Gideon: Shaping Potential

In the last issue, we examined how the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and called him a “mighty warrior.” Gideon was just beginning to see his potential to be a leader. But that potential was not yet shaped. Servant leaders can learn how to shape their potential by observing the next steps in Gideon’s leadership journey.

17 Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. 18 Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.” And the Lord said, “I will wait until you return.” 22 When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he exclaimed, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!” 23 But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.” 24 So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord Is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. 25 That same night the Lord said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old. Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. 26 Then build a proper kind of altar to the Lord your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.” 27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople, he did it at night rather than in the daytime (Judges 6:17-18; 22-27).

 Potential is shaped by deepening intimacy. In his interaction with the angel, Gideon realized that he was actually in God’s presence. He was terrified, but the angel spoke words of peace to him. This deepening relationship with God was the foundation of Gideon’s leadership. Gideon worshipped before he worked. He learned to know God as One who is peace.

Servant leaders recognize that leadership begins with intimacy. They acknowledge that their relationship with Jesus is all that distinguishes them from other leaders. This intimacy gives the strength needed for the difficult challenges ahead. Gideon realized that true leadership begins with worship.

Potential is shaped by dealing with fear. Gideon struggled with fear. He was afraid of God’s presence, his family, and the townspeople. Gideon’s leadership is best known for the way he placed a fleece before the Lord and asked twice for confirmation that God would use him as a leader. (Read the story in Judges 6:36-40.)

All leaders have to deal with fear. They may fear failure or that no one will follow. They may fear shame or embarrassment. These fears keep many leaders from developing their potential. Servant leaders learn from Gideon that the best way to deal with fear is to deepen intimacy and to bring their fears to God. Then they learn to have confidence in God’s ability, not their own.

Potential is shaped by deliberate obedience. God gave clear instructions to Gideon about the next step. God chose Gideon to save the people from the Midianites, but the first step to shape his leadership potential was to lead at home. Gideon obeyed and took his first leadership action. He was afraid to do it during the day, but at least he obeyed at night! His leadership would become bolder with time and there would be mistakes along the way. But his potential could only be shaped as he stepped out in obedience.

Leaders develop in the field, not in the classroom. Leadership potential is shaped by action. Servant leaders learn to wait on God’s instructions before acting. Then they move in confident obedience. As they obey God, their potential is shaped and grows over time.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What happens if I try to lead before deepening my intimacy with God? What steps am I taking in my daily leadership journey to strengthen this intimacy?
  • What are the greatest fears I have as a leader? In what way do these fears keep me from fully developing my potential? What can I learn from Gideon about these fears?
  • How has my own potential been shaped by actions I have taken as a leader? Are there additional steps of obedience that God is calling me to take now?
  • Gideon’s story suggests that shaping potential is a balance of God’s responsibility and the action of the leader. What is God’s part in shaping my potential? What is my part? What happens if I try to do God’s part? What happens if I expect God to do my part?

In the next issue, we’ll examine how Gideon shared his potential with others.

Copyright, Global Disciples, 2018.


Gideon: Seeing Potential


The Book of Judges tells the story of a difficult time in Israel’s history. “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit” (Judges 17:6).

In this context God raised up a series of leaders to deliver the people from their enemies. When the Midianites oppressed Israel, God called Gideon. Servant leaders can learn many things from Gideon’s example, but we will focus on his potential as a leader. We will examine how Gideon saw his potential, how he shaped it, how he shared it with others, and finally how he sabotaged his potential.

11 The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” 13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” 14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” 15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” 16 The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive” (Judges 6:11-16).

At the beginning of his leadership journey Gideon had potential to be a leader but couldn’t see it. From his story servant leaders learn what is required to see their potential.

Seeing potential requires God’s perspective. God looked at Gideon and saw a “mighty warrior.” Gideon didn’t see himself as a warrior and certainly not a mighty one! He was hiding in a winepress threshing wheat. He looked around and saw the oppression of the enemy. He looked within and saw that he was from a weak clan and was the least in his family. Gideon looked at himself from his own perspective, not God’s. God sees more in Gideon and calls it forth with a new name “mighty warrior.”

Servant leaders do not look at their background or credentials to see their potential. They look for God’s perspective. What does God see when He looks at you? What is His name for you?

Seeing potential requires God’s power. God says to Gideon, “Go in the strength you have…” Gideon doesn’t see himself as a man with strength or power. But God wants him to recognize that He has already placed within Gideon a unique personality, gifts and strengths that were designed to accomplish God’s purposes.

Many leaders, especially young leaders, don’t see their own unique strengths and the power that God provides to them. Servant leaders see God’s power in their own lives and acknowledge it as a gift from Him. In what way has God uniquely empowered you to accomplish His plan for your life?

Seeing potential requires God’s presence. At the beginning the angel says, “The Lord is with you” and at the end, “I will be with you.” But in this passage, Gideon wrestles to accept that God is with him. He sees the enemy but can’t see God’s presence.

Leaders who don’t acknowledge God’s presence in their lives will never see their potential. Servant leaders recognize God’s presence with them and because of Him they are able to see their potential. What can you accomplish since God is with you?

When you think about yourself, what do you see? God sees in you a “mighty warrior.” See the potential God has given you and become the leader God has called you to be.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler


For further reflection and discussion:

  • In what ways have I seen myself as Gideon did in this story? What factors in my life cause me to see myself as incapable of accomplishing great things for God? If God showed up this afternoon, what words would I hear Him say to me? What name would He give me?
  • As I reflect on my own life, what are the unique gifts, personality, and life experiences God has given to me? In what ways do these strengths prepare me for the work to which God has called me?
  • Do I regularly acknowledge God’s presence with me in my leadership journey? If so, what difference does it make in how I see my potential? If not, what hinders my awareness of His presence?
  • In this story, God used an angel to help Gideon see his potential and call forth the leader he was created to be. Is there someone around me that God wants me to call forth? If so, how and when will I do that?

In the next issue, we’ll look at how Gideon shaped his potential.


Copyright, Global Disciples, 2018.