Wednesday, February 15, 2017

As a Leader you Must be Courageous and Obedient

Don't you hate when encouragement falls flat? When someone is just saying something because it sounds good but doesn't really understand what's happening with you? When the words being said are without conviction - like they almost don't believe what they're saying?

Joshua was not like that; he was purposeful in his encouragement so his encouraging words did not fall flat. There's a purpose to encouragement; it's to reinforce that you're on the right track; it's to pick you up when you're down; it's to remember how you overcame in the past; it's to let you know that seasons come and go - sadness/doubt/depression won't last forever. Encouragement strengthens our hope and reinforces our faith.

Joshua was able to be purposeful in his encouragement to the Israelites well after they had conquered; 14 years had passed and with the passing of time Joshua's faith was reinforced. He was now in a position where he could pass on what he had learned, first to the leaders.

In Joshua 23:1 it notes that Joshua was old and stricken in age. There's a beautiful benefit to being old in that your experiences have become the foundation of your life. They have shaped you, up to this point. Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land and he lived and witnessed the hand of God -up close and personal.

As a leader who was victorious in conquering Canaanite lands, it is from this vantage point that he is able to encourage the elders - other leaders, and subsequently the people.

Leadership requires courage. Joshua recognized this trait and told the Israelites often to be very courageous. Leadership also requires obedience. Joshua said, "Be very courageous and do all that is written in the book of the Law." (Joshua 23:6)

Why were courage and obedience so necessary and part of Joshua's encouraging words to the Israelite leaders?
The Israelites were now living with the folks they had defeated. These folks had their own customs many of which included idol worship. When you live with others, if you're not strong or careful, their ways can become your ways. Some things may be innocuous, such as housekeeping, but other things such as was the case with idol worship would be detrimental. Who or what you worship determines your belief systems which in turn impacts every area of your life. Idol worship of pagan gods lead to practices that placed you away from God; idol worship would corrupt their thinking. The thing with idol worship is that you are replacing God with anything or anyone else. Because it's not the same as worshiping God, you will never experience what you desire, just a short-term high compared to a long-term sustainable relationship where God is your source.

Joshua was prescient by telling the leaders to be courageous and obedient. And then he provided credible evidence by telling them that God fought for them. One man of you shall chase a thousand for God fights for you. (Joshua 23:9,10) He went on to say, "In addition, you can see that God has not failed you, everything has happened like he said it would." (Joshua 23:14)

Good things come when you follow me...Joshua 23:15,16

The purpose of Joshua's encouragement was a reinforcement of the goodness of God. These weren't empty words that had no validity for Joshua reminded them how liberally God had fulfilled His promise and concluded with a picture of the evil which would befall them if they rebelled against God. Joshua's encouragement was also practical. It takes courage to be obedient to God's law especially when it seems as if those around you are faring better than you while not obeying. But they're not courageous and they're also not the standard to judge yourself by - God's word is. He has our best interests at heart and time after time he has shown that following him is rewarding. In his old age, Joshua encouraged the leaders of Israel one last time. I love talking to older people as there's a gravity to their words. They know whereof they speak (and you can take it or leave it). Joshua was like that - he was getting ready to leave this earth. As an encouraging leader, he shared these thoughts with his leaders.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

How would you measure courage and obedience in your life? Can you up the ante?

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