Monday, April 27, 2009

The Danger In Success

Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, "Rule over us, both you and your son, also your son's son, for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian." But Gideon said to them, "I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you." Judges 8:22-23

And his (Gideon’s) concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he named him Abimelech. (Name means, “My father is king”). Judges 8:31

I love stories that end well. I know that is a bit Pollyannaish, but that’s me, a real fan of happy endings. Gideon’s story begins in Judges 6 and it is the classic underdog story. God comes to a nobody, reveals himself in a wonderful way, issues an invitation that centers on a task of deliverance, assures Gideon of His presence and power to accomplish the task. He shows his patience and understanding of Gideon’s human frailty with many assurances. Then God delivers Israel through a yielded piece of clay in a most marvelous way.

Oh, that the story ended with a happily ever after right there, but the Bible tells the unflinching truth of fallen humanity. In 1 Timothy 3:6 there is a strong warning not to put a new convert into a leadership position less they become prideful and fall. That appears to be what happened to Gideon. When he had such great success, others asked him to rule over them. He said the right things, and reminded them that God was to rule over them, but his ensuing actions show that the thought of being king had been successfully planted in his heart and mind. He did many of the things that kings in those days would do. He asked for tribute, overstepped his spiritual authority, and had many wives who gave him seventy sons. He also had a son by a concubine and gave him a name that meant my father is king. When Gideon died that son rose up and killed all but one of his half brothers to secure his own future as king. What a sad end to such a promising man and his family.

Many times, as a young Christian, I remember people warning me that often on the heels of great victory in our lives the enemy would counter with a plan to bring us defeat. It isn’t always caused by pride, but it sure could be. Satan knows that God himself resists the proud so he loves to manipulate humanity’s Achilles heel. Prideful thoughts should be captured, repented of and taken to His throne of grace as rapidly as possible. Especially when God has used us in some way and we are basking in the thrill of it we can be very vulnerable to the praise that follows. Corrie ten Boom made a wise remark when someone asked her how she handled all the praise and attention she was getting. She said she tried to be gracious to people and gathered their remarks like a bouquet of flowers. At night before she got in bed she would get down on her knees and lay that bouquet where it belonged… at Jesus’ feet. That was her way of humbling herself under God’s mighty hand. (1 Peter 5:6)

The enemy wants God to resist us so he pounds us with prideful thoughts. Our society runs on pride. We have to be alert and choose to actively pursue Peter’s plea that “We all clothe ourselves in humility towards one another.” Pride is not just about how we handle accomplishments. It’s also about how we treat others. How do we react to the wear and tear of living with other imperfect people? Are we easily offended? Are we slow to apologize? Are we slow to forgive and do we hang on to offenses? Pride manifests itself in many ways, but God has given us the Spirit of his Son. Let’s ask Him to shine his light on our pride and show us the beauty of true humility.

MY PRAYER: Lord, your humility as you walked the dusty roads of earth left us an example. You have also given us your Spirit. Help us to humble ourselves under your mighty and wonderful hand so that you may display yourself through us. Bring forth the fruit of your Spirit in us. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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