“Mom! Mom! See how much candy I got!” Jeffrey said excitedly. His friend’s birthday party had been fun, but the pinata was the best of all. Jeffrey hadn’t ever seen so much candy before! Now both his hands were filled with suckers, gummy bears, M&M bags and who-knows-what-else. “I think that is too much,” Mom said, shaking her head. “You don’t need that much candy. You already had cake and ice cream.”
Jeffrey’s eyes widened. “But all the other kids got lots more!” he protested.
Mom sighed. “Maybe they did, but I think you’ll be much better off without it,” she said. She smiled at her son’s sad face. “I don’t usually let you have candy, but how about choosing three of your favorites,” she decided. “Then you can share them with the others after supper. It will be a special treat!”
Carefully Jeffrey sorted through his treasures. “I’ll take the M&Ms and gummy bears,” he decided at last. “Then there will be a lot for all of us!”
“Sharing will make you and your tummy much happier!” Mom agreed.
As they drove home together, Jeffrey thought about all the presents and games at the party. “Mom, is it wrong to have parties?” he asked.
“That depends on the kind of party,” Mom said. “What are you thinking about?”
“It seems like it makes people kind of selfish,” Jeffrey said. “When you get a lot of stuff and eat lots of treats, I mean.”
“That is true,” Mom agreed. “Sometimes less is much better, because it makes us more thankful, doesn’t it?”
Jeffrey looked at the candy in his lap and slowly nodded. “I think I like my treats better because there are only three,” he said.
Mom smiled. “That is a great secret that few people learn about,” she said. “It is the secret of true happiness. Do you remember how God has promised the kingdom of heaven to the poor? It is when we don’t have much that we learn how much God has for us!”
Jeffrey thought about that for awhile. “But we have a lot, don’t we, Mom? I guess maybe we are kind of rich. Does that mean we won’t go to heaven?”
“Well,” Mom said slowly, “Jesus said it was dangerous to be rich. And He said that if we hold on to our things, they will keep us from following Him. But God knows how to help us if we have too much. Remember the story of Gideon?”
Jeffrey nodded. “It’s in my Bible Story book,” he said. “I like the picture of all the men blowing their trumpets and shining their torches!”
“It is a wonderful story,” Mom agreed. “Not because of what men did, but what God did. You see, it all started with a boy that was afraid.”
“Tell it to me,” Jeffrey begged.
“Well, the land of Israel was in trouble because they had forsaken God,” Mom began. “Their enemies, the Midianites, would come and raid and burn their crops, and everyone was afraid of them. Of course, the people still needed to eat, so anytime they had some food to harvest, they would hide it. And that was what Gideon was doing the day an angel met him.”
“The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” the angel said.
Gideon didn’t realize it was an angel at first, and he was puzzled. “How can the Lord be with us if all these bad things are happening to us?” he asked. He remembered the stories of how God had freed the slaves in Egypt and made a path through the sea. But where was God now? “He has forsaken us to the Midianites,” Gideon said, sadly.
The angel of God looked at him and he saw something better than courage or power. It was Gideon’s humility, because he was willing to admit that he needed help. So the angel said, “Go in this might and you will save Israel from the Midianites, because I have sent you.”
Gideon didn’t think he could do it. He felt small and afraid. But God kept encouraging him. “I will be with you,” He said, and showed His power by burning up the food Gideon gave him with the touch of a stick. When Gideon realized it was God speaking to him, he was even more afraid! But the Lord said “fear not.” He told Gideon that he must break down the altar to Baal that his father had, and build an altar to God instead. Gideon knew that he could get in trouble, but he obeyed. And when the neighbors got angry, God protected him.
Finally, after several more tests, Gideon was persuaded that God would really help him. And it was just in time, because the Midianites had camped in a nearby valley with all their great army. Gideon blew a trumpet and the Israelites gathered together for a battle. But having courage to fight wasn’t enough.
“You have too many people to fight the Midianites,” God said.
Too many? The valley was filled with the enemy’s tents and camels, and it seemed like they would barely have enough soldiers to win. But God saw there was a danger worse than the Midianites. It was the danger of trusting in themselves. “You have too many,” He said, “because the people will think they won the battle themselves. Now go and tell anyone that is afraid to go home.”
Afraid? Yes, most of the Israelites were afraid. When Gideon told them that they could go home, less than a third remained. Now there were only brave men left, at least. But God didn’t want him to depend on that. “You still have too many,” He told Gideon. “Bring them to the water to drink, and I’ll show you which ones should go with you.”
Again Gideon obeyed. As he watched the soldiers drink out of the stream, most of them got on their knees. A few scooped up the water with their hands. “Those are the ones that will save Israel from the Midianites,” God said. “Let the rest go home.”
Poor Gideon! How could he win a battle with only three hundred men? But God encouraged him again. “If you are afraid, just go down and listen to what the enemy is saying,” He told him. So Gideon crept down into the valley and heard an amazing thing. The Midianites were having dreams about Gideon smashing their tents! “God has delivered us into his hand,” they said to one another.
Gideon realized that God was already winning the battle, and he took courage. “Let’s go!” he said to the men. “The Lord has delivered the Midianites into our hands!” And sure enough, that night the whole enemy camp was destroyed because of three hundred and one faithful men, blowing trumpets and shining their torches in the night.
When Mom finished, Jeffrey sighed happily. “I like that story,” he said.
“What did you like best?” Mom asked.
“The men blowing their trumpets,” Jeffrey decided.
“Three hundred wasn’t too small, when God was with them,” Mom agreed. “Let’s always remember that God’s way is for us to be little, and Him to be big. He has promised to help us, if we will just trust and obey.”