Censorship. The media fight it, oppressed nations suffer through it, and we all argue when or if it’s necessary. But could the worst censorship be what we do to ourselves? If I say this will it offend someone? If I do that will anyone think I’m being, well, ridiculous? And if you’re doing it right, the answer is probably YES! In an effort to keep the balance, not rock the boat and make everyone happy, we miss opportunities to do the outrageous, the unexpected and the truly impactful.
Jesus was radical. He rocked many boats, walked boldly and saved the world. So if my heart is pure, my eyes on God and my faith secure I can do what might seem ridiculous, and be right were God wants me. One caveat, being ridiculous for God and being an idiot are not the same. Sometimes only the Holy Spirit can help you know the difference, so be sure you’re prayed up! Look to trusted advisors to guide you . See to it what you’re feeling aligns with scripture. If everything checks out, go ahead! Be ridiculous!
Sometimes, out of left field, we get the call to be ridiculous. God promises to give us the desires of our heart. But I’ve found often the desire comes after a step of obedience. A few years ago I received an email inviting me on a mission trip to a foreign country. My first thought? Ridiculous. I had every reason not to go. Not once was global missions ever on my radar. My ministry up until then had been local. I had no training for teaching, ministering, preaching or even the culture. I had no funding and this trip would cost thousands of dollars. It would be dangerous with bombings and civil unrest right in the mission zone. But my spirit stirred.
I closed the email and put it on the back burner. But wouldn’t you know it I couldn’t put it out of my mind. At the time I was reading Sun Stand Still by Stephen Furtick, and every word on the page drew me back to that email. A week went by. Two weeks. I felt like I was in constant angst. I talked it over with my husband, my pastor, my friends. Finally, with a deep breath and a pounding heart I replied to the email: “Yes.”
In the coming months as we prepared for our outreach God opened my eyes to others He had called to ridiculous missions:
Mary, the mother Jesus. An angel told her she would bear the Savior of the world. She responded “How can this be since I am still a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). Ridiculous right?
Gideon, when told he would defeat the Midianites asked: “But Lord, how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least in my family” (Jdg 6:15 NLT). Ridiculous.
But no one protested perhaps as much as Moses when God called him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 3:1-4:17). As Moses goes about his regular day of tending sheep God captures his attention with a burning bush. It wasn’t until Moses went to check it out that God called his name. God pursues us, he uses unique and powerful moments to capture and draw our interest, but it’s up to us to pay attention. My burning bush was the email. It was generically addressed, but when I read it, God called my name. Do you have a burning bush somewhere in your life? Something seemingly general, not really aimed directly at you. What if you look closer? Would you hear your name? Listen closely. God doesn’t always use a blow horn. He wants our spirit to be tuned into him. If he whispers, would you hear him?
Moses’ name was called, but he used four distinct arguements:
1.) Moses: “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?” (Ex 3:11 NLT). Moses was a murderer and a sheep herder for his father-in-law. He essentially says: “That’s ridiculous, I’m not qualified to go to Egypt.” I suspect Moses thought about his questionable past that further disqualified him from God’s service. Here I was contemplating a trip with no background in missions, not to mention missions in a far-off country. And yes, a past that always threatened to overshadow my service. You too? Too young? Too old? Too flawed? There is an answer:
God: “I will be with you” (Ex 3:12 NLT). God provided himself. Jesus told the disciples the same thing when he sent them out in Matthew 28. When God calls us he ushers us into his presence, not out of it. It is HIS power that overcomes inexperience, youth, age, and a checkered past. In fact, God counts on our inabilities and inadequacies. His presence bring the power, not our personalities.
2.) Moses: “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you'”(Ex 4:1 NLT) What if they point out flaws in the plan? What if others think I’m ridiculous? This fear will stop me cold. Maybe years of therapy would reveal why I so struggle with what others think, but I come ’round to that hurdle every time. I could already see the eye rolls, the patronizing head nods. No amount of rational thought would get me past this feeling that everyone would think I was ridiculous. Do you relate? What if my friends don’t support, or worse, ridicule me? What if no one agrees or jumps on board? What if they argue against my course of action? God patiently give Moses additional direction.
