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What Would Jesus Do? – Example vs. Mission November 12, 2015

Posted by TJ Friend in Encouragements.
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All my life in Church I’ve heard this message over and over. We are supposed to be like Christ. That is literally what it means to be a “Christian”. There was even that whole WWJD craze back in the 90’s that was supposed to encourage people to follow Christ in their actions and choices. All of this is good stuff. This is probably the core of the faith, that we live our lives as Christ lived his, by loving people and carrying forth the message of hope that he came to bring. What I am saying is that this is an incomplete picture. There is more to following Jesus then simply doing what he did.

I want to pose two answers to the question “What would Jesus do?”. These two ideas answer that question in different ways and so lead to different results. When I think about Jesus’ life and how he lived I see two main categories, which I will call example and mission. Following Jesus’ example means that we live out the same values that he lived out. Jesus lived out the values Christians should live out as well. He embodied all of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:21-22). He lived a sinless life in continuous relationship with the Father. He showed what it means to serve (one example is when he washed his disciples feet) and exemplified true sacrifice by dying on a cross for our sins. He showed us not only what prayer should look like, but set an example of continually going off by himself to commune with God. He taught and lived out many other values that we need to follow today like meekness, justice, finances, relationships, honesty, integrity, and discipline. I don’t want to spend too much time on this aspect, because this is what we commonly think of when we think about following Jesus. Basically, it is living in such a way that people get a picture of what Jesus was like, or at the very least people see the influence of Jesus on your life.

The other side of this though is the idea of mission. Jesus lived a highly focused life based on the purposes God had for him. Jesus had a specific mission for his life. He knew where his life was headed and limited himself to doing things that fit into that mission. There are a lot things that characterize Jesus’ mission, but I want to focus on three things.

First and foremost, Jesus’ mission entailed him going to the cross. Jesus knew this. He even warned his disciples many times that this was going to happen. Because he knew what was ahead, he wasn’t upset when Judas betrayed him. He didn’t call down angels to save him from the cross and he endured it all without accusing people or trying to defend himself. Because of his conviction, when Peter rebuked him, Jesus was able to recognize the attack of the enemy on his mission. He knew he was going to the cross and lived his life accordingly.

Second, his mission was to start a movement. He had a few short years to impart this message of salvation to 12 ordinary men. Because he knew that his time was limited, he focused his efforts on his disciples. He took them around with him on his travels and empowered them to do the things he had been doing, so that the mission would not die with him. He wasn’t interested in a lot of people knowing the basics of what he was teaching. Instead he wanted a few people to catch a hold of the vision and have it burn into their being so that it transformed their entire lives. He went so far as to hide from crowds or give such difficult teachings that only those who were fully invested would stay. He wasn’t interested in popularity or hype. He was focused on those who truly desired to follow him.

Third, Jesus explicitly says that he came for “the lost sheep of Israel” (Matt 15:24). He knew his mission was to Israel. He spent his time going to different cities in Israel so that they could hear the message. The people he healed or cleansed of demons were for the most part Israelites. There were a few exceptions, but that is just what they were exceptions. He wasn’t going out of his way to help those outside of Israel, because he knew that wasn’t what he was called to do. Compare this with Paul who was “the apostle to the Gentiles”. Paul recognized that he had a different mission from those before him. He was to bring the message of salvation outside the people of Israel and offer it to the Gentiles.

What I am saying is that Jesus mission on earth was not something we can simply copy as our own mission. When thinking about the question what would Jesus do, we need to realize that some of the things he did were a part of the specific mission for his life and not necessarily for us. We all have a unique mission that God has for our lives, that is completely different from that of Jesus. We are obviously not all called to minister only to Gentiles, or die on a cross. In the same way, there are things we are called to do that Jesus was not called to do as part of his mission.

There is definitely some overlap. Just as Jesus made disciples, we too are called to make disciples. We need to be proclaiming the message that Jesus came to impart to the world. We need to pray and have faith and surround ourselves with other believers.

