COLLINS COLUMN: Trusting God in Transition

Published 10:30 am Friday, May 24, 2024

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None of us are Moses or Joshua; however, we serve the same God as they did, and his instructions concerning how we are to approach our old or new assignments are the same and 100 percent reliable.

Last week I lost a close friend, Cam Lanier III. I have known his family for 45 years, and after the death of his Uncle Smith Lanier, we talked often and in recent months sometimes daily. Anyone who knew Cam knows that his capacity for solving problems, starting businesses, raising money, and generating sales is legendary. It would take a book to record the number of deals he put together over the years. Whatever company he was invested in had the privilege and industry advantage of having Cam on their sales team. He could both open doors, gain trust, and close like no one I have ever known. And he loved Jesus and was humble.

When a mentor, advisor, or leader dies or truly retires, those who have turned to them realize that there is never really anyone who can fill the gap. Eventually what we realize is that we have to step up and figure out how to not only do our jobs but in many cases we become the ones God calls to start leading and helping others the way our mentor helped us.

Of course we are all unique and have different circumstances. I went to Cam to test and refine many of my strategies in business. As a private Christian university president, I went to him for donations and for assistance in raising money. He was generous, and he influenced many new relationships. Cam often asked me questions concerning scripture and requested prayer for the many things God had him involved in. With his death, many of his board members, family members, friends, and the hundreds of current and former executives in his companies will miss his unique and thoughtful contribution.

I gave a eulogy at his celebration of life two weeks ago. I won’t replay all of what I said, but I will share that Cam had a faith-centered optimism about his business dealings and about anything and everything he helped others within their businesses. It wasn’t just positivity. He was a very smart guy who looked at the numbers, evaluated the risk, trusted the Lord, and worked like a dog! And if you did anything with him you knew he expected the same from you.

So what does this have to do with Moses and Joshua? Maybe not much or maybe a lot. At some point, whether in our families, our businesses, our churches, or our friendships, the baton gets passed. What if these moments are not simply coincidence but rather divine assignments? And as believers what, if anything, is ever a coincidence? What if our assignments are a result of the providence of God?

Turning to wise counsel is always a good thing, especially if your counsel is one who is guided by the wisdom of God. But I have noticed that often we make the mistake of relying on our mentors and advisors instead of relying on God. It is an easy trap for the enemy to use to keep us from fully trusting God for everything. In the case of Joshua, it was clear that he needed to remember the dependency that Moses had modeled in leadership, but to carry on as God’s designated leader of the Hebrews, Joshua had to develop his own dependency on God. Remembering what Moses did might help, but only a deep determination to trust and obey God would accomplish his God-given assignment.

Proverbs 3 tells us to trust the Lord with all our heart and to not lean on our own understanding. We also can’t lean on those who are no longer with us. Sudden loss of our mentors often exposes that we may have leaned on them more than we realized. The rest of Proverbs 3 says, “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

We can remember our mentors and advisors and even model some behaviors after them, but we must not depend simply on our memories to move forward. We must lean fully on the Lord and lean into our faith so that our steps are aligned with God. When we come to God who is the source of all wisdom, we will find everything we need to embrace the moment we are called to lead. We can and must follow God of course, and with his strength we can embrace the Joshua moments before us. When Moses died, God gave Joshua this word:

“Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.”

We are never alone when our mentors and friends die. Just as God was with them, so will he be with us. Hear the word of the Lord today as you step into your calling. These words are true and reliable, and while Joshua heard them first, they have application for all of us today:

“Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Father, thank you for your living word that teaches us all that we need to know that we might know you and experience your presence in our lives. We acknowledge that we sometimes have looked to others more than we have looked to you to find wisdom and strength. Forgive us for misplaced dependence. Today we choose to not look to the right or to the left but to focus completely on you, trusting that as we do you will be with us and guide us. In Jesus’ name, amen.