As I shared yesterday from Philip Yancey: “Faith means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” It’s so very true.
As I was enduring the most difficult ministry experience of my life, I couldn’t see what God was doing. All I could feel the was the pain of the present. It was shortly after the economy tanked in 2008 that I was cut to part-time. We had a mortgage and three kids at the time. I got the news on my Birthday. There were no jobs, especially jobs for a worship pastor – something that was starting to be seen as a luxury in a difficult economy. I couldn’t see a way out. I did what I could to make ends meet. I recorded a Christmas Album to try to make some money around the holidays. That didn’t work. We tried selling photos at bazaars and drumming up photography business, but the wedding season was pretty much over.
Eventually another worship pastor job came up in town, and somehow I got it. It was at a larger, more established church than I’d been at before. Things seemed to be fixed. We were going to make it. If you had asked me at that time why I went through getting cut to part-time, my answer would have been: “Because God wanted me here.”
And that was/is true. But that only lasted a season. One year after I was hired, I got fired. I hadn’t done anything wrong, I hadn’t broken any rules. I had done everything that was asked of me with diligence to the best of my ability. Two weeks leading up to Easter I work 80+ & 100+ hours. When I got fired I was told I wasn’t the kind of worship leader they were looking for. They wanted a leader who had more stage presence and could attract people. That wasn’t me. And that’s why I got fired.
I was done with the “established” church. Late one night I wrote a manifesto about what I thought church was supposed to be like. I wasn’t done with the church as God’s bride and most precious creation, I was done with the kind of church that used people to get ahead. I spend the next 3-4 months in a depression. I was defeated.
But during that time God started a conversation between myself and a church that was going through a difficult season of their own. And as a result of those conversations we discovered we had a very similar interest: the church as the church was meant to be. Not long after, I found myself preaching my first sermon as the interim pastor. A few months later I was the permanent pastor. That was nearly 7 years ago.
The person that made the connection for me to our current church was someone at my last church. The reason I got cut to part time at one church was so that God could lead us to another church so that God could connect us with our current church.
I know that now, in reverse. I didn’t understand that at the time. I was angry with God a lot during those days. But God had a different path for me that I don’t know that I would have taken if God hadn’t forced me to it.
That’s a small scale version of what we see happening in today’s reading from Hebrews.
“By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. 29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. “Hebrews 10:23-29
In spite of great risk, Moses’ Parents were faithful. I’m sure if you asked them at the time, they would have been confused and concerned. They too may have been angry with God. But they saw something in their child and they knew they had to save him. So they kept him alive at great personal risk. If they had been caught, they likely would have been murdered. Can you imagine keeping a newborn quiet and hidden when you were living in a tent or at best a house without windows? But they did it. And they put their baby in a basket and floated him down the river towards the Pharaoh’s estate. Talk about courageous faith!
In spite of great risk, Moses was faithful. Moses endured disgrace for the sake of Christ, by looking ahead to the reward of the promise of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt and fleeting pleasures of sin. He could have embraced life as an Egyptian. He didn’t have to choose to live as a Hebrew. But, through a series of actions and reactions, he made the choice to pursue God’s future for his life and for God’s people. He boldly approached the throne of the Pharaoh bringing confrontation after confrontation because he knew who the real ruler was.
As a result, the people passed through the Red Sea on dry land. After all that, the million+ people that would become the nation of Israel left town. As a result of all these things, the people crossed the Red Sea on dry land. But when the Egyptians tired to do the same, they were drowned. They could cross the Red Sea, because Moses had been faithful, because Moses’ parents were faithful.
This is how Deut. 34 records the last moments of Moses’ life:
“Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land…Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”Deut 34
He lived a remarkable life of faith, saw God do some incredible things, but still died seeing the promise from a distance. I have to imagine that as he sat there on that mountain, after God mentioned “this is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”, Moses’ mind had to go back. I’m sure he thought about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph. I’m sure he thought about his parents and the plagues, the people crossing the Red Sea, getting the law from God on the Mountain and defeating armies. It didn’t make sense all along the way. But in the end, he could see the promise with his own eyes. And shortly after that Joshua would lead the people to cross into the promised land.
“Faith is believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”