Thursday, January 27, 2011

Are You Qualified for Ministry?

Then Moses said to the Lord, "O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue."

So the LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind?  Have not I the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say."  Exodus 4:10-12

Have you ever believed that God had called you to do something, but feared that you were just not qualified for that roll? 

Perhaps God has called you to teach Sunday School, but you have no experience as a teacher, and feel that you don't really know how to handle children.

Maybe God has prompted you to lead a Bible Study or a home fellowship, but you feel you are just not designed to be a leader.

It could be that God has asked you share your faith with a friend, neighbor, or even a total stranger, and you don't think you can find the right words, or that you know the Bible well enough to explain it to someone else.

You could be a parent who knows that God has called you to homeschool your child, yet you question whether you are smart enough, have enough patience, or will be able to get by financially while at the same time committing that much time and energy into your kids.

Or possibly, God has even called you to formal ministry, asking you to become a missionary in a foreign country or a pastor, and you question your ability to handle such a roll, don't know if you are academically inclined for the study such a roll calls for, or feel you have some other  roadblock to that ministry.

That is how Moses felt when God spoke to him from the burning bush and told him that he was chosen to deliver the children of Israel from bondage. First he presented God with many questions about how it would work it out, first of all saying, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?"  He was in essence asking God, "Are you sure you've got the right man? I'm no one important."  In one sense this attitude was right, he was not looking to himself to try to accomplish this deliverance, perhaps because he had tried that before and it had failed, he knew that he alone could not deliver anyone. (See Exodus 2:11-13 to learn what happened when Moses tried to deliver in his own strength.)  However, although part of his attitude was right here, after God assured him that He would be with Him, Moses continued to question.  He asked what to do if the children of Israel did not believe that God had sent him and what if the Pharaoh didn't believe Him, all of these questions God answered patiently. 

Then Moses pointed to his own inadequacy as a speaker, saying he was slow of speech, as if  God would not already have known every strength and every weakness within the man He created.  So God once again patiently answers Moses, reminding him that it is He, God, who created every person.  It is He who made each one with their inborn strengths and weaknesses, even disabilities.  He was aware of every weakness, and yet had chosen Moses, and promised to be with him and with his mouth to teach him what to say.

Who knows, if Moses had stopped questioning God at this point, and simply obeyed, perhaps God would have healed him of his speech impediment, we will never know, because Moses continued on trying to get out of God's calling.  Asking the Lord, "Oh my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send." (Exodus 4:13)  Moses was saying, "God, I know you are saying that you will be with me, and that you will give me the words, I know that you are promising to bless this endeavor, but still, I'd rather not do it.  Please find someone else, and leave me here to tend my sheep."  God became angry at this point, but still did not revoke His call on Moses, rather He sent Moses a helper, a partner, to speak for him.

So back to you, has God called you to do something?  If He has has, know that you do NOT need to be "qualified".  God has selected you for the task knowing full well that you are not qualified He knows every weakness, every flaw, every disability in your physical, mental, and spiritual makeup.  He is aware of you impatience, or lack of education, or inability to concentrate.  He knows your fear of public speaking and you inexperience at the task at hand.  He even knows all your past sin, the things you've done that you think make you not good enough to serve Him, not only that, He even knows your future sin.  Yet, He is calling you anyway. 

It is He who made you.  He is the one who gave you whatever abilities you do have.  Moreover, He is more than capable of putting within you the abilities that you don't yet have.  If He has called you to something, He will equip you.  He will give you strength, the wisdom, and the skill you need to accomplish what He asks you to do.  He will use you in spite of your weakness, so that you will know that it is not you who is really doing the work, but that it is He working through you.

What you must do is obey.  It is fine to question God enough for clarification, to ask Him what the next step is, but once He tells you that next step, you must be willing to take it.

As I've said, who knows if God planned to heal Moses' speech impediment had he obeyed right away? Moses asked God legitimate questions, and was answered and reassured, He had clear leading, having heard the voice of YHWH Himself, yet He asked God to send someone else.  Perhaps in doing so he missed out on a wonderful blessing of miraculous healing from the hand of God.  God is good, and still blessed Moses and his ministry immensely, still used Moses in a mighty way, but it is possible that Moses missed on personal blessing through his reluctance to trust and serve the Lord.

