THEME: Focusing on the Long-term Goal
This week’s lessons describe another part of the conquest of Canaan, and teach us important qualities of leadership from the life of Joshua.
I think this is a good point to look back over this campaign and its details and see what it teaches us about the characteristics of strong leadership, which Joshua showed. There probably are other things that can be said about Joshua on the basis of other texts. But just looking at this one campaign, I see at least six things that are worth mentioning and trying to apply to ourselves.
First of all, notice that Joshua did not let short-term gains deter him from long-range objectives. The reason I mention that is because this is precisely what was involved in the matter of the kings being discovered at the cave of Makkedah. To discover the kings of the opposing armies in a position where it was easy with one blow to capture them and kill them was undoubtedly a great temptation. It was certainly an enormous opportunity. When you’re fighting an opposing army, if you can capture the king, or the general, or whoever it may be who’s leading the forces, you have then won not only an enormous victory but you have a tremendous psychological advantage. It would have been a great temptation for Joshua to say, “Look, now, God is intervening on our behalf. God has sent the hail storm. God has prolonged the day. And now, he’s given these kings into our hands. Let’s just stop right where we are, get these kings, and deal with them. And then we’ll go on and fight the rest of this campaign.”
Joshua didn’t do that because he had a marvelous sense of priorities. When God acted miraculously in the battle, Joshua understood that it was not so he could deal with the five kings, but so he could win a tremendous victory over their five armies. Eventually they would deal with the kings, which is why Joshua wanted the cave sealed up until Israel was ready to deal with them. But they were going to carry out first of all what God had sent them to do.
I think that’s something that needs to be applied to Christians in general and to Christian leaders in particular. This is especially true in our day because it’s so easy to be turned aside after one short-term gain after another. This is not to say that short-term gains are unimportant; but it is to say that it’s very important if we’re to be successful as Christian leaders, or simply as Christians trying to serve the Lord, to get a sense of priorities and to pursue first of all those things of highest importance.
Sometime ago, I was in Glen Erie, Colorado. I was talking to Lorne Saney, who is the head of the Navigators. We were talking about leadership management, and he was sharing some of the management tools that he’s used in his own Christian life. He was saying that every year, usually about New Year’s, he spends some time usually setting aside a day or two to just examine his own life and what he hopes to achieve in the year to come. He writes down all these things on a pad of paper, and then he organizes them. He puts at the top of the list the things that he wants to achieve most of all and then, towards the bottom of the list, things that are of lesser importance that he would like to achieve if he finds that he has time. He does that not only yearly, but quarterly, and also monthly. This enables him to assess how he’s doing as the year goes along.
But what I found most interesting is that every Sunday night, as he prepares for his new work week, he gets out a pad of paper and writes down what he wants to achieve that week. From there he orders his list, putting first on the list what he most wants to achieve, and so on down his list. He’s found that in his position of management, with a great number of responsibilities and pressures, this has been enormously helpful in guiding him along the way. You see, it’s often the case that we fail not because we want to fail or because we don’t want to do what we ought to do, but simply because we get turned aside. In Joshua we have an example of a man with a firm idea of what God had sent him to do, and a determination to do that first of all, and deal with secondary matters later.
The second principle I see in Joshua that indicates his great leadership ability is that he understood the need that other people have for visible encouragement. Now this is what was taking place in this matter of calling his commanders to put their feet on the necks of these kings. It was a dramatic object lesson. We look at this and we might even be inclined to say, “Well, that’s kind of silly. I don’t know why in the world he did that.”
But you have to remember that these forces of the Israelite army had just come out of the desert, not very long before this. Before they began their march, they were slaves. And here they were invading a land that had been settled for centuries. It was protected by strong-walled cities and had an intricate military organization. And over it were these kings that in the eyes of these Jewish invaders must have seemed very, very important people. After all, the Israelites didn’t have any kings. Joshua said, “Look, they need to see that these kings that they think are so important are nothing before God. And so, he had each one of his commanders come and put their feet on the necks of those kings as an encouragement for the years of work that were before them. Joshua knew these men needed to see in a visible way what God was going to do. There are all sorts of ways we can apply that. Whenever you have an opportunity to show what God is doing in a way that will encourage some other person, do it because they need the encouragement. And you and I need the encouragement as well.
What are the first two principles of strong leadership seen from our passage?
What are some examples of these first two principles that you have seen practiced by godly leaders around you?
Can you remember a time when you were tempted to allow a short-term gain to distract you from a long-range advantage? How did you withstand this in order to pursue the long-range goal? And if you did not withstand it, what lessons did you learn?
Look for opportunities to encourage fellow Christians around you.