Dwight Smith

God weakens. This is a simple fact that cannot be debated. History stands as proof of this truth. Judson, the famed missionary to Burma, was made weak on several occasions only for God to use him miraculously. Experience takes its place in line to support this thesis. Countless believers could testify of their own trials and tribulations that have served to teach them implicit reliance upon the Almighty. The Biblical record also stands as an irrefutable witness to the reality that God fulfils this task.

Many are the men in the pages of Scripture whom God hand-picked to weaken. This most certainly was the privilege of one named Gideon. He was threshing wheat in secret so as to avoid the watchful eyes of the enemy when God selected him. After a brief introduction, God informed Gideon that he was to lead the nation of Israel against the Midianites. Gideon was certainly not the aggressive type, but was characteristically filled with trepidation. Thus he asked the Lord to give him several signs. Once the Lord answered his request and once Gideon received these confirmations, he mustered enough strength and manpower to accomplish the task set before him.

That is precisely when God weakened him. Gideon went from weakness to seeming strength back to weakness before God mightily used him. What Divine motives would back such strange methods? Why would God choose to weaken a man before He would wield him against the enemy? The reasons are simple and several-fold.

First, God chooses to weaken us so that He might ELIMINATE THE POTENTIAL OF ARROGANCE. Every individual believer has resting in his bosom the evil enemy of pride. Given the right circumstances and matched with the necessary ingredients, this sin will ignite into a fire that is many times unquenchable. It ravages lives. It destroys homes. It crushes hopes. It ruins relationships. Worst of all, it reflects the image of Satan and hinders the cause of Christ. Pride lurks within all of us and must be eliminated. This is most certainly accomplished when God weakens.

In Judges chapter seven, Gideon had amassed to himself an army of thirty-two thousand Israelite soldiers. The Lord looked at this and saw a potential for pride. “And the Lord said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, LEST ISRAEL VAUNT THEMSELVES AGAINST ME SAYING, MINE OWN HAND HATH SAVED ME.”

This was part and parcel of the reason that God first began to downsize Gideon’s army. God will, in many instances, bring a person to a point of weakness to eliminate the arrogance that may result from a victory. Paul emphasized this truth when he stated emphatically the reason for his thorn in the flesh, “LEST I SHOULD BE EXALTED ABOVE MEASURE…” (II Corinthians 12:7). God’s glory and our glory are incompatible. There can be no arrogance in our lives if we intend to be channels through which the cause of Christ will flow.

The second reason why God may come to us and eliminate or decrease our strength is found in Judges 7:3. The Lord said, “Whosoever IS FEARFUL AND AFRAID, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead.” In weakening the Israelite army, the Captain of the Host of Israel was also trying to EXTRACT THE HINDRANCE OF FEAR.

An unbelievable amount of fear had gripped the Israelite band. For several years they had lived in sin and self indulgence; thus, the Lord brought the Midianites to judge them. For decades God’s chosen people had trembled beneath the heavy hand of their oppressors. Now they were to face them. Thirty-two thousand men had gathered themselves around Gideon, the divinely appointed leader. However, the Lord had yet to prune back his army. When he gave this open door for the fearful to depart, the Record declares that “there returned of the people twenty and two thousand.” The majority of this host, who had at first appeared to have great courage, suddenly found themselves fleeing for the shelter of their homes.


Fear is an unacceptable trait of a soldier in the army of Christ! Many a battle has been lost because fear has replaced faith and apprehension has replaced assurance. If formidable city walls will be decimated; if Jordan rivers will be crossed; if Goliaths will be slain; if fiery furnaces will be conquered; if lion’s mouths will be stopped; if miracles will be wrought; if souls will be won; if prayers will be answered; if churches will be established; if Christ’s cause will be advanced, God will accomplish these tasks through HEARTS FILLED WITH FAITH NOT FEAR.

There is a third reason within our text that God gives for “weakening” the forces of Gideon. Though only ten thousand soldiers remained to ward off the massive Midianite and Amalekite alliance, still God told Gideon, “THE PEOPLE ARE YET TOO MANY.” In a day when strength is often gauged by numbers, this seems to be a peculiar statement. However, it must be remembered that “God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (I Corinthians 1:27). In verse four, the Lord said to the mighty man of valor, “It shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go.” Almighty God was simply trying to Reinforce the Importance of Obedience.

This is a lesson that no leader, soldier, or for that matter, Christian can do without. Obedience is absolutely essential to spiritual growth and glorious victory. When a soldier approaches the battlefield with insubordination and rebellion, he is certain to bring defeat and perhaps death upon his own head and those of his comrades. However, if the believer chooses the high road of obedience, he reveals implicit trust in Christ’s Words and will certainly overcome.

Where was God trying to bring Gideon through this difficult process of pruning, breaking, and weakening? He was ultimately taking His servant to a place of utter dependence upon Divine power. No longer would Gideon be able to claim that his own hand had wrought the victory. Only God could receive the glory if this battle was won. Though the Israelite army approached the enemy with comparatively small numbers and completely inferior weaponry, they approached their enemy with a firm and fixed faith upon the Lord. That was exactly the intent of their Captain as He slowly and painstakingly weakened their military might. He simply desired their full, implicit, and complete trust. With men who were humbled, faith-filled, obedient, careful, and God-dependent, THE LORD won a great victory that day.

When God weakens, He does so with sterling purpose and divine intent. As the shepherd who tenderly breaks the leg of his wandering sheep, and as the husbandman who carefully prunes his cluttered vines, so the Lord will often come TO DIMINISH OUR STRENGTH. This He does so we might learn that HIS STRENGTH IS MADE PERFECT IN OUR WEAKNESS and so that we might emulate the faithful who “OUT OF WEAKNESS WERE MADE STRONG” (Hebrews 11:34).

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