The Secret to Success

HE’D BEEN A RESPECTED MINISTER for seventeen years. Week after week he reverently led worship services, preached relevant sermons, and administered the church ordinances. He’d performed dozens of weddings and funerals. Still, a nagging sense of uneasiness tugged at his soul. He sensed there ought to be more spiritual power in his ministry.

He later claimed: “Oh, the deceit of the human heart! I knew how unfit I was, Oh, I would question my salvation, because I tried to live consistently. But I knew barrenness . . . barrenness in my spirit.” As time passed his discomfort intensified. Finally, in desperation, he announced to his concerned family: “I’m going to my study and I want you to leave me alone. I’m going to seek a meeting with God.”

He cloistered himself in his study and committed to pray until God freed him. At one point his sixteen-year-old daughter pled with her father, “Daddy, whatever it costs, go through with God.” After spending several hours before the Lord, the desperate pastor experienced a profound, life-changing encounter with God early in the dawn.

Later, he claimed: “After spending seventeen years in a barren wilderness, baffled and frustrated in Christian work and witness, I suddenly came to realize that God had made provision for clean hands and a pure heart. And on my face in my own study at five o’clock in the morning I came to know the recovering power of the blood of Christ . . .”

Duncan Campbell had been renewed. Immediately, others began experiencing revival as well. Campbell preached in meetings across Scotland. Everywhere he went, God’s power was manifested. In 1949 he was invited to conduct a ten-day series of revival services at Barvas on the Isle of Lewis. After his first message, it seemed as if nothing extraordinary had occurred. As he prepared to leave, however, the Spirit suddenly descended upon the congregation. To Campbell’s surprise he discovered several hundred people gathered outside the church doors. They had arrived from all over the region, with no sense of why they had come except they felt compelled to do so.

As the weeks passed, more and more unusual events took place. Four hundred people gathered at the police station during the early morning hours and Campbell preached to them. After one service, he passed people kneeling by the roadside overcome with conviction of their sin, crying out to God for forgiveness.

One evening he was made aware that a large crowd had spontaneously assembled in a large field. There were too many people to fit in the church so they gathered outdoors. Campbell preached to them and many were converted. The revival swept across the Hebrides Islands for several years.

Twenty years later, the elderly Campbell was in Saskatoon, Canada, preaching at Ebenezer Baptist Church. He declared his belief that revival was coming to western Canada and it would begin at that church. Within two years the revival he foretold had come.

God chose to fill Duncan Campbell with spiritual power. After his life-changing encounter with God, his preaching took on new life. Even when he delivered sermons he had preached before, there was a significant difference. Campbell observed: “I went out to preach the same sermons that I’d been preaching for seventeen years . . . with this difference—that I saw hundreds converted, hundreds brought savingly to Christ.”

The Holy Spirit anointed his ministry and God used him powerfully. The key was not in Campbell’s preaching skills but in God’s powerful presence. The difference the Holy Spirit makes in a life is astronomical. No one, no matter how creative or talented, can duplicate or manufacture what the Spirit can do in the life of someone yielded to God.

Joshua was a skilled military leader but his success came from his walk with God, not from his military prowess. He needed more than strategic planning to accomplish God’s purposes. He needed God. This chapter will examine some of the ways God’s presence made a pronounced difference in Joshua’s leading.

Henry Blackaby, Called to Be God’s Leader: How God Prepares His Servants for Spiritual Leadership(Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006).


I have recently written a 6-week study of Called to Be God’s Leader–a Study of the life of Joshua

.

It is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

God can redeem your past

HE WAS BORN INTO HUMBLE CIRCUMSTANCES defined by poverty and hardship. He was a frail and sickly child. As a youth, he longed to serve in the British Royal Navy. He loved the military but he ranked only forty-two out of fifty-eight in his class at the military academy. He was small in stature but he harbored a giant appetite for fame and glory. In fact, his entire life was propelled by this quest for power. He became a force to be reckoned with but his selfish ambitions led Europe into turmoil and warfare for most of his adult life.

Napoleon Bonaparte left an indelible mark on history. According to his biographer, Paul Johnson, Napoleon was responsible for the following developments: history’s first large scale military conscription, the rise of German nationalism, the concept of total warfare, the development of the first secret police, large scale professional espionage and the establishment of government propaganda machines. According to Johnson, “The totalitarian state of the twentieth century was the ultimate progeny of the Napoleonic reality and myth.”

