Summary: Joshua’s words to a new generation apply to each one of us who desires to be the kind of leader God wants us to be.

"Passing the Torch of Spiritual Leadership"

Joshua 23:1-11

Commencement Address

Dr. Rick Bartosik

International College and Graduate School

May 15, 1999

INTRODUCTION: President Harvey Ching, members of the board, fellow faculty members and staff, alumni, families, friends and graduates of the class of 1999.

This morning I would like you to go back with me to another commencement day–to the day in the life of the nation of Israel when Joshua passed the torch of leadership to a new generation. Joshua’s final charge to that new generation of leaders is found in Joshua 23. Joshua knew that he would soon pass from the scene, and he was concerned for the new leaders that God would raise up to follow him. His words to them that day apply to each one of us today who desires to be the kind of leader God wants us to be. This passage is a reminder to us of what God cares about in ministry leadership.

In these verses I want to focus on four principles of successful spiritual leadership:

Give God all the credit

Obey his Word completely

Cleave to him only

Love him more than anything else

The first principle is: If you want to be successful in ministry...


This principle is found in verse 3: "…You yourselves have seen everything the LORD your God has done to all these nations for your sake; it was the LORD your God who fought for you."

The thing that impresses me throughout the book of Joshua is that Joshua was a man of tremendous humility. He was a leader who did not draw attention to himself. Joshua constantly centered the attention of the people on the CHARACTER of God, rather than his own personal CHARISMA. The important thing for Joshua was what God had done and what God could be trusted for, not what Joshua did. Joshua gave all his successes back to God as His accomplishments.

Billy Graham is a man that I respect. Like Joshua, he has spent a lifetime giving God all the credit. After 50 years of public life and ministry, even the secular press respects him. I don’t think he is respected because he is a brilliant speaker and evangelist, or because he is an obvious leader, or because he has had great success in the growth of his organization. All those things are true. But what I respond to in Billy Graham and what even nonbelievers respond to is his integrity and his humility more than anything else. He doesn’t draw attention to himself. Billy Graham is someone who for fifty years has given success in ministry back to the Lord and has acknowledged his TOTAL DEPENDENCE on God for effectiveness.

We need to learn this same lesson. It is often easy to begin our Christian lives giving God the credit. But as we grow older and as our accomplishments increase, our tendency is to forget the source of our strength, our abilities, and our achievements. But if we are putting God first we will always reflect with humility that it is God who is responsible for all we are and have.

Let me mention something else that is very important: When you give all your successes back to God as His accomplishments–then you don’t have to be depressed and discouraged over the opinions and criticisms of other people. When you give all your successes back to God as His accomplishments through you, you are free from being demoralized by any superficial evaluation of failure in your ministry. Because you were not doing it to seek credit for yourself. You were doing it for the glory of God. Since it was all for Him and for His glory, the only judgement and opinion of your ministry that ultimately matters is the judgement and estimate and opinion of the Lord himself.

The SECOND PRINCIPLE is found in verse 6. "Be very strong; be careful to OBEY all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left."

If you want to be successful in ministry…


In chapter 1 God commanded Joshua: "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful" (Joshua 1:8). This became uppermost in Joshua’s life. He committed himself to a life of obedience to the Law of God. Now he urges this same commitment on a new generation of leaders in verse 6: "Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left."

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