My desire is that every Christian would seek to understand their mission in life. Once you know what God is calling you to do with your life, you can align your behaviors and lifestyle to fit with that mission. If you are called to serve in the Church, you can pray to see how you can best serve and encourage those in the Church. If you are called to business, you can focus on exemplifying Christ in the workplace or supporting missionaries. If your mission is just to stay at home and raise your kids you can do it with confidence, knowing that God has you there for a reason. Whatever mission God has for you, do it to the best of your ability and use it as a standard for what you should or shouldn’t be doing. If someone feels called to minister to people in prison, then they should spend time ministering to people in prison, and not trying to be a light in Hollywood, or whatever other random idea that sounds good. Knowing what God has called you to do allows you to say no to things that may be good, but don’t line up with what God wants you to do.

One of the problems in the Church is that people have a vague idea of their mission, or maybe even no idea at all. So, instead of investing in the things God has for them, they either don’t do anything or do a bunch or random things with no focus. The former leads to consumer Christians who don’t contribute anything and are just looking to get fed from the Church. The latter leads to mediocrity or frustration, because you end up doing things just to do them, even if God isn’t in them. When we step into what God is calling us to do with our lives, we can be intentional and God can use us more than we could think or imagine. Jesus’ life was so focused that what he left behind is still going and growing to this day. He wants our lives to leave an impact as well. Even if what you are doing doesn’t seem spiritual, if you are following what God has called you to do, He will use you to impact the lives of those around you. In this light the question isn’t “what would Jesus do?”, but “what does Jesus want to do through me?” WDJWTDTM

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Generational Christianity September 10, 2015

Posted by TJ Friend in Encouragements.
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I want to talk about something that has been on my mind recently. I read this passage and it got me thinking about the interaction between generations of people, especially those who believe in God.

The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel.

Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.

10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals.12 They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. (Judges 2:7-13)

This passage is found at the beginning of the book of Judges and tells the result of Joshua’s death. To recap – the Israelites were given a promise (through Abraham) to receive a certain portion of land as their own. God had miraculously delivered the people from Egypt and led them on a journey to this promised land. The generation of people delivered from Egypt ended up dying in the wilderness because of their lack of faith. The next generation, led by Joshua, went throughout the land defeating the people living there. As it says in Josh 2:7, “The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and the elders who outlived him and had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel”. This second generation saw God fighting for Israel and helping them to defeat armies much greater than them. They saw God stop up the waters of the Jordan so they could cross over, they basically defeated Jericho just by marching around it and they even saw the sun stand still. They had every reason to believe God and follow him.

What saddens me about this passage is verse 10 – “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who neither knew the Lord nor what he had done for Israel”.  Probably the most important time in Israelite history was when God delivered them from Egypt. Not only did God prove his power over the Egyptians with the 10 plagues, but He literally parted the Red Sea so that they could walk across on dry ground. God proved once and for all that He was the only true God. Now, only two generations later, the people have no knowledge of what God did for His people.

Back in the book of Deuteronomy God specifically told the people to keep the commandments and “impress them” on their children.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

10 When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. (Deut 6:6-12).

In this passage, He even warns them not to forget the Lord. God’s intention was not that one generation would be blessed and honor Him. God wanted future generations to follow Him as well. God even had the people set up things to help them remember. He instituted the Passover so that they would always remember their deliverance from Egypt. He even had them set up altars like the one in Joshua 4 (after they had crossed the Jordan on dry land) to help remind the future generations.

When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe,and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites,to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” (Josh 4:1-7)

So, what does all this mean? It means we need a shift in our perspective. We are naturally prone to forget what God has done for us. We have a tendency to think only about ourselves and our own current situation. I think these passages challenge us to broaden our perspective. We need to think generationally. When God does things for us, it is not simply for our benefit so that we can rest in His goodness. This primarily happens in the family. I actually believe that one of the reasons God instituted families was to instill the knowledge of God to the next generation. Even if children end up turning away from God, there is no excuse for someone to be born into a Christian home and not know about God.