Don't make the same mistake as Moses.  If you have God's clear leading and clear calling, go ahead and ask God enough questions so that you know what action He wants you to take next, but once you know that, go ahead and act on what He has told you, take that first step in faith, trusting God to take care of whatever difficulties arise.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

When All Hope Seems Gone

Today's thoughts are on Exodus 1-2

"So Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, "Every son who is born you shall cast into the river..." Exodus 1:22

Imagine the sense of hopelessness you would experience, if you were a pregnant Hebrew woman in Egypt at this time.  Knowing that if God blessed you with a boy, the enemy would try to turn that blessing into a curse, and rip the baby from your arms to cruelly murder him by drowning, even his little body likely becoming food for the crocodiles rather than being mourned in dignified burial.  Would you pray earnestly that God please send you only daughters?  Would you try to escape to another land? 

What if, when your time came to be delivered, and your heart surged with joy at the sound of a healthy baby's cry, you looked and felt your heart sink like a stone as you realized the beautiful, healthy baby was a boy.  Would you at this time perhaps, contemplate suicide?

This is the situation the mother of Moses faced.  Pregnant, knowing that if she had a son she would see him murdered.  She must have hid her pregnancy, because after she gave birth to her son, she continued to hide the newborn for three months.  Imagine those three months, living almost entirely within the walls of your house, terrified.  Every time your baby cries you rush to quiet him as quickly as you can, praying the whole time that God will deafen your enemy's ears.  Wondering what on earth you will do when the child gets too big to hide, knowing that at some point you will have to deal with Pharaoh's command, but looking down into your baby boys sweet face, and telling yourself, "Not today.  Surely I keep him hidden, keep him with me, just one more day." 

Finally, one day, she realized that she could just not keep him hidden any longer.  His little body was growing, his lungs were strong, when he was younger, she could leave him sleeping alone for a time, and go about whatever her work was, making an appearance in public so people wouldn't wonder what had become of her.  Now though, the baby is awake more, is cooing and playing, and cries louder, he is no longer content to sleep large portions of the day.  She realizes that there is no way that she can continue to hide him, but she also knows that there is no way she can bear to see him cast into the river.

So, in desperation, all real hope seeming to be gone, she prayerfully prepares a little basket boat.  She seals it carefully, so that it is watertight.  She carefully lays the baby's favorite blanket in in to wrap around him.  Then she places her beloved son into the basket, which probably looked so much like coffin to her, and closed the lid.  Then she placed her precious child into the very river that he seemed doomed to drown in.  As the basket began to drift away, she probably felt as if her very heart and soul were drifting away, down the river.  She knows that all reasonable hope for her child is gone, if an Egyptian doesn't find him and cast him into the river, a crocodile is bound to turn the basket over,  or eventually it will drift far down the river and her baby will be alone, with no one to care for him and feed him, and will slowly die.   All rational hope is gone, yet this mother dares to hope, she hopes enough to try, to make the little ark.  Perhaps her hope was just the irrational desperation of a mother about to be bereaved, with little real faith involved.  Or perhaps, trusted God enough to know that he would take care of her child.  Either way, it really didn't matter, she had enough hope, enough faith, to act on it and put her child in the basket rather than allowing him to be cast into the river, and that was enough for God to work with.

If you read the rest of the passage, you know that the daughter of Pharaoh himself is the one who finds the baby.  Surely, this is not what the mother expected.  The one family that she least wanted to find her child is the one that does, but God intervenes.  God causes Pharaoh's daughter to fall in love with the little baby in a basket.  And then, she hires the baby's own mother to care for him, whereas before she had to hide and fear her child's death, now she not only does not need to hide or fear, but is in fact being paid wages to just stay home and raise her own child!

So here, the mother of Moses has handed over the very hope of her heart into God's hands, has abandoned what matters most to her into His care, deciding that whatever He chooses is best, even if what He chooses is to take her child from her.  And God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, places her child back into her arms, this time protected by the very one who sought to kill him before.  In doing so, He was not only answering the prayers of this mother's heart, but was already preparing the answer for the prayers of the whole nation, preparing for the deliverance of His children from bondage, something that would not happen for over 50 years, but which God was already acting on.

What about us?  When the world around us seems to crumble, when the economy fails and we don't see how we will pay our bills?  Are we ready to trust God?  To seek Him and ask Him to show us what He might want us to hand over to Him, trusting that His will is best, even if it is not what we would choose?