doing math God's way

Listening to the radio this morning I caught a message from Ron Hutchcraft about "downsizing". He related it to the story of Gideon being called to come against the Midianite army of 132,000 that consistently plundered Israel's harvest year after year. First arguing that he was not qualified for the job [we all know what God thinks about that, right?], he eventually gathered 32,000 men for his army. God's answer...

You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, announce now to the people, 'Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.' [Judges 7:2-3]

God says 32,000 men is TOO MANY. Outnumbered 4 to 1 and that's TOO MANY. Why? Because God knows if victory came with 32,000 Israel would be tempted to boast. So with this statement, 22,000 leave the army... and guess what God says...

There are still too many!

And so he FURTHER prunes back the army until there are only 300 men left. THINK ABOUT THAT FOR A MINUTE! And Gideon is supposed to go against an army of 32,000. So the Lord tells him that if he is afraid, to do a little spy-mission type eavesdropping, and in doing so God encourages him. They do as the Lord called, and sure enough, the Midianites are defeated. And in such a way that NO ONE could deny the power of God.

Because that's the way God does math. You want to do more? Become less (John 3:30). You want to live a life of great abundance? [abundance of the lasting nature] Sacrifice.

My friend Christy has blogged lately about pruning. And I can't stop thinking about the definition she posted:
Prune 1. To cut off or remove dead or living parts or branches of (a plant, for example) to improve shape or growth. 2. To remove or cut out as superfluous. 3. To reduce: prune a budget. To remove what is superfluous or undesirable.

See, in the first definition, it says that pruning is a process of removing dead or living parts to improve shape or growth. In Gideon's army the first 22,000 to be pruned were fearful and would have been little help in battle, that is, they were dead. But the second 9,700 to be pruned were not fearful, they were living, yet they still needed to go so that God could show His glory.

My beautiful church family has been going through some [okay, a lot of] pruning lately. I have long since been frustrated with the apathetic church- and by that I don't mean FBC in particular, but the universal church- and this is going to sound terrible, but it didn't hurt that much when those just going through the motions were pruned away.

But when God's pruning didn't stop there, it started to hurt. When he began to prune away some of the living branches, I mourned. I cry as I type this because those individuals who have been called into another house of worship are my brothers and sisters, and I miss them. I ache for their presence. With my mouth I have professed "It will be okay" and "God has a plan in this" in my heart I couldn't help but wonder what in the WORLD is He doing to us? I KNOW THE PLANS He has for FBC, plans for a HOPE and a FUTURE, so how in the world does this play into it??? What is going on! God what are you doing!

Just like Gideon must have said when he looked out at an army, reduced from a respectable 32,000 to a skeleton 300.

But God knew His plans. He had to make them less, so that their reliance on Him would be COMPLETE. He had to make them less so that He could do MORE. As I pray for my Body, I keep hearing the Lord saying "Do more with less", but now I think I get it.

Just as Christy points out, pruning hurts. It's embarrassing, and humiliating, and painful. But when the gardener is our God, who loves us enough to do whatever it takes to make us into His image, it is worth it. Because when we are less, He is more, when we are weak, He is strong, when we can't, He can... and then He gets the glory. My big, big God gets the chance to show off and the world gets the chance to see what can happen when we FULLY trust and rely on Him.

I'm still going to miss seeing those faces on Sunday morning. And I still have to remind myself weekly that it's not a numbers game... but hearing the story of Gideon encouraged me because it reminded me that God's math so often works to the inverse of human reasoning. So as He continues to refine and prune us, I will continue to praise the hand that is at work... for I know that He is about to pour out over this Body like we have never seen or experienced before, and am I ever ready!!!


beverlyj said...

It reminds me of the shack when God has the main character work really hard in the garden pruning and trimming. He gets rid of what is not necessary. It is hard sweaty work and he doesn't understand why in the world he has to do it. He doesn't understand the purpose of his work until God wants to reveal it to him. Then he's all like "Oh yea, I see what that was for now!" Some times He doesn't show us in this lifetime why things happen the way they do. We just have to trust and know it is His plan. I miss the people that have gone from our family too. It will all be ok.

Anna said...

It's never a numbers game. And I think it's awsome that as a church we remember that. I've always heard Seth tell me it's not about numbers. Because It's not. God does have plans for FBC. They might seem small at first, but God will use every opportunity. I love you Becky! :)