the shape of leadership

Leadership Lessons from the Holy Land, Part 2

How to finish well

Chris Railey on April 27, 2018


In southern Israel you’ll encounter the Negev Desert, also known in the Old Testament as the Wilderness of Zin. This is a rocky, dry land. And when I say rocky, I mean it. In the Bible, we first encounter it in the story of Israel’s Exodus to the Promised Land. It’s their final stop before entering and conquering. Or at least it should have been.

In Numbers 13, we find Moses sending out spies. Twelve of them, one from each tribe, went undercover and scouted the land God had promised them. Two spies returned with a good report. “This land it great and ready for the taking!” But the other 10 were afraid. They warned Moses and the rest of Israel that there were giants in the land. The people failed to fulfill God’s promise.

You know the rest of the story. What should have taken only a couple of years would last for 40. Wandering in the wilderness, they wound through a cycle of complaint and deliverance. And Moses was with them the whole time. The one God had called to lead His people from captivity to promise would come up short. He failed to finish the task.

A Desert of Disobedience

This week, I led a team of leaders to the Negev Desert. We settled in at a place called Ein Avdat. It’s now a national park, but 3,500 years ago it was the site of Israel’s disobedience in the Wilderness of Zin. However, the journey didn’t begin there. It started in another desert, the Sinai.

The Sinai Desert is a harsh landscape of hard rocks and little, if any, water. In Exodus 17, the Children of Israel found themselves in that dry desert just after crossing the Red Sea. Faced with a lack of water, they cried out a complaint to God. And God answered. He instructed Moses to stretch out his staff and strike a rock. All of a sudden, a gusher opened up and streams flowed in the desert.

What you need to know is that the landscape in the Sinai is full of granite. Think of kitchen countertops — hard and unforgiving. Water is the last thing you would think could come from inside granite. But God caused a fountain to flow from the blow of a staff in Moses’ hand. God got the glory. There was just no other way!

In Numbers 20, Moses faced a similar dilemma. Again the Israelites found themselves in the desert, this time the Wilderness of Zin, the Negev, likely near Ein Avdat where I stood just last week.

Our obedience is dependent on our ability to hear God’s voice.

The children of Israel cried out in thirst, and again God heard. This time, He instructed Moses to speak to the rock, not strike it. But what did Moses do? He grabbed his staff and hit it like he did in the Sinai.

Now, that may not seem like a big deal. But consider for a moment that the landscape in Ein Avdat is completely different from that of Sinai. Instead of hard granite, the canyons and plains are full of limestone. And beneath are natural springs. In fact, water will often seep up from the ground through the stones.

When Moses struck the rock, perhaps he knew that a good hit might open up a stream. Instead of God getting the glory from a miracle, Moses was seeking his own.

One Question to Finish Well

Moses failed to finish well. He spent 40 long years in the desert following after the vision of God. But God did not allow him to enter the Promised Land. Why? Because he struck the rock instead of speaking to it. He sought his own glory when God deserved it all.

The question that will determine whether or not you finish well is this: “Your way or my way, God?” Will you trust Him, or will you trust yourself?

To finish well requires trusting God even when we don’t see or understand why. It means that we clearly hear Him and follow through. We may be frustrated about the instructions or anxious about the outcome. But our job is to obey and allow God to have the glory.

Finishing may not seem as thrilling as starting. After all, it’s exciting to be at the front of something amazing. Finishing means we must go through the dry parts. There are a lot of miles between starting and finishing. They’re thankless miles, hard miles, full of work and labor. But finishing will determine your success and define your legacy.

To finish is to stay obedient to the leading and directing of God throughout your life. It’s not about a place or a position but a Person. It’s about answering God’s call. Can you hear Him?

What is the last thing God told you to do, and have you done it yet? This is a question we should continually ask ourselves as we get closer and closer to our own finish lines. At the beginning of a vision, His voice is loud and clear. But along the way, we must stay in tune, hearing and obeying.

Our obedience is dependent on our ability to hear God’s voice. And our ability to hear hinges on our obedience. As we hear and obey, we will hear Him again. Maybe you haven’t heard anything fresh from the Lord because you haven’t obeyed His last assignment. Maybe you find it hard to obey because you can’t hear His voice clearly.

Finishing well means we renew our relationship with God our Father and get ready to obey. Are you ready to finish well?

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