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Moses and the Road to Faith

Carlyle Stewart
Sun, Sep 30

Texts: James 1:5-8, Exodus 4:1-13

 Many of us were introduced to the Book of Exodus as a story of triumph and liberation from slavery in Egypt. I had this image in my mind of Moses as a man who was optimistic, excited, and eager to carry out this God-given call to liberate the Hebrews. But when looking deeper into the text, I see a man plagued by feelings of doubt, anxiety, low self-esteem and uncertainty. I realized that at one point or another, myself included, we have all had these same emotions. Moses found himself in a rather odd and unusual position. Adopted as baby into the house of Pharaoh's daughter, raised in the upper class of Egyptian society, all while still having to come to grips with his Hebrew heritage. After he fled into exile, the Lord was then revealed. We know the story, a bush enveloped in flames but not consumed.

 I imagine that after witnessing this miracle, and hearing the voice of God command him to return to Egypt after narrowly escaping his own execution, he must have terrified. I cannot fathom the amount of stress that Moses might have felt. He then protested, “Who am I to bring these children out of Egypt? What shall I say to them? Surely they wont believe me?” We must see that Moses had a reason to be doubtful. His logical mind told him that the Hebrews may not listen to him, a man of privilege who for years was absent from their suffering. Although he shared a common ancestor, Moses was not a slave elected by an Israelite council. We conclude that he had not extensively lived among the people who he was sent to lead… Why would the Hebrews trust Moses? History tells us that revolutionary action and organized revolt requires people to be confident in their leaders. Leaders that they can relate to; leaders they can trust; leaders who have shared their experiences.

  Moses wanted nothing to do with this task that was delegated to him and I understand what he felt— the paralyzing sense of inadequacy of having to address not only the Hebrews but also Pharaoh himself. Imagine running away and then having to return, under threat of death, to confront and face the most powerful man in the world. But the Lord is trying to get him to realize that it is only God who provides humans with the power of their senses, therefore Moses should not fear. The Lord invested in the prophet, giving him strength to perform the tasks that lay ahead.

 This verse stuck out to me because for a large part of my life I spent my time limited and held back by feelings of fear and doubt. My faith was rocky and I knew about God but I didn’t have a relationship with God. When considering ministry, I would say to myself, who am I to think I have the ability to preach, teach, or advise someone when I sin just like everyone else!? When I am so often confused and perplexed by the struggles of life just like everyone else. When I am overwhelmed by these same feelings of unworthiness. I had similar faith struggles that Moses had. I spent my time comparing myself to my peers and I wondered if I had the strength to succeed at a passion that I had not yet found. When people asked me about preaching and ministry, I would laugh hysterically! I knew deep down that I wanted nothing to do with church. This scripture has been a guiding force in my life for the past year as I was struggling with a call to ministry, but now I recognize that this was a part of my development into a faithful life that required me to let go and let the spirit direct me as it pleased. I realized that God has perfected the art of upending our plans, and setting us on a path that we never thought possible. When this happens, at first we are flustered and confused, and maybe even angry when we realize the divine has placed us in a foreign or uncomfortable position. Or on a mission that we don’t want to be bothered with.

 I couldn’t bring myself to believe as deeply as I should have because although the seed of faith was planted, it had not yet blossomed. The apostle Paul speaks to us about "the mind of the flesh.” And the problem with it is not that it is irreligious, but that it has been conditioned to be resistant against the spirit. Like Moses, I was lost but I felt as though I had to believe the Lord had me covered.

 The Lord understood Moses’ doubt; in this case, his doubt was useful. It meant that he had a measure of humility and reason when he thought about the conditions of his situation— Will the Hebrews listen to me? Am I a capable servant of God? How will we succeed against these perilous odds?

 Moses wanted certainty. But, you see, we make the mistake of thinking that faith is the same thing as certainty. We often doubt and lack faith because we are not certain about what the future holds. We see certainty as a safety net that protects us in some way. Moses was searching for this certainty. In a society where it feels like so much is out of our control and in the hands of those who ignore our best interests, and in a society where faith has fallen out of fashion, it makes sense why we are doubtful and hungry for certainty. But Moses teaches us that one of the first stops on the road to faith is uncertainty and doubt, for it is difficult to know faith until we have been through periods when it was shaky and unclear. But like on many roads, the stops along the way are temporary. The Hebrew verb aman, which in English means ’believe’ or to ‘have faith in’ appears four times in these verses. God understands that we go through periods of doubt because this helps us to strengthen the faith that follows. God understands that at times we are lost and uncertain, but by building up our faith we see that the doubt and uncertainty are necessary parts of our spiritual formation. They allow us to know what it feels like to fill the spiritual void in our souls, which at one time was so agonizing. When that void is filled, living becomes a little easier.

