Josh. 1:1 After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, it came to pass that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying: 2 “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
Last week we looked at seven inescapable concepts that are embedded into verses 1-9. And it is my opinion that until the church once again embraces those concepts, we will not take the land for King Jesus. It will be impossible. We will be like the first generation of Jews that God let wander in the wilderness for forty years. The first generation lacked those seven principles. The second generation had them. It's my prayer that God would restore the church through a major reformation. So that was last week.
Today we are going to back up and go phrase by phrase through the passage and look at some essential leadership principles that are exemplified in Joshua's life. Next to Moses and David, he is one of the most remarkable leaders in the Old Testament. His name occurs 205 times in the Old Testament. It is Yehoshua, and is translated as Ἰησοῦς or "Jesus" in the Greek Septuagint as well as in the New Testament. In Hebrews, Joshua stands as a type of Jesus - the Greater Joshua, who is even now taking the conquest of Canaan. And on many levels Joshua is a remarkable leader. As we go through the book we will be learning a lot of other leadership lessons, but God opens this book with fourteen of the most important lessons of leadership. Today we will only cover eight of those fourteen.
Why is this important? Well, a lot of pastors and other Christians leaders have been taken out by the enemy over the past forty years. And almost every one of them has failed on one or more of the leadership principles we will look at today and next time. And I am preaching these lessons not just so that you can recognize leaders and pray for them, but so that each of you can grow in your own leadership. It's my belief that everyone leads in something - at least informally. You may not be in a formal position of leadership, but you do lead. Sometimes it is a child leading another child into mischief. Or it can be a child leading others to desire to pray. But these are principles that most of us can embrace for ourselves.
A leader should seek an upward mentor (v. 1a)
The first principle that I see is that a leader should seek an upward mentor. This is true even after you have gotten into formal leadership. We should never stop learning from others. Verse 1 says,
After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, it came to pass that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant...
Joshua spent a lot of time with Moses learning the ropes of leadership by being involved in leadership issues. And it makes sense - leaders build leaders. While teachers can help, teachers do not really produce leaders. Teachers produce teachers. Like produces like. Leaders build leaders by imparting their life, values and methods to the new person. This is not a system like MacDonalds that can mass produce hamburgers. It is not a factory, because each leader is unique and has unique gifts and callings. But there is some sameness passed on. Leaders are developed by a transference of your life into the life of the emerging leader with sensitivity to what God is doing in that leader's life. Paul said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Following an example takes being around a person. In Mark 3:14 it says about Jesus, He appointed the twelve – designating them apostles – that they might be with him. Why did they need to be with Him? Why did they have to follow Him around and live with Him? Because there was so much that Jesus had to show them. They watched him, then they imitated. How does an evangelist learn to evangelize? By being with an evangelist and watching him and imitating and practicing. That's why Michael and Bill give regular opportunities for any of you to go out with them and learn the ropes of evangelism. And the same is true of leadership. If leadership could be learned from books, there would be many more leaders in the world than there are. Leadership training requires hands-on involvement in their lives.
I bring this up because mentorship is an essential leadership principle. A lot of people don't realize that. Once they get into leadership they stop meeting with an upward mentor. They think they have arrived. But without upward mentorship, we rob ourselves and we stagnate. We really do. Even after Moses died, and there wasn't really anyone to be an upward mentor for Joshua, Joshua and Caleb encouraged and learned from each other. We call that horizontal mentorship between equals. But it is good for all of us to seek upward mentors, horizontal mentors among equals, and downward mentees of people who are just learning the ropes. At age 67 I still search out upward mentors whom I can learn from. And let me give you some tips on how you can gain maximum benefit from these relationships:
- First, be open to constructive criticism. We will see that a later essential of leadership is humility, and pride can be exposed when we are critiqued for things that we thought were good. But be teachable and open to constructive criticism and you will grow; you will benefit. Leaders are always self-correcting, but they are also willing to be corrected by others. I love our consistory, which is composed of the elders and deacons. Once a month we challenge each other to grow. Lately we have been going through the Lead book and holding each other accountable to grow in the areas being discussed. That’s one kind of peer mentorship.
