So many times in 2020-21 people have felt like they are just trying to survive. Some of those people are in your church. You know them. There’s the struggling single mother, trying to keep food on the table. Then you have the widowed grandfather on a fixed income who was just diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Then there’s those two teenage boys and their beautiful sister who never quite got over their Dad leaving, and you can see the trouble on the horizon. Pastor, what you can’t tell them, what they can never know as they lean on you for support, is that you are barely holding on because you are in survival mode too.
The story of Gideon begins in survival mode. We all know the story. He was God’s leader in one of the greatest battles in Israel’s history, destroying a Midianite army of thousands with only 300 men. It’s all true, but that’s not how the story started. Before the epic battle, Israel was being ravaged by the Midianites. Everything of any value had already been eaten or taken away, and the people of Israel were desperate to keep what little they had left. Gideon was one of them, so, in Judges 6, we find our hero threshing wheat in a winepress. The problem is, wheat does not belong in a winepress. Grapes do.
Gideon was doing a good thing. He was taking care of his family. Gideon had gone out and harvested some of the wheat that the Midianites had missed. He’s taken it back to his family estate to thresh it so that he can make some bread. He’s just trying to survive. This is the point; sometimes circumstances can force us into survival mode where we are just trying to keep what we have left, and pastors are not immune.
Barna Group reported that 29% of pastors seriously considered quitting last year. In fact, Vanderbloemen, a church consulting company in Houston, Texas, estimates that after the turmoil of 2020-21, over 25% of pastors are one crisis away from quitting. This kind of stress often leads people (yes, pastors are people too) to kick into survival mode and guard what little they feel they have left. The problem with survival mode is that it causes you to forget who you really are to meet the needs of the moment. The thing is, if you just pick up your head from what you thought was going to be your life, God sends you a Messenger.
While Gideon was threshing wheat in the winepress, the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the Terebinth Tree. Look at the contrast here. Gideon is working hard to survive while the Angel is there, lounging under a tree, but the Angel is not there to take a nap. He had come to deliver a message. He came to remind Gideon who he is.
Judges 6:12:And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!”
Gideon doesn’t believe it and asks, “Then why has all this happened, and where are His miracles?” (v.13). Notice that the Angel didn’t answer his questions. Instead, He brings him back to the ONLY answer that matters, which is “You are God’s answer.”
The Angel called him “a mighty man of valor.” Valor is great courage in the face of danger, especially battle. The problem is, Gideon is NOT a man of valor. He is threshing wheat in a winepress, hiding from the Midianites, knowing that if he’s found, the little wheat he has will be taken, so in verse 15, Gideon asks, “How can I save Israel?” The answer is simple. Be who you ARE, NOT who your circumstances are trying to make you. That is, Gideon, to do this, you need to step into your prophetic identity. Gideon was focused on who his circumstances had made him but look at what the Lord says to him, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?” (v. 14) “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.” (v. 16)
As you read this, you need to remember that you are NOT responsible for the victory. Why? Because you are not the source of your calling. God is.
I am speaking to people who still have victories to win for God. Maybe it is time for you to move into retirement, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t victories before you. If you are ready for retirement, choosing your successor is your next great victory, and Dr. Brassfield will help so that you are ready for the new victories that await in that next chapter in your life. That’s part of the beauty of belonging to a network like Destiny. We are always developing young leaders through Destiny Leadership Institute (DLI). Still, the reality is, no matter where you are in life, sometimes circumstances force you into survival mode, trying to keep what you have left. If that’s you, you need to know this. Until you come away from the winepress and become who you were created to be, there will be NO VICTORY for you, your family, or the Kingdom of God. I am not saying to be unwise or irresponsible. I am saying that it’s time to remember who you were created to be.
So who are you, Gideon? A WARRIOR.
The Warrior was created for battle. He was made to fight and win the battles that others could not. I am here to remind you of one thing: YOU are God’s Answer!
It is God’s calling on your life that is going to change your circumstances. He wants to use you to restore His Kingdom and defeat His enemies, but He can do NOTHING while you’re threshing wheat in the winepress.
It is time to remember the promises God gave you when He called you into ministry and allow for nothing else to be the priority. It is time to “Go in this might of yours.” And when doubt or fear whispers in your ear, remember that it is the Lord who called and is with you, so go fight and win and see the harvest God will bring through you by being who He made you to be.
David Ayer, and his beautiful wife Denise, currently pastor New Life Church in Canton, PA. Both have traveled internationally as missionary evangelists and conference speakers. David holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Ashland Seminary, and United Theological Seminary, and is the author of the book, Where Are The David’s.