lean in. Let's read it in a new way. Less about the data of getting the story right and more about letting the story read you and I and speak to you and me. The story is about a man named Gideon. You probably have read Judges 6 and Judges 7. We’ll play in both of those this weekend. More in Judges 6, but I'll conclude a little bit with Judges 7. But if you've read this story, then you may be able to go, “Yeah, I know about Gideon. I know about that. I know about all this stuff.”

Well, let me set this up before we go to the text. So, Joshua has come into the promised land, and the children of Israel have the promised Land. Of course, the children of Israel, as we see throughout the whole Old Testament, as we also see in our lives — there’s a natural tendency for you and I to run away from God. We just have that natural tendency. So, in the book of Judges, we have many of these instances where the children of Israel decide to not obey God, get in a bad situation, cry out to God, and then God raises up a judge or a deliverer and delivers them. Then they fall right back into going away from God. So, this cycles through Judges. I don't have time to get through all of the judges and all of this, but each one of the judges themselves also struggle with the same thing, which is the problem of sin. So, none of them are perfect. By the time you get to Samson, he sort of embodies almost all the other things. You can show this literarily as the book is written. It’s pretty awesome.

We don’t have time to develop Judges, but by the end of Judges, you're going, “Man, the judges don't work.”

Of course, what do they ask for? Well, they ask for a king.

“We need a king. That's what we need. We don’t need judges anymore. We need a king.”

Of course, they get a king, and Saul fails. Then the great King David falls as well. As Christians, when we read these books, we should be going, “We need a better judge, and we need a better king.”

For you and I, that is Jesus. So, the Old Testament is speaking to us as we go through. So, we're going to enter into the story here at the end of Judges 5. The land has been at rest for 40 years, and we're going to pick up at the sort of tragic drop, read here, and see what the story can say to you and me anew and afresh, and maybe differently than we've read it before. Maybe it will read you and I rather than us reading it.

We're told, “The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years.”

Now, what's difficult, as a pastor, is to try to convey this type of passage in a way where people don't feel like you're getting on them, given them a hard time, being snarky, trying to make them feel guilty, or whatever else, which is not what I'm trying to do. I just want to look at the facts here. Israel did what was evil, and because they did what was evil, the Lord gave them up into the hands of Midian for seven years. In other words, their sin had consequences. God is still over it. He's not going, “Oops,” but we don't know exactly how this works. God's sovereign, yet the choices that we make are real. That's where we're sort of left. But the bottom line is that we're told, “Hey, they went away from God, and there were consequences to what they did.”

Then, in the next couple of verses, it sort of just unfolds how bad it actually was.

“And the hand of Midian overpowered Israel, and because of Midian the people of Israel made for themselves the dens that are in the mountains and the caves…”

In other words, the agrarian people who would work the land were having to bury themselves into mountains and into caves to escape the Midianites. Also, there's this little aside here that they also built some strongholds. The strongholds were altars to other gods that are never any good. Who knows? Maybe they were thinking, “Maybe we'll offer a sacrifice to this god because our God isn't helping us,” or whatever they would think because there's a real blind spot going on, as we'll see, as we get to Gideon and what's going on. But they're in a bad place, and we're told that whenever the Israelites planted crops — they needed to live. They needed to have food.

“For whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them.”

So, every time they tried to go out and do something into the land, all these people would come after their produce.

We’re told here, “They would encamp against them and devour the produce of the land, as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel and no sheep or ox or donkey.”

The point being made here is that when we walk away from God, when we do evil in the sight of God, our lives are plundered. We lose. It’s not saying this to give us a hard time, it's just saying this to say, “Hey, these are the consequences of some poor decisions of not putting God first.”

We’re told, “For they would come up with their livestock and their tents; they would come like locusts in number — both they and their camels could not be counted — so that they laid waste the land as they came in. And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord.”

