Saturday, January 3, 2009

"Why did you ever send me?"

There is a question that Moses asks God in Exodus 5:22.  Moses had been called by God for a very special purpose on the mountain in Midian.  Moses had been extremely reluctant to obey the Lord for a number of reasons (all cogent).  And God had demanded that Moses go, even though Moses thought someone else could have done a better job.  So, Moses went back to Egypt perhaps timidly, reluctantly, and reticently.  But he was going, and he was going because God, the God of His fathers, had told him to go.  He was going because the God of heaven and earth sent him.

But from the moment Moses hit town everything went awry.  Pharaoh did not acknowledge the Lord's authority in Egypt (after all, Pharaoh thought of himself as a god).  Even the Hebrews, enslaved and struggling, didn't even believe Moses.  And to top everything off, when Moses made his move in the name of the Lord ("Thus says the Lord" Exodus 5:1 - this is the prophetic formula used by the prophets of the OT to add authority to their revelatory message), instead of everything working out well, everything fell apart!  Instead of making things better, Moses only seemed to make everything worse than they were before - not an auspicious beginning!

I wonder if one were to talk to Moses at this point of his journey and tell him the truth, what would Moses say?  What if one were to say to Moses, "It's OK, Moses; God has everything under control. God knew about all of this ahead of time, in fact, God made it turn out like this.  But God is going to use the problems of 'now' to bring about the blessings of 'tomorrow'."  Perhaps Moses would have said, "Oh sure, that's easy for you to say; you don't have to face the wrath of Pharaoh and the disappointment of the Hebrews!"  But God did have everything in control, and before the story ends, Pharaoh's army is defeated in the Red Sea, the Hebrews leave with parting gifts from the Egyptians, and the name of the Lord is honored where once is was unknown or despised. But Moses didn't have the benefit of reading the last chapter of the story like we do.  He was living the story, and this moment of the story was a moment of disappointment and concern.

I would like to make an observation and postulate on that observation for a moment.  My observation is that by virtue of a cursory study of Scripture (augmented by some empirical data based on human experience) it appears that it is the normal situation for God's servants to have problems.  I think Paul, the apostle, would confess that he had many more problems after he was converted to Christ and started serving Him.  What would Jeremiah say about this sitting at the bottom of a well, or what about Isaiah, who confessed "Who has believed our report? (53:1)", say about all of this?  Or, what would John the Baptist, who ended up in jail for speaking out against a politician, say about this?  Dietrich Bonhoeffer once offered the assessment of divine calling when he said that when Christ calls someone he bids him, "Come and die."  It seems the normal and common experience of God's servants to have problems, difficulties, and hardships because of their ministries.  

So, what is the servant of the Lord to do or think at such at time as this?  What should be our thoughts as we face disappointment, discouragement, and even depression over our ministerial circumstances?  What would we have said to Moses in his lowest moments?
1.  God is still on the throne, and we can trust Him to do what is right, best, and good.
2.  God will not abandon us in our hour of need; we can, and must, look to Him out of the context of our struggle.
3.  We must keep doing the right thing, in the right way, for the right reason, trusting in God for fruit.
4.  We must never expect life to be perfect; our perfection is in heaven.
5.  We must believe that God will provide for us in His way, in His time, for His glory.
6.  It is acceptable to be human and weak; learn to accept yourself as a weak vessel for God's service.  Jesus sympathizes with us and our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15).
7.  Trust God to provide His strength and resources to do His will in, through, and outside of our weakness.

When we think like this, transferring the pressure of our ministries onto God, then we can work hard and smile.  The results are His.  Let us try to pray hard for each other as we seek to serve the Lord in every situation of life.  Amen. 

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