Having Trouble in Ministry? Just Face it. Literally.

I want to fear God and love people in such a way that when something comes along that is problematic that I fall on my face and petition the Lord

“Recently we have been reading through the Book of Numbers with the family. I have been struck by Moses’ response to the seemingly incessant grumbling and divisiveness by the people. Surely when God tells us that Moses was more humble than any who were living in his day (Num. 12.3) then we have something to learn from him.”

 

It is a fact of life along with taxes, mismatched socks, traffic when you are in a hurry, that in this world we are going to have trouble.

In fact Jesus, who himself encountered more trouble in this world then all of us combined, said, “…in this world you will have tribulation…” (John 16.33). Furthermore, for believers who have been saved by divine grace, given a new nature, yet still imperfect and given to sin, we seem to encounter varied forms of ‘trouble’ even in the body of Christ.

Even more for those of us in pastoral ministry, we seem to partake in espresso strength doses of trouble. I remember a particular ‘green’ moment in my first year of full-time ministry when I asked the guys during a staff meeting (this was about 4 months in), “Is it always like this?” To which they lovingly responded, “It is Mach IV with your hair on fire. Buckle up. Heaven will be great.” This was during a particularly tumultuous time, but it has nevertheless characterized ministry. Those of you who are in ministry know what I am talking about.

So how do we respond? Well, the temptations abound, and the natural responses are, well, natural. We can become bitter, self-consumed, tired, discouraged, or even depressed. All of these things will naturally happen when we find ourselves inwardly focused and dressed with thin skin. But is this God-honoring? Is this biblically right?

Recently we have been reading through the Book of Numbers with the family. I have been struck by Moses’ response to the seemingly incessant grumbling and divisiveness by the people. Surely when God tells us that Moses was more humble than any who were living in his day (Num. 12.3) then we have something to learn from him.

When the spies come back from the land in chapter 13 they give the report that the land is outfitted with NBA prospects and that Israel’s lack of height and muscle appears to be a significant disadvantage. The morale was poor after this report. In fact it was so bad that the people “wept that night” (14.1) in a “loud cry”. The whole congregation grumbled against Moses and petitioned for a new leader and a return to Egypt.

So what would you do? Isn’t there something in you that wants to let them have it? Just tell ‘em to shut up and go back to bed? But Moses shows us the path of loving humility:

Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the people of Israel. (Num. 14.5)

That is convicting. Divisiveness, grumbling, overreacting, and ungodliness; and to this we find Moses with his nostrils in the dirt. Convicting.

But this is not an isolated incident.

In the famous rebellion of Korah in chapter 16 we read that he had gotten quite a gaggle of folks to join him in his insurrection:

And they rose up before Moses, with a number of the people of Israel, 250 chiefs of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men. 3 They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron…(Num. 14.2-3a)

And how does Moses respond?

When Moses heard it, he fell on his face. (Num. 16.4)

Then of course God was going to step in and deal with this rebellion. Moses was “very angry” (v.15) but nevertheless prayed.

The stage was set for those who have asserted themselves and those whom have been appointed by God for work. God warned Moses and Aaron to get back lest they be consumed when he torches the congregation in judgment. However, Moses, (and you have got to feel for this guy) petitions the Lord again, asking for mercy:

And they fell on their faces and said, “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and will you be angry with all the congregation?” (Num. 16.22)

Moses wanted God to deal with those who started the factiousness and not the whole congregation. Again, we see Moses’ loving, humble, God-fearing heart.

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