The Man God Uses
“Have I not commanded thee, Be strong and of a good courage, be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed, for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”—Joshua 1:9
We have been thinking about the inner meaning of this book of Joshua. The command of God was, “Go over this Jordan, thou and this people, into the land which I have given thee.” This opened up before us the possibility of life on a higher plane, deliverance from a wilderness experience of defeat into the experience of victory, even though it be through warfare and conflict.
As we start together a new chapter in the history of The Moody Church, is it to be the story of defeat and carnality, or is it to be victory in the land of full blessing? Everything depends upon the spiritual caliber of the leadership.
As I say that I do not think only of myself, though God knows how much I depend upon your prayers and your love, but I think also of the many who share responsibilities with me. I am sure that in the hearts of all of us there is the cry, “How can I be the person whom God can use?”
What sort of person does God entrust with spiritual leadership? Let us think for a moment of the leader whom God appointed, Joshua. On the threshold of this new era of responsibility, God’s word unto Joshua was, “Be strong.”
Does that mean that all of us have to be strong if we are to lead God’s work? If so, there is little hope for any of us. With Paul we often cry, “Who is sufficient for these things?” Yet not once but many times God spoke to Joshua and said, “Be strong.” Why? Surely because Joshua was conscious of his inadequacy and of his weakness. He never thought that such an honor would be conferred upon him. He was perfectly content to play second fiddle, and to be Moses’ servant and minister.
But one day the call came, and his heart failed him. God said, “Be strong,” and when God said that it meant the man to whom He spoke felt weak. God said, “Be not afraid,” and that meant the man to whom God spoke was frightened. God said, “Neither be thou dismayed,” and that meant that the man to whom God spoke would easily have quit the job altogether. But when men feel like that God comes upon us and lifts us up to leadership and into responsibility.
Most of us, God forgive us, are too smart for God to use. We are too full of our own schemes and of our own way of doing things. God has to humble us break us and empty us. So low, indeed, must God make us that we need every word of encouragement from Heaven to enable us to take on the job and to dare to go forward in the will of God. The world speaks about the survival of the fittest, but God gives power to the faint and He increases those who have no strength.
I trust, my fellow-laborers, that no one is grasping for position, is seeking out a wrong motive to get into a place of authority. I trust that as changes are made and we face a new era, every one of us, pastor and people alike, are clinging to the Lord Jesus Christ and saying, “Not I, Lord, but to Thee alone shall be the glory.”
Consider with me three sources of Joshua’s strength as a leader of God’s people.
The Faithful Man
First of all I would ask you to observe here is a faithful man. Verse one of this chapter mentions the fact that Joshua was Moses’ minister. What a wonderful word in the Book that word “minister” is. We often use that instead of Pastor in Britain. Minister, the man who is prepared to do the hard work when nobody’s looking, the man who is prepared, not to lord it over the people, but to serve them for Jesus’ sake. Faithfulness in few things is always the condition of ruling over many things.
If Josephus the historian is accurate, Joshua for forty years had lived in the bondage of Egypt. He had known the hardship, the frustration, the cruelty, the intolerance of the taskmasters. For forty more years he had patiently endured the wanderings of the wilderness. In the course of that journey he had fought with and defeated the enemies of God’s people, the Amalekites.
Joshua had gone into the Promised Land, and he had returned with a minority report. He had seen the giants, but he believed his God was able. And after eighty years of faithful service behind the scenes, suddenly God speaks to Joshua and bids him assume the position of leadership of this mighty army.
Who can tell today what God is preparing us all for? So often we murmur at the narrow round of daily duty. So often we think we are worthy of a bigger thing than this. Our little sphere of service is so inadequate and so unworthy. But I want to say to you that every hour of it is essential if God would make you the man that He can use.
We must suffer if we would reign. We must descend before we ascend. God’s will for a man’s life never comes through the big things but through the little things. If we meet the smallest responsibility, dignify the smallest duty with the uttermost response of our mind and heart and personality, one day God will lift us out of the little thing and give us a big thing to do.
In the kitchen of a little apartment in London, the wife of a friend of mine has a little motto over the kitchen sink: “Divine service is conducted here three times daily.” I think there is a breath of heaven about that. It is our faithfulness in these small things that enables us to be men that God can trust one day.
But if that be the qualification for leadership, we had better resign right now. None of us have always done the things that nobody watches as thoroughly as the thing that everybody can see. We have all sought to serve God at some time or other because of what we think we get out of it, wretched men that we are. We dare not face the future and claim that we have been faithful in the past.
Shall we resign? Oh, no, wait a moment. Joshua was but a shadow—our Jesus is the reality. When He emerged from obscurity, he had thirty years of preparation—for just three years of ministry. He was subject to His parents, He knew the disciple of His home, He dignified hard work by laboring as the “carpenter of Nazareth.” There was nothing imperfect ever turned out of that shop. He attended a local church every Sunday, and if I may say so, a dead church at that. He lived in a home where His whole outlook was utterly misunderstood in His own family circle.
But one day He stepped out of obscurity, and he was baptized and entered into His ministry. Then a voice spoke from Heaven and said, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” The approval, the seal of Heaven was upon His thirty years of obscurity at home.
Jesus of Nazareth lives today; He is the head of this church. My prayer is that He may fill it Sunday by Sunday with His glory and with His power in order that the faithfulness of His human life might be imparted to you by the Holy Ghost.
