God Designed Transitions
Sometimes we see change as something that is bad, as if whatever new that comes along will not be as good as what we have grown accustomed to. In this age of digital media and computers, we certainly understand that change will happen, it is almost as if it is forced upon us. Consider the medium of music, for instance. In the age of vinyl record LP’s, no one ever thought that there would be a better way to sell music into the public’s hands. How many of you still have some of those old vinyl records?
Then along came the 8-track tapes. Wow! Now we could play music in moving vehicles, something you never could have dreamed about with records. Then the new thing was cassettes, a much smaller and easier to handle version of the magnetic tape. Not so long ago, CD’s came along which allowed the music enthusiast to have a higher quality of music without the worry of tapes that wear out or get all tangled up. But even CD’s have become a thing of the past and now, most music is sold digitally and downloaded to phones and computers via the internet.
The point I am making is that change can be good, though none of us like change. We get comfortable with the things the way they are and the way they have been for a long time. It is what is familiar to us and we have a hard time adjusting to something new. But change can be something powerful in our lives. Now don’t get me wrong, there are things that don’t and shouldn’t change. God does not change. The moral character and values of God never changes, and we should never change or compromise on our understanding of the teaching of His Word. Yet thankfully, God does use things in our lives to bring about change that is good and wholesome.
As Christians, we should know and understand this because of the change that has taken place in our lives at salvation. When Jesus Christ entered our lives, there was massive and powerful changes that took place and continues to take place as we walk and grow with Him.
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Much like the way music media has changed over the years, our lives change as we know our Lord better and walk with Him more closely. Sometimes the changes are subtle, simple, and almost unnoticeable, and sometimes the changes are powerful and life altering. For me, it could be as simple as a change in how I do my devotions and Bible Study to make them more meaningful to me, or the change could be as massive as pulling up my roots in Colorado and going to Bible College when I was 32 years old with two young children. You see, some changes are subtle, some are massive. But changes like these are good and bring us closer to the Lord as we follow His will.
God uses people in our lives to help us grow in our walk with Him. It may be a close friend, a mentor/teacher, author of a book, a pastor, our spouse, or even an enemy, but God uses people to shape us and mold us into more of what He would have us to be. God has used each of you in my life to bring about change in my relationship with Him. We enjoy those relationships greatly and often we don’t want them to change or go away. But in reality, there can be greater potential for growth when those relationships change. I think we have some biblical examples of this.
Moses to Joshua (Deuteronomy 34:4 – Joshua 1:7)
One of my favorite men of God in the Old Testament Scriptures is Moses. Moses was raised as an Egyptian, being saved from a decree of death upon all firstborn males of the Hebrew slaves. Clearly God’s sovereign hand was involved from his infancy. At forty years of age, he goes to the wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula to save his life from those who wanted to kill him. He spends forty years in the wilderness as a shepherd before God calls him to deliver his people, the Israelites, out of bondage in Egypt at the young age of 80. With the mighty hand of God, Moses leads the people of Israel out of Egypt and into the Sinai Peninsula where they meet with God.
Over the next forty years, Moses led the people and they grew in their walk with God. For the most part, the people of Israel trusted Moses and listened to him. Because of sin, and the sovereign hand of God, Moses was not allowed to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land. Certainly, Moses’ sin was a big deal, but it is interesting to me that God would not let Moses take the people on into the Promised land.
I asked myself, could it be that Moses’ giftedness for leading the people was not what was needed to go into Canaan and take possession of it? Had Moses taken the people as far as he could with his gifts? Moses died at 120 years of age. God only allowed him to look at the Promised Land from Mount Pisgah. God chose Joshua to continue leading the people of Israel into the Promised Land. Listen to this God designed transition.
4 And the LORD said to him, "This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, 'I will give it to your offspring.' I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there."
5 So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD, 6 and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day. 7 Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated.
8 And the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days. Then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended. 9 And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the LORD had commanded Moses.
I read verse 7 and I realize that Moses’ death was not due to his old age. He could still see perfectly and had plenty of vigor at 120 years of age. Moses died because in God’s sovereign plan, the giftedness of Joshua was needed to lead the people into the promised land. I can’t imagine how the people of Israel felt about this, but I am sure this was a very difficult transition for all of them.
They trusted Moses, sometimes they listened to him and believed what God said to them through Moses. It says they mourned for 30 days because of the death of Moses. This was huge. But when the leadership changed to Joshua, great and powerful things were about to take place.
1 After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' assistant, 2 "Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.
4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.
6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.
