Friday, June 22, 2018

Patient, Hopeful Trust

Let me start with a confession. In the outworking of ministry I regularly fight an internal battle between the felt urgency to accomplish what I believe God is calling us to do and the patient trust that God is working out his will and plan in his time. There are many facets to this struggle, but I now focus on how this struggle affects our ability as a community to serve together.

In Numbers 20, Moses was leading the people in the wilderness and seeking to provide food, and in this case water, for the people. God showed him a way forward that involved him speaking to a rock. Moses grew frustrated that things were not moving more smoothly, particularly that the people were being difficult. In a fit of frustration Moses said, “'Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?' And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice.” (Numbers 20:10-11) Some of you know that it was this incident that prevented Moses from leading the people into the promised land, despite his many years of faithful service.

What is the issue here? Is it not the struggle mentioned above, that of Moses’ felt urgency to move things along versus waiting on God by doing things his way? Again, I share this with you in way of confession. I really relate to Moses here and the frustration that he experiences as he works to serve God’s people. Striking a rock in frustration doesn’t seem that radical.

As ministry leaders, our desire is to shepherd well as we seek to follow the Lord. There is much work to be done. The places to jump in and serve feel endless in our context. There are task-oriented jobs such as office admin, building maintenance, and finances. There are people-nurturing opportunities ranging from nursery, to teen discipleship, to shut-in visitation. We need people to handle God’s word, to show hospitality, to share musical gifts. And the list goes on and on and on.

Recently our staff talked about walking this line of needing to get things done and trusting God to work in his time. I am grateful for my colleagues and was encouraged by their insights. Betsy Bray captured much of the conversation with these words: "have a hopeful trust that calling servants to work is God’s business under his control. As leaders seeking to fill needs, we must focus our trust in God, who calls each to the work prepared in advance by him. It takes the pressure off us to be convincing, and leaves it between the person and God. Our work comes of praying for our needs, and praying for future volunteers to be prepared to respond in faith to the call to serve... work for God is without cost. Trusting that “God doesn’t call the equipped, rather he equips those he calls” means embracing the adventure of seeing God work things out after being obedient to begin (or even after agreeing to pray about the possibility of beginning!). The idea of obstacles being in the way of saying "yes" to serving God is an acknowledgment of the existence of a working enemy (who is already defeated). Obstacles exist for whomever God is calling to serve, so ultimately it’s not about only saying "yes" when the path is perfectly clear, rather it’s all about the call."

These are wise words and I am grateful to have such colleagues. I hate it when the urgency of tasks overtake the care for people and the patient trust in God. I hope you will forgive me when that inevitably happens. My prayer going forward is that together we will look to God's leading and fulfill with joy the roles that he has, and is, calling us to.

A final word here. In Numbers 20, again verse 11, we are told, "and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock.” This is a tremendous outpouring of blessing that God gives to his people despite their rebellious hearts, and despite the anger and poor leadership of Moses. It is a reminder that God strikes straight blows with crooked sticks, and truly this is our hope going forward!

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