When we look at the results of the Israelites who grew up not knowing God, we see they defaulted into idolatry and ended up incurring God’s wrath. The whole book of Judges repeats this cycle, where God would raise up a judge to save Israel, they would follow that leader until he died and then the next generation would fall back into the same sin patterns which would lead to them being taken over by other nations and God having to raise up another judge for them. The cycle would have broken if they could have carried over the dedication to serve God from one generation to the next.

We have a responsibility to take what God has done and share it with the next generation. This doesn’t just apply to those who are married with a family. We as part of the family of believers have a responsibility to share God’s goodness with the younger generation as well. We need more spiritual fathers and mothers in the Church who are willing to share what God has done for them and disciple others in the teachings of Christ.

It seems, especially in America, we are extremely individualistic. We have a hard time thinking of the Church outside of our own personal relationship. We are called to be a unit, a body, working together and supporting each other, not isolated units that share common beliefs. This individualism makes us miss God’s heart. God is eternal and his desire is that generations would be saved. We are so focused on our own individual link in the chain that we forget that we are part of a bigger chain that stretches through time as parents share with their children and those children share with their children.

I would encourage those who are older in the faith to intentionally seek out younger people to share with. Spend some time with them and let them know what God has done for you. For those who are younger, make an effort to get to know the older generation of believers. Listen and learn from their experience and knowledge. Don’t miss out on what they have to offer.

What Does it Mean to be a Christian? July 3, 2015

Posted by TJ Friend in Encouragements.
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As I’ve been thinking about this topic, I am realizing that “Christianity” is difficult to define. The word itself gives hints to its meaning, but to say that a Christian is a “little Christ” or “Christ-follower” is not specific enough. The main problem is that there are so many different ideas on what it means to be a Christian. For those outside the Church there are a wide variety of stereotypes of Christians. Some see Christianity as a religion of hate and intolerance. Others see it as a crutch for the simple minded to lean on. For others, Christianity is seen as an extension of its activity in society, so that it looks like a social justice institution. For most though, there is at least an idea of what Christianity should be. A lot of people recognize that Christians are not perfect and may not accurately represent Christianity. For these people they would say that Christianity is about love and compassion.

It is no surprise that people outside the Church would have misunderstandings of what it means to be a Christian. We, as the Church, have not done a good job in representing the Gospel to the world, either in word or deed. We have shown the world a lot of hypocrisy and such a watered down message that I am amazed people have any idea what Christianity really is.

What bothers me the most though, is that there are so many different views on what it means to be Christian from people who claim to be Christian. I fear that in a society where we choose our own truths, the idea that there even is a “true Christianity” is heretical. We are in a time where however people want to define Christianity and live it out is their own personal choice. The reason why the world consistently accuses Christians of picking and choosing parts of the Bible they want to follow while ignoring others, is that this is exactly what a lot of people actually do. People live one way on Sunday and live completely different the rest of the week. Because of this, we are in a place now where there are many people who think they are Christian, but are only Christian in name and do not accurately represent what it means to be a Christian.

I realize that in calling out people who are not living by the sort of Christianity I am about to set forth, this puts me in a place of “judging others”. This as we know is the cardinal sin in Christianity…except that it’s not. I believe that the Bible gives clear principles on what it means to be a Christian. I believe that God has clearly revealed, through His word, what it means to be a Christian and this is the standard by which we should strive to line up with. What I am about to set forth, is not some new or idiosyncratic view of what it means to be a Christian. I am simply relaying what God Himself desires in those who claim to represent Him. If you have questions with what I am describing, look at the Scripture for yourself and see if what I am saying is true.

I want to look at three “requirements” I see in the Bible that relate to what it means to be a Christian. I see a doctrinal aspect, a transformational aspect, and a relational aspect. Before getting into these though, it is important to recognize that “salvation” is not a one-time occurrence. Once we accept Jesus we are saved, but that doesn’t mean that we are then free to live however we want. In Philippians, Paul tells us,

12 ”Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Phil 2:12-13)

We have a responsibility to discipline our lives and live and grow as Christians from the moment of salvation till we die.

