Anxious. Frustrated. Annoyed. Angry. Resentful.
These are emotional states that describe our leadership more often than we care to admit. Relaxed is not an adjective I hear often to describe us as Christian leaders. Consider this important case study of Moses.
Moses worked and waited for almost forty years to enter the Promised Land. Having started with 603,550 men to manage — not to mention all the women and children — Moses’ and Aaron’s patience was repeatedly tested to the limit by a seemingly endless barrage of complaints. When the people cry about their lack of food and water and accuse Moses of bringing them out into the desert to die, Moses is livid. At this point, he is also exhausted and has little capacity to manage his anger and resentment. Imagine the scene as he loses his cool:
The LORD said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.” So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But 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.” Numbers 20:7 – 12
Moses lashes out and rebukes the people, calling them “rebels.” Rather than honoring and obeying God, he relies on an old strategy of striking the rock because, hey, why not, it worked once before (Exodus 17:6). And, miraculously enough, sufficient water bursts forth again to satisfy the thirst of nearly 3 million people — and their animals! The people’s needs get met, but Moses and Aaron pay a stiff price. God names their underlying offense rebellion and unbelief and prohibits them from leading the people into the Promised Land.
What does it look like when we have lost our trust in Jesus? How can we know if we are truly trusting in Him?
Frederick Dale Brunner, in his wonderful commentary on the Gospel of John, redefines trusting in Jesus as relaxing. He writes: “‘Relaxing in’ is a good modern translation of ‘trusting in’ or ‘believing in’… (In fact), it is the goal of the entire gospel of John to create this relaxation.”
Perhaps our greatest work is to relax in Jesus as we lead. Considering the pressures we each confront on a daily basis, I am finding this is no small task.
What might it look like for you to relax (i.e. trust) in Jesus with the leadership challenges before you? In what ways might you be taking matters into your own hands and “striking the rock”? And as a result, what “promised land” might you be sacrificing right now?