This week's Bible Study - July 19, 2015
Accept God's Call
Quotes of the Week:
“You won't find your dream until you lose your excuses.”
-- Orrin Woodward
Have you ever felt like you were called to do something specific? As we go through life, we find that there are things that we are pretty good at and then there are other things that we try to avoid (due to our lack of skill). Many people who are skilled in certain areas and feel comfortable, so they may be content to stay where they are. For example, in most jobs, there are different levels of responsibility and expertise. As a person's career advances, they ultimately will end up in some position in which they feel challenged, perhaps more than they believe that they could handle on their own (at least with their current skill set). For some people, they will choose to stay in the same area for their entire career, seeking to be comfortable, even though it may cost them in the long run. Have you ever felt that you were asked to do something that you didn't believe that you could handle? Are you more apt to try to do something different or would you prefer to stay with what you know?
One of the reasons that people often fail to step out in a new area is due to fear. Have you ever had to do something that you were fearful of? I don't like going to the doctor or the dentist - never really have, as a kid or an adult. So, it takes overcoming some fear to go for a physical or to handle other medical issues. My fear has been greatly tested over the past year or so, due to the many doctors and specialists I have had to see. The fear still exists, at least in some measure. Fear comes in many different varieties for many different reasons. Fear paralyzes some people from taking any positive step forward. They are worried about not being successful. When a person is asked to do a new job, the fear may be that they are unable to perform and that will not find the success that they had previously.
Throughout Scripture, we learn that each of us, as believers, are gifted in specific areas and if we were to all employ our specific gifts in the church, things would run rather smoothly. However, in practice, we find that there are many people who, despite having relevant gifts, have no desire to use them in any form of ministry or in any way to help others. What ends up happening in many cases is that the leadership in a church will turn to the same people over and over, despite their gift or lack thereof. Ministers tend to know that there are certain people who are very unlikely ever to say no, so in essence these people get asked to do almost anything. It is as if getting the job done by anybody is more important that ensuring the 'right' person gets the job.
As we go through school, we see that we are always being challenged and without that challenge, we would certainly have been stunted in educational growth. The smartest 4th grader, although smart for their age, is not equipped to start out in life in any way that will enable them to be successful. It is more important to go through the years of learning, in order to be able to tackle the issues in life that will be faced. We understand this concept, but in the realm of spiritual education and maturity, many fail to see the impact of stunted growth. The vast majority of believers have never attended Seminary or any Religious school, but we each have the ability to study Scripture to see that it can be very relevant to our everyday lives. This certainly is not to say that we will never made mistakes or stray from where God would have us be. I am sad to say that I have made many mistakes in life, even when I knew better. However, I have learned of the mercy and grace of our Lord and truly understand what it means to be forgiven and restored. Surely, many others also know of God's forgiveness and restoration, as well.
In this lesson, we read of the passing of Moses, who was the first great leader of the people of Israel. His passing created a potential problem. We have seen many times in our own day that when a strong leader passes, there can be many problems due to the void that is created. God didn't lead the people out of Egypt to drop them, but He was prepared to continue to lead them. This required another leader to step up and be God's man for the people.
Moses had been the leader of the Israelites for many years. He had been instrumental in freeing them from Egypt's captivity. The people had seen several miracles as they fled from Egypt - the parting of the Red Sea, the provision of manna, the leading by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, along with many others. God spoke through Moses to the people, and he was seen as God's man for the Israelites. They were in the wilderness for forty years, and there was no department store available to buy new clothes. There was no variety of fast food restaurants (or any type of restaurant) to provide food. God had met their needs, and they had seen Moses as their leader. In many ways, the people linked their provision to God, but through Moses.
When Moses died, there was a void. You've probably seen something similar. A prominent pastor that has led a church for a number of years leaves the church for any number of reasons. All of a sudden, the leader is gone and the people are left to fend for themselves, until a new leader is on the scene. This can be one of the most disruptive times in the life of a church. At times, there seems to be a rush to install a new pastor and that can often lead to more disruption.
In this case, the Lord spoke to Joshua and told him that he was to lead the Israelites. The Lord said "Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River." Can you imagine how that must have felt when God singled out Joshua - and the others to let them know that there were to go into the land that God was about to give to them? This was a God given task, but God made it clear that he would give Joshua what was needed. God would give them the land that he had promised. No enemy would be able to stand against the Israelites. God would be with Joshua, as he had been with Moses.
To become a leader, Joshua had to be made available. One of the things I've noticed in the political climate of several (but certainly not all) Presidential elections is that there is a hesitancy of some people to run for office. Many offer excuses - they need more experience, they need to be more widely known. If they could only wait a few more years, then they would consider becoming a leader. There are many times in life where we would become paralyzed if we waited for the 'right' time'. Newly married couples that are wanting to 'one day' have children would likely put it off for a number of years (probably forever) - while they got established in their house, or their job or their finances. In our world, we have seen leaders that have risen at a time when a leader was needed, even if they weren't quite ready (or were not in a position that one would think to lead). In World War II, Winston Churchill took the lead in warning about the danger from Hitler and in campaigning for rearmament. On the outbreak of World War II, he was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. Sometimes there is a situation in which you have to step into a role of leadership, even though it may not be the thing you want to do at that time.
