Judges 3:7-11 (Part 2) – Are You An Othnielian Leader? What’s That?

Posted: August 5, 2017 in 07-Judges
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Judges 3:7-11 (Part 2 of 3)
Othniel Becomes Israel’s Judge

Who will come after me? Who will lead the finance ministry at my church? Who will lead the finance department in my secular job? As I approach my 55th birthday (20 days from now), I have for the first time in my life realized that my career is now finite. I am no longer that young little buck just cutting his chops as an internal auditor. The mid-80’s when I began my career is now a distant memory of some 30+ years ago. I am now right in the midst of the last third of my working career. This past week, I finished the 106th month-end closing and financial reporting cycle as comptroller of Fujikura America, Inc. (FAI). 106! Wow! That’s two month’s shy of 9 years in this job. I was thinking that if I do 106 more monthly closings, I will be close to retirement age. I don’t know what God has in store such that He would want me to be at FAI another 8 years and 10 months. If not, there will be a time here in the future that I leave FAI and move on. That might entail leaving those same responsibilities at LifeSong Church (LSC) also. I lead the finance function at both places. Hopefully, one day here in the near future, the Lord will combine the secular and the spiritual into one job, serving the Lord full-time in a financial leadership position. But what next for FAI and LSC’s finance functions? Have I invested enough in the next leader among the people who report to me? Or will they have to suffer through a period of inconsistency and failure and lack of vision and lack of the whole picture view before some new leader from the outside is brought in?

As Othniel came along when Israel was in disarray and developed them back into a strong nation, I came along at FAI and at LSC when things were in disarray from a financial reporting and management perspective. At both places, I have developed a structure and a consistency to the finance team. I have developed a level of excellence at both places where now the expectation of our team is consistent excellence. But what’s going to happen when I leave and I will leave at some point – either to accept God’s calling elsewhere or if God sees fit to keep me planted right here at FAI and LSC then I will at some point retire. With the rigors of my job at FAI and its constant, constant time demands that sometimes prevents me from enjoying life to the fullest, I have begun to think about secular work retirement. I am growing weary of the month after month constant time-sucking pressure of my job and see the world passing by outside. I often think now about what life would be like in retirement. It would not be a life where I am going to sit down. It will be a time where I will pursue God with even greater fervor whatever that may look like. I may just start a second career as Methodist pastor or something and find us a little church somewhere in SC that needs us and we need them. I may start a church finance consulting firm that goes around helping churches get their financial reporting act together like we did at LSC. These are the things that I think of that I could start as early as early retirement age of 62, just a few, seven, years from now.

But what will I leave behind as a leader? This passage made me think of that today. Here we see that Othniel lifted Israel out of a mess and back into following God with excellent hearts but as soon as he passed away Israel descended back into the spiritual mess that they were in before. This should not have happened. Where was Othniel’s leadership development? Why was there no one to whom to hand the baton? That idea that we must train up others to take our place, to take our ministry to the next level, to the next phase is what I thought of this morning as I read with dismay about Israel sinking back into its moral malaise after Othniel’s death. Let’s read Judges 3:7-11 now for the second of three reads:

7 The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; they forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. 8 The anger of the Lord burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim,[a] to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years. 9 But when they cried out to the Lord, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, who saved them. 10 The Spirit of the Lord came on him, so that he became Israel’s judge[b] and went to war. The Lord gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him. 11 So the land had peace for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died.

In this passage, we see that Othniel was Israel’s first judge. Judges 1:13 records that he volunteered to lead an attack against a fortified city. Here, he was to lead the nation back to God. Othniel had a rich spiritual heritage. His uncle was Caleb, a man with unwavering faith in God (Numbers 13:30, 14:24). Othniel’s leadership brought people back to God and freed them from oppression. But, afer Othniel’s death, it did not take long for the Israelites to fall back into their sinful ways of imitating the culture around them with its idol worship and sensual pleasures. This passage gives us two lessons. First, people need spiritual leadership. Second, as leaders we must develop those with leadership capability who can take our place and carry on the work without missing a beat.

Just think of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He invested heavily in 12 guys, and 3 in particular. If Jesus had just been here to go to the cross for our redemption, He certainly did that job. If He came here to give us victory over sin and death, He certainly did that job. If He came here to live the sinless life and demonstrate holiness before our very eyes and to teach us how to live in anticipation of the kingdom of God, He certainly did that. All of that He did as Christ, the Son of God, God in the Flesh, as only He could do because of who He was and is. No one else but Jesus could do those things. However, He also came to set up the future of His church through those 12 guys that lived with Him day to day for 3 years. Christianity would still be a nice little sect of Judaism in Jerusalem if it were not for Jesus investing His time and His knowledge and His heart and His passion into these twelve men. We must follow His example. He invested in the 12 and they and the people they invested spread the gospel from Spain to India. From England to Ethiopia. Otherwise, without that investment, would you and I know the gospel now in 2017?

People need leadership constantly and each of us as leaders have precious little time from an eternal perspective in our respective leadership roles. What will be our legacy? Will it be an Othnielian legacy of things being wonderfully led while were in our spot and then descending into a mess after we leave. We cannot be leaders with that kind of ego of “this place will fall apart without me”. We must be leaders who pass on what we know so that our ministry will continue when we are gone with the same level of excellence as when we held the position. We should not want things to fall apart as a backhanded ego stroke. We should want our ministries to survive and thrive after we are gone. We must develop the next generation of leadership beneath us. We must have someone to invest in to make the ministry go on and on and on.

Without Jesus investing in the twelve, you and I would not be here reading this blog as Christ followers. Think about that. Let us be Christ-like in our leadership so that the impact of the gospel will go on and on. Because it’s not about us. It is about Jesus. We must ensure the survival of the church by raising up new leaders beneath. Otherwise, we can become like what Othniel left behind – a ministry that descends into nothingness and fails.

Amen and Amen.

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