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Encouragement for God's People

(Deuteronomy 31:1-9; 34:5-8)

Lesson 10 -- fourth quarter 1999
November 7, 1999

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 1999, Christian Light Publications

Church leaders pass along the torch to the next generation. Sometimes they do so by retiring; other times by dying. However the case may be, leadership transitions come in the church. Such are often times of change, stress and even fears. Let's focus on the aspect of fear.

The leader who moves on (to retirement or to Heaven) may experience a certain fear for the future of the congregation. Will the body continue faithful under new leadership? Will the new leader build on the old foundation, or will he opt for something else? Can the new leader win the love, respect and loyalty of the church? Those are just some of questions I think I would have.

The leader who takes up the torch likely has his own fears. Fears about measuring up to the standard of the old leader. Fears about his own newness to the task. Fears of the weight of the responsibility and accountability. Perhaps even fears of his own flesh.

The congregation itself is susceptible to particular fears. What will this new one be like, now that he is "in charge"? Will he be stricter or more lenient? Will he be as approachable or more so or less so? Will it seem natural to love and honor him? It may even be that the leader stepping into the gap has already failed to inspire confidence in the hearts of the flock . . . for sure the congregation will be fearful and restless.

Today's lesson is about transition. The leader who had been with them from the beginning, and the only one many had ever known to be at the helm, was leaving. After 40 years, Moses was done. Joshua would replace him. While Joshua was a proven and trusted leader, he still was not Moses and would no longer be leading under the direction and supervision of Moses. There had to be fears (or at least anxieties) about the camp and within Joshua's heart. Otherwise why the repeated admonition to strength and courage?

On the other hand, today's lesson is about continuity. The God who had been with His people even before Moses' time would continue with His people, even way beyond Joshua's time. Notice again the words of Moses: "The LORD thy God, he will go over before thee." Moses would no longer lead them, but still God would! Joshua would be their new leader, but he would follow God just as Moses had. So don't fret; don't worry. Don't let your anxieties overcome you. Keep your eyes on Jehovah and all will be well. In other words, "Be strong and of a good courage.... Fear not, neither be dismayed."

Do you see here any lessons and applications for you and your congregation? Maybe you have recently experienced a change in bishop or pastoral leadership. Or perhaps you see one looming within five years...and you scratch your head and shake your knees as the prospects. Well, it just may be you have the wrong focus! The Lord will go before you!

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