Summary: Part IV of the Four-Part Vision: We look at how God led his people and how He used leaders to lift up a vision among his people. We examine the important questions: Who should lead? and What is important for leaders?
Text: Jesus called them together. He said, “You know about the rulers of the nations. They hold power over their people. Their high officials order them around. Don’t be like that. Instead, anyone who wants to be important among you must be your servant. And anyone who wants to be first must be your slave. Be like the Son of Man. He did not come to be served. Instead, he came to serve others. He came to give his life as the price for setting many people free. (Mat. 20.25-28, NIRV)
Yesterday the United States celebrated its 233rd birthday. During that time, many people have inspired us, led us, and made contributions to this experiment in democracy known as the United States of America. How about George Washington – Commander of the Continental Army that won freedom over the British and also the first president of the United States. Or how about Abraham Lincoln – president of this country during perhaps the most incredibly difficult time that this union has experienced?
Or how about Tony McAuliffe? He was the commanding general of the American forces that were hunkered down at Bastogne during WWII. The German army had launched a huge offensive that was trying to drive a wedge between the British and American forces. The Germans had surrounded the American troops in the city of Bastogne. The weather was brutally cold and the American soldiers were not equipped for winter. The people of the town helped by giving the soldiers blankets and white linens that they could use for camouflage in the snow covered country. But the American soldiers were in a desperate situation. They were isolated from the supply lines, had no possibility that relief was on the way and they were greatly outnumbered and outgunned. Their situation looked bleak. On December 22nd, the Germans sent four soldiers under the cover of a 2-hour truce. The Germans were carrying a note demanding the surrender of the Americans. When the note got to General McAuliffe, his first reaction was that the Germans were trying to surrender to us. When he learned that the Germans were demanding the surrender of the Americans under threat of annihilation, he laughed and said, “Us surrender? Aw nuts!” Out of that came the official response to the German commander. The note read, “To the German commander: “Nuts!”
Leadership is also essential in the Church. God called many leaders to preserve his Word and the lineage through which the Savior would be born: Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, the prophets, the Apostles, the church fathers, Luther and the other reformers. Leadership in the Church has many of the same qualities as leadership in the world, with one major exception – the place that God is leading. People today are looking for hope. We are burdened with so many things: the economy; illnesses; relationship struggles. We need to be shown a vision that inspires hope. How does God inspire – how does God point us to the future? He shows it to us - and then He moves us there!
Think about how God did this to Abram. He took Abram outside one clear starry night. Abram had been sweating that there would be no heir for him. He was contemplating leaving it all to his servant. Then God showed Abram the starry night and said, “Son, look up there. If you could possibly count the stars up there, that is going to be the number of your descendants. And so an old man who had given up hope was blessed to know that God would find a way – not only to give him an heir, but to bring a Savior into the world.
The prophet Habakkuk was given a number of visions that showed the tragedy that the people’s rebellion would bring upon them. He was angry because God had given him a vision of how an evil nation would be used by God to punish his people for rebelling. Habakkuk rebelled. He in essence said to God, “How can you let the evil Babylonians also hurt the faithful people?” But God said, “No – you proclaim this vision, it will come to pass – I the Lord will make it happen.” And it did! Vision drove the prophets. Jeremiah lived when the full weight of God’s judgment was brought to bear on the people. But right in the middle of all that – God shines a vision of hope for the people: For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29.11) And we see how this came to be – not only with the restoration of Israel – but in the work of Jesus. God leads with vision! We need to have God’s vision lifted up among us too – to know that God is moving us to a better place.