Push Against the Rock

Once upon a time, there was a man who was sleeping at night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light and the Saviour appeared. The Lord told the man He had work for him to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might. This the man did, day after day. For many years he toiled from sun up to sun down, his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all his might.

Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain. Seeing that the man was showing signs of discouragement, Satan decided to enter the picture placing thoughts into the man’s mind such as: “You have been pushing against that rock for a long time, and it hasn’t budged. Why kill yourself over this? You are never going to move it.” Thus giving the man the impression that the task was impossible and that he was a failure.

These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man even more. “Why kill myself over this?” he thought. “I’ll just put in my time, giving just the minimum of effort and that will be good enough.” And that he planned to do until one day he decided to make it a matter of prayer and take his troubled thoughts to the Lord.

“Lord,” he said, “I have laboured long and hard in your service, putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock a half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?” To this the Lord responded compassionately, “My child, when long ago I asked you to serve me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push.

And now you come to me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed. But, is that really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back sinewed and brown, your hands are callused from constant pressure, and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition, you have grown much and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have. Yet you haven’t moved the rock. But your calling was to be obedient and to push and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom. This you have done. I, my child, will now move the rock.”

Source unknown

You Obey the One You Fear

Here is an insightful post by Jon Bloom on our need to fear God. If we do not have a Biblical fear of God then there is nothing that will move us to obey Him.

Bloom writes:

At the root of insecurity — the anxiety over how others think of us — is pride. This pride is an excessive desire for others to see us as impressive and admirable. Insecurity is the fear that they won’t, but instead they will see us as deficient. As King Saul1 shows us, it’s a dangerous fear because insecurity can lead to great disobedience.


Samuel’s heart was broken and heavy as he neared Saul’s camp at Gilgal. Israel’s first king had failed so soon and so seriously.

  And Samuel was tired. He’d been up all night prayerfully mourning the Lord’s words, “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.”

And he was angry. The Lord had already severely disciplined Saul for officiating the burnt offering2 when he knew it transgressed the Law. But God had been gracious in giving him another chance by sending him to carry out judgment on the Amalekites. The instructions could not have been clearer. They had not been obeyed.

  The old prophet trembled at the word he must deliver to an armed king who feared public humiliation more than the Holy One.

  Saul was all smiles when he saw Samuel. “Blessed be you to the Lord. I have performed the commandment of the Lord.”

Samuel had to bite his tongue. “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?”

Saul felt immediately exposed. Alone he had figured that fudging some on the instructions really wouldn’t matter. But now he knew he had gravely presumed. He fumbled for words. “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the Lord your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction.”

This was a smoke screen. “Stop!” Samuel cried. He could not bear Saul trying to cover disobedience with cosmetic righteousness. Nor his cowardly hiding behind the people. “I will tell you what the Lord said to me this night.”

Saul was defensive in his guilt. “Speak,” he said with a bravado disguise.

“Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And the Lord sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord?”

Then looking over at the plump livestock, the price of Saul’s kingdom, Samuel said, “Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?”

Saul was defiant in his denial. “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord. I have gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.”

Samuel just hung his head in disappointment. And he shook it with a subtleness that stung Saul as much as anything the prophet had said…yet.

  With teary eyes on the ground, Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.”

Samuel then paused and caught his breath. Slowly he looked up into Saul’s guilt-shy eyes. “Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.”

Saul nervously glanced at the wordless watching men around him. He was sweating. “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.”


Saul is a sober reminder to us that we obey the one we fear. He feared the people — he loved his reputation — and despised God. Being little in our own eyes can be either righteous or ruinous. It’s righteous if we see God as big and us as small. This actually frees us from fear. But it’s ruinous if the approval of man is what’s big to us because it always leads to disobeying God.

When we fail in this area, and all of us do at some point, God calls us not to remorse but to repentance. Saul was remorseful, but not repentant. He pursued the god of his own glory over the God who gave him that glory right to his death on Mount Gilboa. And he became lethally paranoid with insecurity.

So let us repent of our insecurities and say with Peter and the disciples, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). For the wise and humble “fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).


1This meditation is taken from 1 Samuel 15.

Don’t Confuse Knowledge and Success with Maturity

Paul Tripp’s post, “Don’t Confuse Knowledge and Success with Maturity,” is a great testimony of how easy it is to measure our success based  on things other than obedience to God.

Tripp writes:

I didn’t just give way to the temptation to let pastoral ministry become my identity. I fell into two other temptations as well.

I let biblical literacy and theological knowledge define my maturity. This is related to the identity temptation but requires its own attention. It is quite easy in ministry to give into a subtle but significant redefinition of what spiritual maturity is and does. This definition has its roots in how we think about what sin is and does. Many pastors carry a false definition of maturity that results from the academic enculturation of seminary.

