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How to embrace your dispensability

In our family, I’ve been the primary cook the past 17 years. I enjoy cooking and baking, and have happily served in that role. Over the past few years, my oldest daughter has also developed an interest in baking. As I’ve sought to transfer my limited skills to her, we’ve enjoyed making cakes and cookies and some dinners together.

Already at age 14, her skills are surpassing mine. One Saturday morning, I woke up to the smell of delicious homemade cinnamon rolls baking in the oven. Even though the recipe I’ve always used called for pre-made dough, my daughter had decided to make her dough from scratch.

“How did you know how to make these?” I asked in disbelief as I looked at the beautifully spiraled cinnamon bread.

“I just found a recipe in your cookbook and followed it.”

What a sweet reminder that my skills are not indispensable—the very person I was trying to teach and pass them off to was now teaching me.

Lessons from the Promised Land

Moses had done an amazing job leading the Israelites for 40 years. He had persevered through their complaining, interceded for them when God’s anger was hot, and led them to the very border of the Promised Land. But due to his failure to obey God in one particular, weighty moment, he would not be allowed to enter Canaan. As we’ve seen, however, Moses was not angry or bitter. In fact, he demonstrated much compassion when he asked the Lord to appoint his replacement—another man to go before the Israelites as their shepherd (Num. 27:16-17).

Pride says, Everything will fall apart if I’m not involved!

Humility says, Things could probably start to run even better without me.

In response, the Lord appointed Joshua, one of only two men from the original group of Israelites who were able to enter Canaan. Moses was to commission Joshua by laying his hand on him before Eleazer the priest and the congregation. He was to transfer some of his authority to Joshua so that all the people would obey him.

“And Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and made him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole congregation, and he laid his hands on him and commissioned him as the Lord directed through Moses” (Num. 27:22-23). What a beautiful example of a ministry continuing with a new leader in place.

Oftentimes, we’re tempted to think things will fall apart if we’re removed from the equation. We’re afraid to give up control and trust that someone else can finish the task just as well, if not better, than we can. I see myself doing this whenever I fail to allow my kids to do certain chores because I think they won’t be done well enough. I’m just going to unload the dishwasher because the kids do it wrong every time. I’d better clean the floor myself or it will still be dirty.

It can happen at work when we don’t ask for help on a big project, exhausting ourselves with long hours because we fear others wouldn’t be as thorough. And it can happen
 in our ministries when we don’t invest the time to raise 
up new leaders because we think there isn’t anyone else qualified for the job. I can’t step down from leading Bible studies because there is no one else to do it well! This kind of thinking stems from pride and can often rob us of needed rest, as well as rob others of opportunities to serve.

Pride says, Everything will fall apart if I’m not involved!

Humility says, Things could probably start to run even better without me.

Humility in the face of change

Moses demonstrated amazing humility as he submitted to God’s plan for a transfer of leadership without grumbling or self-pity. Moses trusted that he was not an indispensable leader.

Joshua, for his part, was deemed “a man in whom is the Spirit” (Num. 27:18). He was an obedient follower of God, even when everyone around him was rebelling. And God rewarded him for his faithfulness.

God’s purposes will stand despite changes in leadership. Human beings are merely God’s chosen vessels to carry out his plans, by the power he supplies. So, here are a few practical ways to help you let go of control and remind you of God’s bigger plan:

  1. Acknowledge your limitations. Are you constantly stressed? Do you take on too many things? Be willing to step back and evaluate your heart. The first step to releasing control is recognizing that you can’t do everything yourself.
  2. Pray for new leaders.  Whether you’re leading a ministry in your church, running a business, or raising the next generation, be diligent to ask God to raise up capable, new leaders. Keep your eyes open for those who are ready to be given new responsibilities and trust that God is able to do more than you ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20-21).
  3. Train others. It takes time to invest in people. Often we can resort to doing everything ourselves because it seems more efficient. But in the long run, we’re making things more difficult by not passing along our skills to others. More can be accomplished when we’re willing to equip others to share the load.
  4. Delegate responsibility. Assign specific chores to your children each week. Be willing to give your new employee a chance to spread their wings. Ask the woman passionate about Bible study to lead the next women’s study. Look for ways to offload the tasks on your plate while providing others new opportunities to serve.
  5. Encourage others. A humble heart can see many blessings, even when things are done differently than how you had previously done them.  Be the biggest cheerleader for those around you beginning new endeavors. Seek to be a help and resource to them. Be generous with praise and gratitude.
  6. Rest. Do you take time to rest? Or are you constantly working on the next thing, fearing the world won’t go on without finishing your to-do list? Finding time to intentionally rest each week, and putting aside work and chores, is a means of trusting the Lord is in control. He can accomplish his purposes without you. Lay your burdens on the cross (Matt. 11:28-30).

Editor's note: This article was adapted from Wilderness Wanderings: Finding Contentment in the Desert Times of Life.

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