New beginnings are exciting. There's just something about starting something new. I believe it's ordained that way because God is a God of new things. In Isaiah it says:
Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.
And in Revelations 21:5, Jesus said: "Behold, I am making all things new". He is always renewing, restoring, birthing change. He will continue to do this until he has restored everything to his original plan and we are a part of that– as we bring heaven to earth.
The other point is that God is a creative God. He's the ultimate artist and all creativity comes from him. If you know someone who is just gifted and is so creative, that spark came from the Lord. That's who he is and he is the source of all of that.
I am embarking on something new myself. The Lord told me to really do this– write, preach, share his Word and a specific instruction was to go on Youtube. I want to do this full time, but I have a family and bills to pay. So I was seeking the Lord one morning and here's what he asked me:
"Stefan, do you want your work or my power?"
"Umm.. your power, Lord", with everything at stake of course I want his power!
"Then I will show you how that works".
I believe he is in the process of showing me how His Power works. He has shown me a few things from his Word and I am so excited to share that with you.
The way the Lord speaks is so personal. Every night I tell my 7 year old son stories and then pray for him. We've gone through a children's bible cover-to-cover already so I bought him a new one. This one is only pictures and barely any text. I actually like it that way because I get to tell the story my way!
What happened was that in a series of three stories, I'd tell him the story, tuck him in, walk away and then be amazed because the Lord was talking to me!
Joshua and Jericho
The first one was about Joshua and the walls of Jericho. The backstory here is that Moses had died and Joshua had taken over in leading the people of Israel into the promised land. Joshua felt the weight of the responsibility and sought the Lord with all his heart. Here he was leading his army, and standing before him is a key city with tall impregnable and intimidating walls. Jericho.
And the Lord said to Joshua: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him.” Joshua 6:2-5
Those were very specific instructions! Walk around the city once for six days. Then walk around it seven times on the seventh day. And then blow a ram's horn. And then shout.
I told my son, "Imagine what the army was thinking! Here they are in the battle for their lives, and instead of getting talking about fighting, they were going to walk around the city again and again. They must have thought it was ridiculous!".
Here was this new leader who had to earn the trust of the people and he was telling them to go in circles around the scariest city they've seen. But Joshua didn't care. Because:
- he knew how to hear the Lord,
- he knew how to receive specific instructions,
- and he knew how to obey them.
The walls fell. Victory was theirs. If Joshua didn't know how to hear God, receive specific instructions, and obey them no matter how silly it seemed in the natural, I don't think they would have won.
David and Saul's Armor
The next day was a treat. It's always the highlight when you read a children's bible to a child– David and Goliath. I love telling this story again and again, but this time I ended up bringing up a detail that I always leave out.
So in case you didn't know the whole story, there was a great war between Israel and the Philistines. They'd gather in the battlefield and a 9 foot tall giant named Goliath would insult the God of Israel and issue a challenge. Instead of army versus army, just have it be champion versus champion, winner takes all. Convenient when you are 9 feet tall. So David hears this, gets upset when he hears the giant insulting his God and steps up to the plate.
Here's the key detail: After David got the King to agree to let him fight Goliath, the King did the natural thing to do, the "common-sense" thing to do, the "it would only be right" thing to do: he put on his armor on David.
So Saul clothed David with his armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail. David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.” So David took them off.
1 Samuel 17:38-40
Here was David, about to enter the fight of his life, and he refused the best armor in his country. Saul's armor represented the best-of-the-best. The pinnacle of their technology, the most protective, most advanced, most expensive equipment they have in terms of protecting him. And David turned it down because "I have not tested them."
And what did he mean by "I have not tested them"? Well David explained that while he was a shepherd, he had to rescue his sheep from the jaws of a lion and a bear. He didn't have Saul's armor then. He just had the Lord. I imagined what those days must have been for David. All alone in a remote place with his sheep. Singing songs for the Lord, spending time getting to know God. He was a worshipper and a warrior. He had a relationship with the Lord which is why he was so upset when Goliath was slandering the Lord's name.
David decided to go with what he was used to– the Name of the Lord and 5 smooth stones from the brook. A sling and a shepherd's staff. No armor.
And you know the rest of the story– he beat Goliath, he did it because he refused to put his trust in Saul's armor. He already had armor on: the Lord's favor as a shield.
For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; With favor You will surround him as with a shield. Psalm 5:12
Gideon and the 0.9%
So it was Day 3 and I opened my son's kiddie bible and saw Gideon. This one really blew me away. Most of the time I tell my son the stories from memory, but this time I opened up a "grownup bible" and tried to choose which parts to cover and which parts not to.
