So today, I’m reminded of this old story written by an unknown author:
There once was a man who was asleep one night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light and the Savior appeared to him.
The Lord told him He had a work for him to do, and showed him a large rock explaining that he was to push against the rock with all his might. This the man did, and for many days he toiled from sunup to sundown; his shoulder set squarely against the cold massive surface of the rock, pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling his whole day had been spent in vain.
Seeing that the man showed signs of discouragement, Satan decided to enter the picture – placing thoughts in the man’s mind, such as “Why kill yourself over this?, you’re never going to move it!” or “Boy, you’ve been at it a long time and you haven’t even scratched the surface!” etc. giving the man the impression the task was impossible and the man was an unworthy servant because he wasn’t moving the massive stone.
These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man and he started to ease up in his efforts. “Why kill myself?” he thought. “I’ll just put in my time putting forth just the minimum of effort and that will be good enough.” And this he did or at least planned on doing until, one day, he decided to take his troubles to the Lord.
“Lord,” he said, “I have labored hard and long in Your service, putting forth all my strength to do that which You have asked of me. Yet after all this time, I have not even budged that rock even half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?”
To this the Lord responded compassionately, “My friend, when long ago I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you to push against the rock with all your strength and that you have done. But never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. At least not by yourself. Your task was to push. And now you come to Me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed, ready to quit. But is this really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled; your back sinewed and brown. Your hands are calloused from constant pressure and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much and your ability now far surpasses that which you used to have. Yet still, you haven’t succeeded in moving the rock; and you come to Me now with a heavy heart and your strength spent. I, my friend will move the rock. Your calling was to be obedient and push, and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom, and this you have done.”
Even now as I re-read the story above, as I come to the line “I, my friend will move the rock.”, I well up with tears. This is exactly what He did for me. How humbling it is to have been so blind to this lesson. How humbling it is to have actually been frustrated with the Lord, even angry when He did not allow me to succeed when I felt I deserved it (our ways are not His ways! Isaiah 55:8-9). How humbling to realize that all I had to do was obey and let Him move the rock. All I had to do was remember this line from the story, “Your calling was to be obedient and push, and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom, and this you have done.”
How many of us get frustrated when things don’t go the way we want them to in the timing we think they should? How many of us would do well to remember the story above from time to time?
I thought I could do everything myself.
I’ve spent too years of my life striving hard to do things in my own power. I thought that if I did everything myself, if I slept less and worked harder, if I was smarter and stronger and wiser I could make things happen. And for years, I just couldn’t figure out why things weren’t going the way I expected them to. I wondered why, even though I was faithful in what I felt the Lord would have me do, things didn’t always work out. So I worked longer hours and was determined that I’d make things happen. I’d be a success in business MY way, that I’d start ministries MY way, etc.
I grew frustrated with ministries that didn’t grow and obstacles that didn’t move. I grew frustrated with business ventures that didn’t succeed and goals left unaccomplished.
I knew the Lord would have me in business and I knew I was to be involved at a church and I knew I was to help “feed His sheep”, yet the business continued to have problems thrust in front of it, I struggled to find a home church where I could serve and opportunities to minister just didn’t arise. Why didn’t my labors produce fruit!!!?
I had my eyes in the wrong place.
I had my eyes and my understanding in the wrong place. Sometimes we are just called to obey… and let the Lord complete the work. Sometimes we are just told to push… not try to make things happen our way and not to get frustrated when we fail. Look at what happened to Abraham when he got frustrated waiting on God and tried to make things happen in his own power!
Let’s jump over to Ephesians for a minute…
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
It says to be strong in the LORD! It says to be strong in the power of HIS might! I was working within the wrong “might”.
I spent so much time looking at ME, that I forgot to look up. I forgot that sometimes the Lord tells us to do things or go places, just so that we may then see the next place or thing he wants us to do. Sometimes the Lord has us do things, just to grow us. And sometimes He just wants us to obey Him. I forgot to just obey and let Him tend to the results. I forgot that sometimes He intends for us to fail at some things so that we may grow.
I forgot to think… “What lesson can I learn from this? What is God teaching me?” and instead thought “I didn’t do anything, wrong… why does this have to happen to me!?”.
If we are getting frustrated with how things are going or aren’t going… maybe we need to examine whose power we are trying to operate in. And maybe we ought to focus more on the lessons the Lord is trying to teach us and the direction He is trying to provide us with. Maybe, just maybe, that frustration or that failure is there to teach us something and direction our paths elsewhere. Maybe the fact the rock didn’t move was part of His plan and our pushing was not ever destined to move the rock, but just strengthen us in some way.
Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.
It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.
Giving it all up to Him
I finally decided it was time to leave the results up to God. Time to surrender all to Him. I didn’t stop working hard. I didn’t stop learning and putting in long hours. But I left the results up to God.
I gave my business and career to Him. I gave any ministry and testimony I had up to Him, I gave my friendships up to Him, I gave my health up to Him, I gave everything to him. And it is amazing what He has done. Almost over night, my life changed. I grew more content and my heart filled with the joy of the Lord. I started singing songs to Him daily (my poor roommates, haha). My business started to grow, I found a solid church family and the opportunity to contribute to ministry sprung out of nowhere. My health improved and I gained many relationships with some great people.
If we would just wait upon the Lord. If we would just give Him our plans and our worries and our desires… He will lift us up, He will guide us and direct us and He will be the lamp unto our path.
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
Therefore shall ye keep all the commandments which I command you this day, that ye may be strong, and go in and possess the land, whither ye go to possess it;
Nehemiah 8:10 (one of my favorites!!!)
…for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
The Bible says that even the simplest of the things of God is wiser than men… that even the weakness of God is stronger than anything we can muster. Why not give it up to Him?
1 Corinthians 1:25
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
Oh, how I thank Him for my failures. How I thank Him for those failed business ventures, because I would have been in the wrong place with the wrong people with pride in my heart. How I thank Him for failed relationships, because I can see now that my life and my walk were at a standstill until they ended. I thank Him for allowing my ministry to dry up all those years ago, because I severely needed to be more humble and stronger in the Lord before I could be trusted with more than I had. I thank Him so much for the things that I used to consider disasters – mortal failures, for without them, I would not be where I am today… who I am today.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
If I never succeed in another thing. If the Lord chooses to take everything away from me… I accept that. But if He chooses to continue to use me and grow me, I praise Him in that and look forward to seeing what He does with my life. I look forward to pushing… and then watching Him gloriously move the stone.