The Call to Courage

Desiring God 2008 Conference for Pastors

The Pastor as Father & Son

(The following is a summary from notes taken during the message.)

Crawford Loritts learned what he knows about leadership, courage, responsibility, etc. primarily from his dad. To this very day, when challenged with tough decisions and discouragement, he hears his dad's voice saying, "Don't walk away."

There is an epidemic of weakness that is sweeping into the church. The culture is infiltrating the church, leaving us fearful of leading and making decisions. Our preoccupation with "consensus" has a stranglehold around what we do, and we're taught to sanitize our lack of commitment.

Some of us are discouraged in our ministries because we have refused to do what God has told us to do, not because he hasn't told us.

Nothing in life or in ministry ever happens apart from courage. Somebody has to pull the trigger. The very nature of leadership is that it is a prophetic statement of where things ought to be. Inherent in leadership is a call to embrace aloneness and resilience.

When you read Joshua 1 you must read it in its emotional context. Moses is dead because he disobeyed God. He allowed the pressure of those following him to get to him and he acted in unbelief. He commissioned Joshua to carry on.

Now God comes to Joshua personally to give him an exposition on courage. This is the best leadership text in the Bible. It is not for the faint-hearted. It's as if God reaches out and grabs Joshua (and us) by the lapels. He doesn't coddle us but gives us a fourfold description of courage.

1) Courage rests upon a clear assignment from God (v 1-4).

There is no such thing as courage apart from mission, just as there is no such thing as faith apart from challenge. You're not just courageous to be courageous, but you are courageous for something.

As for Moses, a man of God had died; but nothing of God died. He gave Joshua the assignment. He reiterated to Joshua what he had told Moses to do. God isn't needy of worthy men. He makes men worthy. Therefore we shouldn't fear the loss of any of his human instruments. God isn't fearful of his cause failing.

Ephesians 2:10 implies that we should step out in bold obedience. The good works he has prepared beforehand—we should walk in them!

What are the things God has prepared for you to do? When did you last reassess God's call on your life? What are those things that God has given you a passion for?

Your courage will rise when you have confidence in the call. Most people leave the ministry because of confusion and a lack of courage.

2) Courage rests upon the assurance of God's presence (v 5, 9).

God never calls us to do anything apart from him. Every assignment that God gives is also his primary means of sanctifying the leader. Some of us are getting burnt out because we are separating the sanctification process from our ministry. The very thing that God is using to draw us to himself is his calling upon us. His calling is a statement of his presence.

Pastoring is not just a job for you. It's not some evangelical corporate fulfillment. God's assignments come with a special sense of God's presence, also known as unction or annointing; and his presence is real.

Do you think God would leave Joshua high and dry? If God has called you, he is with you. Courage doesn't mean that I am not afraid. It means that I fear God more than I fear my environment. It means that I trust in divine resources more than the resources of man.

Philips Brooks: "Don't ask for tasks equal to your powers. Ask for powers equal to your tasks."

3) Courage rests upon focused determination (v 6, 7, 9).

Three times he repeats "be strong and courageous." God does not have a speech impediment. When he repeats himself, he intends to.

Be very careful of making decisions based upon your personality profile, etc. God is not bound by the way we're "wired." God never dialogues with anybody about how they're wired before he calls them to a job. Consider Moses and quit camouflaging doubt with psychobabble.

Leadership is strengthened by acts of obedience. It's a verb, not a position. You know you're flying over the right target when you're being shot at. If you're running because of opposition, you'll be running for the rest of your life.

The ability to endure deepens your resolve. If you act courageously, you'll get more courage. God is with you, but he'll only strengthen you when you raise your leg and put it forward. He can't steer a parked car. The wind will only blow when you put up the sail.

4) Courage is anchored by the word of God (v 7-8).

Success or failure in a mission is tied to your relationship to truth. There are three primary relationships in the verse:

a) Proclaim the Word ("let it not depart from your mouth").

The amount of biblical illiteracy in evangelicalism is appalling. How dare you think that you have the right to presume that ministry can succeed without being built upon the word. Pragmatism is taking the supernatural right out of our ministry. You can have C- leadership ability, but if you honor his Word you will succeed.

Pastors, make your time alone in God's Word inviolable. Your people deserve to hear from God every Sunday morning. They can't make it on illustrations, stories, or insights. They need a word.

b) Meditate upon the Word ("you shall meditate on it day and night").

The reason you can proclaim the word is because you have it stored up within you. It is the background noise of your life. When the trials come you can just turn up the volume.

Devotionally master the word of God for your souls. Immerse yourself in the book. Love it, live it.

c) Do all that is written in it.

Hypocrisy is an occupational hazard in ministry. It is the primary fault in our work. The problem with evangelicalism today is that if you can pull ministry off, nobody will ask you any questions. There isn't a dynamic relationship between giftedness and holiness, but true fruitfulness will prove itself over time. The integrity of your ministry is everything, so you have to practice the truth you're proclaiming.

You have to be the destination where you want other people to arrive.

serves as senior pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Georgia.