Dare to be Different
Judges 6:11-32 NIV The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior." "Pardon me, my lord," Gideon replied, "but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?' But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian." The LORD turned to him and said, "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?"
This passage from Judges tells us of the beginning of the events in the life of Gideon. Fearing that the Midianites would take his wheat from him, Gideon does the threshing in a winepress, so that it's not obvious what he is doing. As he is carrying out this activity, suddenly an angel of the Lord appears to him and addresses him as ‘a mighty warrior'. A mighty warrior, cowering in the winepress to avoid the gaze of the Midianites! Rather incongruous, don't you think. But the angel seems to ignore Gideon's protestations and tells him to defeat the Midianites. You can almost hear Gideon laughing as he says:
Judges 6:15 NIV "Pardon me, my lord," Gideon replied, "but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family."
Some challenge for an insignificant thresher of wheat, but subsequent events proved Gideon's worth as he rose to the challenge, rather hesitantly at first, and overcame the oppressor.
In my boyhood days, we would have said that Gideon was ‘dared' – to take on a challenge that seems to be too risky. "I dare you to knock on the door of old Mrs Peters", was the type of challenge (some would say, a prank) that we got up to. Naughty, naughty!
Some of you reading this may be old enough to remember the Eagle comic, which began its life in 1950. [And to make the ‘oldies' feel even older, the comic cost threepence (old money) in 1950.] The adventure on the front page was always ‘Dan Dare'. He was a space hero and took on the challenges of the deadly Mekon. He always won, of course, because he was the goody. With a name like ‘Dare', he was under obligation to take on every challenge and, with various contrivances, he overcame each one.
Were you ever ‘dared'? Were you ever challenged to do something that you knew you shouldn't do?
Like knocking on a letter box and running away! And everybody laughing when the door was opened and no-one was there.
I'm ashamed to remember, many years ago of course, being ‘dared' to go scrumping over some body's back garden. [You know what ‘scrumping' is, don't you? Pinching apples!] I accepted the challenge, scrambled over a rather high garden wall and pinched a couple of apples.
I was quite pleased with myself that I'd done it without being caught. But not quite so pleased when I began to eat one of the apples – it was a cooking apple! Yes, I know it was wrong now, and I shouldn't have done it. Maybe you've never accepted a dare anything like that. Maybe your jealous of me, because I got away with it!
Some dares may be wrong, some dares may be right. Perhaps we could be challenged to run a marathon to raise funds for a charity. Or to cut the grass for an elderly neighbour who finds it difficult to use the lawn mower. Or to change the direction of our life, like moving into a different career or moving to a different part of the country.
Later, I'm going to dare you – to challenge you – to be different.
What made the Apostle Paul different from everyone else? How did he stand out from the crowd?
1 Corinthians 4:10-13 NIV We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honoured, we are dishonoured! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.
Paul was an incredible ambassador for Jesus, wasn't he? Read again verses 10-13.
- He was a fool for Christ. He was laughed at, scorned for preaching the good news of repentance, forgiveness and acceptance.
- He was weak. He took the flak without retaliation, turning the other cheek to his persecutors.
- He was dishonoured. He was pushed about by his captors, chained like an animal, even though he brought the message of God's love and grace.
- He was cursed, but he retaliated with blessing.
- He was persecuted, but he put up with it.
- He was slandered, but never spoke an unkind word.
He reminds me of the treatment meted out to Jesus throughout his three-year ministry, but especially before He endured the awful cross at Calvary.
Paul was hungry, thirsty, in rags, brutally-treated, homeless, persecuted, slandered – the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world. He doesn't exactly paint a very nice picture of being a Christian, does he? Would that encourage you to take up the cause of Christ?
But we are told that becoming a follower of Jesus is to expect a difficult life.
Jesus himself said . . .Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever finds his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:37-38 NIV)
Jesus doesn't paint a rosy picture of what it is to become a Christian. He even told a very rich man to give all his money to the poor.
Following Jesus involves a personal cost, as Paul found out. Being laughed at, even persecuted – maybe shunned by family. If you and I dare to follow Christ, things will be different, there will be a cost to our decision – believe me!! It takes a lot of courage to become a Christian. It takes a lot of ‘daring' to be ‘born again'.
