I have just joined a gym. For those of you who know me, I will just give you a moment to overcome the shock of that announcement. I know! I can’t believe it myself. The gym is not usually where you would find me and it certainly isn’t where I am most comfortable.
I have joined one of those gyms with a gazillion classes. At the moment I am trying them all. So far every class I have been to has been my first time attending. There is something incredibly daunting about walking into a gym class for the first time. Your mind races with questions; am I wearing the right thing? Did I bring the right equipment? Am I in the right class? Will I be able to keep up? Will I look like a complete idiot? And most importantly, where can I hide?
I have been in more than one class that has made me question my presence in the room. I have laid on a yoga mat trying to flex and bend and twist like the lady on the stage and wondered if I should just cut and run now before they notice I even turned up. I look around at some of the others in the room, they look like they know exactly what they are doing. I wonder if anyone else can tell I am completely out of my depth?
It’s that feeling of inadequacy right? Like you don’t belong in the room. That feeling of “I don’t think I have the thing that I think I am supposed to have and that it looks like everyone else has”.
There is someone in the bible that I want us to look at who I think felt that same pang of inadequacy at the task he faced. His name is Moses.
Moses was born into a Jewish family at a time in history when all the Jewish baby boys were being wiped out. So, to protect him, his mother hid him in some reeds along the river and he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter. He was raised in Pharaoh’s household as an Egyptian Prince. But God would have it that his real Mother would be his nursemaid. So you could say that his life started out a little complicated.
As an adult, he ends up murdering a man – his way of getting justice for a wrong he witnessed. He then flees to Midian where he settles, marries and becomes a shepherd. At this point I would imagine that he was thinking he had left his complicated and dysfunctional past behind…that is until a talking burning bush shows up!
When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called out to him from the bush, “Moses, Moses!” “Here I am,” he answered. “Do not come closer,” he said. “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he continued, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God. Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people in Egypt, and have heard them crying out because of their oppressors. I know about their sufferings, and I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and to bring them from that land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the territory of the Canaanites, Hethites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. So because the Israelites’ cry for help has come to me, and I have also seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them, therefore, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh so that you may lead my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” But Moses asked God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Exodus 3: 4 – 11 (CSB)
“Who am I?” I would put money on it that in that moment, Moses turned around to see if there was someone else standing behind him. Like surely that bush is talking to someone else!
Moses is having the same feeling I have every time I have to get up on a stage to speak. That same feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and have to stumble your way through another day raising your kids. That same feeling you have when you look at the situation at work that seems impossible to fix.
Ever felt like Moses?
When you are standing in front of the burning bush hoping that God is speaking to someone else, there are a few things I think you need to know!
1. God is not like us.
Moses says: “But who am I?” God’s reply? “I AM.”
God goes on to tell Moses that he will be with him. He tells him about the promise and the land flowing with milk and honey and the miracles and how he is going to set them free. God is saying to Moses, “I know you don’t have what it takes, but I do, because I am not like you”.
When we see inadequacies, God only sees opportunities for miracles.
God is not like us. He sees, thinks and behaves differently. We have limited perspective but He sees the beginning from the end.
We are limited to the here and the now but He holds eternity in His hands.
2. God is for us.
God’s promise to Moses when He says, “ I will certainly be with you”, is the very same promise He has for you and me.
Even after the snake trick, Moses still goes back to God and says, “But I don’t speak well, I am not eloquent in my speech and I stutter my words”. So, God allows Aaron to be Moses’ mouthpiece and speak on his behalf.
I think that Moses could have done what God was asking of him with or without Aaron. I don’t think Moses needed Aaron like he thought he did. God was big enough to overcome any speech impediment. But it was by God’s grace and mercy that he gave Aaron to Moses. God knew Moses didn’t need Aaron, but he allowed him to have him anyway.
Because that’s the kind of God he is. He is gracious and loving. He is filled with mercy and he is for us. He is constantly at work behind the scenes setting things up and working for us to get us to where he knows we need to be.
Eight years ago Steve and I moved to Whangarei. When we first moved we didn’t know anybody. In the first few months I went through a pretty lonely season. I missed my friends. The friends that knew me before I became their Pastor. Well about a month after we moved Steve got a call from an old friend to say they were moving up to Whangarei. I don’t know what I would have done without them during that time.
Now I know that God knew that we would have and could have done it, with or without friends. But at the time, friendship was what I desperately wanted. I think it was his grace and mercy over us that he gave us just what we thought we needed to help us through.
God knows what you need, but he also knows your heart’s desire. He is so for you that He will work behind the scenes to graciously set you up for a win.
3. God works progressively and incrementally.
Steve and I traveled to the United States last year. We started our trip in Alabama and then we needed to head to New York as we were speaking at a friend’s church on the Sunday. So, we arrive at the airport in Alabama for our 11am flight out to NY only to be told that we had missed our flight. Our flight time had been changed and we were not notified. The airline re-booked us on a flight through Dallas to NY. We get on the flight and land in Dallas only to find that our flight to New York has been cancelled. Stuck in a crowed airport surrounded by hundreds of angry New Yorkers trying to get home, we stand in line for hours to re-book our flight for the following day, which now has to go through Colorado to finally have us land in NY 24 hours behind schedule!
In every city with every flight I sat there thinking to myself – “I don’t want to be in Dallas, I don’t want to be in Colorado. Where I want to be is in New York.”
The thing about travel and about getting to a destination is that it doesn’t matter how much I want to be in NY. The only way I can get there is by going through Colorado. I may not want to be in Colorado but if I want to get to NY – then to Colorado I must go.
Listen, there are some things that seem hard or frustrating, and we may not want to go through the hard and the frustrating. But the problem with a God who works progressively and incrementally is that he doesn’t care where you want to be, He takes you where He needs to take you to get you where you need to be.
At each step and stage God incrementally and progressively grows us, tests us, refines us, draws things out of us.
Leading the Israelites out of Egypt was only the beginning for Moses. But it was the first step on a journey of growth that would see him become one of Israel’s greatest leaders.
God has the ability and the willingness to take something ordinary and use it for the extraordinary.
Even if all you have is a stick.
When Moses returned to Egypt to follow God’s will, Exodus 4:20 says this:
“So Moses took his wife and Sons; put them on a donkey, and returned to the land of Egypt. And Moses took God’s staff in his hand. Exodus 4:20 (CSB)
I love that what was Moses’ became God’s when he finally surrendered it to the will of God. And that right there is the secret to it all.
Now, go out there and live like you believe it.