So, here we are in another cycle. We had it previously with Deborah, and now we have Gideon. So, they've cried out. There’s this interlude in Judges, and you should go home and read Judges 6-7. I can't read all of it in the time that I have, so you have homework. Go home and read your Bible. It would be good for you. I promise. Go home, blow the dust off, and open it up. Just read. You’d be surprised. So, there's this little interlude where a prophet comes, speaks to Israel, and says, “Didn’t God deliver you out of Israel? Didn’t He do this?”

He's like, “Y’all are in this situation because you've done evil in the sight of the Lord.”

What the prophet is saying to the people is, “Hey, you cry, and God delivers you, but it may not always work that way. You keep doing this thing over and over again and there may be a time that you cry out to God and He doesn't listen. You can't just cry wolf with God all the time. You can't cry wolf all the time.:

So, that is just this little interlude that is there as a pause, and then we come to the text again.

We’re told, “Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah,”

This tree, the terebinth tree that was at Ophrah, belonged to Joash. I wouldn't fault you if you read that and though there wasn’t anything important there. There's a lot important here because, again, maybe with us not understanding the ancient near east and how things worked, this is a very important part of the story. So, in the days of Gideon — and we know this because we can see the excavations, we read the scriptures, and we know how this works — if you lived in a town, a village, or a city, and you had gates and walls to fortify yourself, out at the very front of the gates is where the leaders would meet to determine things. If there were civil things or legal things that needed to be settled, they would do it at the gates of the city. In other words, that's where the wisdom of the city was. So, when the scriptures and Jesus say, “The gates of hell will not prevail,” He's not envisioning these gates coming after you and me that are like gates. He's saying that the wisdom and the machinations of hell will not come against the church and be able to prevail. So, when you didn't have a town like that, a city like that, or the walls like that, but you just had land — and Joash was a part of the tribe of Manasseh, he had land, and he was better to-do than some people would've been because he had land. When he needed to make a decision in his land, on the amount of land that he had, if something needed to go on, he would make those decisions under the terebinth tree at Ophrah.

So, why is the angel of the Lord coming and sitting under the tree? Because the angel of the Lord is saying there needs to be a different authority in Israel. They’re listening to other stuff. Joash has got problems. He’s got altars that are erected to other gods. There needs to be a change in the authority. So, the angel comes and sits under the tree. It’s just to sit under the tree, but it’s because it's saying something to those of us who are reading this.

We're told that he sat under the tree, “…while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites.”

Now, the way you would normally do this is you would take wheat and chaff up on top of a hill where there was wind, and you would throw it up so the chaff would blow away and you could gather the wheat. Well, they couldn't do that because they would get plundered. So, down in a winepress trying to sort out the wheat and the chaff. I mean, it's a bad time. It's an ugly time. He’s doing this. Gideon's name, in Hebrew, means “hacker.” He hacks at stuff. That will be very prophetic because he's going to hack down some altars, hack down some Asherah poles, and he's hacking the wheat from the chaff right here. So, we've got him in there, he's beating out the wheat, and we’ve got this picture going on. We've got this little thing of the angels under the tree, some stuff's going on, and then we pick up the story.

It says, “And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, ‘The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.’”

They’re probably like, “What?”

Of course, he’s like, “Man, I'm down here in the winepress, hacking out some wheat and chaff. I'm not really sure if I am the mighty man of valor. That's just the words you spoke over me.”

This is important. God speaks a word over him. Is God's word true? Is God's word not true? What if you don't feel like what God's word says is true? What do you do? These are here to read you and I. We're supposed to be going, “What would I do? How would I respond? What would it mean to me?”

It's not just data-driven. It’s to read you and I. We engage in these stories. Would we have been like Gideon?

He said, “‘Please, my lord, if the Lord is with us,’”

Hold on. He just told him, “I'm with you.”

He says, “‘…if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?’”

“Gideon, it's happened to you not because the Lord isn't with you, but because the people of Israel have walked away from the Lord. It's a blind spot.”

He's like, “Where’s God in all this?”

We've been told they did evil in the sight of the Lord.

He's like, “Where are You at? Why are You allowing this to go on? Why would You do this?”

