August 9, 2009

The Leader God Chooses – Joshua 1

by: Rev. Jeremiah Cheung

Through Moses, God wanted to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, Canaan. However Moses was only able to do half the task. He led the Israelites out of Egypt but was unable to lead the Israelites into Canaan. After Moses died, the Lord called Joshua and told him, “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them … to the Israelites.”

Joshua became Moses’ successor, the leader of the new generation of Israelites. Today, let us learn from Joshua how to become a leader God chooses:

I. A good leader is willing to be second fiddle 1:1

Joshua 1:1 “After the death of Moses, the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide.”

Who wrote these words? These were written by Joshua himself; he described Moses as the Lord’s servant and himself as Moses’ aide. In the whole book of Joshua, he never referred to himself as the Lord’s servant. In Joshua 24:29 “After these things, Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten.” This verse was not written by Joshua. At that time, Joshua had already died, and this was appended by someone who came after him. During Joshua’s entire life, he always referred to himself as Moses’ aide. After he died, people referred to him as the servant of the Lord. This is one characteristic of a good leader: a willingness to be second fiddle.

What does it mean to be willing to play second fiddle? Does this mean one has no ambitions? Christians must have noble ambitions and not selfish ambitions. What is the difference between noble and selfish ambitions? Noble ambition means seeking to do great things for God, selfish ambition is to seek to do great things for oneself. Willingness to be second fiddle does not mean you are without ambition, it just means that you are willing to submit to God’s plans, to await God’s time. If the Lord wants me to be second in rank all my life, then I am willing to be second all my life.

It is the same in ministry. John the Baptist said, “He must become greater, I must become less.” This is what everyone in ministry must keep in mind – He must forever be number one. No matter where, we must lift Jesus up. He must become greater, I must become less. John 12:32 “If I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself.” We must lift Jesus up, not ourselves; we must draw all men to Jesus Christ, not to ourselves.

II. A good leader is a strong and courageous person 1:-6-7, 9

Three times the Lord told Joshua in Joshua chapter 1, “Be strong and take courage.” The first was in verse 6, the second was in verse 7 and the third was in verse 9. As leaders, many are the difficulties and discouraging situations we face and there are two primary reasons why:

1. We had really made some mistakes

Is there any leader in this world who had never made mistakes? When we make mistakes, people will use a magnifying glass to look at us, especially those who harbour malicious intentions, they will seize the opportunity to attack us. In fact, sometimes we find ourselves stunned and speechless in the ruthless way they attack us.

2. Satan attacks us

Satan will never stop attacking us. The Bible refers to Satan as the one who accuses us day and night before God. He is truly evil. Have we ever realized that Satan will never dare lie to God? Satan knows that God is all-knowing. He cannot lie to God even though he seeks to accuse us. Satan’s accusations are true.

In Zechariah 3:1-5, the prophet Zechariah saw in a vision Joshua the high priest standing before the Lord, and Satan standing at his right to accuse him. Satan accused the high priest Joshua, but praise the Lord, although the high priest was dressed in filthy clothes, the Lord told the angel, “Take off his filthy clothes.” Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.”

We must take courage in serving the Lord, not because we are perfect, but because of His grace upon us. Three times, the Lord told Joshua to take courage, and the Lord also told Joshua, “I am with you” in verses 5, 9 and 17. The Lord’s presence is the reason we are able to take courage. The Lord with us means power is with us, grace is with us. Three times, the Lord told Joshua, “Do not be afraid”, because the Lord knew that Joshua was afraid. It was not easy to lead the Israelites into Canaan. Inside Canaan were seven tribes of people waiting for them, to fight them. Joshua was afraid, thus the Lord told him, “Do not be afraid, because I am with you.” A good leader is not someone who is not afraid. But because he knows God is with him, he courageously stands firm. Have you taken your stand?

III. A good leader is someone who leads courageously 16 -18

Three times, the Lord told Joshua, “Be strong and take courage.” The Lord knew Joshua was afraid. When Joshua heard the Lord’s words, he stood up and gave the people instructions (v.12-15). Joshua stood up as a leader and instructed the Israelites. He told the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh to cross the Jordan River with their brothers, to fight with them before they return to their own land. The Israelites responded positively.

They told Joshua in Joshua 1:16-18 “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses. Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey your words, whatever you may command them will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!” This tells us an important principle – a leader must lead courageously.

Many times, problems are not as difficult as we imagine them to be. We often use a magnifying glass to look at our problems, as a result, the problem grows larger and larger. We must face our problems courageously. If you are not willing to face it, they will not disappear, they will become more difficult to resolve.

Frank Bettger, a famous salesman, said, “While you hesitate and remain undecided, the problem could become irreparable.” This is truly a good reminder. A good leader will not wait for things to happen, he will take the initiative to make things happen. Furthermore, a good leader is someone who dare to make decisions. Making decisions is the most difficult thing for a leader to do, because, every decision will have either of two possibilities, that is, it could be right or wrong. But, whether right or wrong, a leader must learn to take the responsibility for the results.

As followers, we must learn to support and encourage our leaders. Sometimes, leaders are afraid to make decisions and it has to do with the people following them. Is there a good leader in your home, in your church? Do you encourage or criticize him? Leaders, however, must not forget the principle of “looking out the window vs. looking in the mirror”. When everything goes well, you must look out the window, and give the credit to other factors (other people or other things); when everything is going wrong, we must look into the mirror, examine yourself, and be willing to take the responsibility. If not, when you succeed, you will give all the credit to yourself, becoming more and more arrogant. When you fail, you will blame others. May the Lord teach us how to be a person willing to submit to His arrangements and courageously lead.