The Right Stuff

It was 1983 when a movie entitled “The Right Stuff” came out.  Can it really be that long ago now that such a “contemporary” movie came out?  Anyway, if you have never seen it, it chronicles the breed of men called “test pilots” out of whom came the first Americans in space. They came to be known as the Mercury Astronauts because NASA had dubbed their efforts to get American’s into space “Project Mercury”.  John Glenn became the most famous of these men although he was not the first into space.  Alan Shepherd was.  Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth. But these seven men were the ones identified as having “the right stuff” to be the first Americans in space. While “the right stuff” was defined by many characteristics, the implication is that they had it all… physical prowess, mental acuity, gifted piloting skills, all-American character, etc. All these men became American heroes.

The man Gideon is often noted as a major Bible hero. But close examination of the text narrating his story reveals that, in reality… he was kind of a wimp!  When God comes to him to call him, he is hiding out in the wine press so the Midianites would not discover him beating out wheat (Judges 6:11).  When God commissioned him, he whined about how his clan was weak and he was the least in his father’s house (v. 15).  When God told him to destroy the altar of Baal in his town the text says, “…because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night” (vv. 25-27).  Then, he has to put out a fleece…twice…in order to be convinced to lead his people against the Midianites.  Talk about your reluctant heroes!

So, it seems strange to hear God greet him with the words, “O mighty man of valor” (v.12).  And then when he sends Gideon he says, “Go in this might of yours” (v.14).  What valor?  What might?  Where is to be found this valorous might of which the Angel of the Lord speaks?  It is to be found in v. 13 when Gideon asks “if the Lord is with us…why are we under the heel of the Midianites and where are all the wonderful deeds you have done in the past for our forefathers” (v.13)

Gideon’s might is not in his military prowess.  It is not in his courage.  It is not in his self-confidence.  It is in the fact that he cares.  He cares what has happened to Israel.  He cares that the glory of God is being mocked by these pagan people.  He cares that they are not experiencing the deliverance their forefathers experienced when God delivered them out of Egypt.  Gideon’s might is that he cares about God, God’s people, and God’s glory.  That does not mean that he automatically and inherently has “the right stuff” to lead God’s people.  But he has “the right God” who will by his own might, deliver his people.

You show me someone who cares about these things and I’ll show you someone who will be given “the right stuff” when they need it.  What makes us valorous is our commitment to God and his truth.  What makes us weak is when truth is a take it or leave it proposition.  What makes us courageous is a passionate love for God.  What makes us weak is a lukewarm sentiment toward him.  What makes us brave is a concern for God’s people.  What makes us cowards is a profound self-centeredness.

Valor and might are not a matter of copious amounts of “the right stuff”.  It is a matter of caring about the right things.  If we care enough, God will supply enough valor and might to do whatever it is God bids us do, no matter how timid or fearful we are.



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