Since seminary tends to academize the faith, making it a world of ideas to be mastered, students easily buy into the belief that biblical maturity is about precision of theological knowledge and biblical literacy. But spiritual maturity is not something you do with your mind (although that is an important element). Maturity is about how you live your life. It is possible to be theologically astute and immature. It is possible to be biblically literate and in need of significant spiritual growth.

I was an honors graduate of a seminary. I won academic awards. I assumed I was mature and felt misunderstood and misjudged by anyone who failed to share my assessment. In fact, I saw those moments of confrontation as persecution that anyone faces when he gives himself to gospel ministry. At root I misunderstood sin and grace. Sin is not first an intellectual problem. (But it does affect my intellect, as it does all parts of my functioning.) Sin is first a moral problem. It is about my rebellion against God and my quest to have, for myself, the glory due to him. Sin is not first about the breaking of an abstract set of rules. Sin is first and foremost about breaking relationship with God. Because I have broken this relationship, it is then easy and natural for me to rebel against God’s rules.

So it’s not just my mind that needs to renewed by sound biblical teaching, but my heart needs to be reclaimed by the powerful grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. The reclamation of my heart is both an event (justification) and a process (sanctification). Seminary, therefore, won’t solve my deepest problem—sin. It can contribute to the solution, but it may also blind me to my true condition by its tendency to redefine maturity. Biblical maturity is never just about what you know but always about how grace has employed what you have come to know to transform the way you live.

Think of Adam and Eve. They didn’t disobey God because they were intellectually ignorant of God’s commands. They knowingly stepped over God’s boundaries because they quested for God’s position. The spiritual war of Eden was fought on the turf of the heart’s desires. Consider David. He didn’t claim Bathsheba as his own and plot to get rid of her husband because he was ignorant of God’s prohibitions against adultery and murder. David acted because at some point he didn’t care what God wanted. He was going to have what his heart desired no matter what.

Or think what it means to be wise. There is a huge difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is an accurate understanding of truth. Wisdom is understanding and living in light of how that truth applies to the situations and relationships of your daily life. Knowledge is an exercise of your brain. Wisdom is the commitment of your heart that leads to life transformation.

Even though I didn’t know it, I walked into pastoral ministry with an unbiblical view of biblical maturity. In ways that now scare me, I thought I had arrived. So when my wife, Luella, would lovingly and faithfully confront me, it was not just that I was being defensive. By definition I thought she was wrong. And I became convinced she was the one with the problem. I used my biblical and theological knowledge to defend myself. I was a mess, and I had no idea.

Success Is Not Necessarily an Endorsement

I confused ministry success with God’s endorsement of my living. Pastoral ministry was exciting in many ways. The church was growing numerically, and people seemed to be growing spiritually. More and more people seemed to be committed to be part of a vibrant spiritual community, and we saw people win battles of the heart by God’s grace. We founded a Christian school that was growing and expanding its reputation and influence. We were beginning to identify and disciple leaders.

It wasn’t all rosy; there were painful and burdensome moments, but I started out my days with a deep sense of privilege that God had called me to do this ministry. I was leading a community of faith, and God was blessing our efforts. But I held these blessings in the wrong way. Without knowing that I was doing it, I took God’s faithfulness to me, to his people, to the work of his kingdom, to his plan of redemption, and to his church as an endorsement of me. My perspective said, “I’m one of the good guys, and God is behind me all the way.” In fact, I would say to Luella (this is embarrassing but important to admit), “If I’m such a bad guy, why is God blessing everything I put my hands to?”

God did not act because he endorsed my manner of living, but because of his zeal for his own glory and his faithfulness to his promises of grace for his people. God has the authority and power to use whatever instruments he chooses in whatever way he chooses. Ministry success is always more a statement about God than about the people he uses for his purpose. I had it all wrong. It took credit that I did not deserve for what I could not do. I made it about me, so I didn’t see myself as headed for disaster and in deep need for the rescue of God’s grace. I was a man in need of rescuing grace. Through Luella’s faithfulness and the surgical questions of my brother, Tedd, God did exactly that.

What about you? How do you view yourself? What do you regularly say to you about you? Are you different from those to whom you minister? Do you see yourself as a minister of grace in need of the same grace? Have you become comfortable with discontinuities between the gospel you preach and the way that you live? Are there disharmonies between your public ministry persona and the details of your private life? Do you encourage a level of community in your church that you do not give yourself to? Do you fall into believing that no one has a more accurate view of you than you? Do you use knowledge or experience to keep confrontation at bay?

You don’t have to be afraid of what is in your heart. You don’t have to fear being known. Because nothing in you could ever be exposed that hasn’t already been covered by the precious blood of your Savior King, Jesus.