- Second, don't expect to be perfect before you become a mentor or expect others to be perfect. Those you mentor may ask you questions you don't know the answer to and may challenge you in ways that may force you to grow. None of us has arrived, which means that we should have a growth mindset our whole lives rather than an "I've arrived" mindset. It's clear from chapter 5 that Joshua still needed to grow more. God taught him an important lesson there. And even after chapter 5 we will see several places where Joshua continued to grow. If leaders develop a culture where appearing to be perfect is essential, growth will be hindered.
- Third, be honest and transparent. If you read the accounts where most of the discussions of Joshua occur in Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, you will see Joshua learning from the mistakes of Moses and learning from the humble transparency of Moses. Scripture portrays Moses as the most humble man on the face of the earth at that time, yet it also portrays him as the greatest leader at that time. His humility enabled him to be open, honest, and transparent. And this encouraged Joshua to be open, honest, and transparent with others later on in this book. It's a beautiful part of his leadership.
- Fourth, respect the time of those mentoring you. Though Moses did train a few others in leadership, he couldn't devote to them the same amount of time that he gave to Joshua. He didn't have enough hours in the day. This is why leaders are built a few at a time. If Christ, the perfect Man, began with twelve disciples (Mark 3:14), that is probably the maximum that any leader-trainer should ever attempt to take on. However, it is good to note that within that twelve, Christ took extra time to invest in three (Peter, James and John). This enabled Jesus to tailor his leadership training to the needs of each individual. He just could not devote that kind of time into everyone. And I say all that to illustrate this principle - respect the time of those mentoring you. Moses mentored a few, Joshua mentored a few, but we will see later in this book that there were many who embraced the culture of mentorship. They didn't hog all of Joshua's time. Exodus 18 started that pattern where one mentor worked with a maximum of ten people. The ideal is for each elder to have 10 men. We obviously have more, but that is the ideal.
- Fifth, show gratitude and appreciation and honor to those who mentor you even if there are areas that they are messed up on. Most of us won't get the kind of remarkable mentor that Joshua had in Moses. We live in a time when upward mentors are scarce. So sometimes you have to seek them out informally. I have been mentored by men (some of whom were not even pastors) from many different denominations (even non-reformed denominations) because they were above me in at least one area or another. More often than not, they told me that they couldn't mentor me. They were very intimidated, so I didn't call into mentorship. I just asked if I could get together with them once a month to ask lots of questions. And that seemed OK. But I didn't allow my doctrinal differences to hinder my learning things in administration, spiritual warfare, prayer, mercy ministries, or other things. So, show appreciation, gratitude, and honor to your upward, sideways, and downward mentor relationships. But all of us need upward mentors. That person could change from year to year. But seek one out each year so as to force yourself to grow. Joshua would not have been where he is in this book without the mentorship of Moses in the previous books.
A leader should be patient with God's timing (v. 1a)
The next lesson of leadership I see hinted at in verse 1 is that a leader should be patient with God's timing. If you are called to formal leadership, God has probably already put deep longings into your heart to see certain things happen - and they aren't happening as fast as you would like. You are eager to get into what God is calling you to do. But God sometimes times forces us to trust His timing. God anointed and called David to be king years before he was able to be king. He had to learn to be patient, and to use the slow-downs as times to continue to learn.
Well, the same was true of Joshua. Verse 1 says that Joshua entered into this longed-for stage of his ministry "after the death of Moses." That's a long time of waiting. There is a lot of history assumed in that phrase. The first mention of Joshua in the Bible was in Exodus 17, where Joshua was selected to lead the Israelite army into battle against the Amalekites. Until that time he had never gone to war. Apparently Moses had learned war in Egypt as an adopted son of Pharaoh (at least that's what Josephus says), but Joshua had not learned war. Moses recognized Joshua's innate leadership abilities, but there was still much that Joshua would need to learn before God would entrust him with taking the land of Canaan. He would learn leadership skills, warfare skills, intimacy with God in the tent of meeting, how to handle leadership backlash, character skills and so many other skills that would take him through the tough times of this book.
