You’ve heard the story: The beautiful girl kisses the slimy frog and turns it into a handsome prince. Quite a transformation, but nothing compared to what the Lord has done for us. He turns broken, sinful, rebellious creatures into His own sons and daughters who miraculously begin to reflect the beauty and character of a Holy God. “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16) Salvation here means more than being saved from hell. It means deliverance from our very sin nature to free us to grow from glory to glory, to become God’s masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10) changed into the image of Jesus Christ, which is God’s plan for all His children. (See Romans 8:29) This transformation takes nothing less than “the power of God”. Education, training, finishing school, cannot bring about this miraculous transformation, only God’s power. “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you (God’s power) to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:12-13)
Jesus was the ultimate in leadership development. He turned untrained, uneducated, sinful fishermen and tax collectors into men who changed the world through the gospel of Jesus Christ and the continual growth and expansion of His kingdom for 2000 years shows His genius and power. “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) Jesus trained His disciples well. He told them what to say, where to go, how to depend on God for provision and how to deal with rejection. He sent them out 2 by 2 (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10) and He gave them power to preach and heal. They had watched their Master do it (Jesus incarnated and demonstrated what he taught- more is caught than taught) and then He sent them out for OJT. And then He applauded and affirmed their success. (See Luke 10:1-24) He gave them the vision: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” (Matthew 9:36-37) The harvest is plentiful. People need the Lord, desperately; not riches, not fame, not fun, (Luke 8:14) but the Lord. Good leaders define reality and the promises of the world are shifting sand but the promises of God are REAL, eternal, firm and rock solid. “O world so frail and so mad! Is it in you in which we are made to believe? You are only a dream and you want us to believe in you? We even feel in possessing you, that you are nothing real to fill our hearts. Are you not ashamed to give magnificent names to the showy miseries by which you dazzle those who are attached to you? The moment you offer yourself to us with a smiling face, you cause us a thousand pains. The same moment you are going to disappear and you dare to promise to make us happy?” (Francois Fenelon – Christian Perfection)
How did the Father prepare Jesus to be the great leader He was? “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Hebrews 5:7-9) We need affliction to teach us submission. “And Jesus grew in wisdom (intellectually) and stature (physically) and in favor with God (spiritually) and men (socially)” (Luke 2:52) – thirty years of preparation for three years of ministry. He had to learn to read and write and speak, to pray, to memorize and meditate on Scripture, to lead. He grew and developed as we are called to do.
Jesus never asks us to do something He hasn’t done for us first. He became a Man, even a baby. He was accused of being illegitimate. His mother was probably a teenager. Joseph was a blue-collar worker and Jesus was his apprentice, probably at an early age. His life was threatened as an infant and He spent his first years as a refugee in Egypt. And upon returning home he settled in Nazareth a town so small it wasn’t included in the 63 Galilean towns mentioned in the Talmud. His people were under the boot of Rome. His brothers didn’t believe in Him. He was abused, rejected, tempted and crucified. His Father didn’t show Him any preferential treatment.
In training us in the university of life, God chooses electives we would never choose — painful trials, often long and deep trials as with Joseph. Joseph had a great vision — from God, but he could never have predicted the long and painful path by which God would bring it about. Rejection by his own brothers, falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, forgotten by the baker and cupbearer (10 years in prison) but he never got bitter at God nor quit trusting Him. Therefore, God could use him for His purposes, which He did. Fenelon says that God wants to build His kingdom, His throne, on the top of our wrecked egos. So He has to discipline us through trials. “And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:5-11)
We all desire to make a difference, to do something with our lives that has lasting significance. Investing the eternal Word of God into the lives of others, eternal beings, is God’s promise of true significance, eternal significance, and we do this by the way we live our lives and the words we speak into the lives of others. The gospel must be incarnated in our lives. We must practice what we preach. We teach what we believe, we reproduce who we are. “Because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.” (1 Thessalonians 1:5-7)
The crux of fairy tales is the transformation of the central character — the ugly duckling becomes a beautiful swan, the wooden puppet becomes a real boy, frogs are kissed and turned into princes. But the truest fairy tale is the gospel: God kisses us and turns sinners into saints and promises us that we will live happily ever after, forever and ever and ever. “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed– in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52) Because of humble obedience Joseph reigned in Egypt and one day we can reign in heaven.. “take charge of ten cities.” (Luke 19:17)
Until He comes,
Len and Kristen