SPEAKING PERSONALLY

(August 23, 2019) Brian Bell shares a meaningful, encouraging meditation straight from his heart…

The inspiration for this short meditation is drawn from my recent readings in Joshua and Judges (NTL) –and in particular Joshua 24:3, ‘Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the leaders who outlived him – those who had personally experienced all that the Lord had done for Israel.’

Also Judges 2:7, ‘…the Israelites served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and the leaders who outlived him – those who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel.’

Personal experience of faith
Perhaps you remember where you were when you came to faith in the Lord Jesus… for me it was a very simple ‘act’ of  prayer in my bedroom as a young teenager (which I recorded in the flyleaf of a Bible) – very much in contrast to the apostle Paul’s Damascus road encounter!

Many years ago I recall Reverend Sam Workman talking about those who were ‘walking on the clean side of the broad road (that would describe where I was) but whatever our background and where, when and how we came into salvation our personal experience will have been different.

It is very clear the leaders God raised up for his people were people of faith – just like us, they were not without their flaws, but they were those who had a personal experience of faith… as the writer to the Hebrews reminds us!

As I consider this aspect, it is clear that in relation to faith there are –

  • Conquests of faith (Hebrews 11: 32-35)
    Surely all of us have known experiences in which we knew a conquering faith, it may have been in a workplace setting or some situation in which the Lord enabled and or delivered us.
  • Contrasts of faith (Hebrews 11:36-38)
    I have known many faithful saints who have come through some of the most difficult, tragic and hurtful experiences.
  • Completeness of faith (Hebrews 11:39)
    For those who have now passed into glory their faith has been made complete while for us who still remain it is nearing completion.

Personal experience of life
I remember a work colleague saying many years ago ‘life is great if you can stick the pace.’ In general, the experiences of life are common to all of us, while our specific experiences may differ. I am reminded of this when I think of the words of Psalm 37:25, ‘Once I was young and now I am old…’. In those few simple words the psalmist David reminds me of the experiences found in the journey of life and for those of us who have seen 60 or perhaps more decades! We will know this reality.

I can reflect on experiences which proved to be a source of learning (including about myself), experiences which proved to be a disappointment and unfortunately times when I feel I was a disappointment to others. It is with great satisfaction and thanksgiving I can recall experiences of success, to share life with Eveline my faithful wife, for a precious family, children and now grandchildren.

Most of all, I can reflect on how the gracious hand of God was leading especially when I was struggling.

One song writer expresses it like this:

‘Life is easy when you’re up on the mountain and you’ve got peace of mind like you’ve never known;
But when things change and you’re down in the valley, don’t lose faith for you’re never alone;
For the God of the mountain is still God in the valley when things go wrong he’ll make them right
And the God in the good times is still God in the bad times, the God of the day is still God of the night.’

Personal experience of leadership
I don’t know who spoke those words which I had recorded in a note book…‘You can’t tell anything about God’s choices from the people he chooses.’

When we take time to look at the men and women God has chosen for positions of leadership we see God chose them primarily for the potential he saw in them. Many of them might be said to have been defeated… think of Moses as he fled from Egypt; fearful as we think of Gideon; impetuous, as we think of Peter.

For reasons only the Lord himself can know, I’ve been in a leadership role of one kind or another since my late teens – and I’m still learning. However, in the context of the church (the body of Christ) the model of leadership Jesus showed and taught is servant leadership. I understand this as leading by example.

My own role in Christian leadership as I see it is to seek the welfare of those on whose behalf I exercise a leadership role. As I read the statement in the quoted verses about the Israelites ‘serving the Lord’, it is clear they were spiritual leaders and they kept the Israelites on track with the Lord.

You may remember the incident in Joshua’s day of Israel’s defeat at Ai (Joshua 7). We know the reason for that defeat was the result of Achan’s sin. While it is true Achan took articles which the Lord said should not be touched and that action was sinful disobedience, I believe Achan’s underlying sin was a hidden and personal agenda.

Sadly, I have a concern that in some Christian circles/organisations there are hidden and personal agendas which are a hindrance to God’s work and if they are tolerated they will only lead to ‘defeat’ which may be seen for example in a lack of Spirit-led effectiveness!

Personal experience of encouragement
Over the years of my life I have been privileged to know many faithful leaders. The example set for me was much in keeping with the apostle Paul who encouraged Timothy who I believe was a more timid personality than Paul, possibly given to stress and with some kind of stomach sickness (for which he was advised to take a little wine).

  • We also read how Paul commended Timothy in very clear terms, he saw his leadership potential.
  • This practice of encouragement and commendation should be a goal of everyone in leadership!
  • We are all in the race together – and it is a marathon, so let’s encourage those of younger and differing abilities so that when our leadership role comes to an end they may outlive us and help others to keep serving the Lord.

Over the generations of time the Lord has raised up many great leaders. We need to remember it is not great leaders but on the greatness and goodness of God which, in context of this meditation Israel’s well-being lay. Whatever leadership role or ability we may have today God has given it for his glory.

Brian Bell attends Christ Church (Congregational) Abbots Cross, Northern Ireland and describes himself as ‘grateful for the privilege and opportunity given me to serve my Lord.’ Brian is also a volunteer with Disabled Christians Fellowship Ireland. Link: brian.bell22@btinternet.com

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