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As I was with Moses, so shall I be with you.

June 11th, 2017

As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and of good courage … (Joshua 1:5-6 NKJV)

Here is a simple verse that teaches us a divine principle of our heavenly Father’s workings in the world. People come and go, talented leaders pass away, parents die and their children see them no more, spiritual leaders who have been highly depended upon also leave the earthly scene at their death, yet the work of God continues. As great as that man or woman was, no human is indispensable to God’s work. Another will rise to take his place, and these words that God spoke to Joshua will echo in the soul of this new leader - whether he or she be pastor, father, mother,  statesman or woman, or whatever.

It is often the case, or it seems to be so, that the next one who follows the great man does not measure up to his caliber. If this is so, our text tells us that it need not always be the case, nor is it always the case. A great man can be succeeded by a greater man - we have seen that ourselves happen quite often. If the thing that makes a man great is his God and not himself, then it all comes down to simple faith expressed in surrender and commitment.

It was recorded that when President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, the whole nation was in mourning. There were prayer meetings and rallies held across America. In the midst of that dismay, a man in New York City made a poster which simply said, “God lives!” His words reminded the people, and teach us today that the work of God goes on in the world. When one soldier falls in battle, another rises to take his place.

It is good to remember this truth and to meditate on it. God enables and strengthens whosoever He calls. In the work of God we do not do our beloved leaders any favors if we refuse to follow the next generation’s leaders. We throw obstacles into the work of God and show our own immaturity when we refuse to follow the next generation of leaders. As troublesome as the Israelites were in the Exodus journeys, at the passing of Moses we see them showing incredible faith, as they said to Joshua his successor:

So they answered unto Joshua, saying, “All that you commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we heeded Moses in all things, so we will heed you. Only the LORD your God be with you as He was with Moses.” (Joshua 1:16-17 NKJV)

Every church should say such a thing when their pastor retires or dies and another comes along. They should pray for and encourage the next leader, not compare him and criticize him. If God is with him something will change, but that is just the nature of life.

Moses was one of the greatest men in all the history of the world, and Joshua must have felt his own inadequacy to fill those sandals. Yet he did so upon the command of God and with the promise of God. As Moses had proved himself through the trials of leadership, as he had often faced rebellious people, and as h had learned to intercede for the people in prayer, he had gaiined a reputation. And this fact makes God’s promise to Joshua all the more remarkable.

As God had been with Moses, so shall he be with Joshua.

Let these words be an encouragement to you, whatever stage of spiritual leadership or spiritual growth you might be in. If you are nearing the end of your journey, if you health is frail and your energy seems weak, do not worry too much about what will happen when you pass on. God will raise up another and enable him to continue. If you are a follower and are looking with concern toward the next generation of leadership, do not be over concerned about that either. Pray for the right person to rise and be given the opportunity, but do not fear.

A simple ritual is helpful to visualize this truth. In military funerals, the coffin is draped with the nation’s flag, but before the coffin is placed into the ground the flag is removed and given to the next of kin. The flag symbolizes the nation, and when the soldier died the nation did not die but kept on living. The passing of the flag is symbolic of that fact.

Good men and women are missed at their passing. But God’s work goes on. As He was with the previous leadership, so shall He be with the future leaders.

leadership

Traits of Faithful Servants

March 17th, 2017

I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, (I write) so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:14-15 NASB)

The translation in English reads as if Paul was explaining about personal manners - “how one ought to conduct himself” - but the teaching actually was referring to how the church should function, especially the church leadership. The word translated “behave” (KJV) or “conduct” (NASB) is translated “had our conversation” (KJV) and “formerly lived” (NASB) in Ephesians 2:3. So the idea is not just how a Christian might conduct himself on special occasions but how he should have “his conversation” or should “live his life” every day.

One cannot put on moral and ethical Christian behavior for just a short period of time and expect to qualify for spiritual leadership. Nor should the church encourage this type of behavior. The church and the leaders are to be living for Christ every day, whether proper behavior is recognized by others or only by God.

