By: Steve Wilmot
According to Greek legend, a man noticed the great storyteller Aesop playing childish games with some little boys. He ridiculed Aesop and asked him why he wasted his time in such frivolous activity.
Aesop stood and picked up a bow.
He loosened its string and placed it on the ground. Then he said to the critical Athenian, “Now, answer the riddle if you can. Tell us what the unstrung bow implies.”
The man examined the bow for several moments but had no idea what the point of Aesop’s riddle was. Aesop explained, “If you keep a bow always bent, it will break eventually; but if you let it go slack, it will be more fit for use when you want it.”
Jesus lived by this principle. His life wasn’t a constant blur of activity. He gets away by himself to talk with the Father on a regular basis.
He slips away from the crowds and disciples early in the morning and late at night. On at least one occasion, he spent an entire night in prayer. He returned from those solitary moments with God refreshed, reinvigorated, and restored.
Moses discovered this important secret, too. “Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the tent of meeting” (Exodus 33.7).
We don’t know why he first set up the tent outside the camp where he could meet God. We only know he did. Because it became a regular occurrence, Moses avoided burnout.
He could withstand the criticism and complaints constantly coming his way. Second-guessing his leadership decisions. The challenges of navigating millions of people through the wilderness.
How did he handle the unending stress and not break down feeling overwhelmed? He pitched a tent outside the camp of Israel and prioritized time to be with God without distractions or demands from people. To talk with God, tell him his problems, ask for guidance, and listen.
When he needed direction, he went into the tent. When he was scared, he set off for the tent. When he needed help to settle disputes, he hustled off to the tent.
When he felt beat up and uncertain if he could go on, he made a beeline for the tent. Why? Because every time he entered the tent, God showed up.
The point of Jesus’ retreats and Moses’ tent of meeting was not primarily to discuss business with God. It was a solitary place for friendship and fellowship. They talked about things friends talk about. Hopes, dreams, struggles, disappointments, family, and the weather.
They might even have had a good laugh when God paused to tell Moses a joke. Why not? Isn’t that what friends do? Here’s the point: This practice molded Moses into the leader he became.
So, it made sense Moses would include it as an important class in his training curriculum for Joshua. “Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua, son of Nun did not leave the tent” (Exodus 33.11).
Most leadership training majors in the nuts and bolts — how to run a staff meeting, how to meet people’s needs, how to withstand criticism, how to marry and bury folks, how to make hospital calls, counseling skills, techniques of effective Bible study, how to persuade, etc.
That’s not how Moses prepared Joshua. From what we read, he didn’t show Joshua any of those things. He focused on what mattered most: building a face-to-face friendship with God.
Moses recognized Joshua would face the same challenges he had when it was his turn to lead Israel. That’s why Moses insisted Joshua stay behind in the tent when he returned to camp to take care of business.
Moses wanted Joshua to see that friendship with God was his number one priority. Open lines of communication. A place to go when he didn’t know what to do, and when he felt like quitting.
It’s a vital principle you need to learn and put into practice, too. Remember when you began your spiritual journey?
You set aside time every day to read your Bible and pray. God spoke to you in those quiet moments. You fell more in love with him. You reserved time for worship between Sundays. You didn’t want to waste your life going through the motions; you wanted your life to matter. But over time, something happened.
Service replaced relationship. As a result, time with God was elbowed to the sidelines and time in activity took center stage. You swapped time with God for time to work for God. This choice always results in burnout and ineffectiveness, discouragement, and powerlessness.
Jesus, Moses, and Joshua would agree time alone with God is not just a good idea. It’s a necessity. I suggest you set a “tent of meeting” and make it your top priority.
(This was taken from Steve’s devotional book, “30 Days with Joshua,” available on Amazon and at Joyful Bird Gift Center in downtown Edgerton.)
Steve Wilmot is a former Edgerton, Ohio area pastor who now seeks “to still bear fruit in old age” through writing. He is the author of seven books designed to assist believers to make steady progress on their spiritual journey.