God: “What is in your hand?” (Ex 4:2 NLT). God provides evidence. Moses’ staff would become instrumental in showing God’s power. He turns it into a snake when Moses drops it to the ground, then back to wood when he picks it up. When we move in God’s direction, he gives confirmation. One of my biggest concerns was the cost of the mission trip. We were doing alright, but an extra $5000 in six months wasn’t foreseeable. Plus all the incidental costs. But over that time an extra $5000 sure enough showed up. The last $1500 was nothing short of miraculous. If I wasn’t sure before, I had to be then!
To top it off, as God has done through the ages, he used numbers to reassure me he was doing a supernatural work. Think of how many things came in threes throughout the Bible. For me it was the number 11. There were 11 of us going out of an invitation of 100. There were 11 orphans we would be caring for. When we booked the flight there were only 11 seats left. And the cottage at the hostel where we would stay would only accommodate . . . you guessed it: 11. You can call it coincidence. I call it supernatural providence. God’s confirmation will look different for each person, but it will always be clear. Look to his answer, not other’s.
3.) Moses “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled”(Ex 4:10 NLT). I will sound ridiculous. Seriously, who did I think I was entering an unfamiliar culture thinking I had something to say? Something to give? We were to develop lessons for the women of one tribe and for children of a school in one of the slums. I had no idea where to start. I would be speaking through a translator. Not only was I tasked with creating a meaningful message for two vastly different groups, neither of which I knew anything about, I would need that message to resonate through the language barrier. Day after day I stared at a blank computer screen. Nada. I know I’m not the only one who’s suffered from spiritual writer’s block. There are so many ways we get caught up in searching for the perfect words we think won’t come. Sharing the Good New with your atheist sister-in-law? Navigating scripture with a wayward teen? How about responding to a snarky email or text? Opportunities to share the gospel are varied and numerous. It’s easy to shut down and shut up in the face of saying the wrong thing. But look at what God tell Moses:
God: “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Ex 4:11 NLT). God provides ability. God told Moses he would give him the words to say. This assured he would be totally reliant on God’s direction, His power, His plan.
Paul tells the church at Corinth “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words . . . My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that you faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power” (I Cor 2:13-14 & 2:4-5). My words might not be wise and persuasive, yet I knew my message, through the Holy Spirit, would be. As I began to rest in this assurance the message began to formulate, then to flow. I had more ideas than I knew what to do with. What a relief that I could present the message and let God do the miracle.
4.) Moses “Lord, please! Send anyone else,” (Ex4:13 NLT). This is probably my favourite. We get down to the crux of it. He just didn’t want to. The request was ridiculous. Yep, been there. So many times I entertained the idea of backing out. Just cutting my losses and bailing. What is your temptation when you second-guess a decision? Plowing forward or throwing it into reverse? Somebody else can teach the lesson, talk to the co-worker or pray with the hurting neighbor. I know it’s nothing to be proud of, but we’re human. We feel the nudge in our spirit and we pull the covers over our head. Oh, but God had an answer to this one too!
God: “All right,” he said. “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he speaks well. And look! He is on his way to meet you now. He will be delighted to see you. Talk to him, and put the words in his mouth. I will be with both of you as you speak, and I will instruct you both in what to do,” (Ex 4:14-15 NLT).
God provides help. Aaron apparently had a way with words. I suspect having his brother around gave Moses comfort and confidence as well. Jesus sent the disciples out in twos (Mark 6:7), so there’s something to having company in our endevours. God surrounds us with others to fill in for our weaknesses. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” says the Proverb (27:17). We were designed to help each other and God will put people in your life who excel where you lack. As I got to know the other 10 in our group I was encouraged in both their abilities, and in their uncertainties. I was relieved that each one had a spiritual role in which he or she had a gift. And I was comforted to know everyone had insecurities and questions. Embrace those who come along side of you to fill in the gaps where your own knowledge, courage and patience fail.
God gave Moses an answer for each of Moses’ arguements. He didn’t let him off the hook! Neither was I. Neither are you. Ridiculouness to us makes perfect sense to God. Trust in his calling. Trust in his plans. Be a little ridiculous!