Thursday, April 29, 2010

Moses: A Man of Selfless Dedication

Moving right along in Swindoll's Great Lives series, this month I read Moses: A Man of Selfless Dedication.

Just to recap where I've been with this series (in case you are new around these parts), I'm reading through these books over the course of this year.

So far I've learned the following from my reading:

1. I am created for a purpose (David);
2. God will work that purpose in His time frame (Esther); and
3. God will work in ways that may be painful, but He will teach me to live in the pain, through the pain and beyond it and can work in me a tender heart as a result of it (Joseph).

I would say that the abiding message (for me) in taking a journey through Moses' life is this:

4. God honors faithful obedience.

I was reading another book recently which mentioned Moses in a way that rankled me. This other author said that Moses was a broken man because he was an adopted child (of the Pharoah's daughter). This author made a claim that when God met Moses at the burning bush and told him to go and deliver the "Let My People Go" message, Moses found himself ill-qualified because of insecurities he felt as a result of being adopted. Even when I read this I had to reject such a statement of belief. In truth, the claims made me angry because I find nothing in scripture that says, "Moses was adopted and therefore he felt himself useless and insecure all of this life." His life certainly does not reflect that internal belief! Anyone who has a face-to-face relationship with the Almighty has a thing or two going for them, I'd say!

While I'm certainly not going to downplay the emotions adoptees do feel as a result of being transplanted (that's a topic I'm not going to get into here) I don't think Moses was trying to find excuses not to stand before Pharaoh on account of the fact that he was adopted. I think we can really only let his one excuse stand alone and for itself:

"I am slow of tongue."

To say that another way, "I am not a very good public speaker. I feel sick at the thought of standing in front of other people to deliver messages." I wouldn't say that Moses 'didn't know who he was.' I would say that Moses learned who He was in Christ and went before Pharoah (with his brother Aaron) and grew in his faith as a result. Eventually, the man who was afraid of public speaking was doing a great deal of it - before hundreds of thousands of Israelites. I think that's the way God is. He takes us into situations we aren't sure of and grows us there. Before we know it, we're living out the "I'll nevers" that we said we wouldn't do. Furthermore, we'll find that God's strength and good favor will be given to those who obey Him.

There were so many excellent points in this book that I'm having a hard time narrowing down the specific points I wanted to hit on. Per usual, I ended up with a plethora of post-it notes stuck out hither thither and yon. I've actually tried to limit my use of the post-it note - prescribing myself only 4 or 5 per book but I let myself get a bit carried away this time!)

When I look through my notes, the point I am continuously drawn back to is the one I think I can argue the most ineffectively. But here goes anyway.

Swindoll honed in on a lot of Moses' character traits when it came to leading the Israelites. He focused on Moses' strengths and weaknesses when it came to delivering God's messages to His people, his obedience in sharing leadership responsibilities, and he also took a good look at Moses's emotions in various stages of the wilderness pilgrimage.

Swindoll had a particular point to make about how those who are involved in ministry should have a happy spirit that I think is worth us thinking about. First, Swidoll shared the following scripture passage which is a piece of advice that Jethro (Moses's father-in-law) gave to Moses concerning governing the people of Israel:

"Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you." Exodus 18:21-22

The point Swindoll proceeds to make is that a leader who tries to do it all - counsel every individual, attend every individual family party, "do lunch" with all of the men and attend every single church function will be worn down much faster. (See my review of Leaders Who Last for an extended argument for this point.) He recommends that leaders - and others who serve in great capacity - learn to deligate responsibilities. The main counsel that a pastor gives, according to Swindoll, should be an accurate counsel of the Word of God, given from the pulpit. Swindoll's opinion is that a minister of the Gospel who is preaching the true and undefiled Word of the Lord is giving the best counsel to his congregants that he possibly could. (Not to say that some individuals and families do not need additional counseling. That's not the point Swindoll is making at all.) "Merely" this - your pastor can't be expected to carry you through every single detail of your lives. You'll wear him out! Certainly there are times when a pastor in the home is a necessary (and much wanted!) thing - I'm not talking about those moments. I'm talking about the day-to-day things that we should be able to figure out on our own. We don't need to pick up the phone everytime we have a disagreement with our spouse, for example.

I also think this makes a good point as to why the people of God should be about pursuing good theology for themselves. We should learn not to fall prey so quickly and easily to false doctrines but be able to live out our faith. This requires careful thought, study, and devotion to the Word of God in our own right.

If the leader/minister/server is allowed to delegate, it makes their lives easier and more pleasant. I think this is true for just about any one who serves with some regularity and oversees large ministries. I know I've coordinated a lot of events and parties and the thing always goes so much more smoothly and is enjoyable for ME if I can delegate some of the responsibilities. (And I'm only working things out on a small scale!) If one person has to carry the whole load, it become more of a chore than a blessing. And I kind of think - however naively- that being able to lead and serve should be a blessing to those doing it.

Swindoll says this and I like it:

"The happiest people on earth ought to be those in God's service. And they ought to look like it. We have every reason to smile more than anyone else. Even though our work is terribly serious, we ought to have more fun and have a better time doing it than anybody in any other career or calling on earth. I think an individual in cross-cultural ministry or a pastor ought to be able to enjoy his or her taste in music and live it up, just like anybody else. Those vocational servants of Christ ought to have broad tastes and interestss beyond their basic calling, enjoy their families, enjoy their times away and rejoice in good things." (page 258)
Is your pastor happy serving you? Is the leader in any group you are a part of happy to serve? (Husbands happy? Yowee!) And by happy I don't mean (and Swindoll doesn't mean) just a grinning fool who isn't being honest about life. I mean genuinely, deep down happy - rooted in Christ and has Christ bubbling out of them? Happiness runs deep. It isn't a surface level emotion. Happiness comes because you know pain, suffering, hardship -- and the grace and abundant mercy of God. We should care that our leaders - in whatever capacity they are serving - feel and know that.

How can we "followers" make their journey a blessed one? Instead of being like the Children of Israel - always grumbling that things aren't going exactly our way - where we can compromise and smooth the road out a little for those on the journey with us? Questions I'm asking myself.

Annnd I'm gonna stop right there. That's further than I meant to go, actually, but I'm going to leave it.

As I've said at the end of each of these Great Lives books - there is so much to glean and learn and I have appreciated the journey. I heartily recommend them if you haven't picked them up yet.

Next up for me? Elijah: A Man of Heroism and Humility


Janet said...

I agree with your reaction to the argument that Moses was insecure because he was adopted. It sounds like a very superficial way of approaching the man who had a face-to-face relationship with God!

In the past I've felt bothered by Moses' outbursts of temper. Lately though, I've been understanding more about what a remarkable servant he was, and how many ways he went to bat for the Israelites. This sounds like an excellent, thought-provoking study!

Anonymous said...

Carrie, thanks for getting me interested in these books by Swindoll. I ordered 'Joseph' and I found 'Esther' in my church library. I am definitely interested in all the books in this series!

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