Many of the painful lessons Joshua learned during the previous forty years are the painful lessons we have to learn - and we wonder why God is not yet putting us into the ministry that we long for. Joshua and Caleb were eager and ready to take possession of the land. But God was not ready for that. And Joshua did not lose patience or stop working. He was faithful where God had placed him. And since God was the ultimate leader-trainer, not Moses, Moses was simply taking advantage of all the providential opportunities to grow that God was using to prepare him and to prepare Joshua.
A leader must learn how to wait on the Lord and learn from the Lord (v. 1b)
Lesson number 3 that I see hinted at in verse 1 is that a leader must learn how to wait on the Lord and hear from the Lord through His Word. Joshua had been doing this ever since Exodus 33, where Moses introduced him to the tent of meeting - the place outside the camp where they would commune with God. It was a place where Joshua often stayed long after Moses had to go back to his duties. He spent hours in that tent communing with God and hearing from God. Verse 1 says, "it came to pass that the LORD spoke to Joshua..." The words "it came to pass" shows that it didn't happen immediately. Donald Campbell's commentary spells out the implication. He says,
Joshua may have felt a sense of loneliness, and waited expectantly near the Jordan River to hear the voice of God. He was not disappointed. When God’s servants take time to listen, He always communicates. In the present Age He usually speaks through His written Word. But in the Old Testament He spoke in dreams by night, in visions by day, through the high priest, and occasionally in an audible voice. In whatever way God communicated with Joshua, the message came through clearly.
It's amazing how many Christians are uncomfortable with quietness and waiting upon the Lord. They have to be doing something or listening to something. Quietness before the Lord drives them crazy. They feel stressed by all the responsibilities that they have as a leader and don't have the time to wait upon the Lord. But that has it all backwards. If the branches of the vine in John 15 cannot produce anything worthwhile without Christ, then why do we launch into our leadership activities without Christ? We are shortchanging our leadership activities. Waiting on God is an absolute necessity, and the busier we are, the more we need Christ. Gary and I keep harping on this because people keep forgetting it. An author I haven't been able to identify wrote a poem that illustrates the importance of knocking, seeking, and asking. It says,
I got up early one morning and rushed right into the day; I had so much to accomplish that I didn’t have time to pray.>
Problems just tumbled about me, and heavier came each task. “Why doesn’t God help me?” I wondered. He answered, “You didn’t ask.”>
I wanted to see joy and beauty, but the day toiled on, gray and bleak; I wondered why God didn’t show me. He said, “But you didn’t seek.”>
I tried to come into God’s presence; I used all my keys at the lock. God gently and lovingly chided, “My child, you didn’t knock.”>
I woke up early this morning, and paused before entering the day; I had so much to accomplish that I had to take time to pray.
Isaiah 40:31 says,
But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
Leaders are incredibly busy, but they should never be too busy to spend time waiting upon God. Christian leadership is not the same as the world's leadership. We will be seeing that every facet of our leadership needs to start by grace and continue by grace.
A leaders' leader must first prove himself to be a servant's servant (v. 1c)
The fourth lesson is that God requires all leadership to flow from service and that all leaders must have a servant's heart. This too is somewhat backwards to the world's way of thinking. To qualify before God for more leadership you must have put on more of Christ's servanthood. Verse 1 calls Moses the servant of the Lord, and calls Joshua the servant of Moses. So Joshua was a servant's servant. All of this demonstrates that a leaders' leader (of Joshua's caliber) must first prove himself to be a servant's servant.
