Then Gideon made it into an ephod and set it up in his city, Ophrah. And all Israel played the harlot with it there. It became a snare to Gideon and to his house. (Judges 8:27)
Success is difficult to attain, but it is even more difficult to maintain. That’s the problem with success. You will find that one of the most perilous times in your life is in a period of prosperity. We tend to become casual and then careless after a conquest and that leads to catastrophe. Gideon had experienced a great victory. The Lord had enabled him to lead 300 men to triumph over a horde of Midianite marauders. He, then, was overcome by the problem of success.
It all began when he faced criticism (Judges 8:1-3). The tribe of Ephraim had not participated in the initial combat—being summoned at the end to help “mop up.” They let pride lead them to criticize Gideon for not inviting them to the battle earlier. One of the problems with success is that you will find others envious of you. They will seek to bring you down with a barrage of criticism. The question is not whether you will be criticized for your work for the Lord—the only question is how you will respond to it. In this case, Gideon responded with a soft answer that turns away wrath (Prov.15:1). The wrong response is one of bitterness or anger—that is always a danger.
Then there was the problem of conflict (Judges 8:4-21). Gideon and his soldiers were weary of their warfare. They had not finished off the enemy, however. There is always the danger in our spiritual warfare of resting after the initial successes, and not finishing the task. When Gideon asks the citizens of Succoth and Penuel for provisions, they refused, thinking that Gideon’s small force could not finish the job. These dwelt on the border with Midian and were fearful of retaliation should Gideon fail. Gideon did finish the job, but also retaliated against those who did not help them. It is possible that Gideon was too harsh—took it too personally. Conflict seems to rise after success. In the midst of battle, there is no time for fighting one another for we are too busy fighting the enemy.
Gideon would further face the problem of conceit (Judges 8:22-23). There is always the peril of pride when the spotlight of success shines upon us. Gideon refuses the accolades and offer for him to become their king. There is always the danger of accepting the glory that belongs to God alone. Difficulty has a way of driving us in desperation to God. Prosperity presents the peril of pride that divides us from God.
Gideon is at last overcome by the problem of complacency. With the victory in hand, Gideon is ready to take a break, which will lead him to take a tumble. He rejects the adoring masses adulation—at least, outwardly—but, inwardly he seems to think, “I should get something out of this.” The more he has time to think about it, the stronger the temptation grows. The complacent soul lets down his or her guard—then the enemy strikes! He took their gold and fashioned an ephod which the priests wore and this became an idol. Though Gideon would not take the title of king, he began to behave like he was one. This man of faith fell—and so may we if we let down our guard. This is the problem with success.