Specifically!

26 02 2006

Specifically!

Scripture:
Numbers 20:11-12  (NIV) 11Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.
12But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

Mark 5:14-17 (NIV) 14Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.


Observations:
God gave specific instructions to Moses and Aaron.  But these instructions were not followed specifically.  As someone who has had charge over others, I’ve experienced this.  I’ll tell my subordinate(s) how to do something.  Later when I come back to check on them, it has always amazed me that they’ve done things differently.

I remember when this would happen to my Dad.  He’d say, “Do you think I was just flapping my gums?”  Or, “Do you think I just like to hear myself talk?”

Translation:  Was I just wasting my breath?  I took the time to tell you how I wanted this done.  If I’m going to take that time and energy, why wouldn’t you do it that way?  IF you weren’t going to do it the way I instructed, I could have saved us all a lot of time by not giving you specific instructions.

When my Dad, or I, would give instructions to our crew it was for one of two reasons.  First, it may be because we have more experience and we know the best way to do something.  Or, it could be because we have more information concerning the “big picture” and if we don’t do this task in a specific format, it may not fit into tasks we have to do later.

So, God gave specific instructions to Moses and Aaron, but those instructions were not followed.  Some might see God as unbending, arbitrary, or too strict.  I see God, in the light of my biological father, saying, “Why would you do it differently – especially after I took the time to give you specific instructions?”

One Summer, my Dad assigned me to be his foreman.  We had a crew of about three or four guys – one of the laborers was my younger brother.  Tension was high that Summer.  There was a recession and business was tight.  On top of that, one of the developers we had done work for was not paying what they owed – a sum of several hundred thousand dollars.  My Dad was stressed and he passed that stress on to me.

On top of that, I didn’t exactly have the leadership skills to run a crew of men – mostly older than me.  I had the technical skills, just not the people skills.  This put me in a very awkward position.  My Dad was often absent from the job sight – running errands, looking for new work, and taking care of business.

So, he would show up and give me specific direction about what he wanted done while he was gone.  Then it was my job to get the crew to do that.  When my Dad gave me those instructions, he was often rushed and stressed.  I was highly motivated to do what my Dad asked.  I respected his knowledge, wisdom, and experience.  But I also absorbed his stress.

The tension increased as I tried to get the crew to follow through on what my Dad wanted.  Sometimes they would question the methods.  Sometimes they didn’t understand my translation of my Dad’s instructions.  Sometimes they followed through nicely, but often it didn’t work out quite the way my Dad had instructed.  When he returned to the jobsite, I would take the heat of his frustration and we would often have to re-do the task.

My brother, also being the boss’s son, would often question me the hardest.  Not only was he trying to understand the process or task at hand, but he believed he had a right to know what was going on.  The other guys on the crew would only question the methods, they didn’t necessarily feel they had a right to know everything that was happening.

Given the stress I felt at the time, I was often abrupt and short with my brother.  One time I told him, “You don’t need to know what’s going on.  You’re paid to work, not to think.”  Famous words.  His big question was, “Why?”  Finally, one day I just reached my limit and I fired my brother.

I know now that was a mistake.  Not only was I too short and not patient enough, but I had not handled the stress well leading up to that event.  It goes back to my sense of urgency, it goes back to my father’s sense of urgency, and it goes back to our economy of words.

In retrospect, I think my Dad should have spent more time on the jobsite and used me to keep the crew on track for short absences.  I also think he could have done a better job of not passing on his stress to me.  I was young, inexperienced, and lacked some credibility with the crew – but I made plenty of my own mistakes back then.  (Interestingly, I continue to make many of the same mistakes. <sigh>)  

I think a root of these events is timing.  The boss (my Dad) had one perspective of timing.  I had another sense of timing.  The crew had another perspective, and my brother another.  My brother and I were talking about this incident recently – it is often a source of laughter, with a hint of pain.  It dawned on me that I really wouldn’t have minded his questioning, if his timing had been different.

If my Brother had waited until the pressure was less – say, like the end of the day, or during our lunch break, I would have been more relaxed and could have better answered his questions.  Better yet, if he, my Dad, and I could have talked together, at the end of the day, we both could have learned – because I had learned to not question my Dad when he was stressed.  It would have helped me to know why we did something a certain way.  So, timing is everything.

Overall, it comes down to trusting authority.

As the leader of a church, God often asks me to do certain things.  His motives and instructions are perfect, but my listening is not.  Indeed, my communication skills are not always the best either.  Nor is my timing, perspective, or sense of urgency.  Why God uses imperfect leaders, is always a fascination to me.


Application:
So, the focus is not on others, but on me.  I don’t have control over other’s actions.  Nor can I greatly concern myself with their behavior.

My role is to listen to God and do what He asks.  If people grumble, that is God’s problem.  If they don’t follow through – that too is His issue.  If they quit, abandon the cause, or rebel – again that is God’s problem.

Where Moses got into trouble is when he made it his issue.  He didn’t follow God’s specific instructions and he took matters into his own hands.  By striking the Rock, he took the focus off of God’s power and put it on himself.

I do the same thing when I get stressed, pressed, or in great duress.  God will grow this church.  I can’t stand in his way by trying to do it on my own strength – or force of will.


Prayer:
Father God, please forgive me for my times of stress.  As with my perspective, and overactive sense of urgency, please teach me to relax and trust in you.  Teach me to follow your specific instructions – and nothing more.  Nothing less than absolute obedience to Your specific instructions!

Thanks God – I love you too!  gw

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