by Gary Johnson
Since 2013, when we started our Friday blogs, we have sent out over 600,000 emails to encourage and equip leaders. Now that is a lot of writing! As God continues to grow e2, we are changing the format of our Friday blog and all in hopes of building others up in the Lord.
Joseph, of the tribe of Levi, was a remarkable leader in the first-century church. His story is told in the first half of Acts, and something that stands out about Joseph is his nickname, Barnabas. We are told in Acts 4:36 that the disciples called him Barnabas, meaning “Son of Encouragement.” Joseph earned his nickname by the way that his lived his life. And we want the same to be said of us in this ministry.
In this season of life marked by division, disease and discouragement, people – including Christians – are tired. We are ready for 2020 to be over and done. A friend of mine has had an exceptionally difficult year and he said to me, “I’m staying up on New Year’s Eve this year, not to welcome the arrival of 2021, but to make certain 2020 leaves!” If there were ever a time when people need to be encouraged, it is now.
To that end, may I encourage you to BE the answer to the prayer of Jesus? Just hours before He was nailed to the cross, Jesus prayed what we often call His High Priestly prayer in John 17. In this longest recorded prayer of Jesus in the Scriptures, we discover that Jesus prayed for us.
“My prayer is not for them alone” (i.e., His disciples). “I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them will be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.” (John 17:20-21).
The last words of people before they die are significant and memorable. This is certainly true of Jesus and His prayer for us. He did not pray for the churches we lead to be burgeoning with people and all of them to be in the midst of a building program and capital campaign. He prayed for our unity; not philosophical or doctrinal unity, but relational unity. Jesus prayed that we would be one relationally to the same degree as He and His Father are one. For that to happen, we must intentionally pursue two traits modeled by Jesus, that when experienced in our lives with one another, result in authentic relational unity being present.
The first trait is that of submission. Though positionally equal to God, Jesus willingly submitted Himself to the sovereignty of God. Every time Jesus spoke of or to God while on earth, Jesus called Him “Father.” Only once did Jesus speak of His Father as God, and that was in the midst of His suffering on the cross – “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). Jesus obeyed God’s will, bending His knee to the authority of God.
The second trait is that of humility. “Jesus humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). Humility means to “go to a lower place,” and Jesus certainly did just that. He, our Creator, became human and came to this lower place called earth to live among us and die for us.
Jesus chose to live in submission and humility. Do we? If we “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21) and “clothe ourselves with humility toward one another” (1 Peter 5:5), we have every greater likelihood of experiencing relational unity in the local church. And one more thing: Jesus prayed for us to be one “so that the world may believe” that God sent Jesus. The degree to which we are united inside the church reflects the degree to which we glorify God outside the church. Our internal unity impacts the external glory we bring to God.
So then, be encouraged to pursue relational unity in this season of conflict. Be encouraged that we can submit to one another in true humility, and do so in the strength of the Holy Spirit. Be encouraged to lead like Jesus, which means we must live like Jesus.