Saturday, April 23, 2011
Burning Fire or Cold Ash?
We are not so much called to a particular place or task. We are called upon to commit ourselves to God. He then takes us where he wants us and uses us in the way he chooses. We are not indispensible to the mission. The mission will be completed with or without us.
We often look out upon the harvest field and we see a particular need. We then tend to sell ourselves to the need we are observing. But, there are billions of needs among billions of people in a million different places. We can’t be everywhere at once and we can’t serve in more than one place. Rather than commit ourselves to a place or a people shall we not commit ourselves to Christ and then trust him to direct our lives. It is a deception to believe that the needs far away are greater or more important than the needs nearby. A lost soul is utterly lost whether he is in the jungles of Africa or living in the house next door.
It seems we sometimes are tempted to compromise the sovereignty of God by relegating it to an inferior position behind our organizational efforts. As a high school teacher I can assure you that I would be deeply offended if I walked into my classroom every day and my students were clamoring to inform me of what plans they had for class that day. Organization and structure is a necessary part of any ministry but we must take care that is does not squeeze God out of the picture. Paul says that God has “…arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” (1 Cor. 12:18) Utter chaos would erupt if the body parts gave direction to the head but when the parts yield to the head a wonderful symphony of movement can be experienced. We are parts of the body, when we yield to Christ we become efficient kingdom builders.
God’s operational modus is much different than that of the secular world. We so readily adopt the secular idea of go, go and go. We preach consecration and commitment and we tie those ideas to frantic action. We have to do more, go further and be better. But God says for us to “Be still, and know that I am God.” Strength and efficiency are found in the quietness of God. The idea here is to calm down, put away frenzy and trust God to do what he will.
Moses was a man called and prepared by God to do a great and wonderful thing. He would deliver the people of Israel from slavery in the land of Egypt. Exodus chapter 2 tells the tragic story of how Moses got in the way of God’s plan for his life. He saw one of his fellows being mistreated by an Egyptian and he took care of business. He defended one of his own. His act could probably be justified to some degree, but his failure was he chose to do it his way instead of God’s way. Moses was well educated, he had lived among the Egyptian elite, he understood their culture, he was a fine, masculine specimen and extremely intelligent but in spite of all those things he was not yet ready to be used of God. So, God sent him away for forty years for further training.
We so often feel comfortable in our ability, but God is not looking so much for ability as he is availability. He wants a heart that will submit to his will, a heart wise enough and willing enough to get out of the way so God can do a great work. In order to get us to that place, God sometimes allows us to experience long periods of feeling useless. We may feel insignificant and unappreciated until we finally realize that God’s way works and our way doesn’t.
There must have come a time during those forty years of exile that Moses felt like he would never really amount to much or accomplish any great thing for God. But God has a habit of choosing “the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; … the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” (1 Corinthians 1:27) God didn’t call Moses out of exile until he was prepared. In Exodus 3 Moses saw a burning bush. He was fascinated by what he saw. I’m not so sure that instantaneous combustion was so unusual in the hot desert but what was so perplexing to Moses was the fact that the bush was not consumed. It just kept burning and burning.
Did Moses compare himself to the bush? Moses had a ‘crash and burn’ moment in his life and it cost him forty years. Did he look at the bush and say? “I wish I could have just kept on burning. Instead, I was consumed by the flame of my own passion and self assertiveness”. Did Moses look at the burning bush and say, “Lord, make me to burn continually for you. Don’t let me fail. Don’t let me falter but let me burn eternally in my passion and service for you.” John Wesley seemed to get the idea when he admonished his fellow clergy to “Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn.”
God called to Moses by name, “Moses, Moses!” Why does God seem to choose some for greatness and others never are called? Was Billy Graham, Mother Theresa and D.L. Moody more special than others in the eyes of God? Do Charles Stanley, John MacArthur and John Piper have certain, peculiar traits that make them more special in the eyes of God? Of course not. They are affective in service because they made themselves available. Many others will live out their entire lives in mediocrity because they never inquired why God never called them by name. They were sent into the wilderness and their fire was never rekindled. They passed their days and years in a heap of cold ash.
How did God choose that particular bush? I don’t think it was difficult, I don’t think he spent a lot of time trying to make that decision. I think any old bush on the desert floor would suffice. You don’t need special talents, you don’t need a great education or a stellar record or even an especially winsome personality to do great things for God. You just need to be willing, to be available, and leave the rest up to him.
Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.