Layers

I love a good storm. I’m no meteorologist, but when there’s some excitement in the forecast, you can bet I’ll be on my weather app, staring at the radar and hoping we’re going to get at least one good flash of lightning and a solid crack of thunder!

But a couple of years ago, I got caught in a storm I wasn’t such a big fan of.

It was SERVE 2017 and I was running an errand with another leader. As we drove toward Ludlow, Vermont, I noticed the sky was getting unusually dark for that time of day. The wind was picking up and just as we got into town, the rain began pounding down on the windshield – or wait, was that really just rain? No! It was hail!

Thankfully, we happened to be at our destination and were able to park and ride out the storm there. I couldn’t decide if I was more excited to experience this rare weather event or more worried about the damage it might do to my car!

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Hail is a ball of ice that falls from the sky – but it doesn’t start out as a ball of ice. A droplet of water vapor inside a cloud above freezing level turns to ice. Gravity pulls the ice particle down below freezing level, where it collects a layer of water. Updrafts in the storm then force the particle back up above freezing level, where the water freezes and becomes a coating of ice. Gravity takes over, the process repeats, and depending on the storm, that single particle can collect enough layers to become the size of a softball or grapefruit!

Serving God should be simple. As purposeful creations of an all-knowing God, we’ve been shaped to serve. Each of us has been gifted with a unique combination of personality and passion, along with a knack for certain tasks. And as believers, God’s own Spirit within us further enables us to confidently make our contribution to the building of His Kingdom.

But serving God gets complicated in our culture. We’re forecast-checkers, constantly evaluating our position in comparison to our fellow servants, and often the signs point to: “not qualified,” “not talented enough,” or “not as good at that as __________”. Believing we’re not enough at our core, we let gravity and updrafts take over and help us accumulate layers – layers of “more creative like her” or “more outgoing like him,” “more generous like him,” or “more organized like her”. We’ve seen God use “those” people, but us? We’re not quite there yet.

The book of Judges tells the story of Gideon, a not-so-hero-ish guy who served God in a very heroic way. Suffering under incessant attack from the Midianites, God’s people were reduced to starvation. Desperate, they cried out to God for help, and as He always did, He called forth a rescuer to save them.

“Then the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!’… ‘Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!’” (Judges 6:11-12, 14)

Confused by this calling, and wondering if the Lord had made a mistake, Gideon asked: “‘How can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!’” (6:15) The reply he received, though, confirmed there was no mistake: “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.” (6:16)

After giving in and agreeing to go, Gideon did what any good military leader would do – he gathered troops. 32,000 of them to be exact. He may have been “weakest” and “least,” but with 32,000 layers surrounding him, he might have a chance!

But the Lord thought otherwise and said to Gideon, “‘You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength. Therefore, tell the people, “Whoever is timid or afraid may leave this mountain and go home.”’ So 22,000 of them went home, leaving only 10,000 who were willing to fight.” (7:2-3)

And, as if losing that many layers wasn’t enough, the Lord then sent home 9,700 more! Seeing himself as “not enough,” Gideon thought he needed to be “more”. In Gideon’s mind, the definition of “mighty hero” was grapefruit-sized hail, but in the Lord’s eyes, it was “Go with the strength you have” (6:14). He didn’t need all those layers!

Here’s why: “When the 300 Israelites blew their rams’ horns, the Lord caused the [Midianite] warriors in the camp to fight against each other with their swords.” (7:22) The bad guys ended up taking themselves down! Gideon ended up being celebrated as a mighty hero – not because of his ability to accumulate layers – but simply because he said “yes” and stepped forward in obedience.

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Every time I serve, I think, “You must have picked the wrong person!” because I never see myself as enough. But when God leads me to serve, he’s not expecting me to be anything more than I already am. He doesn’t need my layers. In fact, all those layers end up doing is producing damaging false confidence, so He’s in the process of melting them away. God is constantly working to reduce me down to the original “me” He created – who, believe it or not, is already enough!

Any reason you feel disqualified or inadequate is null and void. You are incredibly valuable to God’s Kingdom and every contribution you make, no matter how small or weak, is substantial just because it came from you. You don’t need to become a “mighty hero” – you already are one!

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