We all understand that doubt is a part of being human, but we cannot get too comfortable with it. We cannot get too accustomed to moving through the world with a doubtful and fearful disposition, because we will miss out on certain opportunities. Moses had to rise above the fog of doubt. Because, when it sits for too long, it becomes cancerous as it leads to spiritual and personal death. It gets to a point where we’ll never fully comprehend the things God needs us to do. Moses did the work by keeping faith even though he didn’t fully understand what was going on. By fortifying a strong and unshakable faith in God we can overcome doubt so that it no longer has a stake in us. But how do we strengthen our faith? I don’t believe that faith is absolute certainty. Faith is knowing that despite the uncertainty and questions, God is the reason for the air in our lungs, the beat of our heart, and the strength of our spirit— and that by following the path and keeping faith, we illuminate the best parts within ourselves!! The lord never asks us to be certain; this is why we don’t have to rely on ourselves. We are only expected to believe with righteousness and passion. The best part about all of this is that the Lord will carry the weight of this doubt when we are ready to cast it off.

 The God we serve is a god of justice, compassion, and liberation, not of fear, hate, and condemnation. We should cultivate faith not only to be comfortable, but to have a righteous level of anger that compels us to try to change the things that upset us the most. We need to have a living and transformative faith that drives us towards action! Moses had to cultivate a living, fiery and active faith in God so that he could lead those people out of Egypt! It was not so that he could return to Midian and hang out with the sheep. God summoned him to carry out a mission that was bigger than himself.

 Many of us are worried about the coming months and what the political future holds for this country. Many of us are unsettled and searching for peace. But need I remind you that we should not stay stagnant in fear, and instead we must vote, we must exercise political and social involvement in our communities to help those who need it the most. Radical love is the only force powerful enough to resist a hateful tyrannical system that has consciously abandoned the needs of the people. The worst thing we could do is descend into turmoil out of fear of the future. It is by continuing to love and act faithfully in our communities that we uplift the Lord, each other, and ourselves. Even though the power structures have been infiltrated by egocentric charlatans posing as politicians; even though at times we feel like, despite our efforts to love, we are still fighting endlessly to gain ground. Let the spirit continue to guide you to continue to put love First.

 When we think about our lives, where do we see ourselves in Moses’ story? How often have we been doubtful of our ability to accomplish something because we thought we didn’t have the skills? Not knowing that we would not be called to such a task if we did not already have the tools to succeed. Don’t ever make the mistake of fearing or doubting your ability to accomplish a thing because you think your chances for success look bleak. With steadfast faith, the universe will conspire for us and stay on our side. As Paul says, if God is for us who can be against us. The reason why this seed of faith begins to blossom from within is because God planted it before we knew it was there. But this seed of faith must be watered and cultivated through prayer, reflection, and the right disposition.

We don’t have to wait for a burning bush to appear in our path because the burning bush is the flame of love and the Holy Spirit that is already within you. When you realize it’s there, you can let it shine.

Faith is not just thinking there is a higher power, but it is actively conversing with, acknowledging, and humbling ourselves at the altar of the spirit, which gives it the energy to work through our lives.

 Faith keeps you grounded and resolute when all around you seems lost.

 Faith is remembering that there is order among chaos.

 Faith reminds you that you are loved when the people in your life forget to do so. Faith reminds you that you are loved when the structures have rejected you.

 Faith is standing in the face of fear, doubt, suffering, pain, and uncertainty and saying I still believe because I was created for the sole purpose of believing.

 Faith isn’t a way of thinking about the divine, it’s a way of being with the divine. It is a disposition that is the soil from which every part of yourself grows….Relish the mystery of faith.

 Faith is freedom, for it allows you to love when others expect you to hate. Faith allows you to be in the world without being consumed by it.

 The creator created us not to be lost and confused forever, but to be found! But ask yourself, what is it that you seek? Is it the faithful life in service to the creator, in service to your neighbor, to loving others as you love yourself? Or do you seek something else?

It’s easy to be faithful when we feel the energy and presence of God deep in our bones; it’s hard to be faithful when our spirit feels barren and dry, but faith is knowing that in those desolate spaces the spirit is still with you. When standing in a dark room, instinct tells you to never stay still, and naturally we search frantically for the light switch. Never let a force on this earth steal your hope, your joy, or your ability to continue spreading light and positivity to God’s people. Keep loving, keep working, keep shining, and most of all, keep the faith.

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