Editor’s Note: Today we’re reading Judges 4:4-10 and Daniel 2:20-23, and as we study the life of Deborah, may this reflection encourage you that no matter where you are God is ready to use you for His glory.
Esther 4:14: “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Such a time as this. When is it time for us to arise and use our influence for the benefit of others and the furtherance of God’s kingdom? When is it a good time to lead the people God has brought into our lives out of bondage and into peace? What position of influence has God placed you in right now, be it a position you have chosen or perhaps one that was forced upon you? Friends, know that God knows where He has placed you, why He has placed you there, and the ways He wants to use your influence in people’s lives to extend His kingdom. Our God never, never makes mistakes!
As a young 23-year-old missionary, I was approached by the leaders of one of the largest church groups in the country I was serving. They asked me to train their young leaders in English language skills, so some could act as translators for the national church leaders and others could be missionaries taking the gospel to other nations. At that time, there was no one else doing this in their group of churches, which represented millions of believers. When these godly men called me to this meeting and asked if I would be willing to serve in this way, I was humbled, surprised, and anxious. I did not feel qualified, and I was not! But I said yes anyway. God used me in ways that were bigger than I, my gifting, my age, and my experience. By choosing to be a missionary in a foreign country, I had positioned myself to influence others in unique ways, and then God opened bigger doors than I could have imagined or felt qualified for. I was able to use the gifts and influence God had given me for service. In the enthusiasm of youth, I did not shrink back or find excuses. By the grace of God, I was able to be a blessing to many through those local translators and missionaries, whom I was able to train up to influence their nation and the nations beyond.
Our heroine this week, Deborah, was a woman in a place of great influence and power within her community. As a judge and a prophetess, men and women went to her to settle disputes. Being a judge in Israel also came with leadership responsibilities, a role which she seemed to execute with ease. Obviously, she was a very gifted woman, who was well respected by her community, but it was a community in crisis. While Israel had been in a period of flourishing under a previous leader, Ehud, the nation had turned away from following God as it should. A foreign king was not treating them well, and in their distress, they called out to God and turned to Deborah for help.
Deborah responded by making a plan. She sent for Barak, whose name means lightning. Seems like a good choice for someone to lead the armies! He was to gather the troops to fight against the foreign king, who was ruling over them. But Barak was not convinced that he could lead the armies against a foreign oppressor on his own, so he asked Deborah to go with him. She agreed. Deborah empowered and encouraged Barak, and together with Jael they defeated the foreign oppressor and brought their community into a place of peace that lasted for 40 years. She and Barak even make a song about it in Judges 5!
An amazing story. An amazing lady. A lady who most of us probably struggle to identify with. Most of us are probably not leaders in the same way she was with influence that stretched across a whole nation and led to the downfall of kings. But whether we realize it or not, we are all people of influence to some extent. Like in Deborah’s story, there are people whom God has put within our sphere of influence, and they are not there by mistake. We have a responsibility to be a part of caring for them, using our giftings to be a blessing to them, and leading them out of bondage into freedom.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, and painfully my family is no longer on the foreign mission field, and as a 40-something-year-old, I am in a place where I feel my influence is limited and I feel less useful in His kingdom. But I have discovered that I am equally called to be faithful in using my influence for God’s kingdom whether I am in a place of my choosing with obvious significant influence, as in my first story, or in a place I did not choose in which I feel my influence is limited, as I currently am. So who is in my sphere of influence right now? I don’t have to look very far to see my neighbors. We are in a new home, so my family and I are reaching out to our neighbors. All three neighbors have been delighted to be invited into our backyard for tea. While sharing about our lives, we have had the opportunity to share about what following Jesus means to us. We have been able to pray for one of them. I believe we are influencing them toward Jesus. Where I live is not an accident. Who my neighbors are is not an accident. God placed my family in this neighborhood to bring His light and love and to further His kingdom in small but significant ways. Perhaps I am in this neighborhood for such a time as this.
So in this time of transition and uncertainty, I will continue to ask myself: Who is in my sphere of influence? How, like Deborah, can I be helping them out of places of bondage into peace? Is it possible that I am in these relationships and positions of responsibility by God’s doing and He desires for me to rise up in confidence and use the gifts and influence He has given me for such a time as this?