Leaders Look Back

Written by Burt Braunius /
April 22, 2014

Leaders look back. They have “Moments to Remember.” Not in the same way as the song by the Four Lads (click here for the song), but there are ways in which the past influences their present and future.

They do not look back for the purpose of regression or idealizing what was. They look back for experiences that have been formative in defining who they are, what God has called them to do, and the ways in which God has been faithful.

With graduations and weddings and summer activities, this time of the year can be a time of significant transition for many. My message today is for brothers and sisters who may be struggling to identify the next steps in their life journeys. We can find help for getting to our next levels of service by looking back to identify three things: 1) defining moments, 2) markers of remembrance, and 3) examples of God’s faithfulness.

Defining moments are points in the life of a person that shape his or her character. Once identified, life is never the same. These points can go by other names; e.g., turning points, watershed moments, destiny moments, and critical incidences.

After serving in a new ministry position for less than a year, the lead pastor asks Charles to submit his resignation as executive pastor. Jane, on the other hand, is in a training program while serving in a church staff position; as a result she is leading her team with greater effectiveness and is affirmed in her calling. A church family experiences the death of a child after a lung transplant. For all of these, life will never be the same. These are defining moments.

Markers of remembrance are evidences of defining moments. The classic biblical example is in the book of Joshua, where stones were used to build a memorial structure

And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever” (Joshua 4:20-24 ESV).

We were part of an Israel study tour group who climbed a mountain in the area of Qumran, home of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Before beginning the climb, each person was asked to pick up a rock and carry it to the top of the mountain. At the summit, we were encouraged to think of an issue that we had been carrying and to turn it over to God. We then had prayer and threw the stones onto an already-enormous pile that had been built up by the contributions of previous climbers. For me, this is a concrete example of a marker of remembrance. Or, to say it differently, a reminder of what God has done.

Examples of God’s faithfulness readily come to mind when we identify defining moments and markers of remembrance. Christian leaders are quick to tell us that whatever has been accomplished in their lives has been because of God’s grace: It has not been in and of themselves. God has been faithful in the past and he will be in the future: Remembering the past gives us security for the future. The Scripture is filled with such promises. For a video with Bible passages about God’s faithfulness, click here. A few selected verses follow.

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations (Deuteronomy 7:9).

But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one (2 Thessalonians 3:3).

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).

When leaders look back, they find both examples of moments when God has directed their destiny as well as markers by which they are able to acknowledge his guidance. In addition, Scripture reminds them of God’s faithfulness.
If you are personally going through a time of transition or difficulty, take a few minutes to answer these questions:
-What have been the defining moments in my life?
-What markers of remembrance am I able to identify?
-What Bible passages can I claim that speak to God’s faithfulness in my life?
-When I examine these moments, markers, and Bible passages, what kinds of opportunities may the Spirit be leading me toward for the future?

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