Years ago I had an air-force fighter pilot tell me that this was so contrary to the way that he and fellow pilots were trained to think. Self-confidence, one-upmanship and bragging rights was the ticket to advancement. But Joshua was small enough in his own eyes that God was willing to elevate him. God can't trust a self-serving man with leadership. And people think, "But I've got so much to offer?" Well, think of Jesus. Jesus spent 30 years of his life learning the trade of carpentry and serving in a job that didn't draw a lot of attention. Did He have a lot to offer? Yes He did. But He learned service first. You might think, "What a waste of talent! Let's put this young man Jesus in the spotlight!" Isn't that what we do with movie stars, politicians, and other celebrities when they become Christians? (Yeah, sadly we make heroes of them.) But people think, "Why not Jesus? People will be fascinated with his brilliance. We could stage debates between 12 year old Jesus and the brightest atheists. It will be great." But God's ways are wiser than our own. Jesus, the perfect man, learned humble service before He was exalted as King. He was not too big to be involved in manual labor.
I think many pastors and elders enter into their office prematurely. There was a reason why 30 was the minimum age for the office of elder in the Old Testament. Prior to that time God involved the Levites in chores that developed a servant's heart. And many of the chores were menial chores. I think the best preparation I had for the pastorate was being an orderly in a nursing home, which involved wiping dirty bottoms, bathing people, brushing teeth, and occasionally getting bitten and kicked by residents who were not in their right mind. But I think those two years were tremendous preparation for ministry. Are we willing to wash feet as Jesus did, or are we simply seeking positions of recognition and influence? James says that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Look at the kind of people 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 says God delights in using for His kingdom.
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.
If you didn't get a chance to listen to the five sermons preached at this past presbytery, I would encourage you to do so. They are all online. They were a tremendous blessing - and several addressed this very concept. Each sermon was by a different pastor and took a different word of the beatitude, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
A leader should not be chained to past failures or success (v. 2a)
But the fifth lesson keeps us from going to the opposite extreme and refusing to lead because of past failures. It also helps us to hold past successes in their proper focus. The past should not chain us down. Joshua was a forward looking man. Verse 2 says,
Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them -- the children of Israel.
Joshua knew that Moses was dead. So why did God need to remind him of that fact? Obviously it was God's timing for Joshua to lead Israel into Canaan. But perhaps there was more. Perhaps it was to remind Joshua that he needed to put behind him the past and to move on to God's calling. Looking at the past can be a useful tool or it can be a dangerous enemy (depending on how we look at the past). And that is true whether your past is good or bad. Looking to the past failures can predispose us to think we are predestined to repeat those failures in the future. I have talked to many a person who can't seem to shake a past failure. It chains him - sometimes because of embarrassment and sometimes simply because he characterizes his life as a failure because of that incident.
On the other hand I have met the occasional person who does nothing in their older years except to revel in all the things God had done through him in the past. Their past successes are not motivating them to conquer new territory. They become an excuse for inactivity. And Paul recognized the potential pitfalls of both problems. His past pained him because he had persecuted and even killed believers. Talk about a tough reputation to live down! It could have been very embarrassing. It would have been easy for him to think that no one would receive him or benefit from his ministry after that. But he refused to be chained by past failures. Nor was he chained by past successes, though he could have been. Later, God had to send him a trial to buffet him because he was prone to pride in past accomplishments. Pride is something that shrivels your ability to trust God for more. Let me repeat that: Pride is something that shrivels your ability to trust God for more. And Paul's remedy was the same as God's was for Joshua. The past is dead. Let's move on. Here's how Paul worded it.
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, let us, as many as are mature, have this mind...
Paul says that if you are mature, you will always look for new ways to honor and serve the Lord - even if you are as old as Joshua and Caleb. Caleb was 78 in this chapter, and I'm assuming that Joshua was approximately the same age. If you are forward looking rather than chained to the past, God will use you.
