Kingdom > Empire

The Power of Solitude

Our Director of Development, John Carpenter, was giving an update during a recent staff meeting on his Rhythm In Twenty experience in Estes Park, CO. I asked John to share how God spoke to him during his trip.

God reminded me that I need to focus more on building His kingdom and worry less about building my own empire,” John said.  

As men, we were created to create, have dominion, take care of things, etc. We see this in Genesis when God created Adam (See Genesis 1:27-28, 2:7-8, 2:15). These things are good, as they are part of God’s nature and character.

However, things can get out of balance in our lives very quickly. Our priorities can get out of line, and this is what John was talking about.

John continued by saying, “I’ve been so focused on planning for the future of my family — our financial situation, investments, accounts, life insurance, house projects. I was convicted. It’s all good stuff we need to do, but I need to stress less about building my own empire and stress more about building God’s kingdom.

It was a powerful moment. Each member of our Men of Iron team knew what John was talking about. We could relate to what he was sharing. It moved me in a big way. I stopped and wrote “Kingdom > Empire” at the top of my meeting notes.

After our meeting I reflected on what John shared. I realized John heard from God in such a profound way because he retreated to God’s creation to sit in solitude. It was in the silence where John heard from God. Removing himself from his surroundings, every day duties, responsibilities and comforts. He was forced to find a new rhythm.

The Rise & Fall of Gideon – Read Chapters 6 – 8 in the book of Judges

I was reminded of the story of Gideon, who was empowered by the Lord to build God’s kingdom by bringing Israel out of the oppression of the Midianites.  Judges 6:14 says, “The Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand’…

Gideon’s story has many fascinating points (which is why you need to read Judges 6 – 8). One of the major highlights is when God reduces Gideon’s army of 30,000 men to 300 men. God was concerned that Israel’s empire of 30,000 men would take credit for the victory. In typical God fashion, He uses 300 men to defeat the Midianites — an army of 135,000 men!

The victory is so astonishing to the Israelites that they say to Gideon, “Rule over us — you, your son and your grandson — because you have saved us out of the hand of Midian” (8:22). Gideon verbally refuses to take credit and reign over Israel’s empire, however, his post-war actions result in both a moral and spiritual collapse in his life.

Many Christians may disagree with my point of view, however, Gideon’s post-war actions prove his success led him to become more focused on building his own empire than he was on building God’s kingdom. Let me share why I believe he was empire focused:

  • For all intents and purposes, Gideon had a harem. The average Israelite did not have“many wives” and “seventy sons,” along with a concubine (8:29-31). Even David did not rival Gideon in this regard.¹  

 

  • While Gideon may have verbally declined to rule over Israel, he proves his desire to be like a king when he said, “… ‘I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.’ (8:24).  This request of Gideon’s is similar to that of a king’s request of collecting a tax.

 

  • Gideon takes the gold from this collection and makes an ephod, which he placed in his town.  Judges 8:27 says, “Gideon make the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town.  All Israel prostituted themselves by worshipping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.

 

  • While Gideon appears to have declined to be Israel’s king, this seems to be contradicted by his choice of a name for one of his sons. One of Gideon’s sons (whom we shall meet in chapter 9) is “Abimelech.” This name is a compound word, made up of the word “abi” which means “my father,” and “melek” which means “king.” And so the name “Abimelech” means “my father is king.” Now isn’t it a strange thing for Gideon to name his son “my father is king” if he has declined this title and office?²

 

Conclusion

How does a man who was once so focused on building God’s kingdom fall victim to being too focused on building his own empire? I believe the answer lies in his level of intimacy with God.

John Carpenter heard from God in a powerful way because he was disciplined enough to fight for solitude. The solitude he fought for led to a new rhythm and intimacy with God, which resulted in hearing God’s voice.

Early in Gideon’s story, he heard the voice of God. However, as his story progresses, we see that Gideon heard less of God’s voice because he was too consumed by the ideas of achieving, gaining, collecting, building, etc. His intimacy level with God decreases as his focus becomes more about building his own empire and less about building God’s kingdom.

Men — God’s kingdom is so far greater than our own, individual empires. Like Gideon, we are all entrusted by God to be great and mighty warriors for His kingdom. Rise up, men of God. Retreat on occasion. Fight for space. Explore solitude. Find a new rhythm. Experience a new intimacy level with God. Hear His voice. Obey His commands. Don’t fall victim to building your own empire. You are a great and mighty warrior. God has equipped you to fight for His kingdom, not your empire.

Garret Barbush, Executive Director

¹ When More is Less – Or – What Happened to Gideon? – Bob Diffenbaugh – www.bible.org

² When More is Less – Or – What Happened to Gideon? – Bob Diffenbaugh – www.bible.org