Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Learning to Sit on the Leadership Rock" by Garris Elkins

We have all read the story in Exodus 17 about Moses on the mountaintop holding up his staff while Joshua and the troops were down in the valley fighting the Amalekites.  If Moses held his staff up above his head the troops would win, but if he dropped his hands they would lose.

The people Joshua was fighting that day were the Amalekites, the descendants of Esau. Esau was the man who sold his birthright for a bowl of stew.  He was an opportunist whose life was defined by meeting his pressing needs in the moment and thereby forfeiting his future. 

The Amalekites were a nation of nomadic herders who traveled from one patch of green grass to another in order to feed their flocks.  In Deuteronomy the battle fought is Exodus 17 is retold by saying the Amalekites would attack the rear of a column of people to take down the weak and weary.  They were opportunists like their ancestor, Esau. Their tactics resembled a pack of wolves.

On the day of the battle Moses told Joshua to go and fight the Amalekites. Moses also told Joshua that he would go up on the mountain and raise his staff during the battle.  This staff had played an important role in recent activities in the nation of Israel and the people knew it represented God’s power and authority. Moses also took Aaron and Hur with him.

The battle plan Moses set out would make practically minded people uncomfortable.  The practically minded would say, “All hands on deck, Moses – we need everyone in the battle. Pray later – its time to fight.” The problem with God’s battle plans is that they are never very practical. Some of the most important ingredients in God’s plan for victory make no sense to a natural way of thinking.

If we allow ourselves to be held hostage to only practical solutions for spiritual challenges, we will shut the door on those steps of faith or prophetic acts that are sometimes required of us in order to live a supernatural life.  The battle Joshua would fight that day would be determined more by what happened on the mountaintop in prayer, than what took place on the actual battlefield.

The text reads, 11 “As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. 12 Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. 13 As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.”

What caught my attention was the use of the stone.  When Moses went up on the mountain I am sure he had no thought of sitting on a rock.  He saw himself standing tall with the staff held high above his head.  That is a dramatic posture, but one that is not possible to hold long term.

It had become obvious that the original plan was not going to work.  Each time Moses got tired and dropped his hands, some of his men died.  Hands up and people lived. Aaron and Hur saw what was taking place.  They looked around for something for Moses to sit on and provided him with the stone.

Aaron and Hur were responsible to bring the stone because Moses was focused on the life and death task of holding up his staff.  One of Moses’ greatest leadership acts would be his willingness to sit on the rock that others had provided.

Two principles of leadership emerge in this text. First, those leading need to be willing to assume a posture of ministry that was unplanned and allows them to do what God has called them to do without burning out before the victory comes.  Plans change and leaders must be willing to adjust.

Our victory always comes from a place of rest.  That is the nature of living in God’s grace and favor. Being a leader carries with it the danger of thinking that our original plan will work long term. The reality is that somewhere in the battle we may realize that we need that unplanned stone seat if we are going to finish well.

The second reality is our posture of ministry – working from a place of rest - allows others to have access to our gift in order to bring a victory in the current battle. Followers are fueled from a leader who leads from a place of rest. It is also easier for them to access your arms if you are seated. Everybody trying to hold the staff above their heads would have looked dramatic, but that posture would not last long-term. All three of them would have grown weary and dropped their arms and the staff. This becomes a prescription for corporate fatigue.

I am beginning to think that one of the roles of leadership is learning when to sit and the role of those who serve leadership is to find rocks for their leaders to sit upon. 

Peter faced a similar challenge in Acts 6 when people were complaining that the widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.  At the crisis point in that situation Peter sat down on his ministry rock and said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. 3 And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. 4 Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.”  Peter was wise enough to meet the practical needs of ministry without abandoning his calling. He sat down on his rock of prayer and teaching the word.

Wise leaders learn the importance of sitting on the rock of their unique gifting and assignment. They also understand the importance of incorporating a practically minded approach to ministry along with an apostolic minded approach to ministry.  In Exodus 17 there was a battle being fought in the valley and another battle being fought on the mountain. Both battles needed to be engaged.

This kind of leadership style will require courage to feel comfortable being up on the mountain while the troops are in battle down in the valley.  It will also require that those called to serve leadership know where to find the rocks for their leaders to sit upon so that we all don’t burn out trying to do things in our own practically minded strength.

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