Apart from an active faith in God’s sovereignty and grace, it’s easy to throw up our hands and adopt a “what’s the use?” mentality. If it’s going to be so hard to make really significant improvements, what does it matter if things deteriorate a little further?
This sort of faithless attitude could apply to the “house” that is our life, or the “house” that is the regular environment in which we live and work. We could all come up with lots of good reasons to remain passive. The problems seem too numerous, and many seem too large. You see yourself as one little person, in one little place, at one little moment in time, and it just doesn’t seem logical that you could make any difference at all.
Over the next three Tuesdays, I will be posting three arguments that we all tend to make at one time or another that keep us passive and uninvolved. Here's the first one:
The Identity Argument: “I’m Too Small”
As I’ve written again and again, you and I don’t have much in the way of personal power and authority. When we think about it, we know we can’t really change people, and we know that in most important respects we have little ability to alter circumstances significantly. When we compare ourselves to the size of the changes that are needed around our “house,” it is easy to conclude that God must actually be mistaken on this whole subject of renovation.
Take Moses for example. Remember the first words from his mouth when God called him to go back to Egypt and lead out the Israelites? Moses said, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). In response, God restates Moses’ commission, and Moses basically replies, “But I’m not sure I know what to say.” So God tells him what to say, tells him that he’ll go with him, and tells him that he’ll accompany Moses’ words with “wonders” that will strike the Egyptians. Moses tries once again to take himself out of the action, essentially replying, “But what if they do not believe me?”
So the Lord, right there and then, demonstrates two miraculous signs that he’ll allow Moses to perform before Pharaoh. But these still aren’t enough for Moses, so he says, “O, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:10). Through a series of questions, God then reminds Moses that he made his mouth. But Moses is still not convinced that he can do what God is calling him to do and finally pleads, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” The Bible says that at that point, the anger of the Lord burned against Moses; that God gave Aaron to Moses as his spokesman; and that God sent Moses to do what he had chosen him to do.
There are two ways to look at how Moses responded here, and both are true. In one sense, Moses was accurately identifying weaknesses in himself. Fair enough, but hardly the complete picture because, far more importantly, Moses was completely overlooking the fact that the One asking him to do these significant things was the Almighty Creator, who certainly had the power to bring them to pass.
The kind of doubt Moses was displaying here was not simply doubt in his own abilities. There is ultimately a deeper and far more significant doubt involved—a doubt of God’s sovereignty and power. Where the first kind of doubt - a doubt in personal ability and strength - might be a form of humility, the second is a sinful faithlessness. God knows that in ourselves we are not up to the tasks he calls us to, but he never makes a false assignment. When he sends us, we’re sent as instruments in his almighty hands. He’s the one who creates the change. He’s the great Restorer. He never calls us to what we can’t accomplish in him, but he always calls us to what we could never accomplish without him.
God did eventually do amazing things through weak and fearful Moses. Pharaoh was silenced, Egypt was defeated, and the children of Israel were liberated. You see, for the child of God, passivity is simply rooted in poor theology. When you begin to embrace the theology of God’s presence, promises, and power, passivity no longer makes any sense.
Make sure to check back next Tuesday to read Part 2 of this "Reasons to be Passive" series.