The Moses Syndrome

We all love success and many of us fear failure. We’ve come to believe that we should leave a notable mark on the world—even save the world. Our significance depends on it. A life of non-achievement is a wasted life.

Consequently, we sign up for all the latest conferences, seminars, and workshops. We take careful notes, buy all the resources, and return home to apply the latest trends to our churches.

This rampant mentality often undermines the work of Christ among us. Surely we circumvent the Lord’s intentions when we’re looking for silver bullets, sure-fire methods, and guaranteed programs more than the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Our infatuation with importing and exporting “what works” yields at least two outcomes.

The first outcome is what some people have described as “the Moses Syndrome.” At one point the Lord instructed Moses to strike a rock that water might pour forth and refresh the thirsty people of Israel (Exodus 17:6). Later, when the Lord instructed Moses to speak to the rock to get the same result, Moses struck it instead (Numbers 20:8, 11). It is, after all, what “worked” the first time. The water came, but Moses forfeited his place in the Promised Land for this act of willfulness.

Do we walk the same path when we grope for “what works” in other churches, and fail to seek Christ instead?

The second outcome is far more subtle. Those who preach the ideas, provide the resources, and present the models for sure success sometimes find themselves forced to embellish their stories in order to impress their audiences. They compromise their integrity in order to sustain an image. After all, experts ought not have chinks in their armor.

I don’t propose that we cancel all events where ideas get shared and products get sold. Not at all. But when we hunger for success more than we hunger for the Spirit, when we leap at human promises more than we listen to Jesus, when we idolize winning more than hearing the Father, we follow the path of Moses. And there are always spiritual consequences.

Instead, Jesus invites us to come to Him before we travel to others, to trust Him more than the latest fads and trends, to choose obedience rather than chase significance. And we will be free.

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18 Responses to The Moses Syndrome

  1. David, if you would be willing to be transparent might I ask, “Why did you write a book or begin a blog? Can you say that at the heart of it was that you wanted to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, or was it to curb the desire of having an impact?” I struggle often with the why, and in my own life I see that it has progressed from curbing desire to following God’s lead with some regression mixed in.

    • David Timms says:

      Robert, that seems a fair question. The short answer is that most of my writing emerges from things the Lord lays on my heart. I only write blog posts when I feel He has something for me to say (the prophetic “burning in the bones”). Thankfully I don’t get paid for it and feel no other obligation to do it. I haven’t written any more books precisely because I don’t feel the Holy Spirit compelling me in that direction right now. That said, I’m constantly having to check my motives like everyone else! Pride and the desire for self-formed significance can be insidious.

  2. Scott says:

    Wow, how many times have i struck the rock to no avail?
    I’m moving away from trying to find success and toward looking to become fruitful. It is a difference with a distinction. Success seems to glorify the self, fruitfulness glorifies the Lord of the Harvest.

    • David Timms says:

      Nicely stated, Scott, though the transition is not a simple one, and everything within us (and within our culture) fights against it. Blessings as you continue the Journey and model the different Way to those around you.

  3. If one cannot find truth in the church, where will one find it. It is very important to avoid embellishment in the church. God is looking for those who worship in spirit and truth.

    • David Timms says:

      I agree, Phil, though embellishment has perhaps become a national pastime. I suspect what really matters is that we understand why we are (all) tempted in such directions at times. Exaggeration and embellishment finds root in darkness, not light.

  4. Shane Sebastian says:

    Another encouraging, insightful, and even convicting post Dr. Timms, keep them coming. I really appreciate your mentorship through these blogs and your other writings!

  5. David Timms says:

    Shane, thanks for your friendship and example in ministry. I’m glad we get to do some of the Journey together!

  6. Christy Blazin says:

    Thank you David for your continued and provocative reflections. They often seem to hit us squarely where we are, challenging us to evaluate why we do what we do. Oh, the journey of being freed up from ‘doing’ to contentment in ‘being’ solely for HIM! Blessings to you and your family!

  7. Tim Ross says:

    David, your posts always point us to Jesus, convict us, and encourage us. I am thankful that God causes your bones to burn because you are allowing his nutrients to flow through you and create good fruit that shows us the how in glorifying our Lord Jesus. We so often see what we should do but the how is difficult in our culture sometimes. You have a gift of showing us what our culture tells us and what Jesus tells us. God bless your ministry, your teaching, and your family as you seek to glorify our Father in heaven through a commitment to knowing Christ our Lord.

    • David Timms says:

      Thanks for your kind blessing, Tim. You are very gracious. Pray for me, dear friend, that the Lord would guard my soul.

      • Tim Ross says:

        I will pray for that specifically. Please keep me in prayer also in the same vein as I take on the new responsibility at church. I don’t want it to be about me in any way.

  8. Stanley says:

    Dr Timms,

    I pray and appreciated your lessons, through this lessons Please tell how we equip and encourage today’s young ministers?

    Thanking you

    In him

    Stanley Joseph – southern India

    • David Timms says:

      Stanley, thanks for your note. I’ve thought for a long time that the strongest ministry seems to emerge from Word, skills, and personal formation. Ground them in Scripture; train them in the mechanics of caring and leading, mentor them in spiritual and personal formation. Blessings as you do so.

  9. Norm says:

    Great post. Sometimes i’m tempted to think that success means recognition from my peers for being great at what i do. Then i realize that God didn’t call me to recognition but service, and that servants are usually overlooked. If recognition comes, so be it, but may we never seek it for personal satisfaction.

    • David Timms says:

      Norm, what a profound insight you’ve shared. The mind of the servant would make a great difference to our typical pursuit of success. Blessings as you continue to wash the feet of those whom Christ brings to you!

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