Monday, March 5, 2012

Excuse Me (Part II)

In my last post, I harvested a few "calling principles" from Moses's burning bush encounter.  His excuses and God's rebuttal better orient us in understanding our own calling.  In this post I return to Moses's excuses (excuses 3-5) and continue the conversation...

Actions not Words Silence the Doubters (Ex. 4:1-9).  At the beginning of Exodus 4, God has yet to pick-up on the fact that Moses does NOT want to head back to Egypt, so Moses perseveres, "What if they [Israel] do not listen to me and say, 'The Lord did not appear to you'?"  God does not prepare Moses for the ensuing doubt and coming inquisition by composing for him a stunning diatribe, "It was a hot day, my skin roasting in the noonday sun, the sheep were particularly restless when a fire spoke to me..."  Instead, God simply says, "Throw down your staff!" BOOM - staff becomes snake...then hand becomes leprous...then water becomes blood.  Moses's call was legitimized by action and not words.

When God calls you to something chances are it will be risky.  You will likely face doubters.  People will question your motives, doubt your ability, argue with you, "Let me tell you why you shouldn't..." The apostle Paul faced doubters.  In Acts 9, After Paul's conversion experience, God calls him preach the message of Jesus to the Gentiles, but Paul was notorious among the Christians. They feared him. He had a hobby of collecting Christians for prison and speaking vehemently against Christ and now, within the span of a few days, he is entering synagogues and preaching that Jesus was the messiah.  Needless to say, there were some skeptics, "Isn't this the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on his name?" (Acts 9:21).  But Paul didn't waste his time trying to argue and persuade the crowd that he was legit.  Instead he spent his time being busy with his calling and eventually the doubters were silenced by his deeds: "Yet Paul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah." (Acts 9:22).  Paul used his energy in fulfilling his calling rather than defending his calling.

As God calls you to a task, a mission, a moment do not waste your time arguing with the doubters.  If your calling is from God it will bear fruit.  The fruit may not always be monumental, or successful by the world's standards. But the Kingdom of God measures "success' on a different scale.  If your calling is from God, it will bear the fruit of redemption, the fruit of the resurrection, and the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).  Keep silent and let your action do the talking.

Faith is more Important than Ability (Ex. 4:10-12). By this point you can picture Moses talking to himself, "Okay, this guy is God. He should be picking up on this by now. Am I just going to have to come out and say,  'I DON'T WANT TO DO THIS!'  Let me give it one more try." And in Exodus 4:10, Moses gives it another attempt, "Pardon your servant, Lord.  I have never been eloquent in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant.  I am slow of speech and tongue."  In other words, "You want me to talk to Pharaoh when my sheep think I have a lisp!"

God replies to Moses, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD?  Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” God challenges Moses to trust him, to have faith that he will equip him with the necessary skills to accomplish the task.  God wants Moses to trust in him more that he trusts in his own ability.

Our society obsesses with ability.  It starts early.  As a young parent, one of your friends says, "Jimmy started walking at 8 months!"  You think to yourself, "Oh no! Timmy is 10 months and he just rolls around!  What's wrong with him?"  We rate people by athletic ability.  In 7th grade I played on the Goddard Jr. High Orange team.  The school colors were red and white.  Where do you think I ranked?  We rate people by intelligence.  "My kid is an Honor Student at Taylor Elementary."  Or, we rate people by strength, "My kid beat up your Honor Student."  We rate people by degrees and salaries.  We are drawn to people with ability; we hone ability, we crave ability.  We are obsessed with ability.

But God cares more about faithfulness.  As he said of David, "Man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart."  God wants someone who is loyal to him, who will sacrifice for him, who will trust that He can get the job done.  God wants someone who has a heart for his mission and not just the ability to accomplish it.  Therefore, as you seek God's calling on your life spend more time honing your faithfulness than your ability.  (Aside: I think the same should be said of our children.  We should spend more time developing our children's faithfulness rather than their grades, athletic ability, or social life.)

Community is Key (Ex. 4:13-17).  Finally Moses just has to come out and say it, "Pardon your servant, Lord.  Please send someone else!" (Ex. 4:13)  He begs God to not send him to Pharaoh.  God does not let Moses off the hook but rather offers him a partner in crime:

What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. But take this staff in your hand so you can perform the signs with it.” (Ex. 4:14-17)

Perhaps Moses was right when he said he was not a good public speaker but that did not disqualify him from answering God's call on his life.  It meant he needed to find the mouthpiece that he was not.  So, God sent Aaron.  Aaron and Moses did together what Moses might not have been able to do on his own.  Moses found strength in numbers.  Once God offers him a partner, Moses quits making excuses (of course he had exhausted his excuses and God was angry at this point too...but still).

In scripture, God is not a big fan of Lone Rangers.  He loves to work through groups, through nations, through communities, through teams.  As you answer God's call on your life chances are that God is moving in the lives of others within your sphere of influence along the same lines.  For example, I have seen local churches explode with several families adopting children around the same time.  This is no coincidence.  This is God stirring many to the same calling.  It provides a network of support and resources for the families entering this journey together.  Just because God calls you to a task does not mean you have to fly solo.  Chances are, God is preparing a slew of people for the same mission.

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