Thursdays With Spurgeon—Encouragement For Preachers

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Encouragement For Preachers

…For the mouth of the Lord has spoken (Isaiah 1:20).

     We preach because ‘the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ It would not be worth our while to speak what Isaiah had spoken if in it there was nothing more than Isaiah’s thought—neither should we care to meditate hour after hour upon the writings of Paul, if there was nothing more than Paul in them. … The true preacher, the man whom God has commissioned, delivers his message with awe and trembling because ‘the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ … 

     Woe unto us if we dare to speak the Word of the Lord with less than our whole heart and soul and strength! Woe unto us if we handle the Word as if it were an occasion for display! If it were our own word, we might be studious of the graces of oratory. But if it is God’s Word, we cannot afford to think of ourselves. … Because the mouth of the Lord has spoken the truth of God, we therefore endeavor to preach it with absolute fidelity. …  

     Believing that ‘the mouth of the Lord has spoken,’ it is my duty to repeat God’s Word to you as correctly as I can after having heard it and felt it in my own soul. It is not mine to amend or adapt the gospel. …  Again, dear friends, as ‘the mouth of the Lord has spoken,’ we speak the divine truth with courage and full assurance. Modesty is a virtue, but hesitancy when we are speaking for the Lord is a great fault. …  

     We preach not the gospel by your leave. We do not ask tolerance nor court applause. We preach Christ crucified, and we preach boldly as we ought to speak because it is God’s Word not our own. … We cannot use ‘ifs’ and ‘buts,’ for we are dealing with God’s ‘shalls’ and ‘wills.’ If He says it is so, it is so. And there is the end of it. Controversy ceases when Jehovah speaks [Jeremiah 1:17-19].

From The Infallibility Of Scripture

Preaching God’s Word is not for the faint of heart. It takes one who is confidently humbled—confident that God has spoken and humbled that He would choose someone like me to speak His Word to His people. 

In my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter I wrote: 

Check this out: “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). Who wrote the book of Numbers? If you answered “Moses,” you are correct. Doesn’t that sound a bit brash to declare that you are more humble than anyone else on the earth? Yet, God allowed Moses to pen those words, making that a Holy Spirit-inspired statement of fact. Humility is a double-edged sword: it can serve a leader well when it is balanced with appropriate confidence, but it is a detriment to an organization’s health if it is self-de-basing humility that undercuts a leader’s credibility. 

The God-honoring preacher gets his message from the mouth of the Lord, and then confidently endeavors “to preach it with absolute fidelity.” Whether others praise of criticize, the humble leader says, “I am only God’s servant speaking God’s Word.” 

Preachers, let’s make sure that everything we confidently and humbly share from our pulpits is the whole counsel of what has been spoken by the mouth of the Lord.

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

A Leader’s Daily Guide

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Sometimes it’s best just to let the Bible speak for itself. 

As Moses was preparing the Israelites for life in the land God has promised them, he had these words for them about their leaders—

When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,” be sure to appoint over you a king the Lord your God chooses. … When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left…. (Deuteronomy 17:14-15, 18-20) 

A mark of a godly leader is one who uses God’s Word as his daily guide.

This is part 64 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Podcast: Leaders And Friends

On this episode of “The Craig And Greg Show” we talk about: 

  • some people wear the cliche “It’s lonely at the top” like a badge of honor, but it’s not [0:40] 
  • the best leaders are always developing new leaders [1:25] 
  • do people say, “It’s lonely at the top” because they don’t want others alongside them or because they don’t know how to develop people? [1:55]
  • some people are talented in leading but not talented in friending … what kinds of friends do leaders need? [2:52]
  • what are the differences and similarities between friends, peers, and colleagues? [4:57]
  • a huge leadership challenge in a new position or a new organization is quickly identifying your allies [6:00]
  • a teammates’ participation in team sports can give a leader great insights into that teammates’ leadership potential [7:00]
  • leaders that try to fly solo set themselves up for failure … what are the common traits of leaders who successfully raise up new leaders? [8:08]
  • Greg confesses a leadership mistake he had to correct in himself [9:20]
  • character is vital in emerging leaders [10:59]
  • compassion is valuable in emerging leaders [11:44]
  • consistency helps emerging leaders develop into solid leaders, and it helps the team leader to excel … great insight from Patrick Lencioni about being present [12:15]
  • teams must embrace diversity and find commonality [13:08]
  • I elaborate on Greg’s point about a leader’s presence and consistency [14:10]
  • the team leader has to take the initiative in identifying and raising up new leaders [15:47]
  • leaders need to continue to replenish themselves [17:22]
  • Greg shares a great leadership example from the life of Moses [17:50]
  • we are here to encourage you—check out information on our leadership huddles [18:20]