He's saying things that he doesn't see the consequences of sin. There's a blind spot.

“‘And where are all the wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us,’”

So, they've been taught. This generation was taught by the previous generation about the things of God, but they just didn't do it. They knew it, they just didn't do it.

“‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us…’”

No, no, no. The children of Israel have forsaken the Lord.

“‘…and given us into the hand of Midian.’”

This is good because it causes us to think, “Are there areas in my life where maybe sometimes I blame God that maybe if I really looked in the mirror it might be some things that I did?”

This is good stuff. This is why we read scripture. This is why scripture reads us.

“And the Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?’”

And what's his response?

He says, “‘Please, Lord, how can I save Israel?’”

“Well, I just told you that you would. I'm God. So, if I tell you I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it.”

I mean, we would never do that, right? We would never have God say things to us in His Word that we chose to do differently. Right? None of us. Not this service. The couple of other services that we have, they would do it. We’ll preach to them a little bit differently, but not us, right? We would never do such a thing.

He says, “There’s no way. You’ve got the wrong guy. My clan, the group I’ve got, is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh. We don’t have a whole lot of land in Manasseh anyway, but the land that we’ve got, we're like the smallest group. By the way, I'm the least in my father's house. How in the world could you use somebody like me? This is crazy.”

The Lord said to him — by the way, this angel of the Lord that comes, we gradually start to see that it's the Lord. This is what I would call a pre-incarnate Christophany. Christ. You go, “Christ is not in the Old Testament.”

Well, we just read Jude a couple of weeks ago, and it said that Jesus delivered Israel out of Egypt. So, He's in the Old Testament whether we want to see Him or not. He’s there, okay?

So, He says, “‘But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.’”

In other words, “I told you what I'm going to do. That's my word. My word is good. It accomplishes that which I set it forth to do. Will you believe it?”

We should be going, “Wow, man. Yeah, there are some things,” rather than going, “Oh, let me tell you this story.”

No. It reads us. Then Gideon goes and gets some things, he offers a sacrifice, and he builds an altar under the terebinth, which is a move in the right direction because if you're going to defeat the Midianites, you’ve got to start at home first and get your own house in order. If you want to defeat some of the things in your life that you're struggling with, it’s not, “God, lay it on me.”

God may say, “No, you need to go sit under the terebinth tree, and you need to figure out whose authority you're going to be under first.”

So, he builds — hey, one person. Man, hallelujah. It's great. I mean, Jesus liked the one. Okay? By the way, you know this. I want you to know this: The 99 have no security if Jesus doesn’t go and get the one. Let me say that again. The 99 do not have any security if He doesn't go and get the one, because if He doesn't go and get the one, that means when they're lost He isn’t going to come and get them either. Do you see what I'm saying? That was spur-of-the-moment. That could have been God, or it could have been a bad burrito. I’m sure. Anyway, let's continue on. After he builds this altar, we pick up the story again.

It says, “That night the Lord said to him, ‘Take your father's bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal…”

“You’ve got to get rid of this stuff, Gideon. Not only that, but I want you to cut down the Asherah pole.”

You’ve got foreign gods here in the territory that God has given to the tribe of Manasseh. They've set up altars, Asherah poles, and are acting like It's okay. Joash needs to stop being the authority under the tree. The Lord is. He says, “Cut it down. I want you to build an altar to the Lord. That's what I want you to do. I want you to get your priorities straight.”

“‘…and build an altar to the Lord your God on top of the stronghold here, with stones laid in due order. Then take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah pole that you shall cut down.’”

“You’re going to hack it down because your name is hacker. You're going to hack this thing down, we're going to build a fire, and we're going to build an altar to me so that we can start getting some things in order in this place.”

“So Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as Lord had told him. But because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night.”

Have you ever been so scared to do what God asked you to do that you sort snuck it in rather than going full in? This is what he did. So, we've read a lot already, and I want to show you what we've read because we've just stumbled over a ton of blind spots that we should look at. Let’s catalog some of these things just from the story that we just read. Just out of that. I want you to see, sometimes, when you read scripture, you may think that, “Well, I don't know. I'm not quite sure all that we read right there.”

