September 24, 2017
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
“The Benefits of Struggling”
We think we’ve got problems! We might want to put ourselves in Moses’ sandals for just a moment! Think about the problems he faced… and which he overcame by faith! And the Scriptures are very clear that it was through faith that Moses overcame the obstacles he was tasked by God to address!
Most of my working career was spent dealing with very expensive huge power production equipment (generators, turbines, control systems, etc.) looking for any problems that might threaten reliability or safety. Listening for strange noises… feeling for strange vibrations… smelling for strange odors… looking for discoloration, arcing, or other signs out of the ordinary! Problems that might arise in the future…
But Moses was not looking into the future to see problems that he might be called upon to address. God called him to handle very real problems he’d inherited — fully-ripe, fully-mature, and fully-developed… challenges and trials staring him in the face!
Have you or I ever floated in a basket on the Nile – not sure if we would see another day? Have you or I ever led 2-to-3 million slaves out of bondage and forged them into a nation that would honor the Almighty? Have you or I ever had the responsibility to furnish food and drink for so many, many people?
How about being trapped up against the Red Sea with Egyptian soldiers, swordsmen, charioteers, and commanders heading straight toward you in a cloud of dust – and no human way to escape?
How about threats against your life? How about rumors of insurrection and rebellion against you when you are already dealing with whiners and complainers venting for 40-years in a desert?
What about receiving a faithless report from ten-of-the-twelve spies following their reconnaissance mission in the Promised Land?
I am reminded of the spirit of the words in the old spiritual – Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen. Nobody knows but Jesus.
This is not to demean our problems, for our problems are also very real! But it is to give them a godly perspective! The word perspective is a compound word that literally means “see through.” To have perspective is to see through any matter at hand and understand the bigger picture of what is happening and why it is happening! We are all given crosses to bear… tasks to accomplish… but we may take hope in the fact that they are designed by our Heavenly Father for our greater good and they are never too much for us to bear! Nothing that happens to us escapes our Father’s notice and input!
The dear old preacher of the church we attended growing up helped many parishioners carry their problems – all sorts of problems (health, finance, marriage, family, you name the problem and it was there). He always told us to stay on top of our problems – and not get under them! I read recently that he lived into his nineties before passing on! Yet many people who seek – and find — the “carefree and untroubled” pathway to what they believe is the “fountain of youth” are those who often die in early retirement… What does the Almighty know about the benefits of struggles that we do not really even want to understand?
Certainly Moses had a lot going for him. His education must have been exquisite, indeed, if the extra-Biblical accounts of his military exploits as a commander in Ethiopia and his building of cities on behalf of Egypt are even partially true!
Then there was his prayer life. He is found constantly talking with God… interceding on behalf of His people. And God talks to him. I am reminded of the 1982 film E.T. when the little extraterrestrial says in his unique voice, “phone home.” I think that God wants us to “phone home” and talk to Him in prayer regularly. And I would not be surprised if some of our “problems” and “challenges” are sent by Him so that we might “phone home” and talk to Him more frequently.
Then there is Moses’ work ethic! His prodigious capacity for work! Sitting day after day counseling the people until his father-in-law, Jethro, told him he would soon die of exhaustion if he did not develop leaders of tens… leaders of fifties… leaders of hundreds… and leaders of thousands!
And most forget that Moses had a “big heart.” Not a big ego, but a big heart! He was always ready to defend the oppressed. He is described as doing this three times in our lesson read together this morning! The Hebrew being beaten by an Egyptian… Another Hebrew being beaten by a Hebrew… And Jethro’s daughters being “pushed around” by hostile shepherds. He had a sense of justice and deep care for God’s people and he acted on their behalf, even if it got him in trouble!
A man once found a cocoon of a butterfly, that he brought home. One day a small opening appeared in the cocoon. He sat and watched the cocoon for several hours as the butterfly struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making progress. It appeared as if the butterfly had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no further. The man decided to “help” the butterfly in its struggle. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon… and the butterfly emerged easily.
As the butterfly emerged, the man was surprised! It had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. He continued to watch the butterfly expecting that, at any moment, the wings would dry out, enlarge and expand to support the swollen body. He knew that the body would need to contract for the butterfly to be able to take flight. But neither happened! The butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings!
It was never able to fly — because the man in his well-intended effort did not understand the restrictive cocoon was there by God’s design! The struggle was required for the butterfly to be able to become airborne. An emerging butterfly must push its way through the tiny opening to force the fluid from its body into its wings! Only by struggling through the opening, can the butterfly’s wings be ready for flight once it emerges from the cocoon.
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives – as hard as that is to acknowledge and confess. If God allowed us to go through our lives without any obstacles, it would cripple us! We would not be as strong as what we could have been through the struggles. And we would never fly high enough to see life in its fullest meaning!
Whatever our challenges… whatever load of problems we carry… whatever the tasks which are burdensome and would weigh us down and discourage us – we must remember that with God all things are possible! They were possible with Moses and they will be possible with us as well – if we seek God’s grace!
But we must do our part – with knowledge… with effort, with prayer… with faith!
William Wilberforce – Christian member of English Parliament did this very thing in his day! He headed the parliamentary campaign against the British slave trade for twenty-six years until finally, by God’s grace, came the passage of the Slave Trade Act of 1807. He could have easily given up – stopped struggling — but he did not!
We are not unlike ships of the sea which must be moving through the water in order for the rudder to work. God is certainly the helmsman and does His job well – but we must move… we must be doers and not observers only in our own spheres – and trust the Ancient of Days to steer and direct our lives according to His will.
Somebody said that it couldn’t be done, but he with a chuckle replied that maybe it couldn’t, but he would be one who wouldn’t say so till he tried. So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin on his face. If he worried, he hid it. He started to sing as he tackled the thing that couldn’t be done, and he did it.
Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that; at least no one ever has done it.” But he took off his coat and took off his hat and the first thing he knew he’d begun it. With the lift of his chin and a bit of a grin, without any doubting or quiddit, he started to sing as he tackled the thing that couldn’t be done, and he did it.
There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done, there are thousands to prophesy failure; there are thousands to point out to you, one by one, the dangers that wait to assail you. But just buckle right in with a bit of a grin, then take off your coat and go to it; just start in to sing as you tackle the thing that cannot be done, and you’ll do it.
Edgar A. Guest
This is not a study in the “power of positive thinking” – but a reminder of what God did through His prophet Moses! What struggle… what challenge… what problem has the Almighty laid upon you? Give it your best and in Him rest…
World without end, Amen.