While everyone crouches under the pressure of today’s lifestyle, with all our time-saving, energy saving and hi-tech gadgets, there is a great cry for an antidote to the inevitable burn-out that seems to stalk many. Lurking in every office, among the peak-hour traffic and even in many lounge-rooms is the highly toxic “stress” virus, with its debilitating “burn-out” attack.
But burn-out is something clearly answered thousands of years ago, in a graphic display that anticipated today’s English language. The lesson comes in the form of a bush that burned. In fact it burned and burned and burned – but it did not “burn out”.
Moses the Mangler
Moses knew about burnout from personal experience. Forty years of his professional training led to a moment of blazing glory that burned him to a crisp and sent him off to another forty years of rehabilitation.
Moses was on target to be God’s man to deliver Israel from the Egyptians. He had power, education, breeding and a place in the Royal family. But he blew it all in a moment. He tried to do things in his own strength and became a fugitive overnight.
For those who do not know the events, Moses, enjoying the rich life of Egyptian royalty, went to visit the Israelite slaves (he was an Israelite himself). It seems that he had notions that he could assist them, from his position of influence. He saw an Israelite being beaten by an Egyptian slave master, so Moses sprang into action, killed the Egyptian and buried his body in the sand. To Moses this was the first token of his role as saviour of the people.
But the next day Moses saw two Israelites fighting with each other. He challenged them to stop and the one who was picking on his fellow asked Moses if the great leader planned to kill him too. Suddenly Moses saw that his actions had not inspired the Israelites to unite for liberation, but simply made Moses a murderer. Moses fled for his life and spent the next forty years way off in the desert area of Midian, minding sheep until he was 80 years old.
As Major Ian Thomas in his book The Saving Life of Christ put it Moses was burned out. His flame lasted just a moment.
The Burning Bush
After Moses experienced forty years of defeat God met him and spoke with him out of a burning bush. A scrubby bush that burned and burned and wasn’t consumed.
Moses was fascinated. How could something not burn out like he had? What is the secret to being able to last?
Moses went to the bush and found that it was God’s fire, not man’s, and that God could ignite something and burn it without it burning out. Moses needed to be ignited by God.
And yet more, the bush was not special. It was just another mountain bush: no breeding, no power, no rank. You see, for God to ignite something there is no need for human quality, Any Old Bush Will Do! (even You!)
What Does it Take?
If God needed to get through to you, what would it take? The Bible speaks much about people who refuse to hear. Matthew 13:10-17 tells us that Jesus deliberately spoke in parables so the people would not understand, because they had already decided that they did not want to hear. (Jesus did not use parables to be a good communicator, if fact to be the opposite).
Are You Hearing? Or are you like the people on the hillside that said “What a wonderful teacher!” then went home unchanged?
The Bible Says People Won’t Hear
Take a look at these verses about people not hearing.
“Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.” Isaiah 6:10
“… their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the LORD is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it.” Jeremiah 6:10
“.. You dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house.” Ezekiel 12:2
“And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” 2Timothy 4:4
“…. they hear your words, but they do them not.” Ezekiel 33:32
“… every one that hears these sayings of mine, and does them not, will be likened to a foolish man, which built his house on the sand” Matthew 7:26
“Who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 13:9
“If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” Luke 16:31
Listen to God – Or Burn Out!
When Moses listened to his own ideas he burned out. When Moses listened to God he spent forty years in effective and powerful leadership. He did end up delivering Israel from the Egyptians, but not by listening to his own thoughts, but by listening to God’s daily instructions.
Moses led the Israelites through a deadly wilderness, for forty years. He did not use his own powers of navigation, but he followed the cloud which God gave to lead them.
If you listen to God you can live a life of hectic and wonderful busy-ness without a moment of stress or burn out. But if you listen to your own ideas and reject God’s leading you are destined to incinerate in no time flat.
If you refuse to listen to God then He will have to deal with you.
Burn Out May be God’s Punishment
1Corinthians 10 tells us how God dealt with His people when they would not hear and be obedient. The things that happened to the children of Israel were our examples.
“Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.” 1Corinthians 10:6
“Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” 1Corinthians 10:11
God destroyed the people because they wouldn’t listen and obey.
They closed their ears because of their lust (I want what I want and I want it NOW!), their idolatrous self gratification, their sexual impurity, their dissatisfaction with what God gave them and their grumbling.
Are You Listening to God or Burning Out?
Do you listen to and obey every word from God, or do you argue with Him? What is stopping you from hearing His voice?
What does it take to get through to you? God was prepared to destroy the Israelites, is that what He has to do to you?
God is patient, but He will not always strive with man. Open your ears and your heart to Him and obey His voice.
If you reject what He is saying and go your own way, then there is no help for you. You will become stressed out, burned out and wasted. You will be sidelined in a blaze of useless activity.
You can avoid burnout – but that may well mean a complete change in who and what is motivating you and directing your steps. It may well mean learning how to listen to God and ignore the self-directed thoughts that would otherwise guide you.
A similar article, reviewing Major Ian Thomas’s chapter on “Any Old Bush Will Do” can be found at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/ministry/any-old-bush-will-do