The Good Is The Enemy Of The Better - Exodus 18
Departing Into A New Readiness
To Minister

by Bruni Wolters, Vineyard Church, Hamburg/Germany

Today, I'd like to address those who think they don't advance in their lives, who feel life is stagnating or it's like driving a car with the hand break on. This can refer to your spiritual life the same as to the development of your profession or a relationship.

Moses had taken responsibility of leadership and only after two months, he was already stuck, he did not advance, thus he became tired. He found himself confronted with all sorts of problems, like everyone in leadership is confronted with. He had to deal with people who had problemes with each other and with God. Moses felt stuck on his way to the promised land, in the middle of the desert, sourrounded by a bunch of fighting people. How sobering, how frustrating...

And yet, everything had begun so well. Moses had confronted the pharao who became worn down by the many plagues coming over Egypt, until he finally gave freedom to the enslaved people. Moses had seen a lot happening through God, he had seen miracles and wonders, he witnessed the Red Sea splitting apart which afterwards destroyed the whole of the Egyptian army. All had begun so well.

But now, he was sitting before his tent from dawn to sunset, counselling hundreds of fighting Israelites who wanted his advice, meaning: God's advice. How can people possibly fight so much with each other? He became more and more exhausted and tired, and also those who came up to him, standing in the hot sun for hours waiting for their turn to talk with him, became more and more impatient.

Moses got help in the person of his father-in-law. A man called Jethro. Jethro had heard of all the wonderful things that the people of Israel had experienced with God and this was why he set off for meeting Moses. He listend to Moses talk about everything and both celebrated God's miracles. Afterwards, Jethro watched what Moses was doing all day.

Exodus 18, as from verse 13:
The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood round him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people he said, "What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand round you from morning till evening?"

Moses answered him, "because the people come to me to seek God's will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of Gods decrees and laws."

Moses' father-in-law replied, "What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear themselves out. The work is too heavy for you, you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people's representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform. But select capable men from all the people - men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain - and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges over people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will get home satisfied."

Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves.

Then Moses sent his father-in-law on his way, and Jethro returned to his own country.

The situation is clear, Moses feels overstrained which is no pleasant experience for the people. God sends help and this help is not only important to Moses but also we can learn from it. I'd like to talk about five principles that can help us proceed in our lives.

1. If you want to proceed in your life, you need to be humble

The first thing that calls my attention is that Moses was humble and also I am in need of humbleness. Humblesness - what is this? Humbleness is the openness to be criticized. I dont know whether you have grasped the tension, the explosiveness in this story. There is this man Moses, who is being incredibly used by God, who has seen God's presence and God's wonders and then comes a simple nomade from the desert who doesn't even belong to the people of Israel; this is a foreigner saying, "Moses, what you are doing is not good!"

What could be a normal reaction to such words? "Well, wait a moment... With what right do you tell me this? You want to correct me? After all, it was me having experienced all this with God! You want to talk into my life? Get off!

The Bible says that Moses was the most humble man on earth. He was not too proud to take advice. He was not too proud to listen. Listen to whom? Who was this Jethro? Jethro belonged to the Midianites. Midian, too, was a son of Abraham. After Abraham's wife Sarah died, he remarried and had more children and one of them was Midian. The Midianites lived as nomades in the desert and Jethro was one of their priests. He was a descendent of Abraham such as Moses was and probably this was why both of them could sacrifice to God and pray together, experience God together. Moses was humble, Moses listened, Moses accepted what his father-in-law said.

2. If you want to proceed in your life, you need to be open for new things

When having experienced God in our past, we tend to develop a method of it. What went well last week, will be working now, too, and even next year. I have prayed for someone using those words and this person was healed, so I will use those words everytime I pray for the sick. It is in us that we need security, a method.

Moses had to see that things can be different, better. Whoever is on the way with God will also see that things will be different, better. Today, God has something different for you in store, different from yesterday and the day before yesterday. It seems like a devine principle: God's working changes continuously! We cannot grasp God, we cannot put him into our pocket. He is not calculable. The good things we have experienced with God yesterday, can hinder us today in experiencing something better with Him.

