I’m coming up on a big season of transition. Four years ago my wife and I moved to New Orleans to pursue a seminary degree in hopes of going into full-time ministry. We are now at the end of that journey. In six weeks we will move to Athens, GA where I will have my first full-time ministry position. While we are both greatly excited at the opportunity that the Lord has laid before us, we are both also understandably nervous. Transition in never easy, even when it is long-expected and looked-foward-to.
A few years ago I found myself in a similar situation. I had just finished a year of service at a church west of Baton Rouge through the Unlimited Partnerships program and, while the church wanted us to come back for a second year and I would have had no real problems about doing so, we felt the Lord leading us in another direction. At that time I found great encouragement from Joshua 1:1-9. Since Jenna and I have been going through another period of transition, I revisited this text a few weeks ago and wanted to share a few observations.
- The Lord exhorted Joshua to be strong and courageous three separate times in these verses. Moses, the man who had led the people out of slavery in Egypt and who had initiated the covenant between God and his people, had died. The people were on the precipice of entering the Promised Land again (the last time had not gone so well) and the most prominent revolutionary and religious figure in their national history was now dead. The potential for disaster was tremendous. The Lord’s promise to Joshua was not that leading the people into the Promised Land would be easy. No, Joshua would have to show strength and courage meaning things would get difficult.
- The Lord exhorted Joshua to remember His commandments. Joshua had been Moses’ assistant from a young age (Num. 24). He probably was with Moses on Mt. Sinai when Moses received the 10 commandments (Ex. 32). When Moses met with God face-to-face in the Tent of Meeting, Joshua would remain in the tent in the presence of the Lord even after Moses left (Ex. 33:11). In spite of all of these experiences, the Lord cautioned Joshua to not forget his commandments. When things get tough it is often tempting to forget the principles that brought us to the position we are in. The Lord’s encouragement to Joshua was to resolve to always have his Word before him in order to encourage him when things got tough.
- The Lord promised his presence to Joshua. In particular, the Lord promised to be with Joshua just as he had been with Moses. This promise is mind-boggling. Moses had been in the presence of God. He spoke with God face-to-face. He had experienced the presence of the Lord at the burning bush. He had stood up to the leader of the most powerful nation because of his experience of the Lord’s presence. Now, the Lord promised Joshua he would be with him the same way. The interesting thing is, as you read Joshua, there is no account that Joshua spoke with the Lord face-to-face like Moses did. There is no account of the Lord descending on a mountaintop to speak with Joshua as he did Moses. This speaks to the fact that the Lord’s relationship with each of us is different. The Lord’s promise to Joshua was not unfilfilled. His relationship to Joshua was unique. At the end of Joshua’s life, Joshua recounted all that the Lord had done through him and encouraged the people to remain faithful to God because He had been faithful to them.
As I come up on this period of transition I’m attempting to do a few things:
- I’m going to take some time to write out the circumstances of the Lord’s call to this season of my ministry. When times get though I’m going to re-read it and, hopefully, find encouragement.
- I’m resolving to, and will find someone to hold me accountable to, a program of serious spiritual discipline. I do not want to get so busy doing good things that I forget the Lord.
- I’m going to write down times when the Lord shows up in my ministry in unexpected ways. Sometimes it’s important to celebrate victories.
He is faithful.