When Moses died, the nation of Israel experienced a significant transition. The one who had led them out of slavery, who had parted the waters of the Red Sea, and who had presented them with the Ten Commandments, would not lead them into the Promised Land. Instead, God commissioned Joshua to lead His people into the land, settle it, and defeat powerful nations.
On the threshold of a transition like the one facing Israel, many businesses in our generation would hire a consultant to prepare their new leader. Suppose for a moment that you were the consultant called in to prepare Joshua. How would you equip him to walk in Moses’ sandals?
1. Loving leaders remember the past.
2. Loving leaders focus on the present.
3. Loving leaders stand strong, courageous, and unafraid.
4. Loving leaders exhibit authenticity.
In Joshua 1, we see the Lord Himself preparing Joshua for his new assignment. The words that the Lord gave to Joshua should encourage us as we prepare for the transitions in our lives and lead others. Let’s look at four ways we can apply God’s instructions to leading our families.
1. Loving Leaders Remember the Past
Moses was disqualified from leading God’s people into Canaan because he had disobeyed God concerning the waters of Meribah (Numbers 20:23-25). At the end of his life, God called Moses to the top of Mount Nebo, where He allowed Moses to see the Promised Land before he died.
Because Moses couldn’t go into the Promised Land, Joshua was chosen to lead the people. His first order of business was to review God’s faithfulness in the past. In verse 3, we see, “As I said to Moses,” and in verse 5, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” God asked Joshua to remember what he had observed in His dealing with Moses. He was saying, “You’ve been a first-hand witness to what I have done for Moses. You’ve seen the mighty acts I have performed that have validated his leadership and prepared him for his task. Now listen, Joshua, I am the same God I was back then. What I did for him, I’ll do for you.”
Remembering how God has helped us in the past is one thing we can all do. He has been faithful. Heartache, hurt, and trials are a part of life, but God has been good to us through it all. He has met our needs.
As God has helped us in the past, He will help us in the future. Time and again, I have witnessed God’s faithfulness to my church. We have stood at the Red Sea with the enemy on our heels and the wall in front of us, and then God suddenly showed us the way. That’s the God we serve. He will lead us into the future. If the God of the past is the God of the present, we do not need to fear.
Joshua’s first assignment was to look back at how God had blessed Moses.
- Read Joshua 1:1-9. What assurance of God’s faithfulness do you find?
- Has God ever called you to do something beyond your comfort level? Did you do it? What was the result?
- Whether or not you feel like a born leader, God has given you authority over some aspect of His Kingdom. It may be a relationship, a ministry at church, a prayer group, a project at work, or any number of other things. What responsibility does God want you to take on right now?
- Focusing on the past twelve months, how has God been faithful to meet your needs?
2. Loving Leaders Focus on the Present
God instructed Joshua to do something specific: “My servant Moses is dead. Now you must lead Israel across the Jordan River into the land I’m giving to all of you. Wherever you go, I’ll give you that land, as I promised Moses” (Joshua 1:2-3, CEV). Then the Lord described the territory, giving the actual borders so there would be no way Joshua could misunderstand what God had asked him to do.
The keyword is “focus.” If we don’t focus on seeking God’s will for our lives, it will be challenging to accomplish all that He has planned for us. The days and weeks will slip away—losing precious time that we could be of use for God and His Kingdom. Take the time to focus on Him. There is something exciting about sitting down in a quiet room and asking, “What would you have me do, Lord?” It’s been said that the average American spends more time planning Christmas and vacations than thinking about their life. One question we should continually ask is, “What does God want me to do?” God has put you here for a spiritual purpose. Ask Him what the focus of your life should be. Where there is a God-centered focus, there is no fear. God gave Joshua specific instructions, and He will guide you too.
Like Joshua, God called Nehemiah to lead Israel through a time of transition. Nehemiah responded by implementing a ten-step strategy (see below). How could you apply Nehemiah’s steps as you lead your family?
- Pray to God (Nehemiah 1:5).
- Announce the goal (Nehemiah 2:4).
- Visualize the project (Nehemiah 2:13-15).
- Motivate the people (Nehemiah 2:17, 18).
- Delegate the work (Nehemiah 3:1-32).
- Overcome the opposition (Nehemiah 2:19, 20).
