My wife's mother, Eleanor, loved jigsaw puzzles; she thought looking at the puzzle picture on the box was cheating and instead loved to solve the mystery without help. She loved puzzles. I loved to tease her. So, as this patient and meticulous woman carefully assembled an extremely challenging puzzle, "Snow White without the Seven Dwarfs" (a circular, completely white puzzle with well over a thousand pieces), I hid one small piece of the puzzle in my pocket. How disappointed she was when she could not have the satisfaction of seeing her project really finished. The first question of everyone who saw her puzzle was, "Where's the missing piece?" I finally handed over the missing piece and, after she soundly rebuked me for my misbehavior, she put it in place, sat back and smiled at a job well done.
How many "incomplete puzzles" are there today in the ministry of local churches because the children of God refuse to bring their "puzzle pieces," their special gifts and abilities, to the table of ministry? Instead, they hide them in their pockets and then join the chorus of critics who ask, "Why isn't this church meeting those needs?" -- when all the while they themselves are holding the missing pieces.
God's confrontation with the Old Testament patriarch, Moses, gives us a glimpse into our own hearts and often excuses for turning down God's invitation to partner with Him by using our own gifts to introduce others to His son, Jesus.
Excuses, Excuses, Excuses
Moses, when given the task of leading the Israelites out of Egypt, objected strenuously (Exodus 3:1 - 4:17).
First, Moses questioned, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"
God responded, "I will be with you," the very promise He made to Abraham (and to us, Matthew 28:28).
Second, Moses objected, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is Him name?' Then what shall I tell them?"
God responded, in effect, "Tell them that Jehovah, the faithful and trustworthy God of their fathers, has sent you."
Third, Moses doubted. "What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, 'The Lord did not appear to you'?" Moses probably remembered his earlier rejection by his people and questioned why this time would be any different.
Throw Down Your Staff
God responded that Moses should throw down his staff, the symbol of his identity as a working shepherd. Without his staff he could not take care of the sheep or protect himself. God changed the staff into a snake, the national symbol of Pharaoh's alleged sovereign power. God changed it back into a staff when Moses obediently picked it up. This was no magic trick; it underscored God's power and authority over Pharaoh. Moses had to surrender his shepherd's calling in order to accept God's commissioning. Though Moses carried the simple staff of a shepherd, God had invested it, as indeed He had invested Moses, with a power far beyond its humble appearance.
Fourth, Moses continued to object, claiming he was not a man of words. "O Lord," he complained, "I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since You have spoken to Your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue."
God responded, reassuring Moses and promising him that the Lord Himself would help him speak and teach him what to say. As with Moses, God also promises to give us the strength and abilities we need. As it says in the book of Ephesians, every child of God is "created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (2:10).
Fifth, Moses decided he wasn't the best man for the job. God's promise of His presence, power, and authority was apparently not enough for Moses. He desperately exclaimed, "O Lord, please send someone else to do it" (Exodus 4:13).
This is the first time during this encounter that God actually became angry with Moses. He bluntly told Moses that his eloquent brother Aaron would serve as Moses' spokesman.
Moses at last acquiesced and obeyed. On his long journey back to Egypt and into the jaws of his enemy, however, Moses did not travel alone, for God was with him.
Since then no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt -- to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. (Deuteronomy 34:10-12)
Everyone who answers God's call to know Him intimately must confront His call to courageously serve as Moses did.
Look around your local church. Are you the missing piece needed to reflect God's compassion and mercy in a broken world? Which of Moses' excuses is your favorite one behind which you hide?
What gift, talent, or resource are you hiding in your pocket? Are YOU the missing piece in your local church?
This article is adapted from Treasures of Faith, Living Bolding in View of God's Promises by Chuck and Sharon Betters. Visit any bookstore or www.markinc.org to order Treasures of Faith for personal or group study. A Leader's Guide is also available.