Check out this episode and subscribe on YouTube so you can watch all of the upcoming episodes. You can also listen to our podcast on Spotify and Apple.

Leadership And Grumbling

It seems like these two things go together: leadership and grumbling. Sadly, it is usually an ugly, downward spiral: people grumble against those in leadership, the leaders feel the need to defend themselves and typically respond angrily, which causes even more grumbling against those in leadership. And down goes the spiral!

It doesn’t have to be this way. And it should never be this way among Christians!

Moses reminded those who grumbled against him that they were really grumbling against God. Moses didn’t have to respond, but he let God take care of it.

Grumbling can be deadly for grumblers, but it doesn’t have to be for godly leaders.

(What does it mean to be a “godly leader”? I have an ongoing series of posts with the consistent theme “A mark of a godly leader is…” catalogued here.)

The Core Curriculum Of The Spirit

“The Law of God teaches us how to love Him and our neighbors (Matthew 22:34-40). The Law of God is critical for seeking the Kingdom of God (Matthew 5:17-19). The Law of God liberates us from the blinding and binding power of sin (James 2:8-13). The Law of God marks the path of love that Jesus walked, and that all must walk who would follow Him (1 John 2:1-6; 5:1-3). The Law of God provided the framework within which the apostles ordered their churches (cf. 1 Corinthians 5, 9; James 2:5; 1 John 5). The Law of God is the core curriculum of the Spirit, as He brings us into the presence of God’s glory and transforms us into the image of Jesus Christ (Ezekiel 36:26-27; 2 Corinthians 3:12-18). Neglecting the Law of God is a major cause for the decline of true and selfless love in the world; it licenses the progress of evil; and it threatens to render the prayers of Law-neglecting believers an ‘abomination’ or, we might say, ‘a dead and a useless thing’ (Matthew 24:12; Proverbs 28:4, 9). 

[all Scriptures from the above paragraph are here]

“It’s no wonder the psalmist, echoing Moses, insisted that the righteous person, the one who embodies the goodness of God in all his ways, meditates on the Law of God day and night, hides it in his heart and embodies it in all his ways (Psalm 119:9-11; Deuteronomy 6:1-9), keeps it diligently, delights in and loves it, and hastens to make sure his feet follow in its path (cf. Psalm 1; Psalm 119:4, 5, 35, 59, 60, 97). 

[all Scriptures from the above paragraph are here]

“If you are missing the Law of God in your relationship with Jesus, you are depriving yourself of a most important resource for bringing the goodness of God to light in the land of the living. The good works outlined in the Law of God are those ‘ordained of old’ which God intends us to do in all our ways (Ephesians 2:10). Yes, understanding the Law can be difficult. But we can learn from the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles how to read, study, and meditate in this most important corpus of Biblical literature, and thus we can discover the true freedom for goodness and love that God has prepared for us.” —T.M. Moore 

The Servant Of God

…Joshua, son of Nun, the servant of the Lord… (Joshua 24:29). 

There are not many people in the Bible called “the servant of the Lord”:

  1. Moses
  2. Joshua
  3. David (in the introduction to Psalms 18 and 36)
  4. Jesus (in Isaiah 42 and 49)

In Joshua’s final address to the Israelites, I believe he shares some common themes for anyone who wants to be called a servant of the Lord:

  • A firsthand, personal encounter of God’s miracles (Joshua 23:3; 24:7)
  • Constant recall of God’s provision (23:4; 24:7)
  • Awareness that my doing is only possible because of God’s doing (23:5, 10; 24:12)
  • Obedience to God’s Word (23:6; 24:21)
  • Wholehearted love for God (23:11; 24:23)
  • Reverent fear of God (23:12-13; 24:14, 19-20)
  • Based on what God has already done, trust in His future grace (23:14; 24:24)
  • Choosing to do all of the above every single day (24:15, 18)

All of these principles were fulfilled in the Ultimate Servant of the Lord: Jesus of Nazareth. And that Servant told us that His Spirit would empower us to live like He lived. It’s not impossible to live like this, but the Holy Spirit wants to empower us to live this out. The question is: will we let Him?

