© 2016 Lynn Abbott
My youth pastor did more than teach scripture; he found creative incentives to encourage its memorization.
And it worked.
That is how I found myself floating behind a ski boat in the San Diego Bay on a ninety degree day in late August.
All of us, who had achieved the goal, won a day of water-skiing. Since my family was not a wealthy one, I was thrilled to have such an opportunity although…
I had never skied.
And my inexperience showed. I lost grip of the rope whenever the boat pulled. Thus, while my friends enjoyed a beautiful ski around the bay, I struggled to get up on skis.
Of course, my sense of humor invariably carries me through tough situations. After swallowing more than my share of bay water in my attempts to ski, I emerged from the water…laughing and sputtering. That, of course, only made things worse.
It seemed I would never succeed.
Watching my progress from the back of the boat, two friends cheered me on. But by 3 pm–six hours into that day out– one of my friends nicknamed me, “Try, try, and flub again.”
Yup. Nothing ever comes easy for me. I have to work extremely hard to achieve any goal.
Quite honestly, I suspect that even wildly successful people must work hard. Undoubtedly, people start with a bit of talent or interest in something. But from what I’ve observed, talent or interest only gets you a place behind the boat.
It takes time and hard work to stand. Or even ski around the bay.
Sometimes, when I face great difficulty, I am tempted to think that life is easier for others. And on occasion, it appears so.
I remember one such instance. And you guessed it. My experience resulted from yet another innovative plan by our youth pastor. This time, the prize for memory work was an ice-skating trip.
On the drive to the rink, I noticed a beautiful, but shy girl. She spoke to no one.
And so, I reached out to her. She told me she had never been ice skating. Nothing unusual about that for Southern California kids.
Since I had been once before, I encouraged her as best I could.
“It’s a little difficult at first,” I said. “But you’ll get the hang of it, I’m sure.”
She looked skeptical, but genuinely grateful for my encouragement.
We arrived, and laced up. And I watched with concern as my new friend took her first turn around the ice.
Within the hour, she was doing pirouettes in the center of the rink. I kid you not.
And I was still hanging onto the bar at the rink’s edge.
Yeah, natural talent often jump-starts the journey.
But over the long haul, my new friend had to put in many hours of practice in order to become exceptional.
Thomas Edison once said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
My new friend demonstrated that talent must be paired with practice.
Even if you have been called to do something, the road may prove extremely difficult.
And quite honestly, I struggle with that.
Hitting those bumps in the road, I often ask, “Am I where I’m supposed to be? Does God really intend for me to serve in this way?”
Yup, I begin with great enthusiasm. But when I encounter rough waters, I begin to doubt…
I second guess.
I long to return to the safe harbor.
Perhaps, you’ve been there, too.
It isn’t uncommon to feel that way. Even Moses questioned when his dream didn’t immediately fall into place.
At first glance, Moses appeared perfectly placed to lead God’s people out of Egypt. Raised by Pharaoh’s daughter, educated by the finest Egyptian scholars, Moses had everything going for him.
But talent and position alone did not get him very far. Relying on his own abilities and wisdom, Moses found himself in a mess. In fact, this highly gifted and well-educated man became a fugitive from Egyptian justice, ( Exodus 2:15).
In youthful exuberance, Moses gravely misjudged the magnitude of his goal. Freeing Israel from Egyptian slavery was not a job for the faint of heart.
But as a youth, Moses did not lack self-confidence. As the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter, he more than likely expected to achieve speedy results.
That’s right. He overestimated his ability to affect change. The young Moses had yet to learn that most anything of value requires hard work. Perseverance is a necessity in the face of the inevitable storms.
And God blesses faithfulness, (Psalm 31:23).
Of course, when Mo’s self-directed plan went awry, God sent him to the wilderness to learn a little of humility and hard work.
The land of Midian. What a far cry from Moses dreams! Yet, his experiences there prepared him for leadership; it equipped him for guiding a stubborn people through the desert and toward God’s promise.
In Midian, Moses learned to persevere.
No glory. No rich rewards in Pharaoh’s court. Moses worked hard as a shepherd to provide for his family. His comfortable life at court became a distant memory.
Yet, God did not forget Moses. God spoke to Mo through a burning bush.
First response? Moses worshiped. A good start.
But then, Moses tried to wiggle out of God’s call. The former Prince of Egypt gave God a great many excuses.
Really, when I reread the account, it seems that Moses still lacked God’s perspective.
Although Moses had learned much about hard work, he still depended solely upon his own abilities to carry him.
He had expected his talent to accomplish his dream. Epic fail. He’d been forced to run for his life.
He probably thought, “I’m obviously not the guy for this.”
Moses’ faulty perspective becomes apparent in his arguments–they won’t believe me; I’m not a good speaker, (Exodus 3-4). Although Moses had acquired humility, he still believed that position, rank and natural talent were primary.
