Over the last couple months the Lord’s been convicting me of how I’ve gotten more caught up in vision casting, strategy, creating culture, and reading the latest book on leadership than I have been in Christ. Somewhere along the way I turned my eyes off of the Gospel truth that it is “not I, but Christ” who lives and ministers. I started taking pound after pound of weight onto my own shoulders. Following Christ got complicated as I started deciding that I needed to inspire more passion in the community around me and find the perfect strategy to reach the over 65,000 young adults in our region that don’t know Jesus. When we put ministry weight on ourselves rather than remembering that Jesus carried it on the cross our love and passion is inevitably turned into bitterness and frustration.
Thankfully the Lord is faithful to turn the crushing experiences into growing experiences.
Near the end of Deuteronomy Moses re-caps the Israelite’s journey from Egypt to the promised land for the new generation that is about to cross into the promise for a second try at following God’s lead. The entire generation that had been there at the Jordan river and refused to move forward in faith because of their fear died in the 40 years of desert wandering, aside from Caleb and Joshua. A new men and women have grown up and Moses is eager for them to not make the same mistakes their parents did. In his lengthy recap of the law Moses makes a statement that I believe is a powerful reminder for Christians, especially those who are in a position of leadership. In Deuteronomy 17 Moses says,
“And when [the king] sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:18-20, ESV)
The Lord knows the pressure of leading people. As Israel became established as a nation and eventually appointed a king God knew that the king could easily get caught up in all the political and technical pieces of running a nation, solving disputes, overseeing wars, managing treasuries, and entertaining foreign dignitaries. Each of those things are essential tasks, but here, years before a king was even in the Israelite’s mind God establishes only two commands; don’t gain too much wealth, write a hand copy of God’s law and read it daily. Rather than giving revelatory advice about how to lead a successful and peaceful nation, God commands the king to abide in His word.
In itself this isn’t exactly good news. Levitical laws were by no means easy or particularly exciting, as anyone who has read Deuteronomy, Numbers, or Leviticus can attest to. Old Testament laws were burdensome, and they were meant to be. Thankfully the story doesn’t stop there. A few thousand years later Jesus came on the scene and fulfilled the law for us. In his fulfilling he pointed to the one core truth of the law; love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Christian, are caught up in the minutiae of your life rather than focusing on the main thing? Turn to God’s word and see its central point! Leader, strategize, read, vision cast. All those things are good, but they pale in comparison to the core of your calling – to set an example of one who fulfills the great commandment. Just as God’s first command to the future kings of his chosen nation was to study his law, so his first command and primary task for you is to receive his love and love him in return. That love, that power to love, is found only in Christ. Stop looking elsewhere.
The Apostles in Acts delegated the authority of details and systems so that they could focus on the Word and Prayer (Acts 6). When we turn our focus away from Jesus and get caught up in planning our discipleship process, strategizing how we will reach our city, and the seven essential principles of transformative leadership we will, like almost all of Israel’s kings, end up watching our authority collapse around us.
As Jesus said of Martha in Luke 10:42, “you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.” Life itself is full of plenty of things to trouble us. Discipling others multiplies that list of troubles, but Jesus still says that there is only one thing necessary. It’s not preparation. It’s not even your daily reading of Scripture. The Psalmist makes it clear what the one thing is when he writes,
One thing have I asked of the Lord,that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. (Psalm 27:4, ESV)
That’s the heart of Moses’ words to future kings in Deuteronomy. Delight in the presence of the Lord above anything else, so much so that writing a hand copy of the several hundred pages of his law becomes a joy. When we have that kind of love for our King he becomes the gravity-center of our lives and everything else orbits in its proper place. Focus on the one thing, do not turn aside either to the right or to the left. The way may be narrow, but the end is glorious and wide. May Jesus be to you the gate, the path, and the goal.