When it's Time to Step Forward

One morning I read from Joshua 1, when God said to Joshua, “Moses my servant is dead. Now then you …” For some reason, what caught my attention that morning was how quickly the situation changed for Joshua. Maybe it was because I was going through a job transition of my own, but the suddenness of Joshua’s promotion surprised me. He went from assistant, to leader, just like that, between sentences. As in, “The king is dead, long live the king.”

As in Tom Clancy’s novel, Debt of Honor, when the Japanese pilot crashed a jet liner into a joint session of congress, killing the President and most of the Cabinet, Supreme Court, Congressmen, and Senators. Vice-President Jack Ryan was in the basement of the Capital, and when the Secret Service agent got a phone call, he switched, in mid-sentence, from calling Ryan Mr. Vice-President, to Mr. President.  Just like that.

As In Lyndon Johnson becoming President of the United States the moment the doctors pronounced John Kennedy dead. Swearing in, while important, was a formality. Johnson was  automatically promoted to president in that instant, just like that.

As in, Moses is gone; now then you.

At least Joshua had time to prepare for this transition. He knew God had already appointed him successor to Moses, and he knew Moses was about to die, so it wasn’t a total surprise.

Still. Transitions always surprise us. The speed of the moment, when it finally happens, can be too fast and too much to comprehend. Even when, like Joshua, we know it’s coming, we aren’t completely ready.

Back in 1995 I thought I was ready for city government. That is, until my first City Council meeting and my first agenda item requiring a vote. Not a secret ballot, but a raise-my-hand-in-front-of-the-entire-world vote. In an instant I realized I was over my head, voting on important issues I knew very little about. I was not ready.

Another example. In 2004 I was not ready to lead a men’s ministry. In fact, it was the last thing I had in mind. But I agreed to teach one class, which much to my surprise kept going, and going, and going, and it still continues to this day, almost ten years later. The thing I did right was this: I didn’t let being not ready keep me from jumping in, even though I had no idea what I was jumping into.

A few weeks ago, Cyndi lost one of her most important relationships when her Aunt Teena Atchley lost her war with cancer. For twenty years Cyndi spent Tuesday mornings having tea with Teena, talking about life and family and Jesus, and absorbing each other’s life.

I told Cyndi, “You are Aunt Teena, now. Find someone who likes tea. I wonder who they are.”

So many times we are called to step forward into leadership roles long before we think it is our turn. It happens just like that, before we think we are ready.

So many times God gives us what we want, even what we’ve been looking forward to, but we won’t step forward because we don’t have the courage or the faith. Or because we don’t have a clear picture of the finished product and we are afraid of uncertainty and ambiguity.

When Joshua’s moment came, he could have balked, said no, or simply faded away over the horizon, but he didn’t hesitate. He did what Bob Goff recommends, he cannonballed into the moment.

And so, when our moments come, what should we do? Like Joshua, cannonball into the moment. Be strong and courageous. Take the step forward.

As John Acuff wrote, “Ready doesn’t exist.” So know this: if we want to change the world, we won’t be ready. We have to just jump in, just like that.

When is it time to step forward? Sooner than you think.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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