The Bible Centred Youthwork conference 2016 is a conference dedicated to focusing the work among children and young people in our churches on the principles and content of the Bible.
I am sharing my notes for each day. Here are my notes and thoughts from Day 2.
Leadership lessons from Numbers
Given the joy and success of Numbers 1-10, Numbers 11:1 is a stark contrast, a real kick in the teeth. Numbers 11-24 is full of grumbling, unfaithfulness and rebellion.
Great privilege does not guarantee faithfulness.
Sheep need a shepherd; without one they will die
Leaders are shepherds. Time and again, biblical leaders are called or are portrayed as shepherds.
Good leaders have short arms
In Numbers 11:4-25, leadership is shown to be a great burden, a burden that we cannot carry alone. Even when God provides a solution to the people’s grumblings (by providing meat), Moses is all too aware of his limitations. Leaders know they have ‘short arms’, compared to the long arm of the LORD (11:23).
As leaders, we are to have humble confidence in the LORD, a confidence that is not threatened by the provision of other leaders (such as the seventy men the LORD puts his spirit on, 11:16).
Good leaders have slow tongues
In Numbers 12:1-9, Aaron and Miriam grumble against Moses. Yet, Moses does not answer them. Instead, he lets God do the talking.
When people grumble against us, we need to be slow to speak back against them. We need to be humble and be ready to admit when their grumbling has a root in our sin, but also be slow to react in order to allow God to speak into the situation. To ensure this happens, we always go back to the Bible and seek his Word and wisdom before we respond (if we even respond at all).
Good leaders have clear heads
Conversely, in Numbers 16, Moses deals with the rebellion of Korah and Co by responding to them with a sharp rebuke. Yet, he does this with a clear head (in v15 Moses is angry, yes, but not unrighteous anger). Moses is clear on who had been wronged, who is suffering for it, and what is needed to sort it out. Korah and co have sinned against God and they need to stand before him. Even though they object, he insists.
There will be times when we need to speak up for the Gospel and speak out against sin, unfaithfulness and unbelief. We must do this with a clear head that is paying more attention to what the LORD has said to us in his Word and is striving to see things through his eyes.
Good leaders are judged more harshly than the people you teach
Numbers 20:1-13 describes Moses failing the LORD by not honouring him as holy in the sight of the people and by not trusting his Word (that told Moses to speak to the rock as opposed to striking it). James 3:1 clarifies this: we will be judged more harshly than those we teach.
The seriousness of our task should not necessarily drive us away in fear from being leaders (although, for some, stepping down as leaders because we are not up to the task might be the right response). Instead, it should humble us, leading us to seek his grace and asking him to work in us by his Spirit so that we might be the leaders he would have us to be.
Good leaders fall on the grace of God in Christ
Moses does not enter the Promised Land in an earthly sense. Yet, in the Gospels we see Moses and Jesus (with Elijah) in the Promised Land. Moses’ earthly failings do not disqualify him from his inheritance by faith.
1 Corinthians 3:10-15 speaks of how the ministry God has called us to will be tested by the fire of judgment. As leaders, this is doubly so. Yet there is grace here for us. Even if our ministries are proven to be worthless and failing ministries in the LORD’s eyes, we are still secure and have an eternal home, even though we will get there as one who escapes the flames of judgment.
Our hunger for significance
In Acts 20:28, we see it is right for us to invest in and think carefully of our own spiritual, emotional and psychological health because we have responsibility over others.
Proverbs 4:23, guard your heart…
- The human heart is a deep place (Proverbs 25?) and no-one can know the extent of our failings (Psalm 19:12).
- The human heart is a private place which we find heart to expose to others.
- The human heart is a dangerous place where the approval of others and the success of the world are a great pull on us.
- The human heart is a stubborn place where sin is not dealt with apart from confession, repentance and faith.
