Throughout the story of Gideon we see moments of incredible bravery when Gideon had to step out in faith to trust God. Gideon’s weakness became a conduit to reveal God’s incredible strength. In each pivotal moment of Gideon’s story, he had to take the first step in deciding whether he would follow God’s plan or cower in his own weakness. I like to think about those crucial twenty seconds of courage in each terrifying situation he faced: tearing down his father’s altar to Ba’al, accepting military leadership despite his lack of experience, sending home 31,700 soldiers despite the 135,000 Midianites he was called to attack, and entering battle with only 300 men armed with nothing more than clay jars, torches and trumpets.
What we need to realize is that we have access to that same power Gideon had. We have opportunities every day to entrust our weaknesses to God and to watch how He gives us strength to accomplish His purposes.
This whole idea of “Twenty Seconds of Courage” was inspired in me by watching the movie We Bought a Zoo. Check out the clip here:
Matt Damon’s character says these inspiring words: “Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally, twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery and I promise you, something great will come of it.” When we trust God to give us 20 seconds of courage to obey Him, it can transform our lives for good and impact others in powerful ways.
Gideon was not the only one who stepped out in faith relying on God’s strength in the midst of his weakness. Let’s look at a few other people in the Bible who did this to see if we can discover how they found the courage to step out in faith when the odds were against them.
One of my favorite stories takes place in Joshua, Chapter 3. Joshua has just become the new leader of the Children of Israel after Moses’ death. Imagine how daunting it must have been to come after Moses, the man who spoke directly to God and led the Jews from Egypt to the Promised Land. That is probably why God tells Joshua three times in Joshua 1 “Be strong and courageous.”
His task in Joshua 3 is to lead roughly two million Jews across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. The biggest problem is that this is during flood stage and the swollen river was probably several hundred yards across. God instructs Joshua to have the priests carry the Ark of the Covenant into the river and to trust that He will hold back the waters. Imagine the twenty seconds of courage it must’ve taken Joshua to tell the priests the plan! Amazingly, the priests agree to the plan and God parts the waters to allow all of the people to walk on dry ground and pass safely into the Promised Land.
I’d guess that Joshua’s courage came from his past experiences with Yahweh. He’d seen God part the Red Sea in Exodus 14, he’d seen him provide manna for the people throughout their forty years wandering in the desert (see Exodus 16 for the first occurrence), and he’d won a battle against the Amalekites against amazing odds. This passage describing that battle is too good not to share:
“So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.’”
God wanted to make sure Joshua remembered this amazing victory so that he would have courage to lead in the future.
The bottom line? Joshua found his twenty seconds of courage through remembering God’s faithfulness in the past.
The story of Judah’s King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20 might be one of my favorites of all time. In earlier chapters, we learn that Jehoshaphat was a king who honored God by removing the high places and Asherah poles from Judah. He also valued God’s word and sent officials throughout Judah to teach the Book of the Law to the people.
In chapter 20, Jehoshaphat learns that a vast army is marching to attack Judah. I love his response in verses 3-4:
“Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.”
Jehoshaphat’s impulse wasn’t to gather his military advisors, count his troops or inventory the weapons in Judah’s arsenal. His impulse was to seek God. He gathers his people together to pray and fast. In his public prayer before all the people, he doesn’t’ start by pleading with God to save Judah, instead, he praises God’s power. Next, he proclaims God’s past deeds. He finally gets around to presenting God with his problem and then shows ultimate humility by admitting his position of powerlessness. In verse 12 he says:
“We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
The next day God sends Jehoshaphat to meet his enemies. The prophet who shares God’s plan reassures Jehoshaphat by saying in 20:17:
“You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.”
In 20:21 Jeshoshaphat follows God plan and marches out to battle after appointing men to go out at the head of the army singing: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.”
Much like the story of Gideon, God causes the enemies to turn on one another and by the time Jehoshaphat and his army arrive the enemies have all destroyed one another. All that is left for Jehoshaphat and his men to do is collect the plunder.
The bottom line? Jehoshaphat found his twenty seconds of courage through praising God.
The story of Peter walking on the water in Matthew 14:22-33 is one of my favorites from the New Testament. I love the fact that he was the only disciple with enough courage to ask Jesus to enable him to walk on water when he saw Jesus walking on the waves towards the boat. Even though Peter does falter for a moment when he lets the wind and the waves take his eyes off Jesus, he remembers where to turn for help in verse 30:
“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’”
Much like Jehoshaphat, he knew that in his powerlessness, God was the only one who could save him. Just how did Peter become so trusting of Jesus that he was willing to step out of the boat into the storm tossed waters? I turned to the beginning of the book of Matthew to see what events took place prior to this one. It’s quite an impressive list. Here are a few of the things that happened earlier in the story:
-He saw Jesus heal the sick (Matt 4)
-He heard Jesus preach the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7)
-He saw Jesus calm a storm (Matt 8)
-He saw Jesus heal two demon-possessed men (Matt 8)
-He saw Jesus heal a paralytic (Matt 9)
-He saw Jesus raise a girl from death (Matt 9)
-He was sent out to preach, heal, raise dead, cleans lepers and drive out demons (Matt 10)
-He saw Jesus feed a crowd 5000 people using 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish (Matt 14)
Peter had already witnessed Jesus doing amazing things. He had developed a relationship of love and trust and knew that through Jesus he could do seemingly impossible things. The bottom line? Peter’s twenty seconds of courage came through trusting Jesus.
There are several common threads that we can see between the characters in all three stories.
1. All three knew and valued God’s Word
2. All three shared God’s truth with others
3. All three knew God was capable of doing more than they could do on their own
4. All three knew their own weaknesses
5. All three impacted others using God’s strength
6. All three had personal and intimate relationships with God
7. All three led courageously in seemingly impossible situations
Here is the best part: None of the things on this list are specific to a particular person, culture or time period. All of them can be true of us today as much as they were for Joshua, Jehoshaphat and Peter.
As we wrap up our study of Gideon, what will be different in your life going forward? What areas do you need to work on so that you’ll be ready when God calls you to step out to give Him 20 seconds of courage?
Our moments of courage can be large or small, but each one matters to God. Do you sense God nudging you in some way that may seem frightening?
-Maybe He’s calling you to pick up the phone and mend a broken relationship
-Maybe He’s prompting you to speak an encouraging word to someone who is outside of your comfort zone
-Maybe He’s calling you to invite a friend or neighbor to church or Bible study
-Maybe He’s nudging you to open your home to someone in need
-Maybe He’s telling you to say “no” to a few commitments that will enable you to spend more time with Him or studying His word
-Maybe He’s prompting you to spend more time pouring into others or less time with people who are dragging you down
-Maybe He’s calling you to go on that Missions trip you’ve been talking about for years
-Maybe He’s inviting you to trust Him with your finances and tithe or give sacrificially
-Maybe He’s nudging you to make that appointment with a Christian counselor that you’ve been putting off
-Maybe He’s telling you to use that Spiritual Gift you know you have but have been afraid to use
The list could go on. The point is, any act of bravery requires that first twenty seconds of courage to get started. Are you up for it? When you look back at the story of your life, what things do you see God has given you to draw on for courage? Are you ready to give Him your weakness and watch Him turn it into His strength? Post a comment and let us know!