The following is an article I wrote that was published in our local paper this week. In a changing world Christ followers must remain clear on two issues. The message never changes but our methods for sharing it will change. Following Christ means a willingness to be led - even when it means doing something differently than you've always have.
When John Maxwell was a young Pastor he was asked by another Minister to come to his declining church to help them with ideas to stimulate growth. A group of leaders were assembled and Maxwell laid out a plan to help them reach their community. When he asked if there were any questions, an older man stood up and said, “What if we try theses ideas, and they don’t work.” Maxwell replied, “What you’re doing now surely isn’t working, so why not try something else!”
I’ve heard it said that the last words of dying churches are “We’ve never done it that way before.” When translated it means “We’re not changing!” This attitude has been with us since Moses led Israel out of Egypt.
We see in Exodus 17 that the Israelite community quarreling and grumbling about having no water. They looked at all the old ways for provision, but there were no rain clouds, no streams, no lakes, and no wells. They said that they would rather be slaves back in Egypt. What they failed to realize is that God doesn’t always work in ways we understand. Israel needed to (as does His church today) trust in Him. Moses went before the people as instructed by the Lord, and struck a rock with his staff. Water poured out from the rock, and provided for all their needs. God is able and willing to do that for us today, but we continue to look backwards instead of focusing on Him.
Later in Numbers 20, the same scenario happened again. This time not only the people were quarreling, but the leaders forgot to listen and obey God. Moses and Aaron were told to speak to the rock, but instead Moses decided to “do it the old way” and struck the rock with his staff. They did get water, but Moses and Aaron were forbidden to go into the promise land because of their disobedience. The key to God’s provision and direction is our obedience. We must keep our focus on Him not the past.
In Numbers 21 we see the nation quarreling and complaining again. This time the Lord sent venomous snakes that bit and killed many Israelites. The people confessed their sins, and asked Moses to pray to God for forgiveness. He was instructed to place a bronze snake on a pole, and anyone bitten could look at it and live. God’s people need to do that today. We must confess our sins, ask for forgiveness, and place our trust in the One who was lifted up on the cross; Jesus Christ, in order to have eternal life. By focusing on the Savior we must look forward because he is our hope and eternity.
Jesus didn’t die for us to be comfortable, but to be convicted in sharing the Gospel with a lost and dying world. We need to quit quarreling and complaining, and start listening and obeying. By forsaking our preferences and being directed by His purposes we will see many come into His kingdom. That is His heart’s desire, and it should be ours also. Here is a novel idea - let’s do it God’s way.