Doctrine – Do you believe the core elements of the Gospel?

The first aspect of Christianity is doctrinal. We can’t just believe whatever we want and claim to be Christian. One of the biggest issues the New Testament Church had to deal with was false teachers. Paul is continually warning against false teachers. He tells the church in Galatia that even if an angel proclaims to them a different message (like Mormonism proclaims) they are to reject it:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! (Gal 1:6-9)

There are a lot of doctrines that churches and individuals have established over time. There is no way we will agree on every single point. What we should at least agree on are the essential doctrines of the faith. If someone at least believes the core elements of Christianity, even if they are off on other doctrines, they have the foundation and can grow from there. If people are missing core elements, or have such a skewed understanding of them that they no longer mean what they originally meant, then that person cannot claim to be a Christian. If we don’t have distinguishing doctrines then how can we even know what Christianity is?

The list of the core doctrines could be potentially long, depending on how nuanced one chooses to go. I do not intend to give an exhaustive list here, just some examples of the kind of doctrines that fit in this category. One of the biggest issues is the means of salvation. In Ephesians it says, 8 ”For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8-9). A lot of clarity can be gained from this simple passage as to what it means to be saved. Anyone who claims that you need to do any type of “work” to earn salvation is proclaiming a false gospel. Salvation is a free gift, not something you can earn. Some other core doctrines are the fact that Jesus was fully God and fully human, that He died, was buried and rose again as a substitutionary atonement for our sins. I would also add to this list a belief that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. I don’t see how someone can claim to be a Christian and deny the very book that reveals what that means.

There are a lot of doctrines that are secondary to the core understanding of Christianity. Some of these are as minor as what type of worship music to play, or whether or not Christians should drink alcohol. There have been huge debates over free-will vs. predestination and the Charismatic movement. While there are people who would say that you have to believe one way or the other on these issues in order to be a Christian, I don’t think this is necessarily true. Just because you don’t believe that miracles still happen today doesn’t mean that you aren’t doing your best to follow God and live for Him. What we need to do is have more dialogues about what we believe and use the Bible as our standard of truth. Disagreements in the Church happen, but as long as people are holding to the core doctrines we shouldn’t allow these smaller things to divide churches.

Fruit/Works – Is there evidence of transformation?

The second aspect of Christianity is that of “fruit”. Matthew 12 talks about good trees and bad trees. Each tree is recognized by its fruit.

33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt 12:33-37)

When you become a Christian there is a change that takes place inside of you. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone the new is here”. It is like a “rebirth” where we begin a new life that is different from our old life. If someone has no evidence of a changed life, they should examine themselves to see if they are actually saved. Here are some examples of what this transformed life should look like:

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

“Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. (1 John 2:9)

15 ”Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)

26 ”Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:26-27)

14 ”What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” (James 2:14-24)

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (1 John 4:19-21)

As we can see there are a lot “evidences” of a transformed life, from loving one another, to watching our words, and not hating people.

Obedience – Do you know God?

This third and final aspect is simply a question of knowing God. Matthew tells us that the way of salvation is difficult to find.

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matt 7:13-14)

There are a lot of people who may think they are saved, but according to this verse there are many who will not find it. Just a few verses later we are told that, 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matt 7:21-23) The only ones who will make it in are those who “know God”. Doing miracles, or casting out demons does not qualify you to make it into heaven. A Christian is therefore someone who knows God.

The way that we “know God” is by…

Doing what he commands:

“We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:3-6)

Not sinning

No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:6)

Loving one another

7 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8)

Conclusion

I want to send out a call to all Christians. I would first of all challenge you to read the Bible and know what it says. It bothers me when those outside the Church know the Bible better than we do. We are way too easily swayed by false doctrines, because we are not familiar enough with the truth. And, I am not talking about knowing all the proof texts for certain doctrines. This type of splintered reading of the Bible creates a false methodology and misses the over-arching themes of the Bible. We need to have an understanding of the “big-picture” of the Bible. This only comes from reading all of it a book at a time. It amazes me, when non-Christians bring up passages that Christians are not even aware are in the Bible. The Bible is our revelation from God on who He is and how we are to live. We can’t limit ourselves to only hearing a few verses on Sunday mornings and then neglect it the rest of the week.

