During these days of COVID-19, it seems that every task leaders perform takes longer, is more complex and draws more criticism than appreciation. Consequently, many pastors and leaders of Christian ministries are discouraged, frustrated and even depressed. These are difficult days for all of us. None seem to be immune to the multitude of challenges resulting from this season of pandemic.
Like any other day, it is wise for us to look to scripture for instruction. Having done this recently, I found my heart encouraged and my resolve for ministry strengthened. Allow me to share some insights related to Joshua 1:1-9.
In verses 1-2, scripture reminds us that God’s call is for Christian leaders who shepherd God’s people. God’s call is specific, personal and timely. He clearly ordered Joshua’s steps and established him as the next leader of Israel.
Thankfully, the scriptures record much of Joshua’s life and leadership prior to his call to lead Israel. When we consider his life, we see several ways that God equipped Joshua for leadership. Here are at least four episodes in Joshua’s life where his leadership lessons were clearly foundational to his success as a future leader.
- In Exodus 17:8-14, Joshua was tasked by Moses to lead Israel into battle against the Amalekites. Joshua fought the battle, but God gave the victory. He learned the source of power and victory.
- In Exodus 24:13, Joshua accompanied Moses to Mt. Sinai to receive the Tablets. This provided him the opportunity to learn how a man of God approaches and fellowships with God.
- In Numbers 11, Moses identified 70 elders to assist in serving Israel. Joshua expressed concerns about this decision (11:28). Moses responded in verse 29, “I wish that all the Lord’s people would be prophets.” Joshua learned an invaluable leadership lesson about shepherding God’s people. He learned that leadership is more than a one-person job. Spiritual leadership elevates others to elevate God’s people.
- In Numbers 13:1-16, Joshua was one of the 12 spies sent to investigate the Promised Land. He learned that it is always best to provide a faithful witness to God’s promises, even when it is the minority opinion. Since Israel followed the unfaithful witness of the 10 spies, the judgment of God fell upon them. It is likely that every hardship for all those years was a reminder of the importance of always bearing a faithful witness to God and His promises regardless of circumstances and despite opposition.
While I rejoice over the impact of God’s call and God’s equipping, that is not all He promises His leaders. Joshua 1:3-9 promises that God’s called and equipped leaders will also be God empowered.
God’s empowerment comes in very specific ways. In verse 3, He promises His favor. In verses 3-4, He promises to honor His Word. In verse 5, He promises to protect them. In verses 6-8, He promises to instruct them. In verse 9, He promises to always accompany them. What an incredible list of specific promises of God that is offered to those who shepherd God’s people.
So, in the midst of this pandemic and the multitude of challenges that it places before all of us, especially those who lead God’s people, this should offer much hope. My takeaway and spiritual encouragement from this passage is that for those who are called to shepherd God’s people, we should have confidence that God has equipped us and He is empowering us to accomplish everything His will demands of us.
As you and I are moving forward to live out God’s will for our lives and our ministries, please be reminded that in spite of the difficulties and challenges you face, God’s provision to you and me is enough to enable us to fulfill His will and experience His blessings and fruitfulness. Be encouraged. Trust the Lord. Be faithful to His call. Look forward with thanksgiving for His provision. Be expectant! Everything He has called us to be and everything He has called us to do, can be accomplished through His abundant faithfulness and empowering Spirit. I leave you with God’s admonition to Joshua: “Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Charles A. Fowler is president of Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tenn.)