Furthermore, under Napoleon’s leadership, the once mighty nation of France lost 860,000 soldiers and was reduced to a second rate power. What of the man himself? After numerous battles and campaigns, he reached the pinnacle of power, ruling half a continent and eighty million people. Then he plummeted to humiliating defeat and was exiled to a remote island only seven miles wide and nineteen miles long.

Paul Johnson claims that only one man has had more written about him than Napoleon, and that is Jesus Christ. Napoleon’s entire life was haunted by his past. His humble birth was shrouded in scandal, which caused world leaders to look down on him with disdain. Despite his brilliant military conquests, the royal families of Europe were reluctant to accept him into their ranks.

Czar Alexander I of Russia forbade Napoleon to marry his daughter, though Napoleon was undoubtedly the most powerful ruler in the world. This rejection may be what ultimately propelled Napoleon to embark on his disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812. Napoleon’s numerous insecurities created in him a voracious appetite for recognition. He was an emotional vacuum; nothing could satisfy him—not even a European empire.

It could be argued that hundreds of thousands of Europeans died in one man’s vain attempt to achieve satisfaction through the brutal acquisition of power and fame. Ego-driven people become desensitized to the suffering of others. It is acknowledged that few commanders suffered military casualties with greater indifference than Napoleon.

The Duke of Wellington lamented the loss of thousands, but Napoleon boasted he would readily sacrifice a million soldiers to attain his goals. The Duke of Wellington wore his hat with the tips at the front and back so he could easily raise his hat out of courtesy or to return salutes. Napoleon wore his hat squarely on his head—he rarely raised his hat for anyone.

Napoleon could always justify his own ambitious behavior while bitterly condemning the same motives in others. Of his enemies he once com-plained: “But for them I would have been a man of peace.” Such a lifestyle of self-absorption is spiritually deadening. It inevitably leads to isolation. Those who live to satisfy their own ambitions at the expense of others may indeed achieve their goals only to discover that such success is bitter and empty. Like Napoleon, they ultimately live in exile from meaningful relationships and never experience what God intended for them.

BUILDING BLOCKS

Like Napoleon, Joshua was a military leader who grew up impoverished and suppressed. Yet Joshua’s past served as the foundation for his eventual role as God’s statesman. Joshua’s motives were inverse to Napoleon’s. God, not Joshua, set the agenda for Joshua’s decisions. God’s will, not Joshua’s ego, galvanized him to action. As a result, every event in Joshua’s life became a building block in the magnificent life God was creating.

Joshua’s life was not dependent on random chance or the exertion of human will. His was a purposeful life that brought glory to God. Joshua was not a prisoner of his past; he overcame his upbringing and allowed God to build for him a bright future.

Henry Blackaby, Called to Be God’s Leader: How God Prepares His Servants for Spiritual Leadership(Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006).


I have recently written a 6-week study of Called to Be God’s Leader–a Study of the life of Joshua

.

It is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Don’t pray for motivation

The New Testament leaves no doubt that holiness is our responsibility. If we are to pursue holiness, we must take some decisive action. I once discussed a particular sin problem with a person who said, “I’ve been praying that God would motivate me to stop.” Motivate him to stop? What this person was saying in effect was that God had not done enough. It is so easy to ask God to do something more because that postpones facing up to our own responsibility.

The action we are to take is to put to death the misdeeds of the body (Romans 8:13). Paul uses the same expression in another book: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (Colossians 3:5). What does the expression put to death mean? The King James Version uses the term mortify. According to the dictionary, mortify means “to destroy the strength, vitality, or functioning of; to subdue or deaden.” To put to death the misdeeds of the body, then, is to destroy the strength and vitality of sin as it tries to reign in our bodies.

It must be clear to us that mortification, though it is something we do, cannot be carried out in our own strength. Well did the Puritan John Owen say, “Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness is the soul and substance of all false religion.” Mortification must be done by the strength and under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Owen says further, “The Spirit alone is sufficient for this work. All ways and means without Him are useless. He is the great efficient. He is the One who gives life and strength to our efforts.”

But though mortification must be done by the strength and under the direction of the Holy Spirit, it is nevertheless a work which we must do. Without the Holy Spirit’s strength there will be no mortification, but without our working in His strength there will also be no mortification.

The crucial question then is, “How do we destroy the strength and vitality of sin?” If we are to work at this difficult task, we must first have conviction. We must be persuaded that a holy life of God’s will for every Christian is important. We must believe that the pursuit of holiness is worth the effort and pain required to mortify the misdeeds of the body. We must be convinced that “without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Not only must we develop conviction for living a holy life in general, but we must also develop convictions in specific areas of obedience.