God was not in his success equation.
Moses recalled his failure and essentially said, This doesn’t come easy for me, God. You’re making a mistake. Choose someone else.”
Hmm. To be honest, at times, I, too, tend to question God’s calling when the winds of failure blow. Like Moses, I have complained about difficult paths.
God’s calling frequently overwhelms me; in fact, it’s undoubtedly way beyond me.
“Choose someone else, Lord. Let me sail my boat in safer waters,” I say.
Obviously, on such occasions, I’ve missed the point altogether. And at first, so did Mo.
God, however, graciously met each of Moses’ objections with a demonstration of God’s power. When Moses feared that Pharaoh or even the Israeli’s wouldn’t listen to him, God promised, “Certainly I will be with you,” (Exodus 3:12).
Moses ran out of excuses, and reluctantly answered God’s call.
But it wasn’t easy street. Even Mo’s journey to Egypt proved a bit rocky. Although he acknowledged God’s covenant with Abraham as marked by circumcision, his wife had evidently opposed obedience to God’s command.
Evidently, she had objected to the practice and Moses had previously refused to rock the boat. Thus, their son remained uncircumcised.
Before arriving in Egypt, God confronted Moses’ disobedience.
In Exodus 4, we read of the resulting conflict between Moses and his wife, Zipporah.
But God’s chosen man had to fully identify with God’s people, and finally, Zipporah gave way. To say she was angry would be an understatement.
Moses had only just sailed out of the harbor when he encountered such headwinds. Perhaps, the conflict with Zipporah tested his faith greater than any other. Scripture doesn’t say.
But certainly, on his journey to Egypt, Moses fought some difficult personal battles.
Getting the interview with Pharaoh was probably easy by comparison. After all, Moses had been educated in Egypt. He knew the ropes at court.
Scripture records, “And afterward Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness,'” (Exodus 5:1).
At least, Mo finally understood that God would direct his path. He no longer rested in his own strength.
Perhaps, since he’d finally “learned his lesson,” the former prince anticipated an easy outcome. After all, he now understood the importance of leaning on God and following God’s direction and timing.
Had I been in Mo’s place, I would have celebrated… God had spoken. It was time for some smooth sailing.
Not so. In fact, the wind and waves had just begun to swirl.
Pharaoh answered, “Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and besides, I will not let Israel go,” (Exodus 5:2).
Right. That certainly didn’t go as Moses had hoped.
Moses and Aaron persisted. They pleaded, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please, let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God, lest He fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword,” (Exodus 5:3).
They pulled out all the stops. They gave it all they had. No holding back.
Untouched by their passionate request, Pharaoh not only refused to let Israel go, he also punished the people. The Egyptian foremen would no longer supply the materials for making bricks. The Israelis would be forced to gather the straw themselves while still maintaining the same output, (Exodus 5:6-9).
In other words, they had asked for a little time off to worship, and their “boss” responded by more than doubling their work load.
Moses’ efforts had effectively aggravated the situation. Things had gone from bad to worse.
I can’t blame Moses for feeling discouraged. I understand his doubt. God had called him to make a journey and when Moses sailed on the open sea, a tsunami hit.
Moses questioned, “‘O LORD, why hast Thou brought harm to this people? Why didst Thou ever send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Thy name, he has done harm to this people; and Thou has not delivered Thy people at all,” (Exodus 5:22-23).
Yeah. What about that? How come doing God’s will only seemed to make things worse?
I return to this simple truth: even though I respond to God’s call, I am not guaranteed an easy path.
You see, God has a greater purpose. For Moses and for me as well, God’s calling involved faith building.
Again and again, Pharaoh threw obstacles in Israel’s path.
Yet, with each roadblock, Yahweh miraculously demonstrated His power. Israeli freedom did not come by Egyptian favor. Nor did it come because of Moses’ demonstrated talent or education.
In fact, the history of Moses’ interaction with Pharaoh could be summarized as “Try, try… flub again.”
Uh, huh. It went like this: Pharaoh agreed to release the Israelites; Moses entreated God on Egypt’s behalf. Then, Pharaoh changed his mind, and refused to keep his word.
Over and over again.
Definitely a discouraging pattern.
Even so, because Moses faithfully persevered and obeyed, God dramatically exhibited His power on behalf of His people. And you and I now read of the ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea.
Yeah, the journey isn’t easy. And even though we follow God’s call, we encounter storms.
But God rewards our faithful perseverance.
God uses every part of our journey–including the “flubs”– to work a miraculous transformation in our lives.
The result? Strengthened faith.
And Abba leads His children to the Promised Land.
Although God’s calling often requires our persevering through rough seas, His grace ultimately guarantees the passage.
And when we look back, you and I will celebrate His miraculous work.
“Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders which Thou has done, And Thy thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with Thee; If I would declare and speak of them, They would be too numerous to count,” ~Psalm 40:5