Not exactly encouraging you to walk the Christian way, am I? But there is an up-side – the benefits are out of this world – literally. There is a peace, even in the midst of turmoil, because God has things under control. We have a much greater understanding of the things going on around us – a clarity of what is happening. Let me explain what I mean by this . . .
I have been suffering for quite some time now difficulty with my hearing; particularly when there is a lot of background noise – like in a crowd – and I haven't been able to quite make it out when someone was speaking to me. There was a lack of clarity.
I eventually, after my wife ‘encouraged' me, went to the doctors to see what could be done. After a series of tests, I was prescribed hearing aids. When I put them in for the first time, suddenly, not only could I hear things better, but what I was hearing was clear – I had clarity! It was amazing the difference it made
That's the sort of thing that happens when we make a decision to accept Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
We have clarity. We begin to understand the purpose of life – why we are here. And this causes us to be different – and to do things differently./p>
I used to do quite a bit of work in a local company and I became quite friendly with one of their engineering managers. One day, he came to work in a distraught state and he confided in me that his wife had left him, giving me all the details. He desperately wanted her back – they had three lovely girls.
Now this is where I dared to be different – I offered to pray with him, and there we were, praying in one of the company's conference rooms. I was hoping that no one would interrupt us! Here was a need that only the Lord could meet.
So devastated was he that he would ring me at home in the middle of the night. I prayed with him each time and during the day as well, just knowing that God was going to turn this situation around.
A couple of weeks later, his wife did return to him and he was overjoyed. God had turned around a seemingly impossible situation, and saved a marriage.
Daring to be different, taking that chance, that risk, can change apparently impossible circumstances. God honours us when we call upon Him. Here's another ‘daring' example . . .
A work colleague, who was a Christian, and I, felt that it was right to put on an ‘Alpha Course' during the lunchtime breaks. [If you don't know what the ‘Alpha Course' is, it is a Course which looks at the basics of the Christian faith and, by open discussion, tackles all the questions that people have regarding our faith.]
We were really taking a risk – not least being refused permission to use the company's premises by the plant manager. But we dared to put it on and God's hand was certainly in the organization, because everything went without a hitch, except, however, for the disparaging comments and outward hostility that we received from some people. The enemy doesn't like it when we're about the Lord's business!
But five people came to accept Jesus as a result!
Five people coming into the Kingdom of God.
Five people receiving the salvation that God gives to those who receive Him.
Five people saved from a lost eternity.
It was worth daring to be different.
Again, God honours those who call upon Him. It wasn't us who convinced those five people of the truth of the Gospel – it was the work of God's Holy Spirit. Daring to be different is co-operating with God, so that He can do the blessing.
Daring to be different isn't just an act of bravado. It springs out of our desire to serve Him and a knowledge of His love for His Creation. The desire to serve springs out of our gratitude for what He has done for us – that His love and compassion for us has saved us from a lost eternity. Aren't we grateful for that? Doesn't that give us a reason for living – that there is a purpose and plan for each one of us? We don't just become a human being – and then nothing!!!
Daring to be different means that we are always on the look-out for opportunities to make a difference. In practical ways as well as spiritual. We may be a person who has a natural desire to help people – this God enhances when He is Lord of our lives.
Just being good, doing good deeds will not mean that we have eternal
life. Equally, if we were to make a decision to make Jesus the centre of
our lives, and then do nothing about it, is like . . .
having an electric drill and never using it,
having a book and never reading it,
having a cooker and never cooking on it.
James says: "Do not merely listen to the word . . . . do what it says." (James 1:22 NIV)
Gideon was a weak, insignificant person. But he heard the word of God and responded. He dared to be different and he achieved great exploits. His is a true picture of how God uses the weak of this world to achieve His plan and purpose.
Are you in this category? If so, then God can use you to bring about changes in people's lives.
He can use me too!!
We can achieve great exploits in God's plan and purpose. All we have to do is to step out and . . .
Are you prepared to accept the challenge?
I dare you!
I double dare you!
Or will you settle for the mediocre?
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are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®.
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