Israel needed the giftedness of a new leader to take them into the Promised Land. There needed to be a change in leadership. Though there was great mourning over the lose of Moses, a man they had grown to love, they needed to not look back, but forward to what God was about to do in their midst under the leadership of Joshua. Change was not only good, but it was powerful in the lives of the Israelites. Let’s look at another example.
Elijah to Elisha (2 Kings 2:8-15)
If you have read much about the life of the prophet Elijah, you know he had an interesting and at times very difficult life. He endured so much. He was threatened, hunted down, and faced the threats of death from King Ahab and his queen, Jezebel. Ahab and Jezebel led the nation in Baal and Asherah worship rather than worshipping God. Elijah demonstrated the power of God on Mt. Carmel calling down fire to consume a water saturated altar of sacrifice while the prophets of Baal could get nothing from their God. Jezebel ordered Elijah’s death when he pronounced God’s judgment on Ahab and Jezebel for their wickedness.
Then God raised up another prophet, Elisha, who was to become Elijah’s successor. It is interesting to me that God had called Elisha to follow in the steps of Elijah, a man of God that at times he thought he was the only one who stood for God. But Elijah believed in God and believed in God’s power and wanted the ministry he had in Israel to continue in that power. This is where Elisha comes into the picture.
For Elisha, I am sure it was difficult, because he knew that God called him to be Elijah’s successor, but he also knew that Elijah had to leave in order for this to happen. Elijah would leave but the power of God would be passed on to Elisha. Listen as this God-designed transition takes place.
2 Kings 2:8-15
8 Then Elijah took his cloak and rolled it up and struck the water, and the water was parted to the one side and to the other, till the two of them could go over on dry ground. 9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, "Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you." And Elisha said, "Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me." 10 And he said, "You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so."
11 And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. 12 And Elisha saw it and he cried, "My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!" And he saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.
13 And he took up the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 Then he took the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and struck the water, saying, "Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?" And when he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.
15 Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho saw him opposite them, they said, "The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha." And they came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him.
What I hope you see here is that when Elijah was taken up, the power and presence of God was still being demonstrated through Elisha. The mantle was passed on to another great prophet of God. Elisha did many miracles by the presence and power of God in his life. He didn’t need Elijah there to see the work of God, he just needed to take up the mantle and continue to trust God. This God designed transition was not only good, but there was great power seen in this. Let’s look at one more example.
Jesus to the Holy Spirit (John 16:1-11, Acts 1:8)
The disciples of Jesus had only 3 short years with their Lord. They had grown to love Jesus, they listened to His teachings, and they watched Him perform miracles, they enjoyed His presence with them. Jesus told them multiple times that one day He would have to die and leave them. It was almost as if they didn’t hear that part. They were content and confident in knowing that Jesus was there and probably could not imagine Him not being with them.
One day, Jesus was talking to His disciples about the future. In John 15, He tells them that the world will hate them just as the world has hated Him. Jesus says that He is telling them this so that they will not become discouraged when it happens to them. In fact, Jesus says that a Helper is coming for them, but He must go away first. Listen to this God designed transition.
1 I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.
4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. "I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?'
6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
You see, Jesus had to go away in order for the Holy Spirit to come. We all know what happened after Jesus died on the cross and rose in victory over sin. The Holy Spirit of God came upon all those who believe and there was great power that resulted from this God designed transition.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
You see, when God designs a transition, there is great power for those involved. I am sure that Israel could not see ahead of time the power in the transition from Moses to Joshua or the greater power of Elisha after Elijah was removed from the scene. I am sure that the disciples doubted that the Holy Spirit could give them what they needed to fulfill their mission without the presence of Jesus. Yet in each God designed transition came a renewed power.
Though my intention is not to somehow identify myself with Moses, Elijah, or even Jesus, I am confident that God has designed this transition from me as pastor to someone else for renewed and greater power in this family of believers.
I have been touched deeply by the notes, emails, and conversations that have expressed your sorrow in our resignation but be assured that this God designed transition will bring a renewed power as you look to future of the Chapel family. As it is for many of you, the transition is hard for Carrie and me also. We love you and you will always be in our hearts. But do not be discouraged, God has powerful things in store for those who continue to trust Him.
The Apostle Paul began his letter to the Philippian Church telling them to remember that they are in partnership with him for the sake of the gospel. Then in Philippians 1:6 he says,
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
I feel the same way about what will take place here in the heart and lives of our Chapel family. Don’t look back to what we have become comfortable with, but forward to where God is taking us next. I can guarantee that the power and the presence of God will continue to be evident as we trust His sovereignty in this transition.