A leader should be a man with a vision and purpose given by God (v. 2b) and be able to share that vision with others (vv. 10-11)
The sixth lesson is that a leader should be a man with a God-given vision and purpose and be able to share that vision with others. Joshua’s vision for the rest of his life was encapsulated in just a few words in verse 2: "Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them." Take the land that I have given you. He later shares that vision in verse 11, saying, "...within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess." Possess the land which God has given you to possess. That was a concise vision. Has God placed a burden on your heart that you can encapsulate into a short vision statement? And let me give you five reasons why a vision statement is important. You don't need to write these down - you can just listen:
- It gives us a laser focus for what you should fight to fit into your schedule. And we all have to fight to get the important things into our schedule.
- Second, it holds us accountable for acting consistent with that vision. If we keep reminding ourselves that this is our God-given vision, it holds us accountable.
- Third, it helps us to organize those we are leading around that vision rather than being scattered and haphazard.
- Fourth, it helps to provide direction and energy. If you aim at nothing you will hit it - nothing.
- Fifth, it forms a compass for decision-making when the pressure is on.
It's very useful to have and memorize your vision statement. Let me give you some examples of vision statements that have driven people to do stuff:
- For Steve Jobs at Apple Computer it was, “Start a revolution in the way the average person processes information.”
- For Fred Smith at Federal Express, it was “A vision of truly reliable mail service.” Later it became "The world on time."
What drove Nehemiah? To build a wall. What drove Moses? To take Israel to the Promised Land. What drove David and Solomon? To build the temple.
Was that all they did? No, they did other things. But that vision was a driving force in their lives that energized them. The shortest version of my vision statement that has driven me for the past 40 years is "To Be Used by God To Bring His Biblical Blueprints To Every Area of Life That I Am Given Time To Do." And I hope the Lord gives me much more time. But that vision drives me. It makes my emphasis somewhat different than some pastors, but God's call upon all of our lives is somewhat different. What is the vision God has placed upon your heart?
A leader must lead by example (vv. 2-3) as a man of action (vv. 2ff - arise...go...foot will tread upon) who helped others to take action (vv. 2ff)
The seventh lesson is that a leader must lead by example and be a man of action who can help others to take action. Let's read verses 2 and 3 again.
2 “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses.
Leaders don't just tell others what to do. Obviously there is some of that. But Joshua led by example. He himself had to arise, and go, and make his feet tread upon the land because that was what he was going to expect his followers to do. Leaders must embody the values that they expect from those that they lead. Leaders are in the limelight, and everyone is dissecting what the leader does - from how he dresses, to how he talks, how he handles conflict, etc. Joshua would need courageous men to fight, so God commands Joshua to be courageous. It makes sense, right? If Joshua is timid, that timidity will rub off on the troops. Joshua will need men with strong character who will fearlessly follow God through thick and through thin, so God commands Joshua to be fearless and to not waver to the right hand or to the left hand of God's Word. God was basically calling Joshua to model certain things or to lead by example.
Now, I will hasten to say that not all leaders must take the same actions. Just as there is division of labor and different giftings among the people, there is division of labor and different giftings among the leadership of the people. God has gifted each of the elders and deacons in this church in different ways - quite different ways. And we value those differences. But all of us lead by example. And we will certainly see that in the book of Joshua. If you aren't a soldier, there are things that you likely won't imitate in Joshua's life. Stonewall Jackson on the other hand, studied the military tactics and other military leadership principles in this book. Joshua was modeling to an army the kind of grit he expected of them.
Now, if you are leading a family, it will be a bit different, but the principle is the same. You will need to exemplify the kind of things you want your children to grow in. When you blow it and say something unkind to your wife or to a child, model what humbling yourself and asking forgiveness looks like. If you sinned against your wife in front of the kids, ask forgiveness of your wife in front of the kids. Stop and say. "You know, what I said to your mom earlier was unkind and I sinned by using my tongue without self-control. Here's what I should have said. Would you please forgive me?" And once forgiveness has been granted, pray, and discuss the event and help them to learn from it. Even simple things like that need to be led by example. Without transparency, such openness and modeling is not possible. So here are some tips I would give to make sure you really are leading by example rather than expecting people to do as you say and not as you do.
