We know and hear much about Moses, and very little about Jethro. Moses married Jethro’s daughter, Zipporah. Moses had the task of leading the Israelites out of the bondage of Egypt. After they had crossed the Red Sea, Jethro heard of their safe arrival and met Moses in the wilderness with his wife and sons. Moses told Jethro all that God had done to Pharaoh, and how God had taken care of them on their journey through the wilderness (Exodus 18:1-12).
It did not take long for Jethro to observe that Moses was taking care of all the problems that arose among the people by himself. He could see that Moses was wearing down very fast, so Jethro sat down with Moses and counseled him concerning this matter (Exodus 18:13-27). We would have to say that Jethro was a wise counselor—he knew that Moses needed help.
I believe that God uses people to direct us; godly people (elders, parents, mature saints) who know God’s truth and share it with those in need of guidance and direction. When the Israelites were in the wilderness, they leaned heavily on Moses for God’s wisdom and guidance. Moses said “yes” to the people on a daily basis as they came to him with all kinds of questions and disputes. His job was to show them the will of the Lord: “the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor, and make known the statutes of God and His laws” (Exodus 18:15-16). Jethro observed Moses at work and very quickly came to the conclusion that Moses was headed for “burnout.” So Jethro counseled the counselor. He enthusiastically approved of what Moses was doing as he explained to the people “the way in which they are to walk, and the work they are to do” (Exodus 18:20) but he advised Moses to share the work-load. Moses took his advice (Exodus 18:24-26). Everything began to go smoothly.
This is how God helps us through other people. He brings into our lives people who have imbibed divine principles and know how to make application of them in practical situations. Even Moses, with all of his ability and spiritual knowledge, had his blind spots and needed sound, practical advice. We, too, have blind spots. When we listen to God’s wisdom through godly counselors, we will avoid “burnout.” We will also help to develop the talents and abilities of others.
What made Jethro a wise counselor? First, he trusted God (Exodus 18:10-11). Second, he understood that God was in control (Exodus 18:19). Third, he was willing to let God be in control—he worshiped and served him (Exodus 18:12).
Now, what is “burnout”? It’s not “rust-out.” Some folks are inactive; have never been involved; do not intend to be involved; they sit and collect dust or rust. They don’t need to be vaccinated against burnout; you can’t burn out if you have never been on fire. “Burn-out” is not “cop-out.” This is the person who says, “Yeah—I’ll get involved,” but as soon as you assign him some responsibility the excuses start coming. Such a person really doesn’t want to give himself, or risk himself, or spend himself on something or someone—it costs too much! Probably, “rust-out” and “cop-out” are bigger problems in the church than “burnout.” “Burn-out” is what results when there is a dichotomy between expectations and reality. To put it simply, “burnout” is a condition created by a person who tries to accomplish more than he realistically can.
What causes “burnout”? (1) Pride – Do you believe the local church will fall apart if you don’t have your hands in everything? “If I’m not in on it, things will not get done in the right way.” Really, what some are saying is – “things will not get done in a way that pleases me.” So, they over extend themselves. “Burn-out” can be the result. A second cause is (2) Guilt – “I don’t feel like I’m doing all that I can do.” Pretty soon we are signing up for everything. (3) Inability to say “No” – This stretches us all out of shape personally; it fails to take in the prospect of developing other people to be of service. No one of us can do everything and be what we should be in other areas of our lives. It is difficult to say “No” but we must do it to avoid “burnout.” (4) People – In the business world “burnout” is most often spotted in the “Helping professions.” Why? To put it simply, human beings are the most “time consuming” and “problem creating” things on this earth (aren’t we?). I believe this was Moses’ problem—he was a possible candidate for “burnout” because he simply could not deal with all the people that wanted to come his way. Moses was open to wise counsel. Jethro was a good and godly man.
Are you open to wise counsel (even if it is one of your relatives)? Let’s be like Jethro and let’s look for people like Jethro.
Ira L. Lynn
P.O. Box 2007
Linda, TX 75771