Second, we actually need to live like Christians. If you don’t know where to start, just live out the verses I have shared here. The world needs to see Christians acting like Christians. We are only hindering ourselves when we live by the actions and values of the world around us. Christianity is not a spectator sport. Let God’s spirit lead you and guide you to do the things He has for you.

Finally, we need to stop sinning. This is a hard call, and technically not possible this side of heaven, what we can do though, is eliminate chronic sin patterns from our life and put boundaries in our life so that we don’t fall into big sin issues. God doesn’t want us to be weighed down with addictive behavior. He came to set us free. We need to cultivate an attitude of repentance, so that when we sin, we are quick to move forward and not dwell in condemnation. Of course no one is perfect, but we can’t claim to know God and then live our own way. All that does is show the world a false representation of who God actually is.

All of this comes down to one word – “Love”. God loved us and gave himself up for us to redeem us from the power of sin. Because of God’s love for us, we can know what love is. We start by loving God. If we love God we will love His word, because it is a reflection of who He is. We can then allow God to love us, by changing us from the inside out into the people He made us to be. This love should also stop us from sinning because we don’t want to God. Finally, as we are filled with God’s love it should overflow to those around us to such a degree that they are hungry to know our Source and we can point people to the one who, by definition, is Love.

Preparation and Ministry December 26, 2014

Posted by TJ Friend in Encouragements.
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I want to talk today about the importance of preparation. Too often our desire is to rush into the ministry God has for us thinking that that is what is important. What we fail to realize though is that if we are not fully ready we are susceptible to all types of attacks from the enemy. James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly”. Those in leadership, teachers, or others in authority over others, will be judged by a higher standard, because they are not only responsible for themselves but all those under them. God’s desire is not that people would fail their area of ministry. Unfortunately, there are many leaders who have lost their position of leadership due to things like hidden sin or burn out. God allows us to go through seasons of preparation so that we will be able to sustain the calling he has for us, so that we don’t fall into these traps. I want to look at two biblical examples of people that God took through seasons of preparation.

Joseph (Gen 37-50)

Joseph’s story is fairly well known, so I don’t want to recap the whole thing. I just want to hit a few highlights. God gave Joseph two dreams when he was younger (Gen 37:5-10) both showing that his family would bow down to him. God was showing Joseph a glimpse of the future he had for him as a ruler in Egypt. It is interesting to see what type of preparation God thinks is important for those who would lead a nation. In Joseph’s case, he was sold into slavery (Gen 37:28) and eventually thrown in jail (Gen 39), before he was made second in command of all Egypt. What strikes me though is Joseph’s faithfulness and integrity in the midst of all he went through. As a slave, he did his duties so well that the master (Potiphar) put him in charge of the whole house. Joseph even resisted the temptation to sleep with Potiphar’s wife, which is what eventually got him thrown in jail.

When he was in jail he remained faithful. The Lord gave him favor and Joseph was placed in charge of other prisoners. Joseph didn’t give up, and he didn’t shrink back from what God had for him in that season. He wasn’t focused on the future so that he saw his current situation as a “stepping stone” to future ministry. He was present and did his duties with excellence. The text never records him complaining on doubting God. He was simply faithfully doing whatever was put in front of him.

I believe God allowed Joseph to go through this time so that when he would eventually be elevated to a place of prominence he would have the character and wisdom to rule justly.

Moses

The main story of Moses is found in Exodus, but there is a recap in Acts 7. According to Acts 7:23-30, Moses was forty years old when he fled to Midian and spent forty years there before he saw the burning bush.

23 “As he was approaching the age of 40, he decided to visit his brothers, the Israelites. 24 When he saw one of them being mistreated, he came to his rescue and avenged the oppressed man by striking down the Egyptian. 25 He assumed his brothers would understand that God would give them deliverance through him, but they did not understand. 26 The next day he showed up while they were fighting and tried to reconcile them peacefully, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why are you mistreating each other?’

