When we started Joshua, we discovered a little about leadership in God’s kingdom on this earth. I wrote about the fact that God will make some people leaders or influencers in this world and He will not make others leaders specifically. We might remember that leaders and non-leaders (according to this world’s definition) have equal worth in God’s sight, and that if God’s plan is that any of us would be made a leader, that leadership position s actually a place of service, not of authority over people. God will raise us up in His own time. The definition of leader that I am working with throughout the month is this: someone who commands a group, organization or country. This is a worldly definition of “leader”, but as we’ve discovered, God may call us to be in these positions in this world. In the future or now, God may call us to be: coaches, teachers, parents, principles, team captains, pastors, ministry organizers, CEO’s, managers, etc… My question as we look back to Scripture is going to be, how do we know if God is calling us to a specific leadership position in this world?
We will only focus on three brief passages in the first four chapters of Joshua, but I would like to encourage you to read all four chapters as we follow Joshua’s life in leadership.
Joshua 1:1-2 (HCSB)
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.
Joshua 3:7 (HCSB)- after Rahab and the Spies
The Lord spoke to Joshua: “Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, so they will know that I will be with you just as I was with Moses.”
Joshua 4:14-15 (HCSB)- while crossing the Jordan into Canaan
On that day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel, and they revered him throughout his life, as they had revered Moses.
When it comes to filling a leadership role in this world, there are some things we all need to understand. First of all, every leadership position for us on this earth is temporary. We must resolve now not to place our identity in any leadership position that we have. Our identity must always be in Christ. Far too often I see a man placing his identity in his work, in worldly success or in a human relationship. I see pastors who find all of who they are in being a pastor. I see teenagers and college students who place their entire identity in athletics or academics. This breaks my heart. We must understand that everything we have on this earth is temporary: everything that is except for God.
Second of all, there is a time of preparation before God will place us in a legitimate leadership position on this earth. There are so many people who try to jump into leadership or try to fight for influence prematurely. When we chase a leadership position or we live to have influence rather than to serve, we suggest with our lives that we know more than God and that our wisdom is perfect. This is why so many child stars or people who achieve a great level of worldly success at a young age make so many mistakes and are unsatisfied. When we trust God, we will be prepared when He places us in a position because God does the preparing. Even before Joshua came into leadership, we know that he followed Moses.
Now we will turn to Joshua’s life. God brought Joshua up to be the leader of Israel in three stages: First He called Joshua to leadership. We see that in chapter 1. If God wants us to be in a leadership position on this earth, He will let us know. He called me to youth ministry when I was a senior in high school and I had to put aside my dreams in order to pursue that calling. For me, it was just a thought. I was sitting there one day and randomly I had the thought: I think God wants me to be a youth pastor. There are other ways He might let you know what role He has for you: Perhaps He’s given you a passion for something specific. Whether it’s ministry or He wants you to coach later on in your life. I didn’t want to go into youth ministry, but God began showing me how the passions I had could be used and He started giving me new passions. Perhaps He’s given you specific dreams or aspirations, or shown you a way to make a difference in the world we live in. First there is a call. Notice that Joshua begins pursuing that calling as soon as God calls him into that position. If God has called us, we begin pursuing that calling whatever it might be with all of who we are.
Secondly, God begins to exalt Joshua in his position. God used the community of Israelites to confirm His calling on Joshua’s life. They followed him. God equipped Joshua for the task ahead. God made Joshua a good commander. After God calls us and we commit to that calling, God will reaffirm that calling for us as He did with Joshua. It was prophetic in my own life: My mother had a dream that I would go into ministry and I had a coworker who told me that she had a dream I was preaching in front of thousands. This was probably a hyperbolic dream, but an affirmation was made none-the-less. I did well in school and my professors continued to affirm this calling in my life. In some way, it seems God will reaffirm His calling on our lives over and over again. If He doesn’t, then we might ask whether we heard God’s calling correctly because we are imperfect and sometimes we think we hear God say some things that He doesn’t actually say.
Third, there was a specific time when God exalted Joshua as the commander of Israel. For me it was January 2011 when I was placed in my first official leadership position in ministry. God will provide opportunities for us to fill the positions He has for us.
Remember that these positions are all temporary, but when we serve God we build up rewards in Heaven for that service so long as our motive is right. Since these positions are temporary, God is free to move us into new positions in His timing. Some people invest so much into their positions that they are afraid to move when God wants them to move. Our identity is never in one position; instead, it is in Christ. I’ll just leave that warning where it is.
The promise here is that God has a very real place of service prepared for each of us: whether we are to be a commander or not. God rewards us for following His plan to please Him, not for how many followers we have. This is a great promise!