by Timothy L. Cooley, Sr.

Gideon fluffed the grain lightly and a tiny cloud of chaff flitted along the ground. He glanced around cautiously. Gone were the days when he could gather the whole family together with all the farm hands at threshing time for the work party that was always topped off with a joyous feast. Gone was the joy of harvest time when a man could throw a shovel full of grain high into the breeze and the whole party would erupt with raucous cheers.
They usually threshed on the edge of a hill where there was a steady wind to carry off the chaff. A man could see his neighbors celebrating the same chore on their own little prominence. He might glimpse a dozen clouds of chaff—with people shouting around each one! But now they were nervously hiding what should have been an occasion for joy.

Gideon reflected. They faced an incredible crisis. The enemy had so over-powered Israel that the people could scarcely manage to thresh a little wheat secretly in order to feed their families. As soon as the Midianites spotted the cloud of chaff in the wind, they would sneak closer, then burst into the secret gathering and take everything, perhaps even kill some of the people!

The economic and political scene was black with lowering storm clouds. People prayed but it seemed God refused to help them. They had disobeyed and this was their judgment. The Lord even sent a prophet, but the screaming prophet of doom only remind them of their failure, their sin! In Judges 6:8-9, there was no mercy offered.

Was that the Lord’s real message or was the pessimistic prophet so disgusted with their disobedience that he only proclaimed half the message?

The Israelites were so scared they were hiding out in the mountain caves!Gideon was sneaking to thresh his grain—in the wine press! Can you imagine finding chaff in your Kool-Aid? Gideon planned quickly to hide his treasure before the enemy could discover it and whisk it away. It seemed the struggle would never end.

Suddenly there was a huge Angel sitting under the oak tree just a few feet from Gideon! Fear gripped his throat. He could barely breathe. The Stranger was just looking at him! How could he have missed this Intruder sneaking up on him? No, this was different. But what did he want?

Then the Angel smiled and said smoothly, “The Lord is with you, Mighty Hero!”

Gideon’s face registered shock!Probably he had been praying, but he was praying for God to use someone else! “The Lord is with me? No way!” he thought. “Not me! Lord, You’ve got the wrong number!”

Then a quizzical look came over him. “If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all His wonders that our fathers told us about…?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us.”

I submit to you that there are three related factors in what I shall call the Gideon Complex.

We Canonize the Dead and the Past

The Past was great! Outstanding events really happened, but not every day was great! There were difficult days too! But the Past is now far enough removed for us to remember the miracles and forget the problems.

Then again, the Problems of Today loom so large that they obscure Problems of the Past. What is more, we need a miracle today! So we look to the wonderful Past, recall the divine intervention and wish for a repeat performance.

All his life, Gideon had heard the tales of how God had delivered Israel from Egypt, how He had divided the Red Sea, how He had given Moses the Law, how He had dried up the Jordan River, and how He had knocked down the walls of Jericho. 

Gideon believed the stories, but he did not seem to realize that God could and would do the same things for him today! He thought all the stories were for somebody else. Right now he needed a miracle!

Now what should be our attitude toward the past? Rejoice in past Miracles. They were great! They really happened! They show what our God loves to do. I love to read about them. I rejoice in them, but I pray that we will be motivated to see mighty things happen in OUR day. Don’t allow yourself to read and talk about the old stories without praying for God to do it again!

Another factor in the Gideon Complex is that…

We Criticize the Living and the Present

The problems of today press in upon us. We realize that if we make the wrong decision, disaster will follow. Peril seems imminent. The past was dark, but now the past is so remote that we forget its darkness.

In our criticism of the present, we forget the faults of the past. Moses saw great demonstrations of divine power, but he had his critics and his opposers. It is easy for us to categorize Moses’ enemies as wicked. We can even fault Gideon’s opposers with sin. But if we had lived in their day, we might have joined the complainers too.

Gideon knew about Joshua’s victories, but had he ever empathized with Moses’ life-threatening pressure?Gideon had never had two million people ready to mob and stone him. But he did know that he was under tremendous pressure right now.

We know the story of Gideon’s deliverance, but have you considered how desperate his condition was? Originally Gideon called together an army of 32,000, but he sent most of them home. Then with only 300, the real maneuvers began.

Gideon was outnumbered! 450 to 1!135,000 well-armed, highly trained Midianites to 300 torch-bearing, trumpet-blowing Israelites, screaming in the dark, scared of their own shadows, every face taut with worry, eyes glisten-ing with fear.