27 “But the one who was mistreating his neighbor pushed him away, saying:

Who appointed you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me, the same way you killed the Egyptian yesterday?

29 “At this disclosure, Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he fathered two sons. 30 After 40 years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush.

According to this passage Moses had a desire to free his people (v. 25). Apparently God had already spoken something to him about him delivering the Israelites. In trying to do things his own way though, he ended up killing someone, alienating his own people and going on the run for his life.

Moses spent forty years in the desert of Midian. While there he got married and had a family. As a shepherd, he spent most of his time wandering around the countryside looking for food for the sheep. Not much is said about this part of his life. Whatever happened though, brought him to the place where he was willing to follow God’s plan for setting the Israelites free. I think it was this 40 year desert season that formed his character. I think it was because of this that Moses was called the most humble man on the face of the earth (Num 12:3).

When I look at Moses and Joseph, I see two great leaders who God took through long seasons of insignificance before they were placed in positions of prominence. Even Jesus himself didn’t start his ministry until he was 30 (Luke 3:23). Seasons of preparation are usually necessary for us to go through to form our character. James 1 talks about rejoicing in trials because they ultimately form our character.

2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

This is where we have missed it in our view of leadership in the Church. People are too anxious to get into positions of leadership before they are ready. Gifting and calling do not trump character. In 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1 Paul gives instruction for selecting the leaders of the churches. What he talks about are character traits. He doesn’t talk about schooling or spiritual gifts or charisma or business savy. What he talks about are people who live holy, righteous lives and are faithful to the truth of the Gospel.

Developing patience

I believe in God. I believe his promises are true and I believe that his timing is perfect. Sometimes (oftentimes) God speaks a promise over someone’s life that is for the distant future. We get ourselves in trouble when we try to make the promise come true by our own efforts. God spoke a huge promise to Abraham (then Abram) that he would be the father of many nations and would inherit a land that he had never been to. But, instead of waiting and allowing God to fulfill the promise his way, Abraham took matters into his own hands. Basically, because his wife was barren, Abraham (taking his wife’s advice) got one of the servant girls pregnant so that his line would continue through their offspring. The consequences of that decision are still being felt to this day. Instead of waiting, Abraham tried to force something that should never have been.

The time between receiving a promise and the fulfillment of that promise is a crucial time. It is in this time where we grow in patience. It allows our faith to grow. Faith is believing something even when we can’t see any evidence that it will happen (Heb 11:1).

Don’t despise small beginnings

Why am I saying all this? I know a lot of people who are anxious to get into ministry. They want to serve God and be used to change people’s lives. This is definitely admirable and for a lot of people this desire is from God. The problem comes when we are dissatisfied with where we are because it is not where we think we should be. We have bought into the lie that some ministries are more important than others, either because they are bigger or more influential. What we fail to realize is that as Christians we are ministers wherever we go and whatever we do. Whatever stage of the journey you are on, God has you there for a reason. If you are a youth leader, for instance, and you feel like God has called you to be a pastor, don’t slack on your duties or blame God that He has not fulfilled His promises. God will allow you to go through seasons of training and development to get you ready for future positions. It all comes back to the principle that whoever is faithful with little will be given much. Take whatever is before you and work at it with all your heart. Look at your role as if it was the most important role you could have been given, because it is. Leading 5 youth is no more important than leading a congregation of 5,000. Success is not based on numbers, but how you impact the people God has put in front of you.

I realize for a lot of us there are things God has called us to that seem impossible based on our current situation. God’s not looking for people who are exceptionally gifted, or talented. He is looking for people who are faithful to where they are at. Even if you are not in any professional ministry at all, do the best wherever you are. Be the best employee at your job. Be the best parent or spouse you can be. Your present situation is your ministry. Even if it’s small or seemingly insignificant it is of utmost importance. Not only do you have the opportunity to deeply impact those around you, but you also are in a place to grow your character. Instead of worrying about the future, focus your energy on the present. How can you best serve those around you right now?