I want to begin by making a confession. In the past I have been much too concerned with gaining influence and not concerned enough with simply serving people. I feel as though this is an experience that doesn’t belong to me alone, but to most young people. We are raised by our culture to be leaders and on a multi-national level, being a good leader is the most important thing a person can be. In fact, its how we, as a culture, have defined being a success. My fear is that multiple younger generations are so concerned with leading in this world that we actually ignore the things that are truly important. My question here is simple. When and how should we begin striving to be a leader in this world?
After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, who had served Moses: “Moses My servant is dead. Now you and all the people prepare to cross over the Jordan to the land I am giving the Israelites. I have given you every place where the sole of your foot treads, just as I promised Moses. Your territory will be from the wilderness and Lebanon to the great Euphrates River — all the land of the Hittites — and west to the Mediterranean Sea. No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or forsake you.
“Be strong and courageous, for you will distribute the land I swore to their fathers to give them as an inheritance. Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully observe the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do. Haven’t I commanded you:be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people: “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get provisions ready for yourselves, for within three days you will be crossing the Jordan to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you to inherit. ’”
Joshua said to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh: “Remember what Moses the Lord’s servant commanded you when he said, ‘The Lord your God will give you rest, and He will give you this land. ’ Your wives, young children, and livestock may remain in the land Moses gave you on this side of the Jordan. But your fighting men must cross over in battle formation ahead of your brothers and help them until the Lord gives your brothers rest, as He has given you, and they too possess the land the Lord your God is giving them. You may then return to the land of your inheritance and take possession of what Moses the Lord’s servant gave you on the east side of the Jordan.”
They answered Joshua, “Everything you have commanded us we will do, and everywhere you send us we will go. We will obey you, just as we obeyed Moses in everything. And may the Lord your God be with you, as He was with Moses. Anyone who rebels against your order and does not obey your words in all that you command him, will be put to death. Above all, be strong and courageous!”
After Moses’ death, God appointed Joshua to lead the nation of Israel into Canaan. Joshua was one of the greatest leaders that the nation had, and here we are going to learn how, in our own lives, we can lead in a way that God will bless what we do on this earth. As we study the book of Joshua, we will learn what it means to serve God in such a way that what we do on this earth not only gains us rewards in eternity, but also continues to impact this world for Christ even after we are gone. What I notice about his call to leadership is that it is not different at all from the call for any position of service in God’s kingdom. After Moses died, God is the one who called on Joshua to fill his position. It may or may not have been what Joshua wanted, but we learn that any position worth having on this earth is going to be a position that God calls us to: no matter what that position is. God called Joshua to this position for the purpose of fulfilling His promise to the Israelite nation. Whenever God calls us to any position of service, He does so in order to fulfill a purpose for His kingdom.
What this means for us is that everyone in service to God must not be concerned with authority. Rather, he should work toward the purpose that God has for him. No matter our position, we become servants to God and people and we choose not to concern ourselves with the amount of authority we’ve been given. Authority can come with position (e.g. the president of the United States), with fame or wealth (e.g. Adele, Morgan Freeman), by level of education, or by talent (e.g. basketball). God may choose to place us in authority on this earth, but we must remember that it’s more a place of service and service is what we are to be concerned with as people of God.
After appointing Joshua, God challenged him to be strong and courageous and to observe the Law rightly. Even Joshua had a standard by which to operate; and when God calls us to service, He gives us a path to follow (and that pathway is found in Scripture). As leaders in this world, or as people in any position that God might give, we are actually all followers of God. This means that the worldly concept of leader and follower should be strange to us. Under God’s authority, all people are actually equal in worth. This makes leaders according to the world’s standards servants to God and people. It also makes followers according to the world’s standards servants to both God and people. I often laugh because this world promotes equality, but true equality is only found when everyone is a servant: and this is only possible if there is an ultimate authority: God. If there is no God, then human equality is absolutely impossible. We are all followers of God.
In order to be a good leader in this world, we must first be good followers of God and good servants to all people who are equal to us in worth. Notice that Joshua also followed Moses in this world. It seems that good leaders will even follow others who are appointed by God. Both the leader and the follower are positions in this world given by God and they are given according to God’s timing when we trust in Him.
Here’s what we learn about God and about leadership in this world:
- Any position of leadership in this world is a position of service
- God will call us into leadership in this world according to His own timing, not ours.
- Every role God gives is to fulfill a purpose, which makes us all servants.
- This means every position of leadership in this world is not about us having authority over people. It’s about serving them.
I hear it all the time: “Young people are our future!” This simply cannot be the case. God is our future and our present. He will call people into leadership or not. My question for us is: are we concerned with serving God, or are we concerned with gaining influence for ourselves? The two are not compatible. Just as God promised always to be with Joshua, He will always be with us when we follow His plan instead of our own.
 Joshua 1:1-18 (HCSB)