Sadly, the were no other leaders that came immediately after Joshua who were called “servant of the Lord.” Israel failed primarily because they violated the the very first principle—they had no first-hand, personal experience of God’s miracles. They lived off the miracles of their parents’ age: it was for them “the Lord your God” and never “the Lord my God” (see Joshua 24:31; Judges 21:25).

May our prayer today be: Heavenly Father, I want to be a legacy leader. Jesus, I want to be a servant of God just like You were. Holy Spirit, I invite you into my life to empower me to live this servant lifestyle every single day. 

Zero Casualties

The whole army then returned safely to Joshua… (Joshua 10:21).

The only time any deaths in battle are mentioned in the whole military campaign of Israel conquering Canaan is at Ai when 36 men died (7:1-5). Other than that, zero casualties.

A massive Israelite army, waging war against huge armies “as numerous as the sand on the seashore” (11:4), many of them entrenched in fortified cities, several of the warriors are giants, fighting on terrain that is unfamiliar to them—zero casualties! 

But why should this surprise us?

God doesn’t see masses of people; He sees individuals. He knows how many hairs are on each soldier’s head! He is able to keep alive all His children despite the rigors of warfare.

Total victory. Zero casualties!

The casualties at Ai were due to Israel’s disobedience. The ongoing victories were due to Israel’s total obedience: “As the Lord commanded His servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses” (11:15).

“All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the Lord, the God of Israel, fights for Israel” (10:42), with zero casualties!

We wage a spiritual warfare today that is no less rigorous or dangerous than the military campaign the Israelite army fought. God is still able to keep those who are His until He calls them home. 

Missionary John Paton, while surrounded by hostile cannibals, said, “I realized that my life was immortal till my Master’s work with me was done.” 

The same is true for you. Don’t fear the enemy. Don’t shrink from the battle. Obey God, and trust Him to bring you safely home to Heaven. Then you can say with the apostle Paul, as he neared the end of his campaign—

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). 

Jesus is able to keep you from falling until He brings you into His Father’s presence—zero casualties!

Our God Is A Specific God

At the Lord’s command, Moses recorded the stages in their journey. This is their journey by stages. (Numbers 33:2)

Numbers 33:3-49 goes on to list 43 specific places. 

The next chapter gives specific boundaries for Israel’s borders, listing 21 specific places. 

After that, we read a list of 12 specific names of leaders who are to assign portions of land to all the Israelite tribes. 

Our God is a specific God. No detail escapes His notice. Nothing happens by chance, nor is God ever scrambling to fix something I’ve messed up or to address something that I think is “unexpected.” God knows the end from before the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), including my specific role in His plan.

Let me say it again—Our God is a specific God. 

Heavenly Father, you have a specific plan for my life. You have given me specific talents to use at specific “stages” along the journey of my life. Holy Spirit, help me not to lean to my own understanding, for it is far too finite and skewed. In all my ways—in all the stages of my life—I want to use my specific talents specifically to glorify Jesus.

Where’s God Today?

Transitions are always hard things. We are leaving the known for the unknown. Even if the known is unhealthy or painful, it’s still hard to go to the unknown. 

Why are these transitions so difficult? Perhaps it’s because I’ve learned how to cope with the known, or I’ve gotten used to this “normal” life, or even I’ve simply learned to navigate any dysfunctional areas.

But is that really living? Am I managing my life or is God? When I’m against transitions, aren’t I really saying that I’ve put God’s plan for my life in my box?

Those questions trigger even more questions in my mind: Where’s God in all of this? Why can’t He just make my known better? Why is He leading me (or maybe even pushing me) into this unknown? 

