Monday, May 12, 2014

Treading Not So Lightly

image used under Creative Commons license, 
photo from Jiaren Lau on Flickr
I just read one of John Maxwell's devotionals on leadership and business. The devotional was about the need to communicate vision to the team.  John made some really good points, based on the verses he used.  But the passage actually got me thinking in a totally different direction.

The passage is the beginning of Joshua 1.  It was actually verses 2 and 3.  But the first verse sets the stage.  We find out that Moses has died and God is speaking to Joshua about leading the Israelites into the Promised Land.  I can see this as an example of giving the team ( the Israelites, headed by Joshua) a vision.  But there's something else this passage demonstrates.

Joshua 1:2-3 (KJV)  Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.  Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.

Picture yourself as Joshua.  Back in Numbers 13, he's one of twelve observers sent into the Promised Land to scope out the territory.  And he's one of the only two with a positive report.  But let's look at what preceded Joshua 1.

We can go back to the time in Egypt.  Moses had a connection with God that led to  the original Passover.  As we know, that was instrumental in getting Pharaoh to release the Israelites from slavery and allow them to leave Egypt.  God saved them at the Red Sea.  Moses then led his people through the desert for 40 years.  Which included a trip up Mount Sinai to personally get the tablets with the 10 Commandments.  And it was because Moses heard from God that the twelve were sent to look over the Promised Land.

All of that is pretty impressive.  But so is Joshua's status.  Joshua was the head of his tribe -- Numbers 13 tells us that.  He would be a strategist, a warrior, a leader all packed into one.  It's all of that which made him a choice to explore the Promised Land.

Still, there was Moses.  Consider how we might feel taking over for someone with those credentials and that great a connection with God.  If we're honest, no matter how much confidence we have in ourselves and our relationship with God, it has to be unsettling to follow that act.  Yet Scripture doesn't indicate that Joshua hesitated.  And look at Joshua 1:1 (KJV): "Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying,....".  God was voluntarily now speaking to Joshua.  There are certain things that take us to the point where we become Godly leaders.

First, and very obvious, is a connection to God.  When we look at Moses and Joshua, we see that a major factor was God speaking to them.  They were God's choice.  Whether they wanted to be or not.

Second, there's hearing from God.  And, yes, there's a difference.  Just because God speaks to us, doesn't mean we always listen.  I can vouch for that from my own personal life.  God was gentle enough to wait decades for me to fully pay attention.

Third, when called to take the helm, as in Joshua 1:2, they stepped right into their position of leadership.  Here's what I mean.  Moses was a reluctant leader.  He didn't think he had what it takes.  Yet, he was God's choice and used the tools given him.  If we look at Exodus 17:8-14, we see an interesting contrast.  Moses was a social and political leader.  He kept things moving.  For the connection between the people and God, Moses relied on Aaron's priesthood.  Joshua was a military leader.  So, while Moses had his hand raised in this passage to support the battle, Joshua was in the thick of it, strategizing and fighting.  Both obviously knew to use a support team.  Moses had Aaron and Hur holding up his arms.  Joshua had his army.

Fourth, while being true to the overall goal, their leadership was different.  Moses was the man to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and through the desert, Joshua was the one who could take Jericho in the way he did (in Joshua 6).  Every leader, while heeding the call, brings their own experiences and gifts to their office.  Moses wouldn't have been likely to have the same kind of military success as Joshua did at Jericho.  At the same time, I'm not sure that Joshua was ready, at the time they left Egypt, to lead his people.

There are modern day examples.  Our own ministry is one.  For decades, most of our pastors emulated our founder.  He was Godly, charismatic, a success.  So, the sermons of those around him were similar in content and style to our founder.  When he was succeeded, that continued a bit, long enough for people to get used to the idea that someone else was in the pulpit.  And, then, our present pastor moved toward imprinting his own voice and style on the pulpit.  Which makes sense. Joshua was not Moses, nor was Moses the same as Joshua.  And, while both were tasked with the job of leading their people to the Promised Land, each had his own way of doing it.

Fifth, just because leadership changes doesn't mean the call changes.  Moses and Joshua may not have been the same kind of leaders, but the job both were given didn't change with the leader.  In there case, it was getting God's people into the Promised Land.  In Christian ministries, it's just a different Promised Land.

Luke 19:10 (KJV)  For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Matthew 10:7-8 (KJV)  And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.  Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.

Matthew 28:19 (KJV)  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

The reality is that the trek to what became Israel and Judah was really a picture of the true call and journey.  Evangelization, discipleship, healing, and missions that reflect those.  The alternative of not entering the Promised Land wasn't and isn't pretty, to say the least.  John Maxwell, as I've mentioned before, has said that we're all leaders because we all influence someone.  That may be our own body, soul, and spirit -- which can be quite a job, all by itself.  Or it may be a small group or a vast number of people.

So, there are a few questions that come to mind.  Is God speaking to you?  The answer to that one is always "Yes.".  Are you listening?  Are you following what God is telling you or are you hesitating?  Are you leading with what you see others doing or are you using the gifts that God gave you for the purpose?  And is your eye on the goal or have you changed that?  In other words, are your feet ready to tread the ground of the Promised Land and lay claim to what God has already given?

No comments:

Post a Comment