2014-05-02 - Change
This devotional is based on a message that was preached 04/13/2014 Palm Sunday. It was meant to be a message of hope for my local congregation, just after my friend and pastor resigned from our church. I pray that while it was much targeted for my church, it will still be a blessing to many readers today.
Today is Palm Sunday the beginning of Holy Week leading up to Easter. On this day almost 2000 years ago, Jesus was welcomed in as Messiah, but then opinion changed. Jesus life path changed as he entered his final week before the cross. The times were changing, as Judaisms rules were swapped for Christianitys relationship. The church has experienced many changes over the years since then. In fact, at times it seems that about the only thing that is constant, is that we constantly change.
But we dont have to fear changes, if we can understand the things that change (and those that dont) as well as the tasks to do during those times, and some truths to remember through them. And for these, we can look back to a big change that happened to the young nation of Israel as it was just beginning. Moses led the people of God out of Israel, and for forty years, he led them through the desert, and this is where we will turn to scripture for the rest of the story.
For some, change is a time of sadness, and there is a time to weep, but there is also a time to roll with the punches. There is a time to reflect, but also a time to move forward. Let us read now about the changing times of Israel.
Deuteronomy 34:1 - Joshua 1:9 (NASB)
The more things change the more they stay the same. This old saying is very true. Sometimes in the midst of life's changes we focus on all the stuff that is changing and we don't stop to consider what is staying constant. So let us first consider the things that change found in 34:1-1:5.
Moses was replaced by Joshua. But Guess what? Israel was God's people - not Moses' people. The first thing we can see is that staffs change, but the pilot does not. Moses had been with his people for forty-plus years - pretty good considering average pastor tenure is 3.6 years, and the average youth pastor is only 12-18 months. You see, Satan knows what he's doing these days, because statistics tell us the most productive years at a church are between years 5 and 7. But not to fear - God is still in control. Look what Joshua 1:1 says: after Moses God spoke to Joshua. Marinate on that for a moment. Let it sink in good. God spoke through the old guy and the new guy. God was still the same God. It was different leader but the same Lord. Warren Wiersbe, in the Bible Exposition Commentary, penned, "Leaders don't lead forever, even godly leaders like Moses. There comes a time and every ministry when God calls for a new beginning with a new generation and the new leadership."
J. Oswald Chambers wrote in Spiritual Leadership, "A work originated by God and conducted on spiritual principles will surmount the shock of a change of leadership and indeed will probably thrive better as a result." The new and old aren't the same; God did not demand Joshua be like Moses. It is continuity not conformity. There will be never another pastor like the one who just left, the one before him, or the one before him. To expect the next pastor to be any of those is both unfair and foolish. The leaders supported Moses and those that didn't got swallowed up by the ground out in the wilderness. Pastors must have full staff and congregational support to succeed. Think about it if we call a man to guide us to God and then when we go against him we are going against God's guidance. And if we don't think he is following God then why are we sticking around?
We must care for the pastor. As one pastor put, it we must shepherd him as he shepherds us. 90% of pastors are worn out. 71% are completely "burned out". 75% feel underqualified and discouraged. 77% say the ministry puts a strain on their marriage. No wonder 89% consider leaving and 60-80% don't stay in ministry at all after ten years. In Exodus 18, as well as one verse later in Joshua 1:10, we see that there were other leaders. Jethro had talked Moses into getting help to lead. No man can do it all alone.
In our case, just as it was with Israel, not all the admin is changing. Our senior pastor's gone, but your student pastor and the deacons are still here.
And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord - 1 Corinthians 12:5
Secondly, we see that steps change but the plan does not. Steps changed time and time again, but God's plan did not. Moses, who was symbolic of the law, could only take us so far. Joshua is English for Yeshua. Yeshua, translated into Greek instead of English, is Jesus. Joshua is a symbol for Yeshua, Jesus, and he can take us to the Promised Land. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." But these were long-term plans, not immediate blessing God planned to shower down. Generations had to endure before fruit was born.
Until next time...
All scripture references are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.