The world we live in is hungry for significance. Our hearts are aware that we have significance and purpose but we are broken and fallen. We do not know our true signifcance or purpose, and we do not know where it is to be found. Therefore we seek significance and purpose in all sorts of ways, some good and some bad, but all incomplete and lacking in fulness. Three ways we seek significance…
#1 Being noticed, seeking status and recognition
We find significance when people notice us and recognise our identity and acheivements. But this is all relative. We are noticed by other people who, like us, are fallen and in the same broken sinful state. True significance comes from beng noticed and given status by someone higher than us… the LORD God who made us. It is also temporary, it does not last. Either someone else acheives greater recognition or your recognition fades over time. True significance is where we retain our recognition eternally through the one who is eternal and gives eternal status in Christ.
#2 Being accepted
We find significance when we are considered accepted by others, especially those that we look up to and particularly when we are accepted in our lowly condition. Yet the ‘bar’ for acceptance is continually pushed higher and there will be people or circumstances that result in a lack of acceptance. True significance comes through our acceptance by someone far greater than us even in the lowest condition of even being thier enemy.
#3 Being in control
We find significance when we have influence and control over other people and the situations we are in. As soon as this influence and control is lost, our signifcance fades. True significance comes from acknowledging and surrendering our control to the will of teh LORD God who is in full control of all things, and weilds his control for his glory and our good (Romans 8).
Significance and identity in Christ
Our identity and significance needs to be gorunded and rooted in Christ. This means that our identity and value in Christ are bears fruit in what we do and how others see us, rather than what we do and how others see us determining our identity and value in ourselves.
This is what we see in John 13:3. Jesus knew he had his Father’s authority and approval, and he knew that he was accepted by the Father. This allowed Jesus to disregard the insignificance and cultural despising of foot washing, in order to love and serve his friends.
The Grasshopper complex
In Numbers 13, God’s people have made it through so much and have come so far in God’s grace… and yet they refuse to enter. The greatest enemy of our soul is unbelief, for it will keep us from entering God’s promised rest.
Hebrews 3 highlights that this episode in the history of God’s people serves as a warning against such unbelief.
As we stand on the verge of entering God’s eternal rest, what can we do to make sure that we and those in our care do actually enter that promised land of rest and blessing.
Help people to explore the promise
As the people of God stand on the verge of the promised rest in the land, Moses sends people into the land to explore the promise (Numbers 13:1-25). The promise goes all the way back to Genesis 12 and God revealing his promised land to Abraham by faith.
How much do we explore the promises that God has made to us? How much do we help children and young people explore the promises he has made to us. The promise to Abraham is to him and to his seed, that is Jesus. In Him, we have the promises of God made certain. The promises of God are for us in Christ and they are our sure inheritance by faith (1 Peter 1:3ff). The guarantee that they are ours is His Son, and his Spirit in us.
How much do we read Revelation 21 and 22… just to enjoy them, as our future home and certain hope.
Help people to hate bad ‘but’s
Numbers 13:27 retells the report from the exploration of the land. Numbers 13:28-29 begins with a bad ‘but’. The people begin to doubt the promise. Caleb tries to refocus and reaffirm the promises of God but the people do not listen. Unbelief has gripped them. They see the sure and certain promise of God and yet allow the earthly opposition of the people in the land to overrule in their hearts.
Sin has an irrational madness to it. In Number 14, the people even want to go back to Egypt (to oppression and slavery)! Caleb and Joshua try to remind them that the LORD is giving them the land. The people want to stone them, but the LORD intervenes.
When we are faced with unbelief, people will acknowledge the promises of God yet will say ‘but…’. They will give excuses and try to rationalise things, but we need to simply point out their unbelief and reveal it for what it is.
Moses is God’s provision for the people, to intercede for them in the face of God’s righteous anger. We need to avoid arrogant complacency but likewise we need to reinforce firm assurance. Unbelief will not lead to action… but doubt still can.
Help people to take hold of the promise
Joshua and Caleb have certain hope in God’s promises. They are confident the LORD will provide… and yet they have to wander in the desert for 40 years! When he finally gets back to the verge of the promised land, Joshua is as certain of God’s promised rest as he was 40 years before!
We need to take hold of the promise of God in Christ. Even if we are in difficult situations because of the sin and unbelief of others, we simply need to lift our eyes to what is to come and be sure of it, in Christ. When we struggle and doubt and fail… we look to Jesus, who stands strong for us as the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).