Taking Guitar Lessons from Moses


When I was young, I taught myself a few chords on the guitar, figured out a clunky but passable strum, and went to town on church camp songs like Pass It On, and If I Had a Hammer.

Since these are not nuanced numbers requiring a great deal of finesse, I passed myself off as a guitar player for a long time.

In college, I tried to take guitar lessons.

They didn’t work out well.

I don’t think he was a very good teacher.

He would show me how to position my hands and strum “properly.” After a few attempts at his way, I complained. “This can’t be right. It doesn’t feel good. It’s awkward. I used to play well but my playing sounds worse doing it your way.”

I was impatient. His methods only seemed to cause pain and not produce the results I’d hoped to achieve. In fact, they seemed to make my playing worse.

I decided he was not a good teacher and I returned to my own ways.

To this day, I’m stuck with a clunky strum and a few major chords.

In a related story . . .

I wonder why I insist on thinking that if things go wrong or problems arise, that perhaps I didn’t hear God correctly when He gave me directions.

Do you do that?

When trouble comes, I expend an awful lot of energy trying to turn the clock back to that decision I made, whatever it was, that now I imagine was wrong.

My thinking goes something like this: “I thought I was following Jesus but things aren’t working out well so I must have taken a wrong turn.”

Have you ever thought that way?

I hear other people speak of good results as a sure sign that God is in a plan and I find that just as dubious.

“We filled the pews so it must have been from the Lord.”

“Everything went smoothly so God must have been in it.”

Sometimes God does fill pews and sometimes He does smooth one’s path, but, if the Bible is to be believed, He’s just as likely to send His servants into situations that look and feel an awful lot like frustration and failure.

Check it out. The Bible is full of stories about people who followed God’s directions – right smack into a stone wall of trouble.

I’m still reading about Moses.

In Exodus 3 and 4, God has an extensive conversation convincing Moses to go to Pharaoh and demand that he release the Israelites. To be fair, He does warn Moses that it wouldn’t be easy.

But, that turned out to be an understatement.

Not only does Pharaoh refuse to let the Israelites go, he turns up the notch on their oppression.

By the end of Exodus 5, the Israelites are taking out their anger on Moses. At this point, they’re willing to argue with God that Moses was right to balk at the position of deliverer.

Moses goes to God and expresses his own confusion, “”Lord, why have you brought trouble on these people? Is this why you sent me? I went to Pharaoh to speak to him in your name. Ever since then, he has brought nothing but trouble on these people. And you haven’t saved your people at all.” Exodus 5:22b-23

God makes a long, eloquent, beautiful speech about what He’s about to do. Moses is sold. He tells the Israelites what God said “But they didn’t listen to him. That’s because they had lost all hope and had to work very hard.” Exodus 6:9b

Oh yeah, hard work.

We don’t want to hear that part about following God.

He gives us direction. He promises to be with us. He often even promises to deliver us. But He doesn’t say it will be easy, trouble free, or without effort that feels like it will kill us long before we ever see results.

Man, I hate that.

If I’d been willing to suffer through some discomfort, to work hard, practice a lot, and overcome my bad habits, I would now be an accomplished guitar player.

Instead, I’m doomed to play “Do Lord” for the rest of my earthly days.

Peter says this: “Dear friends, don’t be surprised by the painful suffering you are going through. Don’t feel as if something strange were happening to you.” I Peter 4:12

Listen to God. Follow His directions. Do not be shocked at discomfort, opposition, and hard work. That is not a sign that you’ve lost the way.

In fact, more often than not, it means you’re striking exactly the right chord.

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