Some time ago, an Italian newspaper interviewed Russian President Vladimir Putin. At the end of the interview the journalist asked these two questions:
“What is your biggest regret in life?” and “What do you consider a mistake that you would never want to make again?”
Vladimir Putin confidently answered: “I will be quite frank with you. I cannot recollect anything of the kind. By the grace of God, I have nothing to regret in my life.”
We can roll our eyes at Putin’s answer (we all know everyone makes mistakes and has regrets in life). But if we look down deep inside our hearts, when was the last time we truly owned a mistake?
One of the most recognized biblical leaders was Moses. Hollywood movies have been made about his journey from the comfort and privilege of the Egyptian palace to become one of the greatest leaders of God’s chosen people.
There are countless insights we can glean from Moses and his leadership. His relationship with God was special, and the miracles God performed through Moses were unbelievable!
Yet, even Moses had his moments of weakness. It’s those moments that can teach us a great deal about what really matters to God as we lead and influence others.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the story from the book of Numbers, chapter 20 that recounts the miracle God performed for the grumbling Israelites at Meribah, giving fresh drinking water to the thirsty crowd. It’s not the miracle itself, however, but Moses’ epic fail while executing the miracle that carries a sobering message for all of us who desire to lead others with love and integrity.
Let’s step back into the story for just a second.
As the grumbling at Meribah started, Moses and Aaron did the usual. They went into the Tent of Meeting and prayed, asking God to once again intervene on behalf of the Israelites. God also did the usual, speaking to Moses and giving him simple instructions: “Gather the people… speak to the rock, and it will pour out its water.”
Pretty simple, Moses: Gather, speak and enjoy the fresh water!
What happened next is a great lesson of how fear and lack of trust can transform incredible “God moments,” intended to make us more like Jesus, into heartbreaking and humbling moments that highlight how we are as frail as the very people we lead.
As Moses approached the aggravated, thirsty crowd, he said: “Listen, you rebels…” and then he “raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff.” In that moment, he disregarded the very instructions the Lord had given him just few minutes prior, becoming himself a disobedient rebel!
The curious thing is that the water still gushed out of the rock. The rebellious people did witness a miracle and were satisfied with fresh water. Yet, the private act of disobedience and rebellion by Moses (after all, no one knew the exact instructions God had given to him) cost him the one thing he longed for—entrance into the Promised Land.
Did you know that to the very end of his life, Moses blamed the people of Israel for his inability to enter the Promised Land? Yes, that’s right!
In Deuteronomy chapter 1 and again in chapter 4 we read his words: “Because of you the Lord became angry with me also and said, ‘You shall not enter it, either.’”
You see, even God’s special man Moses experienced an epic failure of trust. The one who led a rebellious and ungrateful group of people through the desert had a “rebel moment” himself.
Instead of recognizing and owning his failure, for the rest of his journey through the desert, he blamed the very people he led.
Here are some lessons we can learn from Moses and this specific story. Let’s use it as a reminder to trust and obey God and to lead and influence others out of that place of complete surrender to Jesus!
- None of us are failure-proof.
- We are as rebellious as the people we lead. Acknowledging this reality will make us better leaders.
- The blame game is never a good solution.
- Owning mistakes does not make us weak.
- How we deal with our failures speaks volumes to those we lead and influence.