If you were asked to design a leadership training course, what would the curriculum consist of? What lessons would you want your protégé to learn? What characteristics would you desire to develop in your students? What experiences would you involve them in? How would you prepare someone for the task of leadership?
As we begin a new series in the book of Joshua, that is the question we want to start with. The book opens with Joshua as the newly appointed Commander-in-Chief of the armies of Israel. He was standing on the eastern side of the Jordan River, facing the challenge of crossing the river and conquering the Promised Land. But how did he get to that point?
Joshua did not suddenly appear like a jack-in-the-box at the death of Moses. Joshua was probably 80 years old when God placed him in this position of leadership. Scripture divides his life into three periods: forty years as a slave in Egypt; forty years as a servant in the wilderness; and twenty-five years in subduing the Promised Land.
The time in the wilderness served as a forty-year internship under the instruction of Moses. It included at least seven different experiences when God taught him significant lessons. All of the lessons could be summed up in one phrase—spiritual leadership requires a heart that is fully devoted to following God.
Preparation in the Battle with Amalek at Rephidim (Exodus 17:8-16). When we are first introduced to Joshua, he is leading the army of Israel into battle against the Amalekites. While Joshua is fighting the battle, Moses is lifting up his staff to God. When Moses’ arms get tired, Aaron and Hur help support Moses. Joshua learns that all battles are spiritual ones and that victory comes by depending on God. Leaders work as though it all depends on them, but pray as though it all depends on God.
Preparation at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24:9-18). Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel (of whom Joshua was one) are called to join God on Mt. Sinai. They enjoy a time of worship and a covenant meal in God’s presence. Leaving the seventy behind, Moses and Joshua go up further and spend six days with God in the cloud covered mountain. On the seventh day, Moses went on alone, leaving Joshua by himself on Sinai for forty more days. While the time alone tested Joshua’s patience and faithfulness, it also enriched his perspective of God’s character and majesty. Joshua learned that leaders need an enlarged vision of who God is.
Preparation in the Tabernacle (Exodus 33:7-11). As the servant of Moses, one of Joshua’s assignments was to be present in the Tabernacle while the pillar of cloud towered above the tent. True spiritual leadership demands a love for the quiet place. To lead well, we must desire God’s presence. We have to constantly fight the battle of doing versus devotion.
Preparation within the Camp (Numbers 11:24-29). Leaders are constantly told to promote themselves and to toot their own horn. Joshua apparently bought into that principle and was jealous for Moses when two men were prophesying in the camp. Moses helped Joshua learn that leaders allow others to share in the ministry. There is no limit to what a person can do if they don’t care who gets the credit.
Preparation in Spying out the Land (Numbers 13:1-14:45). Joshua was one of the twelve men commissioned by Moses to spy out the Promised Land. After forty days, the men brought back a good news, bad news report; a majority, minority report. The majority said it was a wonderful land filled with giants who would kill the Israelites. Joshua and Caleb said that God had already given the land into the hand of the Israelites. As Joshua learned that day, the majority is not always right. Leaders focus on the promises of God rather than the fears of the people. They need to stand for truth even if it means standing alone.
Preparation through his Commissioning (Numbers 27:12-23). Because of his outburst of anger and not honoring God, Moses was forbidden to enter the Promised Land. God held him accountable for his actions. Being a caring shepherd, Moses made sure Israel had a capable leader. So he commissioned Joshua to take his place. Joshua’s chief characteristic was not his military skills. It was the presence of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual leadership is ultimately a work of the Holy Spirit.
Preparation through the Death of Moses (Deuteronomy 34:1-12). While Moses was the greatest spiritual leader Israel ever had, he was expendable. God’s plan depends on no one for all time, but all to serve him at a certain time.
7 Principles of Spiritual Leadership
- Hard work + prayer = victory
- Develop a large vision of God
- Spend time alone with God
- Share the credit with others
- Stand for truth; Stand alone
- Depend on the Holy Spirit
- No one is indispensable
Spiritual leadership requires a heart that is fully devoted to following God.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on September 16, 2018. It is the opening message in a series on the book of Joshua. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.