October 11, 2020

Hard To Work With

Passage: Judges 6:36-40

Judges 6:36-40 ESV

“36 Then Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, 37 behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.” 38 And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, “Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.” 40 And God did so that night; and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew.”

Pray May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to You, O Lord. Amen.

Have you ever had a hard time working with someone? (pause) Have you ever found yourself working with someone you really hated? (pause) Have you ever found yourself doing things in church with people who just get on your last God loving nerve? (pause) Yeah… Yeah… I know that feeling. I mean I think I know that feeling. (pause) I think I am that guy. I served a church one time where a group of people in that church hated me, I mean absolutely HATED me before my family and I stepped foot out of the moving truck. (pause) And then three years later that same church was mad, I mean really mad when the District Superintendent, the Bishop and the Cabinet moved me and my family. God can and will do strange and wonderful things – quite often through the people who get on our nerves the most.

Every time I read through the book of Judges I think Gideon must have been one of those people who just gets on your last nerves. Gideon is whiney. Gideon is self-conscious. Gideon is always looking for a sign. Make the fleece dry, God. Make the fleece wet, God. Even when the Spirit of the Lord is upon Gideon, Gideon just doesn’t seem to get it. Gideon served as a Judge over Israel, but Gideon was not like Samson, or Barak, or Deborah. Gideon was afraid and very often wrestled with Gideon’s fears. God had to help Gideon move past the very real terrors that would come if Israel’s army did not defeat the Midianites. Gideon was hardly the man of war Samson, or Barak were. Gideon was very much like you and me. Gideon needed God’s help and nothing was gonna happen without God’s help.

Sometimes we can be a lot like Gideon. Sometimes we whine and complain about what God has asks of us. Sometimes we ask for sign after sign after sign of just what God is asking us to do. I mean, God, are You sure you want me to reach out to “THAT” person? Are you sure you want me to work with “THEM”? Don’t You know what “THEY” have done, God? Don’t you know how badly they have messed up in the past? Don’t you know what they’re doing right now? I mean. Why should I listen to “THIS” guy? He isn’t even really our pastor.

Here’s the thing. Jesus wasn’t kidding when Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples.” A disciple is someone who is seeking to grow closer to God and does what God asks them to do. We cannot call ourselves Christians without lying if we do not do the things God asks us to do. That means working with people who drive us crazy. (pause) Who are the people who drive us crazy? (pause) Church, who are the people who drive us crazy the most? (pause) Well, church. I won’t speak for you, but the people who drive me the most crazy are the church people who seem to have all of my faults. They are the church people who make all of my mistakes. I tend to think, “I’ve already learned from those mistakes. Why haven’t they?” Then I look in the mirror and realize, “Ooops. I’m still doing them.” I guess Paul was right about the sins I do not wish to do those I practice (Romans 7:19). And yes, it frustrates me when I see someone making those same mistakes because it is a reminder to me I am still struggling with them too… How’s that for honesty from the pulpit?

However, God has still called us to do this job. God has called us to be disciples of Jesus Christ. Do you know what disciples of Jesus Christ do? (pause) Disciples of Jesus Christ make disciples. It is a part of Jesus’ last command that we go out and work with the people who drive us crazy to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the people who drive them crazy. Yup. That’s just nuts. Some might say that’s just stupid. And they’d be right. The wisdom of God often seems like folly to the wise of this world (1Cor 1:25). So let me tell you what happens when we do not follow God’s command.

When we do not follow Christ’s command we start to think things like, “It’ll just be easier if I do it myself. Right? It’s easier if I just do it because then they won’t have to and I’ll know it’s done right.” I knew a woman one time. She made the dumplins for the chicken-n-dumplins fundraiser at the church. She had been doing it for 30 years. So I thought, okay. She is not going to be able to do this forever. Maybe I should challenge her a little to find someone she could teach how to make her wonderful dumplins. Do you know what this woman’s reply was? “If you bring the person to me, I’ll teach’em.” Making the dumplins was an important job. Making sure the dumplins were made correctly is an important job for that fundraiser. However, that fundraiser is not as important as the work of building up disciples for Jesus Christ. Those dumplins are not as important as raising up new disciples to share the work with others. Here’s what happens. That woman was a part of a small and shrinking church with an aging congregation. Without new people in the pews that church is going to roll up and die. For many people in that church the fundraisers that payed the bills and kept the lights on had become more important than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They didn’t realize it. I think they wanted to, but they just couldn’t see it.

Today we live in a world where the number of people in this country who identify as Christians is shrinking. As much as we live in a blame it on “THEM” culture the reality is it isn’t “THEIR” fault. Blame is not going to fix what is wrong with Christianity today any more than blame can fix our country. If we want to see the number of Christians in this country go up. If we want to see more Christian behavior in our streets, on our televisions, and heaven help us on the Presidential debate stage then the work has to begin with us. We have to do a better job of being willing to work with the people who drive us nuts. We have to do a better job of living out our witness and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others. The upward call of God in Jesus Christ is before us. The only sign we need that the work is our is the decreasing number of Christians in our country today; the number of churches closing on our Annual Conference reports, and the behavior we see among those who profess to be Christians. They don’t need us to judge them and hold them accountable. They need us to be as loving and patient with the people who drive us crazy as God was with Gideon, hiding in a wine press and asking God for yet another sign. Why? Because that’s what it means to follow Jesus’ final commandment.

In the name of Jesus Christ,

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