Can you imagine what it would read like if Paul had said something like, “The church should be led by those who can appear godly for a few weeks before the annual election, whether they are in private or not.” The Spirit would not have inspired him to write such things, because it would have been disastrous for the fellowship if he had.

The Christian is to live his life before an audience of One - Christ Jesus Himself. Oswald Chambers in his devotional reading for today wrote: “Paul is like a musician who does not heed the approval of the audience if he can catch the look of approval from his Master.” The Master will often verify His approval through the encouragement of those who walk close to Him, but even then the spiritual servant will recognize the approving words as originating in the heart of God and merely being transmitted through the human agency. The single “Well done!” that our hearts truly long for will come from the lips of Christ.

Any ambition which is in the tiniest degree away from this central one of being “approved unto God” may end in our being castaways. Learn to discern where the ambition leads, and you will see why it is so necessary to live facing the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul says — Lest my body should make me take another line, I am constantly watching so that I may bring it into subjection and keep it under (see 1 Corinthians 9:27).

I have to learn to relate everything to the master ambition, and to maintain it without any cessation. My worth to God in public is what I am in private. Is my master ambition to please Him and be acceptable to Him, or is it something less, no matter how noble?*

If we were to make a composite of all the teachings in the Bible on leadership, and all the best examples as well, we would see surprising consistency that showed the hand of God. These same principles apply today, that in the church, leaders should embody such things as: humility, servanthood, the willingness to do the necessary even when it is humble work, the heart of someone who is always learning, the life that consistently lives out the commands of Christ in private as well as public, genuine compassion for others, the awareness of one’s own vulnerability to temptation, and the simple love for and daily conversation with Christ.

Apollos was an example of these principles. He is mentioned briefly in Acts 18:24-28, but what little we know about him depicts him as a fruitful servant of Christ.

  • “He was mighty in the Scriptures” (Acts 18:24) - this speaks of his discipline and humility to study and learn. Knowledge does not come simply by sleeping next to books. One must read and study and spend time learning. It takes humility to admit what we do not know, that we need to learn, and Apollos demonstrated this trait.
  • “Fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus” (Acts 18:25) - “Fervent in spirit” is connected with diligence and service in Romans 12:11, so the idea is not mere excitement but steady and consistent service. In fact, we would all be able to attest that many who are excitable really lack the trait of steadiness and consistency. This depicts the warmness of spirit that enables someone to keep going through long and difficult challenges.
  • He was teachable, for Priscilla and Aquila took him aside and explained some matters that Apollos had not yet understood (Acts 18:26). Exactly what those matters were we are not told, but it probably had to do with the resurrection and the coming of the Spirit. He apparently was well taught in the things of John the Baptist, and John’s teachings about the Christ. But as soon as we think we have nothing more to learn, then we are in serious trouble of being put on the shelf by God. Leaders must be constant learners.
  • He was compassionate and sacrificial - a man of action - and wanted to travel elsewhere, to Achaia, and share with the brothers there (Acts 18:27).
  • He was bold and publicly refuted the Jews, proving from scripture that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 18:28).

If we removed any of these traits from Apollos, he would not have been the man he was, nor would his name have been included in the Holy Scriptures. He was a composite of the spiritual man of God, fit for every good work.

We could simply say that the most effective servants seek to be as effective as they possibly could be under the Lordship of Christ. They do not harbor secret sins, rather they spend their time growing in the Lord and seeking to know Him better, to be more fitted to serve and to help. They are willing to sacrifice, they care for others, they are teachable and diligent.

But, more to the point, the only biblical standard we are given is the life of Jesus Christ. He and He alone is our model, our perfect example, and our target to aim for in private and public expression of our faith.  If we aspire to be fruitful servants, we should make sure that we are allowing Christ to reproduce Himself in us, that we put aside all claims of credit for what we do and simply desire that Christ receive the glory.

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*Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, “March 17: The Worker’s Ruling Passion”

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