- Remove the obstacles (Nehemiah 4:7-23).
- End the oppression (Nehemiah 5:1-19).
- Stay on course (Nehemiah 6:1-14).
- Finish strong (Nehemiah 6:15-19).
3. Loving Leaders Stand Strong, Courageous, and Unafraid
People do not care to follow a timid leader. God wanted Joshua to be strong, courageous, and daring, so He challenged Him to demonstrate strength. First, God told Joshua to be strong: “be strong” (verse 6), “only be strong” (verse 7), “Have I not commanded you? Be strong” (verse 9).
Second, God told him to be courageous: “be… of good courage” (verse 6), “be… very courageous” (verse 7), “Have I not commanded you? … Be of good courage” (verse 9). Shortly before his death, Moses passed the torch of leadership to Joshua with the same words. He said, “Be strong and of good courage, for you must go with this people into the land, which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them” (Deuteronomy 31:7).
That word courage is related to “daring.” It took a lot of daring for Joshua to walk weaponless around the city of Jericho and to believe that by circling the city for seven days and then shouting, the walls would collapse, and victory would be won.
Joshua had already displayed courage. Of the twelve men who spied on Canaan, he was one of two who returned with a favorable report. The other ten men returned fearful, rebelled against Moses’ authority, and would have returned to Egypt rather than obey God’s command. Their insurrection, spurred by a lack of faith, led to forty years of desert wandering. Joshua and Caleb, the two faithful spies, were the only members of their generation to enter the Promised Land. Joshua stood against the majority, and that took nerve.
We often assume majorities are correct, but they can be dead wrong. Sometimes it takes one person to stand up for righteousness and godliness. If that is where God places you, take courage! The God who guided Moses and Joshua and a host of others will guide you into your promised land.
• Israel: What Did God Promise to Abraham?
• 5 Ways for a Father to Love His Family
• How to Pray for Your Family
Joshua accomplished great things because he trusted in God’s promises. What promises from God do you find in the following verses? Which of these promises do you need to trust God for today? In your own words, how can you stand firm in the Lord?
- Isaiah 42:16
- Zechariah 3:4
- John 14:12
- John 15:4-5
- Philippians 4:13
- 2 Timothy 4:18
- 1 John 5:4
- 1 John 5:14
4. Loving Leaders Exhibit Authenticity
I believe young people today are looking for an older generation who can prove by their lifestyle that life is worth living, no matter how many candles light up their birthday cake.
Years ago, I heard someone say that the devil didn’t have many happy old people. And I thought, Yeah, and God doesn’t have as many as He should, either.
Have you noticed how many people grow up—and grow mean? Instead of maturing and demonstrating to the next generation how to handle the advancement of years, they grow grouchy and cranky. Sure, we can’t do some of the things we used to, and we don’t move at the same speed—but we can still be fun people. We don’t have to get mean, old, and grouchy. We can become godly, loving, and fun.
I know growing older itself isn’t fun. That’s why there’s so much humor about getting older. I hear it all the time:
“You know you’re getting older when everything hurts, and what doesn’t hurt doesn’t work.”
“You know you’re getting older when you sink your teeth into a steak, and they stay there.”
Of course, it’s natural to age; none of us can help it. But we don’t have to get old. I know of many keen-minded, senior adults who are very young. And fun!
Our young people need to see the grace of God demonstrated in our life. They need to see our faith implemented throughout our everyday lives and activities.
By the grace of God, I want to be a fun person for my children and their families—someone they enjoy and want to emulate as they grow older. I want to be the kind of person who’s continually growing in my faith so that my children can see godliness in action throughout my life.
Father’s Day cards are often filled with colorful jokes about golfing, barbecuing, and who holds the remote control in the house. They are funny, but I’d be saddened to receive some of them. How would your family describe you?
- Read Nehemiah 2:17-18. How did Nehemiah exhibit authenticity? How does his statement challenge you to grow? Identify at least one goal based on this passage.
Godly leadership requires prayer. Commit to spending time with God each day, seeking His wisdom as you lead in your sphere of influence. Feel free to use your own words or follow the prayer below.
1 Joe Namath, quoted by Kurt Warner, Friday Night Light: Inspiration for the Game of Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009).