It wasn't as if Joshua would be stepping out by himself. God said "No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you." God was calling Joshua and God would give him what was needed. Joshua had seen how God had been with Moses and He had to trust that God would be with him, as well.
If you read these verses a couple of times, the words that stand out are "Be strong and courageous". The face that God said this to Joshua on many occasions would seem to indicate that this was something that Joshua would have to deal with. There are times in our lives when the words to be strong and courageous are very important. Joshua was stepping into a role as a new leader, and there was surely some sense of fear. Fear is normal and in Scripture, we are told over and over not to fear. The fact that we have to be told it is because that is something we all deal with. Even though he had seen God working with Moses, Joshua needed to be reminded to be strong and courageous. In these verses, we see several reasons that Joshua was given to be strong and courageous.
First, Joshua was going to lead the Israelites to inherit the land that God had sworn to their ancestors to give to them. Success was dependent upon God and he was just to take the leadership role and lead the people into the land. The victory was God's. When you are stepping into a role that God is giving to you, you need to do your part, but realize that success is His. We often gauge the success of an endeavor based on what we can accomplish. However, when we are doing what God calls us to do, that is the definition of success for a believer. We do all we can do, but the output is based on what God can do through us.
Secondly, Joshua was told to carefully obey all the law that Moses, God's servant, had given him. He was not to veer to the right or the left, but to follow it carefully. If you read back through the book of Exodus, you see many times where a price was paid because God's people did what they wanted to do and in essence, threw God's word to the side. In our world today, some people are so focused on the outcome being successful, that they are willing to take shortcuts. In sales, shortcuts may make the sale, but shortcuts don't gain the lifelong customer. When we take shortcuts and decide that we'd rather do things our way, we often pay the consequences. Joshua was to meditate on the Book of the Law day and night. He was to be careful to do everything that was written in it. Then, he would find success. We have the Word of God today. We often look at it after the fact, in some sort of analysis, or as just one alternative of how to live. What might change in our lives if we truly based our lives on what God's word said today? What would change if we were to meditate on the Word of God, as opposed to occasionally opening it from time to time? Once again, we all have failed in this area, and as some have said, you cannot unscramble an egg, so there is little value in looking back. The point is not to beat yourself up over how you have failed in the past, but to resolve to strive to follow God's word in the present and future.
Lastly, Joshua was commanded to be strong and courageous. He was not to be afraid or discouraged. He was to remember that the Lord 'his' God went with him wherever he went. What changes in your life when you realize that 'your' God goes with you wherever you go? We have the same provision as Joshua and one step further. As believers, we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Truly, God is with us wherever we go. We, too, should be strong and courageous.
We can read this story about Joshua and accepting God's call when Moses died. One of the things that has always bugged me is that we tend to put ourselves in the role of the main character and act as if what they do is what we should do. If you think of the Apostle Paul, he would have been much less of a missionary if everyone in the church was trying to do what he did. He needed support. So, there are actually several potential closings for this lesson.
You may be the one who feels as if you have been called by God to a position of leadership. Certainly, God calls the qualified, but He is the One who truly qualifies. Your calling may be to lead a class or to work with youth or to take some role in ministry. Or, perhaps you may be called to step up in your job, to become a Christian influence where you work. When we are called to do something different, there is always a sense of fear. But, when you sense that God is calling, remind yourself of the words spoken to Joshua - Be strong and courageous. Do not fear, but be willing to accept the call you have been given.
There are others who may not feel particularly as if they are being called themselves, but they have an opportunity to help others who may have been called. We can be an incredible encouragement to one another when we choose. However, there seem to be many people who are more like the Muppets in the Theatre. You have likely seen the ones who sit in the balcony and all they end up doing is making fun of what is going on and becoming detractors. If you find yourself in that position, my prayer is that you would make a change. It is easy to fall back into a mode of making fun of others and pointing out all of the problems. Do you believe that perhaps God is calling you to step up and help others who are striving to be leaders? Our encouraging words and our prayers on their behalf are incredible. Having taught Bible Study for many years, I know of the encouragement and support that a simple letter or note can be. Will you be supportive of those who are stepping out to lead you?
Perhaps God is speaking you today about the essence of fear in your life. There are many who are dealing with fearful situations. The specific situations can be varied and of all types - conflict, health problems, dangerous situations, death, unmet needs, spiritual problems and so forth. It is healthy to recognize danger and acknowledge our own fear. However, we must give these things to God so that we are not paralyzed by fear and anxiety. Rather than go into a lot of detail here, I simply googled "What does the Bible say about fear" and came across this page. If you are anxious or fearful now, I encourage you to spend a little time reading through the verses on this page - http://www.openbible.info/topics/fear_and_anxiety
Whatever God is speaking to you today, we encourage you to seek Him and accept His call, knowing that He will continue to go with you.