These convictions are developed through exposure to the Word of God. Our minds have far too long been accustomed to the world’s values. Even after we become Christians, the world around us constantly seeks to conform us to its value system. We are bombarded on every side by temptations to indulge our sinful natures. That is why Paul said, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God remake you so that your whole attitude of mind is changed” (Romans 12:2, PH).

Only through God’s Word are our minds remolded and our values renewed. When giving instructions for future kings of Israel, God said that a copy of His Law “shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes” (Deuteronomy 17:19, NASB). The king was to read God’s law all the days of his life to learn to fear the Lord. In that way he could learn the necessity of holiness, and how he might know God’s specific will in various situations.

Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1978), 84–86.


I have recently written a 5 week study of Pursuit of Holiness.

It is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Leaders must be faithful in small things

HIS ASPIRATIONS WERE TO BE A SOLDIER. Yet his early career was fraught with disappointment and failure. On his first military assignment he inadvertently ambushed a group of foreign soldiers which helped set off a seven-year war. During that conflict, this ambitious soldier was ordered to establish an advance post in enemy territory. He chose his position so poorly that he had to surrender it almost immediately along with a regiment of his soldiers.

Later he served as a general’s aid, but when the general followed his advice, his army suffered one of the most humiliating and decisive defeats in its history. When he was commissioned to take reinforcements to a fellow officer, he was mistaken for the enemy. They proceeded to fire on his soldiers and before they realized their mistake, forty of his men lay dead or wounded.

So unsuccessful was his early military career that he declared: “I have been upon the losing order ever since I entered the service.” In light of such an unpromising beginning it is understandable that George Washington was hesitant to accept command of all the American forces during the American Revolution. In his acceptance speech he declared: “I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with.”2

POSSIBILITIES THROUGH FAITHFULNESS

The founding fathers of the American republic recognized that although Washington felt inadequate for the task and although he had not yet established himself as a successful general, he had faithfully and diligently undertaken all of his assignments. Washington had spent many years toiling for his country. He had suffered numerous defeats and setbacks. He had faced enemy fire on several occasions. During the disastrous defeat under General Braddock, Washington had four bullets pass through his coat.

Anyone who met Washington was impressed with his bearing. He conducted himself as a veteran soldier who had always performed his duty. When the time came for his country to assign one of the greatest military commands in its history, it seemed prudent to choose him.

Some aspiring leaders constantly seek “the big break.” They distribute their résumés, applying for important and prestigious positions. They use political tactics to gain friends and forge alliances. Sadly, those seeking to serve God often follow the same pattern. In so doing, they neglect the most basic lesson in spiritual leadership: if you are faithful in a little, God will entrust you with more (Matt. 25:21; Luke 16:10).

Henry Blackaby, Called to Be God’s Leader: How God Prepares His Servants for Spiritual Leadership (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006).


I have recently written a 6-week study of Called to Be God’s Leader–a Study of the life of Joshua

.

It is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Conviction of sin is not enough

It is possible to establish convictions regarding a life of holiness, and even make a definite commitment to that end, yet fail to achieve the goal. Life is strewn with broken resolutions. We may determine by God’s grace to stop a particular sinful habit—entertaining lustful thoughts, criticizing our Christian brother, or whatever. But alas, only too frequently we find we don’t succeed. We do not achieve that progress in holiness we so intensely desire.

Jay Adams puts his finger on the problem when he says, “You may have sought and tried to obtain instant godliness. There is no such thing….We want somebody to give us three easy steps to godliness, and we’ll take them next Friday and be godly. The trouble is, godliness doesn’t come that way.”

Adams goes on to show that the way to obtain godliness is through Christian discipline. But the concept of discipline is suspect in our society today. It appears counter to our emphasis on freedom in Christ and often smacks of legalism and harshness.

Yet Paul says we are to train or discipline ourselves to be godly (1 Timothy 4:7). The figure of speech he uses comes from the physical training that Greek athletes went through. Paul also said, “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training” (1 Corinthians 9:25). He said this was an attitude of his life, and one that each Christian should have (1 Corinthians 9:24–27). If an athlete disciplines himself to obtain a temporal prize, he said, how much more should we Christians discipline ourselves to obtain a crown that lasts forever.

As these verses indicate, discipline is structured training. Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary lists as one definition of discipline, “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.” This is what we must do if we pursue holiness: We must correct, mold, and train our moral character.