After the opening battle, the Ephraimites clamored that Gideon had not invited them to join his forces (Judges 8:1-2). If there was to be a battle, Ephraimite fighters must be in the lead! The men of Succoth and Peniel refused to help Gideon, just in case he might lose the battle and the Midianites would retaliate (Judges 8:6-9). They would enjoy the victory, but they would not risk their lives in the battle! Gideon’s own contemporaries did not immediately see him as a giant. Jesus had the same kind of problem with the people in His day. The same people who criticized Jesus were proudly extolling the prophets of the past. Sharply He rebuked them, “Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres (Luke 11:47-48).

Anyone who spends that much time decorating the tombs of past leaders is probably sabotaging the current administration! Jesus said their habits proved that if they had lived earlier they would have stoned the very prophets whose tombs they now decorated!

The leaders of the past were men and women of like passions such as we are. Great people still have feet of clay! The great men and women of the past had their critics just like the great ones of today. Rather than criticizing and finding fault with the state of the church today, we should believe God for the impossible tasks of today! “This is the day that the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psa.118:24).

Many of us were not here to solve the problems of fifty years ago. The only thing we can do is tackle the difficulties of today. They seem like an impossible assignment, but blessed is the man who does not know what cannot be done!

Rejoice in the possibilities of Today! Take hold of our circumstances today and win the victory in the Name of our God!

The third factor in the Gideon Complex is the result of the first two. When we Canonize the Dead and the Past, then Criticize the Living and the Present,

We Cripple Ourselves and Our Children in the Future

In the 1960s, we were worshipping the 1930s. In the 1990s I heard people extolling the virtues of the 1960s. I remember the 1960s! I remember the first days of Penn View. I was there on Ground Breaking Day when the miraculous picture was taken.

I predict that some day, the worshippers of the past will discourage the people of 2030 by telling of the wonderful 2000s! Why not live it up NOW? Let’s believe God for the answers to prayer NOW! Let’s see what happens if we believe.

​What would have happened if John and Charles Wesley had moaned about the wickedness of their day and not prayed a revival to pass? In their days, England was vile and corrupt. Prostitution, child abuse, and drunkenness were rampant. Slavery was the blight of the “Christian” nations! The corrupt clergy just looked the other way! But the Wesleys and the Methodists refused to accept defeat! And God gave them a revival!

A hundred years later, William and Catherine Booth found society had gone just as bad. Poverty and squalor gripped their compassionate hearts, but they refused to just complain! They founded the Salvation Army! Within William’s lifetime, the Army gathered 9,415 congregations, spread through 78 nations of the globe! In his last public speech at 83 years of age, William squared with the challenge:

While women weep as they do now, I’ll fight; while little children go hungry as they do now, I’ll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl on the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight! I’ll fight to the very end.

Two months later he was promoted to Glory! By the grace of God, William Booth left the world a different place than he found it. Thousands upon thousands had tasted the grace of God, because one man and wife, one family, could NOT sit at home satisfied with their own comfort. They refused to just complain! And God proved that He is ABLE! Abundantly Able!!

In our day, as in the days of Isaiah and the Wesleys and the Booths, “The LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear” (Isa.59:1). God is as able to do miracles and give revival today as He has ever been.

We should not tolerate the crippling pessimism and criticism. If we do, our young people will be turned aside from faith in God. Even the few who do choose to live for God will have no vision of what God wants us to do in our day. We must envision great victory for Tomorrow! It requires more than criticizing the present state of affairs, more than complaining about the lack of great men and women in these days. We must have a vision for tomorrow in order to inspire the faith of our children.

When we Canonize the Dead and the Past, then Criticize the Living and the Present, we Cripple our Children and the Future.

Let God Work Today

Let’s offer God an opportunity to work in OUR day.

Rejoice in past Miracles. They were great! They really happened. But allow those movings of the Spirit to motivate us to —

Believe God for the impossible tasks of Today. We cannot serve the community as it existed in 1950. We can only make a difference in our day. Pray for Divine Intervention NOW. Act! Do Something for God NOW!

Envision great victory for Tomorrow. By the promises of God, I can assure you that as long as there are believers on this earth, the Holy Spirit will be here to enable them to live victoriously. God’s promises will always be available like checks for the cashing.


About the Author

Timothy L. Cooley, Sr. is Academic Dean at Penn View Bible Institute. He formerly pastored at the Newport and Pillow churches.

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