Rowland Croucher writes:
I want to talk about one of my biblical heroes, CALEB. We don't know very much about him, but the few clues we are given tell us of a very impressive man.
Caleb was a person who never stopped growing. His name, suggests one scholar, means 'all heart' - he reminds us of Bunyan's character Mr Greatheart.
M Scott Peck's best-selling book about grace and maturity, "The Road Less Traveled" begins unforgettably with the words 'Life is difficult'. It is. Caleb knew that, but 'took life by the throat' and confronted difficulties head-on. At age 85 he came to Joshua asking for the personal allotment of land promised by Moses. He had a right to sit down and take it easy - take off his army boots and put on his slippers. He'd survived 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, and then the invasion of Canaan. Of the thousands who left Egypt, he and Joshua were the only ones the Lord allowed to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land.
What do we know about this remarkably complete man that can help us understand the nature of godly leadership? First, he was:
Despite his adverse pedigree Caleb, because of his outstanding leadership gifts, rose to a position of some prominence among the tribes of Israel. He refused to be "a prisoner of his scripting". And in the Lord's work today there is a desperate need for leaders like Caleb, particularly among Australians, who are not noted for nurturing "tall poppies".
World Vision has a reputation for being "smart". We have to be careful about that. There's a fine line between being smart or pursuing excellence, and being "too clever by half". But you are called to lead us on into more and more effective ministry. That's our main task - ministry to our donors, and ministry to the poor. Part of this ministry involves separating Australians from their dollars, and sending as many of these as possible to the poor.
Caleb was smart: let us creatively take hold of the opportunities lying all around us.
Two - one of them Caleb - measured the giants against God. To a great God those giants were very puny. Caleb was prepared to do what leaders are supposed to do - lead. But the people were restive, afraid of this mammoth new venture, and what followed is a good example of what happens when leaders let the crowd write the agenda. Fear degenerated into panic.
Caleb at this point was a man in his prime, aged forty five 'Yeah, we can do it! Let's go! The Lord is with us - that's all that matters!' Trouble was the Israelites listened to the pessimists - and as a result spent 40 years wandering around the Sinai desert until a whole generation died off. The problems, the obstacles, were huge but Caleb was the sort of person who saw problems as opportunities, difficulties as challenges.
One of the characteristics of 'statesmen/women' over other leaders is that they usually hold a minority opinion about something very important, and have to wait until the tribes catch up. They are strong enough to be comfortable in the minority: if they believe their position is right, they'll stick to it, albeit showing patience and love to others who don't yet see reality their way. There's nothing much worse than the 'idolatry of the majority'.
Research by itself isn't important - it's what you do with it that matters. Sometimes research can be an escape from doing anything. The Americans until George Bush kept researching the problem of acid rain that's killed 400 Canadian lakes and rivers - to stall and do nothing. The ten spies may have been perfectly accurate in their comparison: the people perhaps were like grasshoppers compared to the Canaanite giants. There's no argument against being realistic. However those Canaanites might also have been ordinary people whose size was magnified by cowardice and weakness. The size of the enemy is always relative. Australians are supposed to be unresponsive to the Christian gospel: we're reckoned to be the most secular nation on earth; our public institutions less pervaded by religion than anywhere else. Yet my own belief is that Australians are very responsive when the church's communication is right. We've used excuses where we should have done more research. And when the findings are in, we then faithlessly commission someone else to do still more research.
Where you stand determines what you see. The important point about research: only half the facts will lead you to the wrong conclusion. Instead of comparing the giants with themselves they should have compared them to God. The unbelief equation is simply 'facts without faith equals despair'.
So the task of leaders is to assess realistically the world in which we live, in the light of what God wants us to do in it. There are enemies -the world created by our sovereign Lord has been hijacked by an enemy, whom Jesus calls 'the evil one'. But there is milk and honey too. The creation mandate has never been revoked: God saw that his creation was good: and if you see it with the eyes of faith it's still good. Creation's sinfulness and fallenness is not its essence; goodness is. The Dominican scholar Matthew Fox is teaching us that Western Christendom has for too long been infected with a Pharisaic mind-set: defining human reality especially in terms of sin rather than the 'imago dei', our likeness to the Creator-God. Reminds me of the description of surrealist art: a painting emphasizing the manure heap in the corner of the field, rather than the flowers all over it.
But all the great leaders in the Bible had their leadership skills honed in deserts (or, if no deserts, prisons). Neither Caleb nor we are exempt from that rule. Every leader has to find a desert somewhere for retreat and reflection and renewal.
And each of us gets disappointed in other people from time to time: they don't live up to our expectations. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers - but he didn't give up. Paul, writing with a sad heart told how one of his friends had forsaken him to follow the world. However Paul didn't cease preaching the gospel because Demas did. James says facing trials produces the ability to endure, the kind of patience that makes you perfect and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:3,4).
Go To [Part 2]
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This article is published courtesy of Rowland Croucher, John Mark Ministries. If you would like to peruse more articles from the pen of Rowland Croucher, visit his website at http://www.pastornet.net.au/jmm.
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