Earlier this month my cousin Larry called to tell me that my uncle, Pat Pearring had just passed away. Immediately I felt a deep sense of concern come over me.
The concern wasn’t about Uncle Pat’s soul—I know he was trusting Jesus for forgiveness and he was on his way to heaven.
And the concern wasn’t for Aunt Joie. I knew she would be sad, but she would be well-taken care of.
And the concern wasn’t about support for the family, because I knew many would be there for comfort.
There’s was another concern that hit me—a concern that is hard to describe. It led me to the Bible passage about the death of Moses:
After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready… As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous… Be strong and very courageous… Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.… Only be strong and courageous!”—Joshua 1:1-18
I had a ton of respect and admiration for Uncle Pat, we will certainly miss him. And so when I heard that he had gone, this sense of concern came over me. And the concern was this: We all need to step up. Uncle Pat, one of the truly good guys--strong, a leader, a pillar, a churchman, a family man is gone. Those types of people are downright rare. It hit me--wow, you don’t replace an Uncle Pat—we never can. He was a rock. So we need to step it up.
When Moses died, the Lord came to Joshua, one of Moses’ aides, and said, “Moses is gone.” What an incredible hit. And God’s charge was, “So get ready. Step it up. Be strong and courageous, be strong and courageous, be strong and courageous, be strong and very courageous.”
I shared that message at my uncle’s funeral. Yes, we need to grieve this loss, to mourn, to cry, to remember. But as his friends and family—all of us—we need to step it up. We need to be strong and courageous.
After the funeral I continued to reflect on how I and we, in my family, like Joshua, need to step up in our leadership. But I wondered how we could actually do that. How do we just step up and step in to fill such big shoes?
Then I looked back at God’s charge to Joshua. Joshua wasn’t just thrust into it. God gave Joshua quite a few necessary pieces to make his leadership effective. God gave Joshua everything he needed to step it up.
Look at the leadership ingredients God provides:
First, there was Preparation. Joshua was “Moses’ aide.” He had been trained to be a leader. For forty-plus years he saw first-hand how a great leader—like Moses—acted.
It seems that all leaders have that time of preparation. Moses had it—forty years under Pharaoh, and forty years as a shepherd prepared him for what was ahead. David was anointed as the next king, but he had ten years serving under Saul—and then running from Saul before he took the throne and another seven years before he assumed the kingship of the full Jewish kingdom. The Apostle Paul had a Damascus road experience, but then he had his prep time serving under Barnabas. Paul prepped Timothy and Titus before launching them out. Even Jesus took time before starting his ministry. And in our family we had some great years with Uncle Pat learning how to lead.
I suspect every good leader has to learn to be a good follower before assuming leadership. It may take years, but there is a preparation time. Let’s embrace that prep time, because it will help us to step it up when the time comes.
A second ingredient in leadership is the Call. Effective leaders have that sense of purpose and vocation. Leadership is too difficult to just give it a shot—we need that clear sense of direction from God. Maybe we’ll be tapped on the shoulder or have our own Damascus road experience but all of us need to clarify our call.
What is God calling me to do? Where does he want me to step it up? He will give me the answers.
Third, there needs to be an Opportunity. Joshua’s time had come. I suspect that he’d had many doubts while wandering in the desert that he was never going to get a chance to take the point.
But his time did come.
Abraham Lincoln resolved, “I will prepare and someday my chance will come.”
And Theodore Roosevelt added, “It is not often that a man can make opportunities for himself. But he can put himself in such shape that when or if the opportunities come he is ready.”
The good news is there is no shortage of opportunities to step up and serve—the harvest is plentiful. Opportunity’s knock on the door is my reminder to step it up.
Another leadership ingredient is Anticipation. God told Joshua to “get ready.” Leaders live with a sense of expectancy.
David Vaughn wrote, “A leader must lead. Where others see obstacles, he must see opportunities. When others see problems, he must see possibilities ... Civilization is not built on a negation but on an affirmation- an affirmation of the bright and promising possibilities that the future holds for those who are enterprising enough to pursue them.”
And hockey great Wayne Gretzky revealed his secret when asked about the key to his success:
“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”
Am I looking for opportunities to step it up?
A fourth component of leadership is Strength. God tells Joshua to, “Be strong!” Leadership and strength go together, don’t they. The term “weak leader” is an oxymoron, because if I’m weak, I may be in a leadership position, but I’m probably not leading.
Leader have some strength that God has empowered them with to lead. We need to find that strength, to realize that strength is from God and to serve in God’s strength—as he was with Moses, he will be with us.
And last, Courage is a necessary ingredient for leadership.
God charges Joshua to not be afraid, and to not be discouraged. If I am discouraged, guess what? I am not leading. I am fretting, fearful, complaining, downcast, disheartened and dismayed.
Leadership takes courage. So, I need to drop the fear, drop the gloom and step it up. And I can even after a death in the family, because although Uncle Pat isn’t with me, the Lord will be with me wherever I go!
So I sense God calling my family to step it up, and more specifically, he is calling me to step it up. My uncle’s passing is my reminder that life is short, God has something for me to do and I need to get with it. And I wouldn’t be surprised if God wants you to set it up too.
So, let’s be strong and very courageous.