No. We read a lot, and we'll see this here as we look. Let's look at some blind spots here. First of all, we often underestimate how significant our lack of devotion to the Lord is, and the consequences that can result. I say that not to be snarky. I say that not to give anybody a hard time. I say that, as your pastor, because I care about your soul. Oftentimes, we just aren't paying attention to the fact that our lack of devotion to the Lord is actually creating havoc in our lives. Now, that doesn't mean that every bad thing that happens in your life, every problem, is because of something that we've done bad, but if we don't look at that, if there's a blind spot, we may not see it. You can see it here. The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years. This is telling you and I a really important theological truth. When we do wrong, there are consequences to it. Sometimes we think we get away with stuff, and maybe we didn't get whatever, but the bottom line is we do reap what we sow. I don't know who came up with this quote. It's funny. Christians are funny. Everybody says they came up with a quote, but you know they're all lying because somebody came up with this quote. But you type it in, and there are like 85 people that say, “This is my quote,” and I'm like, “Yeah, all 85 of you didn't come up with this quote at the same time. Somebody's stealing it.”

I don't know whose it is, but it's a great quote. It says, “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, it will keep you longer than you want to stay, and it will cost you more than you want to pay.”

This is what happens when we slide.

This is why scripture says things like this: “My son, my daughter, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.”

A good church is going to say, “Hey, we're not saved by what we do, but we’re saved by grace.”

Let us never think, even though we're Christians, that we can just go do whatever we want to do. Paul said that to the church at Rome. They had a misunderstanding.

In Romans 6:1, he says, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid! How can we who died to sin live any longer therein?”

He says, “No, no. That’s not the point.”

Listen, I get it. All of us struggle. None of us are perfect, but we do need to pay attention to the fact that when we decide to do things our way, not God's way, there may be a lot of consequences that come our way. I can tell you, as a pastor — and I say this from the bottom of my heart — that so often when we get somebody in, a family in, or things in where people are struggling with something, many times — not all the time, but many times — we can take it back to something where the family, the person, the husband, the wife, or whoever it was wasn’t doing the things that God has asked them to do. You’ve got to go back, sometimes, and put the altar under the terebinth tree. You’ve sometimes got to figure out what's important, which is my second point.

The blind spot of authority. We don't like authority, as Americans. We don't like to be told where to go. We don't like to be told where to park. We don't like to be told what to do when things are going. We just don't like it. If you don't believe that, just look back at the last few years and see how well we complied with anything. I mean, seriously. We don't like to do what anybody tells us to do. I mean, even though 1 Peter 2:13 says, “Obey all the ordinances of man for the Lord's sake,” we’re like, “I don't care about that stuff,” because who cares what the Bible says? Right?

Anyway, we do all these things. We don't want to listen to nobody. We want to do it our own way. We're Frank Sinatra. I did it my way. We're Adam and Eve. We’re going to do it our way because we don't want to have anybody tell us what to do. And that creates a problem because it grates at us when God says to do something with parts of our life that we don’t want Him to tell us what to do with that part of our life. I'm not trying to meddle, I'm trying to give you a hard time, but I can tell you the number one thing in church, bar none, that people don't like to hear about, don't like preached on — and you're not getting a message on it, but I'm just going to make a point here. They don't like it at all, and God is very clear how we're supposed to handle this: Our finances. Nobody likes that. When you preach on that, they’re like, “Oh, no. Oh, no.”

I'm not giving you a hard time. This is not a sermon on finances. I'm just saying we don't like to be told how to do things that are ours. But can I tell you something? We're all under some authority, we just don't think we are. I love this. I don't know who came up with this. This is like an apologist’s sort of response. When somebody says there's no such thing as truth, you go, “Well, if there's no such thing as truth, then how do you know what you just said is true?”

They go, “Oh, yeah.”

