Passing the Baton

Yesterday i read that two more of my friends had announced their upcoming retirement. That seems to be occurring with greater frequency these days. If i wasn’t in denial, i might think that it has something to do with my season of life. i can still remember when we were the young “up and comers” with fresh ideas and new perspectives. Somehow it doesn’t seem that long ago!

Coupled with the retirement announcements, i am also hearing a lot of pronouncements. A lot of “batons” are being passed in the relay race of life and ministry. Most of the pronouncements being made by the new leaders who are receiving the baton seem to herald the fact that it is a “new day” at the organization, institution, business or church. i can easily recall hearing those very same words come out of my mouth in the not too distant past.

In many respects, hearing that it is a new day brings fresh excitement and anticipation. I mean we’re groomed from a young age to be drawn to the new. Our senses are bombarded daily to the allure of the new – a new car, a new home, the newest electronic gadget, etc. We like new! And who is it that ever wants “old” when we can have “new”?

i am currently writing a novel entitled Through the Eyes of a Spy  that will be released in the Spring of next year. The story, told through Caleb, follows the exodus of God’s chosen people from their days of slavery through their early years in the Promised Land. In the course of my writing, i was recently back in the 20th chapter of the Book of Numbers.

Leadership transitions were taking place. Moses had just experienced the death of his sister Miriam at the beginning of the chapter, and by the chapter’s end, he was experiencing the death of his brother Aaron. The baton of servant leadership was being passed from one generation to the next. Aaron had been preparing his son Eleazar for the day of leadership transition. And on this day Moses removed the priestly garments from Aaron and put them on Eleazar. 

In Ecclesiastes we read, “There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 – NLT). Every activity is a part of God’s grand continuing plan. It is God that chooses the cast of characters. It is God that makes the assignments; it is He that determines the length of each one’s performance in His plan. Often He changes our assignments throughout our journey, leading us to different places of service for different seasons. And ultimately, unless Jesus returns to rapture His church beforehand, He will call us to heaven through physical death, ending our season of physical service, just as He has with those that have gone before us.

It was God’s time in the season of His story and in the life of Aaron. Aaron was far from perfect in his obedience to God. In fact it was because of his disobedience that God prevented him from entering the Promised Land with the people. But Aaron had carried the mantle of leadership of God’s people with his brother Moses. Though we could quickly enumerate his failures, don’t disregard his faithfulness. For over thirty-eight years he was the high priest interceding for God’s grace and mercy on the people’s behalf. 

Aaron was now over one hundred twenty years old. Physically and emotionally, he was tired. He had been faithful to train the leadership that would take his place. And now it was time for him to step away from this earthly assignment that God had placed him in for a season.

Yes, throughout our lives and our journeys, God will reassign us to different places of service – for His time and His season. If He is leading you into a new role, be mindful of four things in the process. First, make sure that it is He who is making the assignments. We are not called to make our own assignments; we are called to follow Him. Do not go anywhere that God is not leading you to go; and do not stay anywhere once He has led you to go. 

Second, following the counsel of the Apostle Paul to a man by the name of Archippus, “Be sure to carry out the work the Lord gave you” (Colossians 4:17 NLT). Be faithful to carry out all that God has set before you, including the preparation of those that He places in your path to continue the work. 

Third, hold onto the garment of service that He has clothed you in lightly. The garments are not yours; they are His. He has placed them on you for this season, but in His time you must be prepared to relinquish them to His next servant.

Lastly, be mindful that God has not come up with a “new” plan. God hasn’t all of a sudden come up with a new idea or a new approach. Rather He has invited you to join Him for this season in His continuing plan. You are picking up at the next point of the journey. It’s not an issue of “old” and “new”, it’s a matter of the Master’s work according to His time and His season. Honor the work of His hands that has led to this point, and honor His servants that He has used to accomplish that work in the days that have preceded you.

For those who are transitioning from a place of service, God has placed you on a journey through the wilderness because He is leading you from one place of service to another. Don’t lose sight of the place of service He has for you – even perhaps in the midst of your wilderness journey. Be faithful to carry out the work the Lord gives you for whatever time He has given it to you. And then when that time is concluded allow Him to lead you to His next assignment in peace. 

And as you remove the garments of service, there will be a grief – for you will be saying goodbye to those that you love. But there will be no regret – for God has called you to place that garment on the one who follows you.

Whether you’ve just arrived on the scene or you are transitioning off the scene, remember “the One who chose you can be trusted” (1 Thessalonians 5:24 – CEV), and He will continue to be faithful today and tomorrow, just as He was yesterday. Pass and receive the baton well!

Excerpt from The Wandering Years, Ch. 27