The story opens with a man who is an unlikely hero. He is basically hiding because Midianite raiding parties terrorized the townsfolk, stealing food and doing violence.
And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” Judges 6:12
Wow. Mighty man of valor. Gideon did not look, feel or act mighty at all. But when the Lord "calls things that are not as though they were" (see Romans 4:17) it happens. That's how mighty God's word is. It gives identity and it imparts strength.
Gideon actually challenges the angel:
Gideon said to Him, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?”
I love this so much. Gideon had the audacity to speak up– if God is really with us then why is all this happening?
Isn't it so natural for humans, even believers, to decide what is true based on circumstance? But that's not how things work at all. The truth decides circumstance, not the other way around. If He said it, we believe it, that is enough. And what did the Lord tell Gideon? "I am with you". It's the same with Joshua– before the fight started the Lord told him "See, I have given Jericho into your hand!". We need to learn to take the Lord at his word. If he promises you something that is enough.
The next thing here that struck me is this: "Go in this might of yours... Have I not sent you?".
Let me make something clear: Gideon had no might. His might-level was very low. But God said it was enough. The fact that he was sending him was enough. I love that. It encourages me so much to know that there is power in a call. When God calls you to do something, that call carries with it power– power to defeat armies, power to open doors, power for you to operate in a level you have not operated in before.
Gideon's story is such a rich story. He would continue to go in this "might of his" and ask God to confirm and remind him that he is going with the Lord. The Lord was able to use him even if he wasn't a picture of "strong faith". But he did obey. He did keep moving forward. For me the clincher is when this happened:
Gideon rose up, people followed him and believed in his cause. A force of 32,000 soldiers rallied behind him to fight. But the Lord didn't want that.
And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’
The Lord reduced his great army... twice. Until the final number was 300 soldiers. Only 300 against a horde of Midianites and Amalekites too numerous to count. That is less than 1% of his original "strength". That's all God needed.
Just like Joshua and the walls, this story involved very specific instructions: something to do with empty pitchers, torches, shouting. The people followed these instructions to the letter, and God caused the enemy to fight each other. Gideon and his 300 won the war because of the Lord's power.
The Lord's Delight
So let's wrap this up. The Lord said he would show me how his power works. Here are the 3 things we learned from Joshua and two more added to it:
- Know how to hear the Lord,
- Know how to receive specific instructions,
- Know how to obey them, no matter how odd.
- Do not trust in Saul's Armor– the best Man can offer.
- Go in your strength-level, even if it feels inadequate. Be willing to shed strength if the Lord says so.
You can see such a consistent theme in these stories. It is about putting your trust fully in the Lord, seeking him with all your heart, and leaning not on your own understanding. During these times the Holy Spirit brought a verse to my remembrance that I probably didn't hear in 10 years:
His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
the Lord delights in those who fear him,
who put their hope in his unfailing love.
The Lord is strong and mighty. He is not impressed with our strength. He doesn't care how strong you think you are, your armies, your money, connections and resources. It is nothing to him. He doesn't care about Saul's armor, the 32,000 soldiers gathered around Gideon. He definitely doesn't care about the walls of Jericho, Goliath, or the hordes of enemies. What does he care about?
You. When you fear him. Fear here means reverence. Not being afraid. When you put your hope in his unfailing love. That is delightful for him.
For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.
2 Chronicles 16:9
The Lord is searching. He's looking for people who want to put their trust in him and him alone. He wants to be strong on your behalf. He wants you to: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5).
Thus says the LORD,
“Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
And makes flesh his strength,
And whose heart turns away from the LORD
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD
And whose trust is the LORD.
Jeremiah 17: 5,7
When we put our trust in the strength of man, that's all we get: the finite, limited, flawed. It is a curse to trust in the strength of men, even your own strength. If you want the Lord's power, you need to stop trusting in your work. Make God your only hope. Truly believe that "apart from him you can do nothing".
The Lord has called us all to work. He has put abilities and resources in our hands. But he wants our hearts to be single– only putting our hope in his unfailing love. The word "unfailing love" is the Hebrew word "Hesed" which means "Grace". The unmerited favor of God.
God made all his "Hesed"– all his grace, favor, lovingkindness and unfailing love manifest in a Person named Jesus Christ. John 1:17 says Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ. On the cross he made all of it completely available to you. Receive it by putting all your trust in Him and Him alone, and put zero on your self or other men. Christ is enough.