- First, take responsibility for your actions. Don't blameshift. Later in the book we will see that Joshua took the attitude of Ronald Reagan, that the buck stopped with him. He took responsibility, and others imitated him by embracing responsibility. Since he led by example, he produced a culture of embracing responsibility.
- Second, be truthful. Demonstrate that honesty really does pay off. If people are punished for being truthful about their failures, they will eventually learn that dishonesty and covering up of their failures pays off more than truthfulness. When leaders are not truthful about their own weaknesses, it breeds a climate of hiding. So be truthful and vulnerable. This was another thing that Joshua modeled later in the book.
- Third, be courageous. Walk through the fires of crisis in a way that inspires others to take similar risks. Learn to anticipate change and adapt to it and teach others how to do the same. Courage breeds courage in others.
- Fourth, acknowledge your own failures. We have already talked about this as a separate point, but it bears repeating as a part of leading by example. Failure is part of growth. For those who are afraid of acknowledging failures, I give a one-page summary of something John Maxwell wrote, called, "Failing Forward." And many of you have gotten that. In that article he says, "People think failure is avoidable. It is not. Assuming failure is avoidable can immobilize you when it happens. Learn, change, and move on." In fact, he said that if you have never had failure, you are not trying anything significant and/or your goals are way too low. Certainly we can minimize failure by failing to take risks, but we also fail to lead. I love what one basketball coach said in an interview. He said, "Failure is good. It's fertilizer. Everything I've learned about coaching I've learned from making mistakes." Now, that may seem counter-intuitive, but if we banish the fear of failure, we are in a better mindset to attempt great things for God that are risky. On the other hand, if you don't 1) acknowledge your failures, 2) and help others to learn from their failures, 3) and have a positive attitude toward failures, it will kill anything positive coming out of failure in the future. That is a disastrous thing to teach because it undermines growth in grace. In this book Joshua will acknowledge his big mistakes and help everyone to learn from them. Joshua needed to arise, go, and walk with his feet in not just conquest, but also into every area of growth.
- Fifth, be persistent. If a goal is worth pursuing, it is worth going over, under, and around hurdles. I think that Jon and Megan have been illustrating how to pursue every avenue in helping this court case to succeed. Don't take no as an answer. We can learn from how the Mingo's have been handling this crisis.
- Next tip: create solutions to problems. Don't dwell on the problems. Be the first to offer solutions and listen to the possible solutions of others. You will develop a culture of problem solving rather than problem finding.
- Seventh, listen. If you want to develop a culture of listening, you too must listen.
- Next, delegate to those who do things better than you. If you don't want others to micromanage and burn out, you must model good delegation. (You can see that this one principle has many applications.)
- Next, be willing to roll up your sleeves and show others how things are done. When we would teach our children how to clean a room, mow a yard, or whatever, we would first have them watch us, then have them do it with us side by side, then let them do it more with feedback. That's the way Jesus modeled ministry to his disciples. Teach people how to do things then get out of their way.
- And last, create a positive, winning culture where people's faith is elevated, their work is seen as significant, and the long-term significance of their work is communicated. The people were jazzed under Joshua's positive faith-filled leadership. He led by example as a man of action who helped others to take action.
A leader should have written goals that are measurable and that stretch his faith (v. 4)
I'll just uncover one more principle of leadership this morning. A leader should have written goals that are measurable and that stretch his faith. Verse 4 gives God's goals of what Joshua needed to conquer.
From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory.
That was a massive amount of territory to conquer and it would have really stretched his faith and the faith of Israel. But more importantly, it was specific enough and measurable enough that anyone could know whether the goal was met. Goals always need to be measurable. Obviously these were the big macro goals, and later chapters give smaller bite-sized goals and even daily goals. But Joshua modeled the idea of written goals.
