They can help us see perspectives otherwise not easily visible. Perhaps the greatest one ever was constructed by Charles Joseph Minard, portraying the losses suffered by Napoleon’s army in the Russian campaign of 1812. Using a thick beige-to-black band, he shows the size of the army beginning at the Polish-Russian border and follows its reduction to Moscow and back in the bitterly cold winter. The army size is tied to temperature and time scales. It’s a masterpiece in graphic depiction. It makes the following point very clear: Napoleon’s army was defeated by poor decision making and winter weather, not another army.
Consider now another chart, not nearly as famous as Minard’s: mine.
This chart tracks three variables from Judges 6-7:
- Green = The size of Gideon’s forces, starting from when he was called (that would be one) through to the greatest number (32,000 or so) and back down to 301.
- Red = The size of the opposition’s forces, peaking at 135,000 and eventually shrinking to zero. Where the number starts cannot be identified, but I’m guess somewhere around 25,000 to 35,000 (call it an occupation force).
- Orange = Gideon’s physical/mental stress level. It’s the variable hardest to pin down because the Bible gives us only clues without clear markers. In other words…
- what was his stress level working alone in the wine press prior to the call?
- what was his stress level when an angel appeared and issued a call to leadership without any identified followers?
- what was his stress level when the great battle began; 301 facing 135,000?
- and what was his stress level when he was chasing an enemy on the run on foreign soil when his men were exhausted?
While the Bible doesn’t give us an actual number, we can anticipate movement up or down.
What do you notice as you consider the chart?
First, it becomes apparent the fight of faith has a general emotional/physical “footprint” that would keep anyone out of their comfort zone. It’s not blissful. It’s not a consistent spiritual “high”. Instead, it’s a roller coaster of highs and lows.
What does that mean? It means you cannot look at your “heart” or “feelings” to tell you whether to start, stop or finish. It’s the call that matters. If Gideon would have check his heart for directions, at several points through these chapters he might have bailed. Any reasonable person would have.
Second, the physical resources at Gideon’s disposal never come close to matching up well with the forces of the eastern armies. Gideon, at his best, had about 32,000 men. The forces of the east had 135,000. It was never even close.
What does that mean? It means you cannot make your decision on whether to obey the call based upon visible resources. At no point did Gideon ever have a number that would cause any military leader worth his “salt” to press the attack. And when Gideon started to like his numbers, God stepped in and said “too big; too many – we have to thin these out lest the wrong person get credit!” Early on Gideon settled that the power in his punch was God and God alone.
Third, Gideon’s stress level was highest after the main battle was over. When the red line is well past its peak and heading toward zero (certain demise of the eastern armies), the orange line is just getting started, like some runaway growth stock. Gideon’s most trying time may have been after the crowd left the primary victory celebration, and he knew that his original force of 300 had to chase the rest of the enemy into foreign soil. He received no help, no food and no sleep. Exhaustion was his only companion as he pushed his men forward based on a call only his ears heard.
What does that mean? It means finishing the call is sometimes harder than the main battle. We celebrate and publish the book or create a seminar too early. 89% of the enemy was routed and leaving town. But that number has nothing to do with his call. Gideon was called to deliver God’s people, not simply reduce the enemy forces. Enough is not enough until the call is completed – and that may be the hardest part.
Were you able to ask Gideon “was it worth it?“ What do you think his answer would be?
What might yours be if you answered God’s call today?