He is able to restore the years that the cankerworm hath eaten. Let none of us allow past failures to keep us from getting on our feet and stepping forward in what we believe to be God’s appointed will. If there be some disheartened Christian, somebody who feels that their past ever prevents them taking a future responsibility in the army of God, I bid you in my Master’s name, “Be strong, and of a good courage, neither be thou dismayed, for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”
The Called Man
The second qualification of leadership is a distinct call. “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee, I will not fail thee nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage. Unto this people thou shalt divide for inheritance the land which I swore unto their fathers to give them.” This is the second source of strength for spiritual leadership—a distinct call.
Joshua knew perfectly well that Canaan was infested by a thousand foes. He knew that every inch of advance would be contested by the enemy. But a man assured of the call of God is invincible!
Certainly he is very conscious of his deficiencies; he is alert to all the walled cities in the land, and the broad river that he has to cross before he gets there. He knows something of the ridicule and the criticism which are forever the portion of those who would dare to stand for God. But, looking away from all these to the revealed purpose of God, he gives himself utterly and completely to be a channel through which the Divine Will may be worked out.
I want to say very earnestly, therefore, to my fellow-workers, that in relation to any duties which you would undertake for God, the supreme question is not, “Are we qualified?” It is, “Are we called?” Are you grasping for position, or are you called of God? Answer it, in the presence of the Lord, to Him. There is nothing more important in this critical stage in the history of The Moody Church than the answer to that question.
A minister in London went to see a friend of his, and he said, “I hear you have had a revival at your church.”
“Yes,” he said, “we have had a wonderful time.”
“And how many additions have you had to you church roll?”
“Additions, brother? We have had some blessed subtractions!”
I trust that you will take this from the Lord: if there is anybody who is seeking to get into a position of power in this church, I hope that you will resign—or get right with God. We want men of God, men who have been broken by the Spirit of God, men who only desire the glory of God.
I pray God there will be a mighty army of men humbled, broken, stepping into position because God has called them, and they are sure of it. If that is true, the river is in front of us, but praise the Lord, we’ll go right through it. We will attack walled cities; He will make His mountains a way; the river will dry up and the cities will fall down. All that the people of God have to do is to go forward with Jesus.
I remind you of the Master Himself, so sure was He of His vocation. Where did He get His strength to go steadfastly to Jerusalem. From where did He receive power to go up Calvary’s hill and to allow Himself to be crucified, in weakness, but in mighty power. Notice: “I come not to do my own will, but the will of Him that sent me.” “I delight to do Thy will, O God.” “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me and to finish His work.” Never for one minute, in all His life, did our precious Lord allow one rival claim to the will of God.
That’s power! If there is something in your heart drawing you away from the path of God’s choosing, decide today. Let nothing ever stand between you and the good, and the perfect, and the acceptable will of God. Have a sure calling!
The Indwelt Man
The third source of power and strength for Christian leadership is the indwelling of the Word of God. Notice Joshua 1:8: “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein, for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” Here was the assured presence of God made real in daily experience by the indwelling of the Word of God.
Through the Word of God the Spirit of God comes in fullness upon my life, and occupies my heart. Here is the secret of all power in leadership: to be possessed by the Son of God, to be strengthened by His indwelling power, and to be filled by His Spirit. And here is the only way—“thou shalt meditate therein day and night.” There is no short cut.
I am telling you this from personal experience and from the Old Book, that if a man would be holy he has to go to God in prayer and meditate upon the Word. If a man would walk with God, if a man would live a holy life, if a man would assume authority and hold it down, because God holds him down, he has to know what it is to pay the price of a shut door, and even sometimes his family are on the other side. For no Christian leader is more effective in his leadership than he is when he is alone with God, on his knees.
I have no prescription for your holiness; I have no second blessing treatment to offer you; I have no short cut to spiritual power for anyone. All I can do is to say to you: get back to your Bible; go down before God on your face in prayer, and “meditate therein day and night.” For the greatest transactions of a man’s experience are not made in a church, but behind closed doors.
It is the way our Lord went. The Lord Jesus believed in the authority of His Bible, the Old Testament. He quoted it as the only real basis for the marriage tie; He quoted the story of Jonah to prove His resurrection. He used His Bible in temptation, and many times over when confronted by the devil He said, “It is written.” Yes, His power was because His life was just steeped in the Word of God.
And, “The words that I speak unto you,” says the Lord Jesus, “they are spirit and they are life.” To be saturated with the Word of God is to be assured of the presence of God. Then, praise God, no weapon formed against shall prosper. Every tongue raised against us in judgment He shall condemn. Though the furnace be heated seven times hotter, He is with us, and though the river be broad and deep, He has promised that it shall never overflow us. “Fear not, for I am with thee.” Then the weakling is made a conqueror, for God uses the weakling and the nobody to be a channel through whom He expresses His will. That is the man God uses!
A faithful past, a sound vocation, a filling with the Word of God—what can we do to prove worthy of Him? Let us take our weakness, and our trembling, and our fears before Him; let there be an absolute submission to the indwelling power of His blessed Spirit. Let us ask that all these qualities that were revealed in Christ He might impart to us, that they might be real in your life and mine.
There is a price to be paid. Are you willing to pay it? Cancel every responsibility in your life other than what you believe to be God’s will for you. Deliberately refuse any engagement which will keep you from meditation upon His Word. We are living in an age which has lost the art of being silent with an open Bible and waiting for God to speak.
Practice holiness—begin today. If you are guilty of seeking position for position’s sake, resign or alone with God confess your sin and get right with Him. Then, through this church, through all its leadership, will be expressed Heavenly light, Heavenly authority, Heavenly power, and the river of God will flow through this church as it has done in the years gone by.