Moses was open for new things. It was clear to him that he had seen a lot of good things with God and yet, Jethro was right: what he was doing that day was not good! There was a another way, a better way. Moses was open for changes, for new things, for better things.

God seems to be always doing this. In the Old Testament, He made a covenant with the people of Israel and this covenant was good. Nevertheless, Jesus came to this world and God made a new covenant with the people. It was better.

He has created this beautiful earth, yet one day, there will be a new one. It will be better. Or simply read the gospels and pay attention to how Jesus heals people. Jesus had no fixed method, it was always different! We cannot grasp God, we cannot box Him in. His work is always new, always different.

This principle is late-breaking. What does God want of us here in the Vineyard church of Harburg (well, of course, also in other parts of this world! Bruni is talking here to her own church people. Comment by Birgit)? He wants us to make Him visible for the poeple in our city, He wants His light shining through us so that people will draw toward Him. God is love and love is incredibly creative! Everyone who is in love, knows this and couples who are married for a long time already, will hopefully discover this again and again. Love is creative. Love always goes new paths in order to express itself, to show the other person: you are important to me, you are worth everything. It is not self-evident that you are with me.

Like this, God wants to meet with people in Harburg (or in your city), but the methods, which were good ten years ago to make people curious for God, don't grasp no longer. We are in need of something new, because nowaday's people are having different problems like they used to have ten years ago. Love is creative. Love asks about what problem there is, what need there is. Are we open enough for the new when it comes to reaching people? Are we flexible? Are we open enough to ask: God, what do you want to do in this city today?

God's Spirit is living in us and makes us creative. By the way, this is not only true for our spiritual life. We tend to seperate our life into differents realms; service on sunday, small group on a weekday; this is the spiritual realm. And then there is the daily routine, our profession, our job. Devine creativity can also be applied at our work place. Have you already thought of it? Also the labor market knows about exhaustion, about excessive demands. Those few that are having a job these days, have to accomplish more and more. Exhaustion and burnouts are the results of it.

Have you ever asked God for the wisdom to change something at your work place, in order to get ideas of how to be more efficient with time, staff, money or ressources? Devine creativity is for all of our life, not only for the spiritual part of it. If you feel exhausted at your work place then begin to ask: God, what do you want to improve here?

3. If you want to proceed in your life, you need to backspace

Sometimes, less is more. Moses was very diligent. He wanted to do his job well, he wanted to do everything right und this took him to his limits because he wanted to do everything on his own. Jethro's advice was: delegate the job to several others.

Not all of us are like Moses. We are all different in our personalities and this is good. In every group, every fellowship, there are people who very eagerly take up what is to do, and others who abstain from it and prefer watching. Sociologists have found out that in every group, there are 20% of the people who do 80% of the work. Two out of ten who look around to see what has to be done and do it. You don't have to ask them twice, but they would say from their own part: here I am, what is there for me to do? Two out of ten...

And these two risk to do so much that they will exhaust. They are on flame for God, they rejoice in their work and often don't realize that they are working far in excess of their strengths. They become tired, get burned out, lose the joy in their ministry. Often it's those who have difficulties in saying No, who don't know their limits and exhaust themselves.

Moses was such a person. He worked much too much and was exhausted. Sometimes, less is more. Jethro says: you don't have to do all of this by yourself! Do you belong to those 20% who run the risk of overloading themselves? Then ask God to show you whether you really are to do everything that you are doing at this point? I know how difficult it can be to give work away. There are so many "buts": But, can others do it the same way I do? But, are others as quick as I am? I have heard of a pastor typing the church information paper himself. When being asked why he had to do even this by himself, he said, "There is no-one in church who can type as fast as I can." Is this really an arguement? Is it so bad if another person would take a litte longer in typing this information paper?

No, it's not!

I'd like to illustrate this point with a little anecdote. A painter was to paint a house and so he went off one morning, with the ladder, the paint, brushes and so-on. Full of energy he began with his job. At noon, the sun was burning hot on his shoulders and he became tired, but he pulled himself together and went on painting. In the evening he was very proud for having accomplished painting the complete house. His boss came, looked at the work and said, "You have really been working very hard, you did a great job, everything looks so neat now, really, very awesome. But, there is one flaw in it all - it is the wrong house you worked on...!"

