By Philip Thompson
A conversation on how the fear of man stems from a lack of trust in God. By looking at the life, leadership, and character of Gideon, we see how the fear of man can be overcome in the greater Gideon–King Jesus.
I love the biblical story of Gideon. I identify so well with the man. Many people I know possess special gifts for leadership. Gideon did not have anything of the sort. Gideon was just a regular guy. I am not one of the classic “type A” personalities that most people look for in a leader. I am not a driver. I am full of fears and concerns for myself and others. I am often far too concerned about what others will think and fear acting alone. I am a Gideon.
I once visited Gideon’s stream, and it was there that I felt as if I could connect with him–where God pared back his army to an unthinkable low. At the beginning of Gideon’s story, we find him hiding in a winepress threshing wheat. This would have given Gideon a place to hide from the Midianites. His fear drove him into hiding. He was not the sort of guy who would have naturally confronted an enemy no matter if the odds were in his favor or not.
I fear confrontation and avoid it at all cost. In order to do what God wanted, Gideon had to learn to trust God. Thankfully God was merciful to Gideon and helped him start small. The test of overthrowing the statue of Baal in the village helped Gideon to learn to stand for what was right. God has done the same for me. Instead of throwing me at millions of Midianites, he gives me small challenges that I’ve learned to overcome prior to taking on the big challenges in my life. Ultimately God has given me strength to overcome each milestone. Here are a few applications that I’ve drawn from the life of Gideon:
FEAR OF MAN STEMS FROM A LACK OF TRUST IN GOD
1. Retain a sense of inability and rely solely on God’s grace for the task at hand. Gideon starts his journey from a place of weakness—threshing wheat in a winepress. Throughout his story he hides behind natural cover, the cover of darkness and the size of his army, until God draws him out to a place of simple trust.
2. Rely on God for confidence in the face of skepticism. Skepticism is when we question whether God is willing or able to act. “If the Lord is with us, then why has all this happened to us” (Jud. 6.13)? When you’re in your darkest night, wondering why God has left you alone to suffer, remember that God will use this time to rebuild your confidence in him. Gideon isn’t the paragon undoubting Christian that we always assume all good Christians measure up to. No. Not at all. Gideon was willing to be honest about his doubts, but he was also willing to have God transform his skepticism into confidence.
3. Rely on God for gifting in the face of inadequacy. Inadequacy is when we see our lack of human resources as a limitation on our usefulness. God, for some reason, loves to use guys who ask the question “Lord how can I save Israel” (6.15)? In the face of our legitimate shortcomings, God wants to give us special grace for the task at hand (6.16).
4. Rely on God for courage in the face of timidity. Timidity is when our personal insecurities keep us from stepping forward. Time and again, Gideon shows his timid character. In his claims to inadequacy, Gideon says his family is insignificant, but later we learn that Gideon has multiple servants and that his father owns a popular grove for idol worship in the city. Personal timidity often leads us to see only weaknesses when God has given us substantial gifts. For Gideon to act, God would have to give him courage for the task.
FEAR OF MAN IS A FAILURE TO ACT
1. Meet small challenges first. Rather than calling Gideon to take on the Midianite army, God calls him to handle the idolatry at home. Sometimes I get absorbed with the enormity of God’s big plan that I fail to do the smaller tasks he’s calling me to do first.
2. Don’t keep asking questions when God is calling you to follow him. I don’t like to beat up Gideon too much about his fleece experiment (I’m pretty sure I’d have done the same thing if I were in his sandals), but we should note that the narrative portrays this as a lack of faith and a failure to act. Just remember that your seemingly pious questions or desire for clear answers may betray a desire to delay or avoid the hard tasks.
3. Learn to rely on God by expanding your faith in him little by little. I can certainly relate with the dad who asked Jesus to help his unbelief. And God often doesn’t seem to answer that request in one fell swoop. Instead, Gideon-like, God often grows our faith in stages.
4. Find a core group of friends who can help me meet these challenges, but do not place your ultimate faith in them. I like how Gideon does pull in other men to assist him. In doing so he’s being honest about his inabilities. If you’re overwhelmed, it’s okay to step out in faith alongside a small team of partners.
FEAR OF MAN CAN BE OVERCOMPENSATED
1. When God gives you success and respect, don’t squander it on yourself. Gideon took an ephod as a memento of his success, and it led the people back into idolatry. Many a leader who has experienced the thrill of an undeserved (read: God-given) meteoric rise ends up spending his leadership capital toward expanding his own bank accounts, social status, or reputation. The story of Gideon reminds us of the futility and danger of this route.
2. When God gives you success and respect, invest in discipling your successors. Like many biblical leaders whose children ended up taking a disturbing path in life, Gideon’s children were no different. Discipleship ensures that the victory God has given you doesn’t just end with you. The success of our ministry is not measured by what it looks like in the prime of our tenure, but what it will look like five years after you leave. If you were hit by a bus tomorrow, is there a leader ready and discipled to fill your ministry shoes? Are you consciously tending to the next-generation of leaders under your care? Are you discipling your own children?
Ultimately, Christ alone stands as the supreme victor over the fear of man. In his final hours, he stands alone, silent as accused, trusting the sovereign love of the Father. And he stands in my place as victor over this fear I still, Gideon-like, do battle against.
ABOUT PHILIP: Philip Thompson is a husband and new father who has served as a lay teacher in the church. He holds a MA in Theological Studies from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and an MDiv from Columbia International University. Read more of what he writes at Delivered from Darkness.
Adapted with permission. Originally posted at Delivered from Darkness.
You, too, can help support the ministry of CBMW. We are a non-profit organization that is fully-funded by individual gifts and ministry partnerships. Your contribution will go directly toward the production of more gospel-centered, church-equipping resources.