Tired and powerless is how many church planters and church leaders feel right now. I feel this way, too. I’ve often asked myself these questions in recent years: What on earth am I doing here? Can’t someone else do this? Am I really the right person for this task? Did I mishear when God called me to this work?
Some of these questions aren’t so bad; they can, under certain circumstances, initiate important steps of change. But in contrast, questions like, does God want me to do this? and did he even call me? tend to make me feel sorry for myself. They make me want to throw in the towel and give up the church plant.
No wonder! Some questions address something very fundamental, namely God’s calling for my life. But other questions are “only” about necessary corrections within my vocation.
Called by God, not by Ourselves
Before Moses was called by God, he had to go through the bitter experience of learning that one cannot call oneself. For that is exactly what he tried to do. He realised that God had given him special privileges—he’d grown up like a prince in Pharaoh’s court. Wasn’t that supposed to be God’s hint, God’s calling? Surely, the favored Moses should now free God’s people from Pharaoh’s hand!
But before long, he was fleeing from Pharaoh, not the other way around. Forty years later (see Acts 7:30)—when his desire to play the liberator had surely passed—God called him. We know the story. From the burning bush, God said, “I have come down to deliver my people out of the hand of the Egyptians” . . . “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt” (Ex. 3:8–10). There it was, the calling of God. We should hold on to God's calling because it’s irrevocable. And when we doubt, we may ask him to confirm his calling to us anew. Click To Tweet
And what does Moses do? He doesn’t want to go. “I can’t do it!” is his response. “I don’t have the necessary gifts or people!” So what does God do? He provides and leaves Moses no choice (Ex. 3:11–4:17). Go down, Moses!
Yes, it happens that people call themselves and that usually goes badly. Genuine calling, on the other hand, comes from outside. It comes from God and through his church. God then also confirms this calling (though not always through success according to human categories). We should hold on to God’s calling because it’s irrevocable (Rom. 11:29). And when we doubt, we may ask him to confirm his calling to us anew.
“Called” Doesn’t Mean Omnipotent
But being called does not mean we’re always full of energy, have the same tasks, do everything right, or can no longer learn anything. Moses also had the experience of recognising his own weakness. However, he was humble enough to learn and change.
Moses, the appointed leader of the people, had just achieved two glowing victories: first, the liberation from Egypt, and then the victory over the Amalekites. You’d think by then he’d know how to lead effectively, wouldn’t you? But Moses did not.
When his father-in-law, Jethro, came to visit, he observed Moses’s daily tasks and asked, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?” (Ex. 18:14). Jethro asked if Moses’s priorities were still right, and the answer was “no.” Jethro said, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone” (Ex. 18:17–18).
Wise Changes for Continued Obedience
In order to continue doing what God had called Moses to do, his father-in-law gave him some good advice: “Look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy . . . and let them judge the people,” Jethro said. “If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace” (v. 21–23). So that is exactly what Moses did. Am I questioning God's calling out of self-pity—in response to exhaustion and weakness—or is God prompting me to make the necessary corrections so that I can continue to fulfill his calling in the future? Click To Tweet
Perhaps reflecting on Moses’s experience will help us pause for a moment and sort things out when difficult questions surface again. When we start wondering what it’s all about, let’s remember God’s calling. Am I questioning God’s calling out of self-pity—in response to exhaustion and weakness—or is God prompting me to make the necessary corrections so that I can continue to fulfill his calling in the future?
We are finite, and ministry is overwhelming. We will feel tired and powerless at times, and our souls will question God’s call. But we have the promises of Christ to cling to: he will be with us always, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20); he who began a good work in and through us will complete it (Phil. 1:6); his power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).
Let’s answer our soul’s questions with God’s words, making wise changes where needed, in order to press on in the work God calls us to do for his glory in all the earth.