Jesus often said, “Fear not.” Yet, the first time I stood in front of a crowd, fear enslaved me. Thirty pairs of eyes stared at me and thirty somber faces waited for me to impart something they didn’t already know. My kneecaps knocked louder than a snare drum, and I left finger indentions where I gripped the podium.
That’s why I balked when a minister asked me to teach a nine-month Bible study. Just imagining myself standing in front of a class put me in a faint. After all, public speaking is usually listed as one of the top three fears. Even ahead of fear of death and failure.
Gideon, on the other hand, feared going against Israel’s enemy, the Midianites and Amalekites, despite God’s call for him to do so. He must have really flinched when God whittled his army down to only 300 men to face foes who “… settled in the valley, thick as locusts.” (Judges 7:12, NIV)
Yet, God understood Gideon’s weak knees and threw him a lifeline. “If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack …” (Judges 7:10, NIV) The NLT translation says, “Then you will be eager to attack.”
When I read those words, I hear God acknowledge Gideon’s fear as a matter of fact. Something God anticipated and accounted for in His preparations for Gideon to lead his people to victory.
Sure enough, Gideon arrived at the enemy camp in time to overhear one man’s dream interpreted. “Your dream can mean only one thing — God has given Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite, victory over Midian and all its allies.” (Judges 7:14, NLT) Armed with divine encouragement, Gideon returned to his 300 men and routed the enemy.
When asked to lead the Bible study, God knew my fears, too. He sent three people whose words encouraged me to tackle the challenge. They complimented my past teaching efforts and asked me to consider leading the nine-month class. My fear didn’t vanish, but it subsided. The first night of class, 24 students showed. All but one completed the course.
Yes, Jesus often said, “Fear not.” But, if we do? The Lord understands our human weakness. He knows we might need one last encouraging sign. Our part … look and listen for that sign. And when it comes — and it will — then march forward. Like Gideon…
When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he worshipped God. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, “Get up! The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands.” (Judges 7:15, NIV)
Does a fear grip you today? Watch for the sign that God has given the victory into your hands.
©2012 Gloria Ashby. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail.