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WHO IS FIT TO LEAD?
Before people take on a leadership responsibility, they should weigh the matter carefully. "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly" (James 3:1). Leaders will be held in more severe and stricter judgment than their followers. That one thought should give us pause.
The next sentence in that same chapter gives another reason: "for we all stumble in many ways" (ESV). We know that we make many a slip; we stumble in so many ways. That being the case, we are naturally hesitant to presume to lead others.
However, it is evident in analyzing the lives of God's leaders that this feeling of inadequacy is not a good reason for declining the job. After all, we are all sinners before God. Who among us could claim that we have not blown it in many ways and in many different situations? If that is an adequate reason for not stepping up and taking the lead, no one would ever do so.
Let's look at some of God's chosen leaders of the past and see how they responded when the Lord approached them to take the lead in a task.
THE CALL OF MOSES
Take a look at Moses. He was in the back of the desert keeping the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, when God's call came. The very fact that this highly educated man, who had been accustomed to the comforts and pleasures of the palace, was occupied in one of the lowliest pursuits of his day could have been enough to embitter him. Herding sheep was a profession held in low esteem. He could have been moping around feeling sorry for himself, so occupied with his misery and ill fortune as to miss the voice of God completely. To top it off, he was working for his in-laws!
Then a strange and wonderful thing happened. "There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up" (Ex. 3:2).
The first thing the Lord did was reveal Himself to Moses. Moses was certain that it was God who spoke to him (vv. 5–6). This is something that you must be sure about in your own mind. When someone comes to ask you to serve in one way or another, make certain that God is in it. Don't budge an inch in either direction—either yes or no—until you have determined the will of God in the matter.
Sometimes you will know God's will immediately. Other times you will have to wait until God makes it plain to you. But be assured of this—God will show you. Our Father in heaven is well able to communicate to His children. God will confirm His will in the matter to you. He does not want us to spend our lives in uncertainty.
Since God is concerned with what we do, He will make His will known. He promises to do so. "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you" (Ps. 32:8). In this verse, notice the pronoun I, referring to God, appears twice. Guidance is God's responsibility. The assurance of guidance is as basic in Scripture as the assurance of forgiveness. Notice also God said, "I will instruct. I will teach. I will guide." He will show us the way to go. Blessed assurance!
Another promise is found in Psalm 48:14: "For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end." The words of this promise are unmistakable: "He will be our guide." So you can rely on His willingness and ability to show you what His will is for you. Like Moses, you can be certain that God has spoken.
The next thing that occurred was that the Lord revealed to Moses the burden that He had for His people. "The LORD said, 'I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering'" (Ex. 3:7). Moses, you recall, had been burdened over the plight of the children of Israel, and it was an encouragement for him to realize that God Himself was concerned for them as well.
Then God made a dramatic statement: "So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey" (v. 8). Can you imagine the joy and excitement that must have flooded Moses's mind at that point? The living God was going to personally take a hand and deliver the people!
Then the Lord made a statement that must have thrown Moses into confusion. "So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt" (v. 10). Can't you just hear the questions flooding Moses's mind? "But Lord, I thought You said You were going to come down and deliver them. Why then this idea that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt? If You are going to do it, Lord, why do I need to go?"
That, by the way, is a key question all of us must answer in our own minds. When we understand that God's method of accomplishing His plan and purposes is people, we will begin to understand our role in the kingdom of God.
So it was with Moses. God had a job for him. However, Moses did not feel qualified for the task that God had given him. And he cried out to God with his question, "Who am I?"
Now frankly, that was not a hard question for God. He could simply have answered, "You are Moses." But the question was so irrelevant that God did not even bother to answer it.
Therein lies one of the great secrets of leadership in the Christian enterprise. God said, "I will be with you" (v. 12).
What the Lord was trying to get across to Moses was a powerful truth. He as much as said, "Moses, it doesn't really matter who you are, whether you feel qualified or unqualified, whether you feel up to the task or not. The point is that I am going to be there. The statement I made to you still holds: 'I have come down to rescue them.' I am going to do it, and I am going to give you the privilege of being in it with Me. You will be My instrument of deliverance."
By all means, remember this truth when God calls you to take a position of leadership in His work. God is not looking for people who feel "sufficient." Paul said, "Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God" (2 Cor. 3:5 ESV).
I'm sure the sense of need and inadequacy can be an asset rather than a handicap. Paul's testimony bears this out: "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.... For when I am weak, then I am strong" (12:9–10).
Many people are amazed at that and say, "Do you mean the great apostle Paul felt that way?" The answer is yes, and that, no doubt, contributed to his greatness.
The next lesson we learn in our look at the call of Moses is an important one as well. It is right to be aware of our inadequacy, but we mustn't stop there. We must also be convinced of the absolute sufficiency of God. That's God's next step in dealing with Moses.
Moses came up with another question: "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?" (Ex. 3:13).
To this God gives a remarkable answer: "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.... The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.' This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation" (vv. 14–15).
As a young Christian I puzzled over that answer for a long time. What did God mean when He revealed Himself as "I AM"? Then one day it hit me. God was saying, "Whatever you need, that's what I am!"
At this point in his life, Moses needed encouragement and strength. Quite possibly that will be your need when you receive your call from God to serve Him in some specific task.
More important, the fact that we are never without needs brings this truth into focus. Do we need comfort? I am your comfort: "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7). Do we need victory over some sin that plagues us? I am your victory: "But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15:57). Do we need love? "God is love" (1 John 4:8). And so on down the catalog of needs. God is absolutely sufficient to meet them. What God was saying was I am all that My people need.
So it's true that we must acknowledge our insufficiency, but it must not stop there. If it does, we are in trouble. We must go on to acknowledge the absolute adequacy and sufficiency of God to meet any test, to overcome any problem, and to win any victory. It took Moses a little time, but he did come to that point and was mightily used of God.
THE CALL OF GIDEON
To reinforce in our minds this absolutely essential truth of God's sufficiency, let's consider another man at the point of his call from God. Remember the great battles that were waged and won by Gideon? With a handful of men he "turned to flight the armies of the aliens" (Heb. 11:34 KJV). Was he always like that? Bold, courageous, waxing valiant in a fight?
The children of Israel were suffering under the hand of the Midianites. They were hiding in dens and caves in the mountains. The Midianites destroyed their crops and confiscated their livestock. These enemies, like a plague of grasshoppers, consumed everything as they moved across the land. The reason for Israel's dilemma was, of course, their sin. "Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites" (Judg. 6:1).
One night Gideon was threshing a little wheat to hide it from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared and called upon him to be the instrument to deliver God's people out of the hand of the Midianites.
Gideon's first response was quite familiar to God by this time. "But Lord ... how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family" (v. 15).
Again, God went to the heart of the matter with His chosen person for the job. "I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together" (v. 16).
Notice the similarity to what God told Moses at the burning bush. In effect, God said, "Gideon, it doesn't matter that your family is poor in Manasseh, or that you are least in your father's house. The point is not who you are, but that I will be with you. It is not your weakness that we must dwell on, but My strength. I will work through you."
So, if God calls you to a task and you have an overpowering sense of weakness and need and inadequacy—rejoice! You're in good company. People of God down through the centuries have felt the same way. But they have also believed God to be sufficient for the task to which He has called them.
THE CALL OF JEREMIAH
There is one more person we must look at to round out this matter. Jeremiah was one of the great prophets of God. He was faithful to God's call and suffered for that faithfulness. But how did the call come? And how did Jeremiah respond when God spoke to him about assuming a position of leadership in His kingdom? Look at the record: "The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations'" (Jer. 1:4–5).
The basic job of a prophet was to proclaim the Word of God to the people of God. How did Jeremiah respond to this challenge? Did he immediately rise to the occasion with faith and enthusiasm? No, his response was similar to those of Moses and Gideon: "'Ah, Sovereign Lord,' I said, 'I do not know how to speak, I am only a child'" (v. 6). His initial reaction was one of inadequacy. He didn't feel equal to the task.
Here's God's answer to that: "But the Lord said to me, 'Do not say, "I am only a child." You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,' declares the Lord" (vv. 7–8).
Notice the promise of God: "I am with you." Again, the point is that God is there. The all-wise, all-powerful, all-sufficient God will be by his side. In every case, this is the thing God keeps saying.
God did not promise Jeremiah a rose garden, but assured him of His presence and protection and guidance time and again: "'They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,' declares the Lord" (v. 19).
OTHER CALLS—THEN AND NOW
Do you recall the last orders of the Lord Jesus Christ to His followers? "Go and make disciples of all nations." Accompanying that charge to them was the promise, "I am with you always" (Matt. 28:19–20). God is still giving us the same basis for serving Him with confidence that He gave to old-time heroes of the faith: I am with you.
Some years ago I was asked to speak at a Sunday school class retreat. For years Jim Rayburn, founder of the Young Life movement, had taught the "Mr. and Mrs." class at First Presbyterian Church of Colorado Springs. The class was having its annual retreat, and they called on The Navigators for a speaker. Rod Sargent, to whom the request had first come, was unable to go, so he called me into his office and suggested I do it.
I froze. For a class taught by Jim Rayburn? What had I to offer to a class that had this man of God for a regular teacher? Behold I cannot speak, I thought to myself, for I am a child. I was only about six or seven years old in the Lord at the time, and most of the people there would be my elders both physically and spiritually. So I began to explain all this to Rod and asked him to get someone else.
Rod sat there looking at me and didn't say anything for quite a while. Then he spoke. "LeRoy," he said, "one thing I've noticed about you. You always seem to want to take the course of least resistance. You shy away from something that may be difficult or require a real step of faith." Then he told me to think about it for a while and pray about it.
I did. Though I still felt inadequate for the task, the Lord definitely spoke to me about accepting it. Needless to say, I prepared with much study and many hours of prayer.
To my delight the retreat went quite well. I sensed the presence and guidance of God and His enabling power. The Lord taught me some very helpful lessons through that situation—not the least of which was the truth of His admonition that I must not move through life taking the course of least resistance. The experience was good for me—hard but valuable down through the years.
Another thing the Devil may use to prevent us from stepping out by faith in response to the call of God is something undesirable in our background. We may feel this disadvantage is too much to overcome or that it will be a hindrance to the work. Again, the Scriptures remind us of the fallacy of this argument.
The apostle Paul, you recall, was a murderer who had spent a great deal of time and energy persecuting the church of God. He later confessed with shame: "These men know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him" (Acts 22:19–20).
Paul said of himself, "I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God" (1 Cor. 15:9). But he also wrote, "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief" (1 Tim.1:12–13).
If ever a man had a background that would render him unusable to God, it was Paul. Yet he became the great apostle to the Gentiles, and God used him to write much of the New Testament.
Other people with dark blots on their records became great servants of God as well. I think of John Mark, the man who proved to be an unfaithful servant on a journey with Paul and Barnabas. When these men planned their next journey, Paul refused to take Mark along because of his past failure (Acts 15:36–38). Yet this is the man whom God chose to write the gospel of Mark, which presents His own Son as the ever-faithful servant. Mark's background was certainly not the thing that was the basis for God's choosing him for the task.
Excerpted from BE THE LEADER YOU WERE MEANT TO BE by LEROY EIMS. Copyright © 2012 LeRoy Eims. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
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