Your past should be a “guidepost,” not a “hitching post.” This statement has motivated me through the years to learn from the past, but not to be stuck in the past–the past with its successes as well as its failures, disappointments, discouragements and sin. I have been known to spend entirely too much time regretting the past or fearing the future, which often robs me from living in the present.
Looking back can be a great source of learning, as long as I don’t live there. In addition to looking at our own past, observing the past lives of others can be extremely helpful. I give credit to John Maxwell for giving me the germ idea for the thoughts which follow.
There is a well-known and instructive passage in the book of Hebrews:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)
Who are these “witnesses?” Some Bible scholars believe that they are saints from the past who are observing us run our race. How did they run? What did theylearn? What can they teach us? To not grow weary in our leadership roles, we need encouragement–the encouragement from the Lord Jesus by looking to Him and considering Him, as this passage admonishes us to do; and, also, by learning from some of the heroes of the faith.
If a few heroes were to step out of the past and spend an hour with us to give us some perspective on our leadership, what would they have to say to you and me? Let’s look at three: Abraham, Joseph and Esther…all are not mentioned in Hebrews 11 but are heroes nonetheless.
What would Abraham say to you and me over a cup of coffee? I believe his message would be:
ONE PERSON CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Abraham might say, “When I was promised that the entire world would be blessed through me, and that my descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the heaven and the sand on the shore, it sounded absolutely impossible, even ridiculous. My wife laughed at the notion. How could I, one person, and an old person at that, possibly be a part of something so huge?”
From Abraham we learn that:
1. You can make a difference in your family
2. You can make a difference for future generations
3. You can make a difference at any age
What would Joseph say to you and me if we had him over for lunch? I believe his message would be:
NEVER GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAMS
Joseph might tell us, “When I was young, I had a dream about the future and what my role in it might be, but it was a long road between the birth of the dream and the fulfillment of the dream. I experienced lots of discouragement, abandonment, temptation and injustice in between. But God, in His time, made good on His promise.”
From Joseph we learn that:
1. God is always with you and at work around you regardless of the circumstances
2. God may seem slow, but He’s never late
3. Never give up on your dream
What would Esther say to you and me if we could take a walk with her? I believe the message would be:
GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER EVERY DETAIL OF OUR LIVES
She might say, “I was in harm’s way numerous times, trusting Him for the outcome that would be pleasing to Him. He always came through and powerfully ruled over every detail and every decision.”
Every time I read the book of Esther, I am empowered to again trust the sovereignty of God. One of my favorite verses from the book is the first verse of chapter nine: “Now in the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s command and edict were about to be carried out, on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred: the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them.” (ESV)
God has lots of names in Scripture, but the name I am coming to appreciate more and more is, “The God of the reverse.” When things seem to be going one way, God can turn it completely around and send it another way. The entire book of Esther is a surreal and vivid account of the interventions of our sovereign Lord.
From Esther we learn that:
1. God put you where you are and will use you where you are
2. God can turn any situation around regardless of how impossible it looks
3. God is all-powerful and all-wise and worthy of our complete trust
These are three of my heroes. Why not pick some of your own and use your imagination as to what they might tell YOU right now if they stepped out of the past and spent some time with you. What can you learn from their experience? Hebrews 11:4 (ESV) says, in regard to Abel: “…though he died, he still speaks.” So, as well, do all the “cloud of witnesses” speak though they are dead, and their words are powerful and encouraging in our leadership journey.