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Learning to Live in Balance by Understanding the Law of Limits
By Wayde I. Goodall
“If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small!” (Proverbs 24:10).
The complaining, critical children of Israel have often come to mind as I’ve dealt with difficult people while pastoring and being involved in Christian leadership. Likely, if you’ve been in leadership very long, you’ve run into complainers too.
The account in Exodus (17:1-4), tells us how the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people?”
God allowed the children of Israel to get into that test of their faith. After all the miracles He had performed in Egypt, after allowing them to escape through the Red Sea, and after providing daily manna, they still complained. There was always something.
All of us understand our own version of “being out of water.” Often we feel frustrated, tired, and get a little nervous stepping into new territory. The assurance of God’s daily provision, even during difficult times, is a truth that every leader can grow in. Trials and tests in our lives are normal. Life can be tough, and often is.
We notice that the people were ticked off, were overly anxious, and were pushing Moses. “Give us water to drink!” they said. They were depending on the pastor, the leader, to give them water — relying on man — on human strength and intervention. Not on the God of miracles who had come through on so many occasions.
The Lord spoke to Moses, “You shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink” (Exodus 17:6; italics mine). Moses struck the rock and clean, clear water came out … another miracle.
Moses had an almost identical challenge later. “There was no water for the congregation. And they assembled themselves against Moses and against Aaron. And the people quarreled with Moses” (Numbers 20:2).
Moses and Aaron fell on their faces (20:6); “the Lord spoke to Moses, saying ‘Take the staff, and assemble the congregation … and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water’” (20:8, italics mine).
“Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, ‘Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?’ And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them’” (Numbers 20:10-12; italics mine).
What are the similarities between the stories in Exodus and in Numbers?
Both have miracles (a lot of water came out).
Both have tension, anger, complaining, false accusations, and threats (toward the leader).
Both times Moses prayed and God heard (the pastor, the leader, the teacher) and answered his prayer.
In the Numbers example, Moses was likely overtired and out of balance. He had been doing this for quite a while and the pressure was getting to him.
The Consequence of Losing It?
Moses didn’t get to bring the people to “the land that [the Lord] had given them” (Numbers 20:12). What a price to pay for the choice of losing it rather than of obeying the Lord’s direction to “speak to the rock.”
Trials are real and tests are God-approved. James reminds us of this: “For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (1:2).
God took the people of Israel out of Egypt and into other situations where they failed to trust Him (Rephidim, Migdol, Marah). What was the pattern that the Lord was reminding Israel and the leaders of? If you don’t learn to trust the Lord with simple, innocent, childlike faith when being tested, He will bring you back to another similar testing ground.
For those of us who lead, understanding the Law of Limits (balance) helps us know that God will provide, He has performed miracles in the past, and your present test is another opportunity to trust Him.
If we live outside of our emotional and physical energy (out of balance) we can react in ways that harm rather than help. Part of being in balance is knowing that you’re human but have a supernatural God who is caring and compassionate, and who provides. You are a leader. When the people see your example of knowing your limits, and trusting God when you are “in over your head,” they too can learn to trust.
Thank you for your Kingdom leadership. It is my prayer that you will experience God’s blessings and favor more than ever. If any of the College of Ministry team can assist you, please do not hesitate to contact us. Always know that I am,
Your friend in Christ,
Wayde I. Goodall, D.Min., dean, College of Ministry, Northwest University, Kirkland, Washington