Laying the Groundwork for the Next Leader

Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall go in there. Encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it.

~ Moses, speaking in [youversion]Deuteronomy 1:38[/youversion]

Before the beloved leader Moses passed off the scene, he made sure that he did one thing well. He prepared the soil of the people’s hearts for a coming transition in leadership. Moses knew well that “everything rises and falls on leadership” and so for Israel to thrive in the future, they would need to respond well to God’s chosen man.

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The Scarlet Thread by W. A. Criswell

wa_criswellThis weekend, I’ll be preaching from Joshua 2 concerning the scarlet thread that runs through all of Scripture, foreshadowed and typified by the scarlet line which Rahab the harlot let down from her window. That scarlet thread signaled to the approaching Israelites that everyone in her household should be spared because of their acting by faith that God was God and Savior alone.

This awesome passage, and the theme itself, always reminds me of one of the most inspiring sermons I’ve ever heard… W. A. Criswell’s The Scarlet Thread. He preached through the entire Bible on a New Year’s Eve. The sermon is preserved at and I’ve posted the links below to the message’s three separate parts. Listen…

The Scarlet Thread Through the Bible Part 1

The Scarlet Thread Through the Bible Part 2

The Scarlet Thread Through the Bible Part 3

Growing With Difficult People

“I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died: That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the Lord to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not.” -Judges 2:21-22

When I first entered ministry, I had a dream of serving as Pastor of a church as quickly as possible. That hasty attitude led me to two very difficult experiences. I encountered churches that were saturated with problems, and to be frank… problem people. I watched as “church people” took the “one another’s” of the New Testament (“love one another…,” “accept one another…,” etc.) and tried to do the opposite of each one.

One day I felt I was at my wit’s end. I called my father-in-law and mentor, Danny Kirk, to ask for help. I remember asking how I could possibly go on pastoring such difficult people. I’ll never forget his reply to me as he said, “Brandon, you’ve got to love’m warts and all.” Now that’s good advice.

Why does God place us in the middle of such difficult people? So that He may “prove” us thereby. So that we won’t forget that ministry is all about difficult people. And to see if we’ll use difficult people as an excuse to give up. God has placed people in your life who rub you the wrong way to test your reactions. Is He tempting you to sin? Not at all. Rather, He’s giving you an opportunity to prove your character by not sinning.

Now I hardly think that very many people in our lives could be compared to the brutish and idolatrous Canaanites of Joshua’s time, but we can certainly learn the principle that our surroundings and circumstances are really part of our trial in life. God is preparing us to compete for a crown, even through people who seem like obstacles now.

By the way, if you seem to be surrounded on all sides by difficult people, it may be because you’re a difficult person yourself! Check your life. How do you think God wants you to deal with the difficult people in your life today?

Magnified Before Them

“On that day the Lord magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life.”—Joshua 4:14

A dear friend of mine who is doing a great work for God told me that he was praying for God to “magnify him in the eyes of the people.” At first this sounded strange to me, until I recalled these words from Scripture. This is exactly what God did for Joshua. He revealed His servant as a fearless conqueror in whom the people could place their utmost trust.

If we hope to lead well, we must make this our prayer—that God would “magnify us in the eyes of the people.” But we must also be prepared for a radical challenge. What kind of person would God be willing to magnify before people? Only one ablaze with zeal for God’s holiness, who would stop at nothing to be like Jesus Christ.

Before you pray for success, pray for the spiritual condition necessary to endure it for the praise of others is the greatest test of a man’s character. James said, “be not many masters (leaders); knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation (we’ll be judged more harshly).”

The only reason God would magnify Joshua as a leader before the people was that Joshua could stand up to the tests of leadership. He was ready for the responsibility. Let’s desire great success, but let’s prepare our hearts and lives for all that comes with it as well.

The Scarlet Thread

j“…thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by:… and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him.”—Joshua to Rahab the harlot in Joshua 2:18-19

Did you know that a scarlet thread winds its way throughout the entire Bible? Skeptics and scoffers may fire their arrows at the validity and historicity of Scriptures, but believers throughout the centuries have seen this line of crimson weaving through every book of God’s holy Word. It is the story of the redemption of mankind at the price of the blood of Jesus Christ.

In Genesis 3:15, God promised the woman that her seed would eventually crush the head of Satan, bringing spiritual deliverance to the human race. In the law, that scarlet thread shows up in all of God’s detailed instructions for animal sacrifices. Through the monarchial records, David’s family preserves the bloodline of Christ. The prophets declared the coming of His kingdom. The gospels record the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord. The epistles develop His doctrines and teachings, especially that of His vicarious death. And the Revelation is the final unveiling of His glory.

The Bible tells one story! It’s the story of Christ. Rahab the harlot was but one small link in the chain. Her scarlet thread experience was but one small example of the thread offered to each of us who will claim Christ as our Redeemer today!

A Man of God’s Word

“Only be thou strong and courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. 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.”—Joshua 1:7-8

Here is God’s secret to success: know the Word of God, meditate on it, and do all that it says. The measure of success in our lives is not dependent upon the amount of money we make or the positions we achieve, but on our response to God’s revelation of Himself. If we are conformed to the Word of God, we’re successful!

God promised success to Joshua, but He also provided the parameters for success. Any triumph in Joshua’s life would flow from a life dedicated to the study and application of God’s Word. God sent Joshua on a mission to conquer, but God also gave Joshua the vision and direction for his conquest in the law which Moses had left him.

So often our view of success is shaped by the world but God has already given us the parameters for eternal success. Which is your standard? Success is within reach—it’s as close as your Bible.

Life Goes On

“Moses my servant is dead;…”—Joshua 1:2

What do you want on your tombstone? Moses made the most significant contribution to the pre-Christian world, the Torah. He was God’s man for a generation, the great emancipator of Israel, a prophet, a priest, and a shepherd of Israel. When it was time for Joshua to take the reigns of leadership, God writes the epithet of Moses’ tombstone – “Moses is dead.”

These were words that Joshua needed to hear. As much of a friend and mentor as Moses may have been to Joshua, his legacy could also have been a hindrance if the people ever decided to live in the past. God had done a great work through this mighty man, but it was time to move on to greater heights under new leadership.

There are great cathedrals that dot our nation’s landscape. They were once great churches, but when their founders and significant leaders retired or moved on, they chose to grasp the glory days gone by. We run this risk in our own lives when we fear change.

The secret to navigating change successfully will be found in our willingness to let go of what we have enjoyed to take a chance on what God may have in store. Whether it’s a change in leadership or location, position or direction, one thing is for sure, we have to always declare yesterday dead. Remember it fondly, but look forward for the promise of tomorrow.