Discipline toward holiness begins with the Word of God. Paul said, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). The last item he mentions is training or discipline in doing righteousness. This is what the Scriptures will do for us if we use them.  Jay Adams says, “It is by willing, prayerful and persistent obedience to the requirements of the Scriptures that godly patterns are developed and come to be a part of us.”

We read in Scripture, “You were taught…to put off your old self…to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22–24). Where are we taught these things? Only in the Word of God. Discipline toward holiness begins then with the Scriptures—with a disciplined plan for regular intake of the Scriptures and a disciplined plan for applying them to our daily lives.

Here our cooperation with the Holy Spirit is very clear.

Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1978), 96–97.


I have recently written a 5 week study of Pursuit of Holiness.

It is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Early life doesn’t predict future usefulness

HIS WAS A HARD LUCK CASE. Forced to abandon his military career in disgrace, he subsequently experienced seven years of abject failure in the numerous businesses he attempted. As a farmer, real estate investor, rent collector, entertainment promoter, and entrepreneur, he grew repeatedly and intimately acquainted with bankruptcy. His applications to numerous local businesses were routinely declined. He was finally forced to sell his pocket watch, his only remaining valuable, to provide Christmas gifts for his impoverished family.

Reduced to peddling firewood on street corners, his ragged, unkempt appearance evoked pity from those who had known him in better days. When someone asked him why he was selling firewood in such humble circumstances, he replied, “I am solving the problem of poverty.”

Finally, in desperation, he took a job as a clerk working for his two younger brothers in a tannery. When war broke out, his application to join the army was rejected. Several futile attempts to enlist in the army prompted this lament: “I must live, my family must live. Perhaps I could serve the army by providing bread for them.”

It was an unlikely beginning for someone who would ultimately lead the Union armies to victory during the American Civil War and who, at age forty-six, would become the youngest man to be elected president of the United States. Yet such was the early life of Ulysses S. Grant.

The Bible tells of another man whose early life bore no hint of the great man he would become. Joshua’s forefathers were slaves. Spanning four centuries, Joshua’s ancestors had lived in Egypt, much of that time in bondage. Born with no possibility of freedom, education, or military training, the thought of a stellar military career would have seemed ludicrous to Joshua.

Henry Blackaby, Called to Be God’s Leader: How God Prepares His Servants for Spiritual Leadership (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006).


I have recently written a 6-week study of Called to Be God’s Leader–a Study of the life of Joshua

.

It is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Whose responsibility is my holiness?

God has made provision for our holiness and He has also given us a responsibility for it. As we saw in chapters 5 and 7, God’s provision for us consists in delivering us from the reign of sin, uniting us with Christ, and giving us the indwelling Holy Spirit to reveal sin, to create a desire for holiness, and to strengthen us in our pursuit of holiness. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and according to the new nature He gives, we are to put to death the misdeeds of the body (Romans 8:13).

Though it is the Spirit who enables us to put to death our corruptions, yet Paul says this is our action as well. The very same work is from one point of view the work of the Spirit, and from another the work of man.

In the previous chapter we emphasized the “by the Spirit” part of this verse. In this chapter we want to look at our responsibility—“you put to death the misdeeds of the body.”

It is clear from this passage that God puts responsibility for living a holy life squarely on us. We are to do something. We are not to “stop trying and start trusting”; we are to put to death the misdeeds of the body. Over and over again in the epistles—not only Paul’s, but the other apostles’ as well—we are commanded to assume our responsibility for a holy walk. Paul exhorted, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (Colossians 3:5). This is something we are told to do.

The writer of Hebrews said, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1). He says let us throw off the sin and let us run with perseverance. Clearly he expects us to assume responsibility for running the Christian race. James said, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). It is we who are to submit to God and resist the devil. This is our responsibility. Peter said, “Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (2 Peter 3:14). The clause make every effort addresses itself to our wills. It is something we must decide to do.

Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1978), 78–79.


I have recently written a 5 week study of Pursuit of Holiness.

It is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Without holiness, no one will see the Lord

Just what do these words, “without holiness no one  will see the Lord” actually mean? Does our salvation in the final analysis depend to some degree on our attaining some level of personal holiness?

On this question the Scripture is clear on two points. First, the best Christians can never in themselves merit salvation through their personal holiness. Our righteous deeds are like filthy garments in the light of God’s holy law (Isaiah 64:6). Our best works are stained and polluted with imperfection and sin. As one of the saints of several centuries ago put it, “Even our tears of repentance need to be washed in the blood of the lamb.”

