Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 24 January 21:
Exodus 5:22, 23 – “Then Moses turned to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.’”
How do you measure success? How do you interpret setbacks and apparent failures? What do you assume about God through how you interpret your circumstances?
God called Moses to deliver a message to Pharaoh which God knew Pharaoh would reject. Moses had already complained to God that he was not capable of delivering the message, and now His protests seem to have been validated. And now, other people are suffering as a result of Moses’ actions. Why didn’t God produce the results Moses had expected from Him? Moses felt God’s actions were simply unfair, perhaps even evil. How would you have felt if you were Moses?
In fact, Moses had not failed, he had done exactly what God had wanted – Success! And God had not failed to deliver His promise. God was working His plan in His way, in His timing, and for His purposes. Even more, God says to Moses, “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them.” (Exodus 6:2, 3) God was about to show Himself to His people in ways never seen before. God was not just taking the Israelites to a new land, He was bringing them into a new experience and relationship with Him, into a greater understanding of who He is in character. In the past they had heard of His mighty works; now they were going to experience them firsthand – “Get ready to be amazed!”
1) When God speaks, it is perfectly clear what He said. Moses had no doubt what God had said; he didn’t convince himself he had a word from God like so many mistakenly do – “I think God is telling me….” Moses knew exactly what God wanted him to do. Moses’ mistake was doubting God’s clear promise, a different issue. Be careful not to confuse emotion with the voice of the Holy Spirit. When God speaks, you will know it, and He usually speaks through His clear written word. Many are seeking a ‘special’ word or revelation from God while they are failing to do what God has plainly commanded in His written word. If we are faithful with what we do know in God’s word, He will reveal more of what we don’t know. God intends for us to learn over time as we trust Him and walk with Him. Trust God to obey, even if obedience is taking you into a fiery furnace or lion’s den – miraculous things happen in those places.
2) God will ask you to do what is only possible through Him, not possible through your abilities. It always takes faith, not self-confidence, to do what God wants you to do.
3) When God calls you to “Go”, He doesn’t give you all the details or tell you exactly how things will play out. He wants you to learn to trust Him. Jesus pointed out that it is wickedness that causes people to want a ‘sign’ from God – “Prove to me you are faithful and trustworthy, God.”
4) God does not remove the obstacles or challenges from the path He has chosen for you. He uses the obstacles and challenges to grow you in Christ-like character and to reveal Himself more to you and to others. (See Romans 8:28, 29)
5) God does not measure success the way we do. We tend to look at things from our perspective, but God sees things from His perfect perspective. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8, 9) The measure of success is not your apparent circumstances or outcomes but rather your relationship with God through it all.
6) Contrary to popular opinion, God may call you to speak truth (often to power) to those who He knows don’t want to hear it and who will absolutely reject it, and God might call you to do it again and again, despite increasingly negative, even hostile, responses. There are times to not give pearls to swine and times to “shake the dust off of your sandals,” but there are also times to stand your ground. You must learn to distinguish between your emotions and the convictions of the Holy Spirit. Had Moses done what made sense to him, he never would have spoken to Pharaoh, and he certainly wouldn’t have persisted through persecution. Moses obeyed God despite his emotions – He did what he really didn’t want to do because He had a clear word from God. How would you respond if God called you to speak the truth to powerful people who God knew were going to reject it and persecute you for it?
- John 18:37-38 — Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
- Acts 5:40-42 — …and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.
7) Seemingly negative results or an apparent lack of progress doesn’t necessarily mean God has “closed the door.” God’s assignments for us often taken incredible perseverance, with no apparent success to measure in the beginning. Later in our readings, God will tell the Israelites to take the mighty city Jericho by marching around it once every day for six days and seven times on the seventh day. On the seventh day, after marching around the city six times with no apparent results, what if the Israelites had simply quit marching rather than completing the seventh lap? If God has called you to do something, don’t give up! For example, don’t stop praying for that person who, after all these years, still hasn’t accepted Jesus.
8) Trust God with apparent failure and assume the best from God, not the worst. In his hard circumstances, Moses complained to God, “Why have you done evil?” Don’t do that. Trust in God’s love and fidelity. God promises that He will never leave you or forsake you and that nothing can separate you from His love, not even your failures. For those who love God, He works all things together for good; even the things that aren’t ‘good’ (bad things), He works together for good. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
9) Finally, when in doubt, take your fears, frustrations and complaints to God in prayer. Moses says some rather shocking things to God, and God listens and responds positively. No sense faking it with God in prayer, He already knows your thoughts and you would only be faking it to yourself. God wants and receives your honest prayers, and when you learn to pray truthfully to God, it might actually be the first time you have actually spoken truthfully on a matter to yourself too. God will use prayer to reveal Himself to you more but also to reveal you to you more. Open communication is a part of any healthy relationship. During hard times, don’t move farther away from God, move closer to Him in prayer. Prayer is not the last resort, it is the first step and a continuing action.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 24 Jan 21: Today, resolve to trust God with your circumstances and with your failures. Take your issues to Him in prayer and persevere in your obedience. Do the best you can with what you know you can a should do, and trust God with what you don’t know to do, with what you don’t understand, and with the outcomes. Remember, God is faithful even when we are not faithful. It is through grace that we have salvation, not through our efforts. Rejoice that your fate, your salvation, doesn’t rest in your hands but rather His.