See? So, it’s self-defeating. So, here’s the self-defeating thing for somebody who may go, “I'm not under any authority. I own my life. I own my business. Nobody tells me what to do.”

Okay. Let me just show you an example of how we're all under authority. If we don't believe we're under authority, then let's throw a brick through a store glass window and hang outside to see what happens. You’ll probably get thrown in jail, or at least you’ll get a fine. You're under some authority, whether you think you are or not. This is why the passage starts with the Lord coming and sitting under the tree. Whose authority are we going to listen to? This is a blind spot because we so often want to do it our way, or we pick and choose the things that God says.

“I like that. I like what God has to say here. This is good. This is a good thing. This one over here, not so much. What we’re going to do is…”

Okay. This is why He sits underneath the terebinth tree, and He says, “I want you to pull down the altar of Baal. I want you to cut down the Asherah.”

I’m not giving anybody a hard time, but I'm just going to ask the question, “What are the altars that we have erected in our lives? What are the Asherah poles that we have allowed in our lives that keep us from doing it God's way?”

It can be a blind spot. I care enough about your soul to bring this up because it's really easy for us to get caught up and not realize that we're giving devotion to other things rather than God. Maybe, just right now, He’s going to come and sit under our terebinth tree, and we get to make the decision, “Are we going to go pull down the altars?”

Because who doesn't want to defeat the Midianites? We all do. But before you're going to go defeat the Midianites, you’ve got to get your own, I’ve got to get my own, and we have to get our own houses in order. It's a blind spot of authority.

The third thing: The Lord's calling, saying, “Listen, the young man up there who looks 25 is telling you the truth. I'm telling you, this one here is beautiful because — and this is the beauty of the story. It's pretty ugly at the time, they’ve got all kinds of things going on, they’re not listening to God, and God comes and says, “Hey, Gideon. I want you to go do this,” and Gideon's saying, “I can't do this.”

This is the beauty of this story, and it's the beauty of everything. Listen to this. Inadequacy is the prerequisite for usefulness to the Lord. See, we’ve got it all backwards. See, if inadequacy is the prerequisite for usefulness to the Lord, do you know what that means? That means that all of us are candidates for it. Every single one of us are candidates for being used for the Lord because the only prerequisite — the only prerequisite — is inadequacy. That's it. There are no other prerequisites for being used by the Lord other than being inadequate.

See, we go, “What’s your talent? What's your potential? What are your accomplishments? What is your resume? I'm not saying that these things can't be used when we're hiring people and doing stuff, but for ministry, for usefulness to the Lord, for a call of God on our lives, which He has something for all of us to do, the only prerequisite is inadequacy. He says, “You are a mighty man of valor. I have a plan for your life.”

And what do we do? We say, “You’ve got the wrong person. I'm not the right person.”

I always know when somebody tells me, “Oh, I'm the right person, I'm the one who's got it all together,” I'm like, “I know this is not the person who needs to be doing this ministry. I need the people who are fearful, trembling, and wondering if God can use them because those are the people God uses.”

So, some of you say to me, periodically, “We wish you would tell more about your life, Chip. We’d like to hear more about you.”

I'm like, “I ain't here to talk about Chip Bennett. I'm here to tell you about Jesus.”

But I will tell you one thing: Nobody would've thought that the boy who was born in Kentucky on a farm in a town of 6,600 people would've been here, today, pastoring a church of this size, because God chooses inadequate people to do the things that He calls them to do.

So, I want you to hear this, please. God doesn't look for our potential. He builds His in us. Listen to me. Listen to me. God doesn't seek competency. He's more interested in willingness. To the fishermen, a bunch of guys who cussed and fished, what did Jesus say?

“You're going to be my guys.”

What did the religious leaders say when they arrested them, and they started talking? They're like, “Where did they get this? They're fishermen. Where did they get this intelligence?”

What did Jesus say?

“Don't you worry about what you say. When you get arrested, I will give you the words.”

