Let the Chips Fall Where They May
Praise God for the creativity of his servants! The ministry needs more leaders who will think “outside the box” and implement effective ways to evangelize the lost and minister to the saved. But it’s imperative to remember that there is a wrong way to do the right thing. Cutting corners in the name of ministry success does not please the Lord. God is not a pragmatist that merely scans to see if an objective is being completed; He is a Father who has attached His own name to His servant and, consequently, He cares much about how His objectives are accomplished.
Throughout the Bible, the Holy Spirit records the successes and failures of many great spiritual leaders. One man in particular is highlighted: the man named Moses. He was the leader of a congregation of complainers. (I would not have survived long as the leader of that group of folks!) The Israelites weren’t skilled at much when they made their exodus from Egypt but they were unmatched in the art of murmuring.
We have to give Moses credit—he led God’s people with such humility and grace in the midst of daily complaints: “Moses, we are tired of the sand and the sun.” “Moses, the journey is too long and boring.” Moses, we miss the home-cooked delicacies of Egypt.” “Moses, we don’t want you as our leader anymore; how about we let Aaron or Miriam take over?” This continued for weeks, but Moses by and large politely listened to the complainers and respectfully sought God for solutions.
But one day, the Israelites were low on drinking water and they seemingly could take no more of the dryness. Complaints poured forth. Accusations landed at the sandals of Moses. And as many times before, he bowed himself down before the Lord and prayed in desperation. God answered him by telling him to go down before the rock of Meribah and speak to it—if you speak, it will pour out sufficient water for all the people and animals. In the following verse, we find much different response:
“And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.” Numbers 20:11
Bad move, Moses, really bad move. Now you might say, “Why was it a bad move? The rock provided the water, didn’t it? Their complaining ceased, right? The end result was that the thirst of a nation was quenched!” Oh yes, the people got what they wanted but the leader lost what he wanted. God had said, “speak to the rock,” but Moses spoke to the people and struck the rock. So, God then spoke to Moses and said, “Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.” Did you catch that? Moses was denied entrance into the Promised Land. Moses had his privileges removed. He gave the people what they wanted and paid the price because, in doing so, Moses denied the Lord what He wanted.
This likely sounds unreasonable to some but we must note that God was not merely wanting to work through Moses but also in him. When God tells a man to speak to the rock then He means for that man to use his lips and vocal cords, not his hands and his smiting staff. Moses committed the fundamental sin of leadership: He did the work of God in the flesh.
Amazingly, the people got what they needed through the disobedient leadership of Moses—this is grace from God—however, the heartbreak is that Moses lost his reward. Moses produced results and we should note that the flesh can produce good results. People can drink from the ministry of those who disobey, but disobedient leaders cannot drink from a ministry built upon their own disobedience. They remain thirsty. They live with regret. They wish that they had obeyed God and had spoken to the Rock instead of listening to the multitude.
I write as a leader who seeks to please the Lord. I’ve failed more times than I could ever count, but I’ve learned to move forward. It is quite certain that I will fail God again, yet here is one failure that I hope I never, ever commit again: allowing my frustrations with people or fears of people to serve as an excuse to disobey the voice of God.
May God grant you and me the staying power not to budge from what He leads us to. May we never smite the rock if He has told us to merely speak to it. Let us never seek to take the easiest path nor shrink back from obeying the hardest way. Pragmatism and results-orientation constantly tempt leaders to dismiss the voice of God in the little things. God doesn’t speak little things. May we never become someone of whom it is said, “He bowed to the whims of people when he should have bowed to the will of God.” Obey God and let the chips fall where they may.