Jesus didn’t endure the unimaginable horrors of the Cross just so you could cope with life. Jesus came to bring us abundant life—not a barely-getting-by life or just a coping life!

How does He bring us into this abundant life? By leading us through transitions. And where is He in all our transitions? Closer than you think! 

Moses sang a song to conclude his sermon in Deuteronomy. In that song, he mentions God taking care of His people the way an eagle cares for its eaglets.

Adults eagles build their extremely large nests in the highest point they can find. Their nests are made of massive branches. In fact, they build some of the largest nests of all birds, and build them in the most inaccessible of places. Before their eggs are laid, the adult eagles will soften their nest with feathers pulled from their own body. From the time the eggs are laid until the eaglets leave the nest, they are never without a parent present—while one parent hunts, the other watches. 

Eaglets first test their stumpy wings by jumping around in the nest, mimicking their parents. Eventually they will start “branching”—jumping to nearby branches—and then “fledging”—taking their first short flights from the nest. All under the watchful eye of the parents. Finally, the adult eagles will “stir up” their nest by blowing away all of the comforts of their plucked feathers, encouraging the eaglets to soar. 

Moses said that this is how God cares for His children. First by shielding and guarding us, and then by stirring up our nest and encouraging us to soar! 

Much like when Jesus ascended back to Heaven. He was going to physically leave His disciples, but He knew He had adequately trained his “eaglets” to soar without Him with them in bodily form. 

But Jesus never leaves us spiritually. He said that His ascension back to heaven would allow for the Holy Spirit to be resident in each of His followers (see John 16:7-15). It is the Holy Spirit that continues to guide us, teach us, empower us, correct us, and lead us to SOAR into abundant, God-honoring, Christlike living. 

There are many, many times of transition as we soar, but He never leaves us. The Holy Spirit is our constant Counselor. God shows His love for us by caring for us. God also shows His love for us by making us uncomfortable with the status quo. 

May the times of transition cause us to rely even more on the very present help of the Holy Spirit.

Continue to follow along with me in a new series of posts looking at how the Holy Spirit helps us to soar!

Handling Personal Attacks

So the people grumbled against Moses … The people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron (Exodus 15:24; Numbers 20:2). 

People with limited vision have limited faith too. As a result, they frequently grumble when things don’t go their way. Ironically, their grumbling is almost always directed at the leader who does have far-reaching vision and God-honoring faith! 

For most of his tenure as leader, Moses handled the grumbling of the people well. Sometimes, though, the complaints seemed more personal:

  • …in opposition to Moses and Aaron
  • …they quarreled with Moses
  • …“Why did you…?” 

These complaints may seem like a personal attack, but in the end, we find out that these attacks weren’t really against Moses at all—“the Israelites quarreled with the Lord” (Numbers 20:13). 

God tried to help Moses and Aaron see that this was not a personal attack on them. He instructed them to “speak to that rock” so that water would be provided for the grumbling people. But sadly, Moses and Aaron missed this point. They said to the Israelites, “must we bring you water out of this rock?” And then in total frustration with the quarrelsome Israelites, Moses “struck the rock” instead of speaking to it.

Moses made himself the focal point, not God. God responded: “you did not trust in Me enough to honor Me as holy in the sight of the Israelites” (v. 12).

A mark of a godly leader is one who doesn’t take personal attacks personally.

Previously, Moses responded to the grumblers better—

  • He “cried out to the Lord” and received directions
  • He obeyed God’s directions to the letter
  • He reminded the people that their grumbling was really “against the Lord” (Exodus 16:6-8)
  • He humbled himself before the people and pleaded with them not to rebel against God
  • He humbled himself before God and interceded for the people

If God has called you to lead, people will bring their quarrels and complaints to you. It will feel like a personal attack, but it’s not. When attacked or when people grumble, you need to humble yourself before the Holy Spirit and ask, “Did I do something wrong?” and then listen attentively for His answer.

If the answer is yes: repent, ask forgiveness, make things right.

If the answer is no: don’t take it personally, stay humble before God and the people, and obey the specific directions God will give you. Don’t get frustrated and cut short your tenure as a leader.

This is part 44 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

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