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Scripture: Judges 6:1-6                                                                                                                                                                                                  April 18, 2021

Sermon: “Standing FIRM When Discouraged”                                                                                   Pastor John Young


In the ancient Near East, rainwater was caught and stored in cisterns, or wells.  Usually constructed in the shape of a bottle, cisterns had small, circular openings at the top and larger, spherical shapes below the surface of the ground.

Into such a well Jacob’s jealous sons threw their brother Joseph, thinking the young boy was doomed to slow starvation.  The brothers then sat down to eat, refreshing and nourishing themselves in grassy, sunny comfort, while their brother was crying for mercy in a dark, damp pit.

At some point, we will each experience the rejection, the isolation, the loneliness, and the discouragement of the well.  Some of us, like Joseph, experience these things through no fault of our own.  Others, however, are like the entire nation of Israel in our story today—in a pit of their own making, placed there by the disciplinary hand of God.  In Joseph’s situation, God used a Midianite caravan to rescue him from the well.  For Israel, God used a man named Gideon. 

For the past several months we have been examining Living Life on an Even Keel.  In order to do so we must Think Clearly, Live Differently, Fight Fiercely and Stand Courageously.  There are three areas that we must stand courageously if we want to live life on an even keel.  Thus far we have examined: Standing Alone When Outnumbered, Standing Tall When Tested, and today we bring this series to a close as we explore – Standing FIRM When Discouraged.

I.   Getting Into the Well of Discouragement.

A. Gideon was a man who stood firm when discouraged.  Against his culture, Gideon stood out like a bright star in a moonless night!  Let me explain:

1.  During Gideon’s time, no monarch ruled over Israel.  The people had no one to give direction, no one to set the pace, no one to model the truth or give instruction in righteousness.

a.  In Judges 21:25 we are given a description of the setting under which Gideon lived, “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”

b.  With situation ethics making up the moral climate of the day, it’s no wonder that ethical judgments were lacking too.  Judges 6:1 measures the loss of morality and its consequences:  “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years.”

c.   The Midianites devastated and demoralized the Israelites, degrading them to such an extent that they were forced to live like animals (just like we read in   Judges 6:2-5).

2.  The spiritual condition of Israel at the time gives life to the words of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 6:24, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.”

a.  Israel initially thought peaceful coexistence was possible between the Lord and the gods of Canaan, but that inevitably led to compromise, and with compromise came a confusion of loyalties.

b.  Eventually, Israel’s allegiance shifted, and Judges 2:12 records the beginning of this departure (READ).

c.   As a result of God’s anger?  Look at Judges 6:6a, “Israel was greatly impoverished.”  They were brought so low they had to look up to see the bottom.  So low they had nowhere else to look but to God.  Notice 6:6b, “and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD.”

II. Getting Out of the Well of Discouragement.

A. There are four principles that surface in the account of Israel’s deliverance that can serve as ropes to lift us from the depths of discouragement.  Let’s consider them quickly.  If we are going to climb out of the well of discouragement, we must:

1.  Openly Acknowledge What Caused Our Condition!

a.  Through an unnamed prophet, God gave Israel a direct answer regarding what had caused them to fall into the well.  Notice v-10.

b.  In a word, it was disobedience.  In owning up to their sin, the Israelites took the first step toward climbing out of the well!

c.   However, not all who stumbled into that well were there because of disobedience.  Gideon, for one, had followed the Lord.  But doubts arose in his mind when he couldn’t reconcile his circumstances with his faith (do you know the feeling?)—Notice verse 13 (read).

d.  With a mandate of hope, the Lord began to dispel Gideon’s doubts and discouragement.  Look at verses 14-16 (read).

2.  Focus Directly on the Lord, Not on the Odds against You!

a.  Look at verse 24 (I’ll let you find your place).  Responding with faith and commitment, Gideon builds an altar to dedicate himself to the task of delivering Israel.  (READ).

b.  The next time we see Gideon (Look at vv. 33-35) he is alone, outnumbered, and opposed—in a discouraging situation—but standing firm, never-the-less!  (READ).

3.  Remember, Your Apparent Weakness is Actually Your Strength!

a.  God does His best work; it seems, through our apparent weaknesses.  Notice 6:15 (personal weakness) & 7:2 (weak circumstances).

1) One by one, God shrank the army of Israel, until; at last, only three hundred men remained (vv. 3-8). 

2) What was the deciding factor that separated these 300 men?  Sword drills, bicep size, seniority?  NO!  How they drank water (vv-5 & 6)!

3) So, this insecure leader (Gideon) chooses 300 men who lapped water from their hands instead of drinking it from a vessel and sends them to battle with what?  Look at verse 16!

4) And what does he ask them to do?  Look at verse 20!

5) Sounds and looks ridiculous, but notice the result in verse 22.

4.  Do Not Accept the Glory after God Uses Your Life!

a.  God used Gideon in a miraculous way to deliver Israel from the Midianites.

1) Victorious, the Israelites experienced not only peace, but prosperity as well.

2) For the first time in years, they had roofs over their heads and food on their tables.

3) To express their gratitude, they offered Gideon the monarchy!  Notice 8:22.

4) It would have been so easy for the valiant warrior to ride the wave of his military success to the lush shores of fame and fortune.  But notice Gideon’s response in verse 23!

(Four principles that will lift us from the depths of discouragement.)

Conclusion:  At any given time, all of us are choosing to focus on one of four things: our circumstances, others, ourselves, or the Lord.  When outnumbered, Gideon refused to focus on his circumstances.  When victorious, he refused to focus on himself.  Instead, he gave the glory to the Lord.

     An eagle’s eyes, I’m told, are amazingly keen.  On a clear day, an eagle can spot a dead fish floating on the surface of a lake five miles away!  That’s focus!!!  If we’re ever to stand firm in the midst of discouragement, we have to develop spiritual eyesight with similar clarity and concentration—even if we’re the only bird in the flock to have it!

     I hope this series “Living Life on an Even Keel” has been helpful.  Let’s aspire together to live consistently in our Christian life by focusing on those four points.

Let’s pray

            Have you ever known such deep discouragement as the oppressed Israelites?  Have you ever felt as if you were dropped into a well of insurmountable circumstances and left there to die?  Maybe you’re at the bottom of such a well right now?  If so, let me encourage you to seek the Lord’s help this morning.  Kneel at the altar of your heart and cry out to the Lord for help!  Unburden your heart to Him, sharing not just the particulars of your circumstances but how desperate, sad, angry, or disheartened you feel.  Let His presence and care remind you that you are not alone!