Listen, when God calls you and me, it is His call that makes it effective. It's not our lives that make it effective. No matter what you've done, no matter where you've been, no matter what altars you've put up, no matter if you're down in the winepress trying to figure out how to get the wheat from the chaff, let me tell you something: When God comes and says, “I'm using you, and I'm giving you favor,” that is what makes you effective. That's what makes you adequate for doing something that God's called us to do. On top of that, God isn't trying to get us to see our inner self, but He's trying to get us to trust His purpose. Everybody's like, “Oh, we’ve got to look inside and see how good we are.”

Let me tell you, if you look inside too long, you ain't going to find a whole lot in there other than problems, closets full of skeletons, and whatever else. The righteousness that we have, the adequacy that we have, the ability that we have comes from the Lord and His call on us. I say this all the time to the staff. I say it all the time, and it's something I will continue to preach until the day I die. Nobody is adequate for ministry. Nobody. There's not one person who has ever brought to the table what's needed to be an effective minister. Nobody is. The prerequisite for ministry is inadequacy, which means every single one of us, every single person, can be called of God to do something because the prerequisite is inadequacy.

I also say this a lot: Talent can take us places that our character can't keep us. Listen to me. Listen to me. Listen to me. Listen. Talent can get you a platform, but weakness and inadequacy, coupled with character forged in adversity, are the prerequisites for authentic, lasting ministry. This is what we should be looking at.

What does Paul say to the church at Corinth? What does he say when he's talking about ministry? What does he say when he talks about the call of God on his life? He says this: “We have this treasure in jars of clay.”

Why does he use that word? Why does he use that phrase, “jars of clay?” To show that the surpassing power belongs to God, not to us. That's not anything we bring to the table. We bring inadequacy. We're just a jar of clay. Why does he say a jar of clay? Because he knows the story of Gideon in Judges 7. The Lord says, “I'm going to give the Midianites to you. How many people have you got?”

“Oh, we’ve got 22,000.”

“Too many. You'll say that you got the victory, and not me.”

“Well, how many? We’ll whittle it down. Ten thousand.”

Too many. You'll think that you won the victory over the Midianites, not me, because it's not your adequacy, but it’s my adequacy. Send them down to the water and have them drink water. Some of them are going to reach down and just start drinking. The other ones are going to take their hand like this and drink. The ones that take their hand like this and drink, they're the ones watching the horizon. They’re the ones keeping their weapon on one hand, and drinking with the other. They're the mighty men of valor. How many have you got?”

“Three hundred.”


So, you'd think that with 300 men, Green Berets, God's going to use their character, their talent, their awesomeness to go and beat the Midianites. No. Here's how the story goes. You can read it in Judges 7. They take a trumpet in one hand and a jar of clay in the other. Inside the jar of clay is a torch. They blow the trumpet, they smash the jar of clay, and they hold the torch up. When that happens, the Midianites start killing each other. Nobody did anything. Victory is the Lord's because here's the truth that's being told: In the jars of clay, which are you and I, in the inadequacy, if we will trust God, He will put His light within you and me. As we are crushed, His light shines, and He gets the victory because He’s the one who calls, and He’s the one who's adequate.

I'm going to end here. I told you early that comedy is low to high. That's why the man who's throwing Christians in church, probably killing some of them, low, becomes the man who writes the majority of the New Testament. It's why the man who denies Jesus three times — like, could you do anything worse than deny the One who is your master and your Lord? He then lifts him up and makes him the shepherd of the Church. The prostitute of Jericho, Rahab, the end of the story is the prostitute becomes a royal bride as she marries into the righteous line of Christ. Why is that important? Because that, if you are a believer, is your trajectory. There may be mishaps, there may be humor, there may be crazy things that happen, but if you and I are children of God, the trajectory at the end of the story is good. The end of the story is feel-good. No matter what goes on to get us there, no matter how low we are, God says, “I can call you, and I can make you adequate.”

Believe that. Trust Him, give Him your life, allow Him to lead you, fall under His authority, and watch the ride that He gives you and I, because what He does is always good.

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