September 7, 2022
I was reminded this week of a story I heard many years ago, that was attributed to Charles Spurgeon. It was said, that he spent many hours preparing his weekly sermons. Not only did he agonize over each word selection, but memorized it and practiced every nuance of his delivery. One week, however, he was plagued by problems that demanded his personal attention, and he wound up with insufficient time for his usual sermon preparation. And on Sunday, it showed. He stumbled over his words, lost his place, and generally felt like he had let his congregation down. He felt so bad over what he felt was a deplorable performance, that he spent hours in prayer the following week, asking God to somehow use that sermon in spite of his poor job of delivering it.
Years later, looking back on it, he said that he was able to trace more conversions and touched lives to that botched sermon than any other that he ever gave. He concluded then and there, that the power behind any sermon was not his eloquence - rather, it was the fact that he had prayed that God would use that sermon more than any other. Trusting God to use his words, poor as they were, was far more powerful than trusting his own eloquence.
In a similar vein, the Apostle Paul would write to the church at Corinth in II Corinthians 12:9 "But He (God) said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'"
And one of my favorite Bible characters is Gideon. Some of his story is told in Judges chapters 6 and 7. If you read those chapters, you will see that God selected Gideon to lead the Israelites in their battles against the Midianites. Judges 6:14 "The Lord turned to him and said, 'Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand.'" And so he led an army of 30,000 men against a vastly superior army. But what did the Lord tell Gideon about his army? Judges 7:2 "The Lord said to Gideon, 'You have too many men.'" And so, in the next few verses the army is reduced to mere 300 men so that Judges 7:2 "Israel may not boast ... that her own strength saved her." Gideon was afraid and second guessed himself several times, but when the battle was eventually won, it was to be clear that it was not won in their own strength, but with God's.
We are sometimes guilty of the same thinking. We act as if we are facing our problems and challenges alone, and feel inadequate to the task. Have we bathed every effort, no matter how big or small, in prayer? Have we prayed as a body for God to use our efforts and initiatives, no matter how meager, to make His power perfect in our weakness? If not, we have neglected the most important element to any solution.
Gideon would eventually build an altar and call it "Jehovah Shalom" - The Lord is Peace! If you study Gideon's life, you will see that he was far from perfect and his life was not free of problems by any means. The Lord's Peace is not an absence of problems, but a confidence that we have what we need to face them in God's strength.
May God bless our efforts, no matter how small.
Your Brother in Christ,
Warren Warren J. Ayer, Jr. Chairperson, Board of Deacons United Church of Christ