Gideon: Sabotaging Potential

We have followed the story of Gideon from the time he was hiding in fear until he led the people to a great victory. It is exciting to watch as Gideon sees his potential, begins to shape it as he grows as a leader and finally how he shares this with others on his team. But sadly, his story does not end well, as we see in Judges 8:22-28.

22 The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” 23 But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.” 24 And he said, “I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.” (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.) 25 They answered, “We’ll be glad to give them.” So they spread out a garment, and each of them threw a ring from his plunder onto it. 26 The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels, not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels’ necks. 27 Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family. 28 Thus Midian was subdued before the Israelites and did not raise its head again. During Gideon’s lifetime, the land had peace forty years. (Judges 8:22-28)

Gideon had heard God call him a “mighty warrior.” Now others were calling him a “mighty warrior.” When God calls you “mighty warrior,” be encouraged; when others do, beware!

To Gideon’s credit, he resisted two temptations. The people invited him to “rule over them.” He was offered a good position. He declined and pointed them to God’s leadership over them. He also refused to use his leadership victory to promote his son, a common temptation for leaders.

But in other areas Gideon failed and like many leaders he did not finish well. He sabotaged* the potential God gave him by replacing his gifts of leadership with counterfeits.

Potential is sabotaged when income replaces influence. Gideon refused to take a permanent position but he asked to benefit financially from his leadership. While it is not wrong to be paid for work done, Gideon felt like his influence should be rewarded, not in a small way but with the huge sum of money he collected.

Position often leads to privilege. Every good leader will be tempted to think, “I’ve done well and deserve good compensation as reward for my effort.” Servant leaders ask God to keep their hearts focused on influencing others towards God, instead of on the income their leadership will bring.

Potential is sabotaged when religion replaces relationship. Gideon took the earrings and set up a place of worship. This was in direct violation of God’s instructions. His actions became “a snare to Gideon and his family.” Gideon began his leadership in a relationship with God but at the end of his life he allowed a religion of works to replace a relationship of intimacy.

Leaders love action and will be tempted to focus on what they do instead of intimacy with Jesus. Their acts of leadership quickly become a religion based on works. Servant leaders seek a continually growing intimate relationship with Jesus.

Potential is sabotaged when leisure replaces legacy. “During Gideon’s lifetime, the land had peace forty years.” Peace is great! But although Gideon served his nation for a moment, he did nothing to equip leaders for the future. He allowed leisure to replace his legacy and Gideon’s impact lasted only for his lifetime. After his death there was leadership chaos.

Servant leaders seize every moment to prepare the next generation. They share potential with others, not for one battle, but for a lifetime of leadership.

Servant leaders learn from Gideon’s mistakes and seek God’s power to continue to develop their own potential.


Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler


*sabotaged means destroyed, damaged, or ruined


For further reflection and discussion:

  • In what way do I feel like I deserve privileges because I am a leader? How can I avoid allowing these to replace God’s call on my life to influence others for Him?
  • In what way does my leadership keep me so busy that I don’t have time to strengthen my intimacy with Jesus? What do I need to change?
  • In what way am I using the present to prepare for the future? Who will lead after I am gone? What can I do today to help prepare them?
  • Which of the three mistakes that Gideon made is the greatest temptation for me? Are there other temptations that would keep me from fully utilizing my potential? What can I do to avoid them?

Read the account of the chaos that resulted after Gideon’s death in Judges 8:29-9:57. What do I learn from this story of Abimelech, one of Gideon’s illegitimate children? How can it help me to build up or shape my own legacy now?


Copyright, Global Disciples, 2018.

Gideon: Sharing Potential

God helped Gideon to see his potential and he began to shape it with his first leadership action, demolishing the altar of Baal. But God’s calling for Gideon was to deliver his people from the Midianites. Reaching this goal required Gideon to share his potential with others. So he called men around him to go and fight the Midianites. Gideon was beginning to share his potential with those that God called him to lead. He needed a team around him.

1 Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained….

17 “Watch me,” he told them. “Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. 18 When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon.’” 19 Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. 20 The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 21 While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled (Judges 7:1-3; 17-21).

At this point in his leadership journey, Gideon was beginning to share his potential with others. Servant leaders learn from Gideon that they cannot fully reach their own potential until they are helping others reach theirs. God gives potential to leaders so that they will share it with others.

Potential is shared by choosing others to join. Gideon chose others to be on his team. He called them to join his cause and to follow the vision he had just received from God. A few days before, these men were at their homes afraid to do anything. Gideon helps them to see their potential as God helped him to see his own. By choosing them, he communicates that “If God can use me, He can also use you!”

Servant leaders choose others because they see potential warriors. Gideon first accepted all who were willing. But he followed God’s instructions and finally reduced the number to only 300, the right people to be on his team. Servant leaders realize that while numbers are important, size is not the measure of success; obedience is. All leaders select others; servant leaders allow God to guide them in the process of choosing their team. They share their potential by choosing others to join with them.

Potential is shared by calling others to act. “Watch me,” he told them. “Follow my lead.” Gideon was not being arrogant or proud, he was simply calling others to act. He shared his vision with them and now calls them to join in the action. His vision becomes a shared vision.

Gideon’s first leadership action was alone; now he shares his potential by inviting others to act. A “mighty warrior” can act alone but a mighty leader calls others to action. Servant leaders share their potential by calling others to act on the shared vision.

Potential is shared by challenging others to grow. Gideon calls the men to an attack in the middle of the night, a difficult assignment. He shares potential with others by giving them challenging assignments that will help them grow and develop confidence in their own abilities. Servant leaders deliberately give assignments to others to help them develop their own potential. And together they win the victory! God called Gideon a “mighty warrior.” Now Gideon calls forth 300 mighty warriors. Servant leaders are not just called to be warriors, but to raise up other warriors. They share their potential with others.

Share your potential with your team, whether that is a handful in your family, a small group that you lead, employees in your business, a church or community group. Choose them, call them to act and challenge them to grow. With God’s help, your team will accomplish the dream together.


Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler


For further reflection and discussion:

  • Do I most often act alone or empower others to act? What is the result of my leadership?
  • Who is the ‘army’ God is calling me to develop? Do I see the potential in others as God saw potential in me? What hinders me from seeing the potential in others?
  • Have I chosen the right people to be on my team? Have I followed God’s guidance in the process or only relied on my own wisdom?
  • In what way have I shared my vision with the team that will help us carry it out? Have they accepted it as their vision?
  • Is there a specific person whom I should call and challenge to grow? When will I do this?
  • Gideon’s first leadership act was at night because of fear. Now he calls his team to a nighttime attack. What is the difference in these two times and what does it show about Gideon’s growth as a leader?


Copyright, Global Disciples, 2018.