Second, Scripture repeatedly refers to the obedience and righteousness of Christ on our behalf. “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19). “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18). These two passages teach a twofold aspect of Christ’s work on our behalf. They are often referred to as His active and His passive obedience.

Active obedience means Christ’s sinless life here on earth, His perfect obedience and absolute holiness. This perfect life is credited to those who trust in Him for their salvation. His passive obedience refers to His death on the cross through which He fully paid the penalty for our sins and placated the wrath of God toward us. In Hebrews 10:5–9 we read that Christ came to do the will of the Father. Then the writer said, “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10, emphasis added). So we see that our holiness before God depends entirely on the work of Jesus Christ for us, by God’s will.

Does Hebrews 12:14 refer then to this holiness which we have in Christ? No, for at this point the writer speaks of a holiness which we are to strive after; we are to “make every effort…to be holy.” And without this holiness, the writer says, no one will see the Lord.

Scripture speaks of both a holiness which we have in Christ before God, and a holiness which we are to strive after. These two aspects of holiness complement one another, for our salvation is a salvation to holiness: “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life” (1 Thessalonians 4:7). To the Corinthians Paul wrote: “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy” (1 Corinthians 1:2, emphasis added). The word sanctified here means “made holy.” That is, we are through Christ made holy in our standing before God, and called to be holy in our daily lives.

So the writer of Hebrews is telling us to take seriously the necessity of personal, practical holiness. When the Holy Spirit comes into our lives at our salvation, He comes to make us holy in practice. If there is not, then, at least a yearning in our hearts to live a holy life pleasing to God, we need to seriously question whether our faith in Christ is genuine.

Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1978), 32–33.


I have recently written a 5 week study of Pursuit of Holiness.

It is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Why does God use some people and not others?

The compelling question is: Why does God use some people for His purposes and not others? Does God not want His kingdom to expand in every place and in every age? Does He not intend for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven? With so many people worldwide claiming to be Christ’s followers, why does God not work mightily through each one? Would not such an overwhelming outpouring of God’s power cause every knee to bow and every tongue to confess Jesus as Lord? Yet God does not work that way. He is selective in those He uses. When God places His hand upon a life, the effect is unmistakable. But many Christians today show little evidence of God’s presence in their lives; consequently they fail to make a significant difference for God’s kingdom. They live their lives without impacting their world. Tragically, this seems to be the norm for our generation. When God does work mightily through someone’s life, it is the exception, and they become a celebrity.

It is fascinating to study the life of someone through whom God was pleased to work powerfully. Joshua lived thousands of years ago, yet the work God did through him continues to impact millions of people today. Everything changed once Joshua entered the scene.

In some ways, Joshua’s life mirrors those of great secular leaders. Like Joshua, Julius Caesar’s defining moment came after he crossed a river with his army. Both Caesar and Joshua had their Rubicon. And, like Caesar, Joshua could also conclude: “I came, I saw, I conquered.”

There are also striking parallels between Joshua and Winston Churchill. Churchill spent most of his life waiting in the wings of history for his moment to enter the world stage. He spent agonizing years in a political wilderness while others mismanaged his nation. When Churchill’s countrymen finally called upon him in their greatest hour of need, he observed: “At last I had the authority to give direction over the whole scene as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but preparation for this hour and for this trial.” Likewise, Joshua spent the greater part of his adulthood waiting. Yet, when finally called upon to lead, he accomplished the seemingly impossible and left his nation forever changed.

There are many similarities between Joshua and illustrious secular leaders, and we will make some comparisons throughout the book. We hasten to add that just because we draw parallels between Joshua and secular leaders such as Napoleon, Wellington, Nelson, and Elizabeth I, it does not mean we endorse or condone the spiritual or moral lifestyles of those people.

The crux of this book is that there was more to Joshua’s success than personal giftedness, perseverance, or luck. His life was clearly directed by God. God’s hand was powerfully upon him. God’s wisdom skillfully guided him. His was a divinely lived life.

God still uses people today for His purposes and for His glory. God is no less capable of transforming our lives into His powerful instruments than He was with Joshua’s life. The question is not about God’s capability; it is about our availability. Are our lives as available to God as Joshua’s was? Are we prepared for Him to make the necessary adjustments in us so His power is manifested through us?

God is no less capable of transforming our lives into His powerful instruments than He was with Joshua’s life.

Henry Blackaby, Called to Be God’s Leader: How God Prepares His Servants for Spiritual Leadership (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006).


I have recently written a 6-week study of Called to Be God’s Leader–a Study of the life of Joshua.

It is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

 

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