Why do we need goals? Let me give you nine reasons:
- First, because of human nature. If it’s not planned we tend to do what comes naturally, and normally what comes naturally is not good. Righteousness rarely “happens.” It must be planned for and worked at. To accomplish what God has called us to supernaturally accomplish requires that we set these goals before our eyes and not forget them. And writing them down helps.
- Second, because of the critical role of hope. God made man to be a creature of hope. Hope is the subjective counterpart to our objective goals and where there is hope, there are goals (whether stated or unstated) and goals are the expression of our hope. You can't have one without the other. When we lose hope, Scripture says we lose all motivation to do anything. In my motivation series I demonstrated that Scripture says that hope purifies us, brings perseverance, gives a context for joy in the face of tribulation, etc. So goals are important because hope is important. When you write down goals that are God-sized like Joshua's goals were, it not only drives you to trust God for great things, it also energizes you to tackle something bigger than yourself by grace. And day by day you watch as God comes through and it increases your hope.
- Third, because we are stewards who must account for our time. This provides an objective way of reporting back to God what we have done with the time He has given to us. How do you report back to God? I call it my PEP time. PEP stands for prayer, evaluation of the previous days, and preparation for the following day.
- Fourth, because it makes us more efficient. We tend to misuse time just like money and what may appear to be a lack of time may actually be poor stewardship of time. Scheduling is a tool to provide such efficiency and to document where our goals or prioritizations are at or even if they are unrealistic and need to be adjusted. Writing them down helps us to figure that out.
- Fifth, because of the need to be objective. We all know how difficult it can be to evaluate ourselves accurately if we only use subjective criteria. Once things are written down, it's hard to argue about where we are at.
- Sixth, because it helps with accountability - especially if you have shared your goals with others. It’s hard to pull the wool over someone’s eyes when everything is spelled out in black and white. This tends to make us more honest about our time with others.
- Seventh, because it helps to pinpoint ways of overcoming obstacles. In later chapters Joshua is going to have to strategize ways to overcome obstacles to his goals.
- Eighth, because it puts us in control of our environment rather than letting our environment control us. We call this taking dominion of our time, space, and things. A person who has clearly defined goals, schedules and priorities is more in control of his environment and less likely to be tyrannized by the urgent.
- Ninth, because it removes the guilt of saying, “No” to demands for your time that God has not called you to do. When children are tugging at your apron strings, you do need to deal with them, but your goals might dictate teaching your children patience and prioritization rather than instantly gratifying the child's desires. Goals and schedules and prioritizations force us to think through such issues.
We will look at the rest of the fourteen leadership issues in these verses next time (Lord willing), but I want to end by pointing out that these are not "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" principles. These are principles that keep driving us to God's wisdom, God's grace, God's help, and God's intervention. If we don't approach each of these by God's grace and presence we will end up either frustrated or proud. To anticipate one principle from next time, verses 5 and 9 talk about constantly living our lives before the presence of God and learning to derive wisdom and strength for our tasks from God. The reason success was promised in verse 5 was not that Joshua had it all pulled together. No. It says,
No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; [and here comes the reason] as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you.
Verse 9 says much the same.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
Yes, leaders are commanded to do things and to have character and to be bold, etc., but ultimately we can only obey God's commands because God is with us and will help us. As Augustine worded it, "God enables what He commands." Joshua could not have done his calling in his own strength. Nor can we. So keep pressing into the Lord and receive from Him the strength and wisdom needed to keep growing as a leader. Amen.
Donald K. Campbell, “Joshua,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 327–328. ↩
Here are the links to the five sermons preaching during Presbytery: https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermon/53221510194928 https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermon/53221529244726 https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermon/53221533394126 https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermon/5322153863651 https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermon/53221541562488 ↩