It's not about how much we're doing for God, but it's about doing the right thing, it's about those things HE has assigned us to do, and not those things WE THINK we have to accomplish. There is also another effect to this: if I take the job off of someone who had been given it by God, then I hinder this person in growing into his/her call! It is not so much because I'll be getting tired, but it's that others cannot grow in their spiritual life and will get unsatisfied. Also with Moses - the people became unsatisfied, because they had to wait so long.

4. If you want to proceed in your life, then get moved!

There are still those 80%, to who it is a toil to move. There can be many reasons to it. It can be lazyness, idleness, but it can well be unsecurity. They don't dare doing things alone. They don't know the place where they are needed.

An illustration for those 80% is the following story: a man was at the beach together with his 10-year-old son. In a distance, they saw a man who had both of his legs amputated and was trying hard with his crutches to move over the sand and get on the paved way. The man tried to get up, but his crutched always slipped in the sand and he fell over. The 10-year-old did not think for long and ran over to this man trying to help him. But he didn't have enough strengths and so both of them fell over. Several people, who without doing anything before, had only watched the man struggling, but now, when seeing the helpless attempt of the boy, the came to help. Together, they helped the man get to the paved way. Drowned in tears, the boy ran back to his dad and cried: "Dad, I could not help him, I was too weak!"

What the boy did not know was: had he not run over to this man with his attempt to help, presumedly the others wouldn't have helped, either. He was the trigger for this successful relief action!

Often, it is similar with us. We see a need and think: I am totally overloaded with this. What could I do here anyway? But together, in union with others, it is possible. And this is the reason why for the existence of the church. This is why God has put us all together as the church. What one cannot do alone, many can accomplish. It is our common minstry in this city. We shall and ought to rethink. I might not make it alone, but there are others and this is why I am starting off right away! .

You probably know the parable of the talents. Jesus explains that everyone was given gifts and abilities from God. One had gotten 10 talents, the other one 5 and a third one 1 talent. And it is really like this: we are all differently talented; some have more, some have less. And God never overloads anybody. Who has got little, isn't expected much. Who has got a lot, is expected a lot.

In this parable, Jesus talks about the faithful and resonsible servants, who applied their talents well and increased them, while there is this other servant, who didn't do anything of his talent, he didn't apply it, he just digged it in. Jesus calls this servant lazy and evil. These are hard words. Whoever doesn't do anything because of being lazy and comfy, should get himself up disrupting his own limitations. And whoever doesn't dare doing anything alone can join others. There are so many possibilities. .

5. If you want to proceed in your life, you need a Jethro

Our self-perception is limited. We are all having a more or less tilted image of ourselves. I am doing a counselling course these weeks. And in our last meeting, we were videoed while doing our training talks. After those talks, we had to judge ourselves first. Most of us were depreciating ourselves and judged ourselves worse than reality complies. The assessments of the others were much more positive than one's own and finally, we watched the video and realized: we are not bad at all!!!

This experience was so good. It was so encouraging. And because our self-perception often does not comply with reality, we need a person at our side telling us: this is the way I see you! Somebody, who corrects and encourages us. It is so good to have a Jethro at our side, but it might cost quite some effort to go up to someone asking them to tell you how they perceive you. A Jethro helps us on.

For about half a year now, I am having my Jethro, a female Jethro. Sometimes I have to swallow quite a bit after she tells me the truth about certain things... Sometimes I am angry, and at the beginning, I wept a lot and was frustrated because of my mistakes and weaknesses. But in the meantime, my attitude has changed. Now I can look at my weaknesses and even laugh about myself and say: "Yes, it's true, this is really so!" And how do I proceed? My Jethro is helping me in this.


Are you stuck in your life? Don't you proceed? Do you feel exhausted and overloaded? Then check yourself: do you belong to those 20% who always accept too many tasks? What things did God really assign you with and what not? Do you belong to those 80% who abstain and wait? Then get moved! What would you like to be doing? What group would you like joining? And a very important question: who could be your Jethro?

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