Pompeii was a popular tourist city on the west coast of Italy in 79AD. It was during the time of the Roman Empire, and it was home to 20,000 people. It was also located near the base of a massive volcano, Mount Vesuvius. When Vesuvius exploded, scientist estimated it ejected 1.5 million tons of ash and rock every second for 24 hours over 12 miles into the atmosphere. The surrounding region including Pompeii was covered with ash 16ft deep. The ash remarkably preserved the city before it was covered in lava. Lava was estimated to have flowed down the mountain at 70mph. Many of the residents escaped prior to the eruption but some were left behind. There is a story about a Roman soldier whose body was uncovered. He was found standing his post at the city gate.
Abraham was a Man on Assignment
In Genesis 12:1-4, the key to Abraham’s success is summed up in one sentance: “Abram went, as the Lord had told him”. Abraham, like the Roman Soldier, was given an assignment. To go to a foreign country and stand his post until the very end of his life. Yes, God was going to work through Abraham, but those things are up to God. Abraham wasn’t perfect, but what Abraham did well was stand his post.
Jesus said in John 17:1 – “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” Jesus too was on assignment. Jesus didn’t do everything that could possibly be done. Instead, he completed his assignment. Jesus stood his post until the very end.
Do you sense that you are on assignment? What difference does it make if you do or do not think that you are on assignment?
What was Abraham’s Assignment?
Genesis 12:2 tells us that Abraham was to go live in a land and give birth to a new nation. A nation who, like Abraham, will singularly follow after Yahweh.
I want you to appreciate the immensity of Abraham’s challenge and the immensity of Abraham’s world influence.
Genesis 12:6-7 . Abraham builds an alter to Yahweh where the Oak of Moreh is, the land of the Canaanites. Moreh means “teacher”. Most scholars think this particular location was a place of idol worship. Right away, we see Abraham establishing his camp in enemy territory. This assignment will encounter great opposition.
Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel. And they presented themselves before God. (Joshua 24:1)
“Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River (Ur – Abraham’s home town) and in Egypt (the land they had escaped), and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell (current location). But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:14-15)
Notice the surrounding culture of counterfeit gods: Babylon, Egypt, the Amorites, and the Canaanites. Imagine the pressure – One man and his family standing their post against the current and surrounding culture of multiple gods. Yet, Abraham plants himself and preaches exclusivity. One God, Yahweh! In our current culture, exclusivity is one of the most offensive things you can believe.
God’s Timing and Your Assignment
In Joshua 24:1 – Joshua has the people gathered back to Shechem, where Abraham first stood his post. This is the beginning of God fulfilling his promise to Abraham back in Genesis 12.
This is 700 years later! From 2100BC to 1400BC. Ask yourself, if God commanded you today to stand your post and promised he was going to deliver you a great name and nation, would it be ok with you if he fulfilled it in the year 2716? Would you be ok with that?
 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.  By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.  For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.  By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.  Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.  These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. (Hebrews 11:8-13)
Do you see? It wasn’t Abraham’s job to make a great nation or get a great name. No. Those were things God would do. Abraham’s job was to live by faith – to be obedient – to stand his post even though it looked foolish and unsuccessful to the surrounding culture. He even had to endure suffering.
Leadership writer Patrick Lencioni says this:
“If you were searching for leaders to change the world, what qualities would you look for? Courage and intelligence would certainly be prime candidates. Charisma might make the list. Yet, I would rank two others ahead of them, the two qualities I’m thinking of are: Humility and Pain Tolerance
When I graduated from college, I wanted to change the world. I was determined to make a difference, defy conventional wisdom, confront the status quo… At the time, I was sure that these lofty aspirations were noble. I was wrong. There were two big problems with my zeal.
First, I had no specific idea about what kind of a difference I wanted to make. And although that may not seem like a big deal, it masked a larger one: I was more interested in being recognized for having changed the world than anything else. ‘It doesn’t really matter what I changed, as long as it was something unique, and I got credit for it.’ You see, making a difference was not really about the world after all. It was about me.
There was another problem with my desire to change the world, and it
is just as important. … there were limits to my desire to change the
world. As much as I wanted to make a difference, I wasn’t too keen on
having to suffer much along the way. ‘Sure, I can deal with some hard
work. Maybe even temporary financial setbacks. But real suffering?
Embarrassment? Rejection by loved ones? No thank you. I don’t want to
make that big of a difference.’ Before setting out on a quest to change
the world, Christian leaders should probably ask themselves two questions: “Who am I really serving?” and “Am I ready to suffer?“
Patrick learned that his leadership was really all about himself. He was the goal and the terminating point. He also learned that he wasn’t really ready to suffer. He wasn’t ready to stand at his post no matter what.
Abraham was a man on assignment. He planted himself in the middle of enemy territory and counterfeit gods and was going to remain obedient even if he didn’t receive in his lifetime what God had promised. Abraham knew who he was serving and was willing to suffer.
- Do you sense that you are on assignment? As a leader, what difference does it make knowing you are on assignment?
- What are your greatest pressures as a Christian leader?
- Talk about you and the two leadership characteristics Patrick Lencioni valued: Humility and Pain Tolerance.
Friends and Brothers,
Pastor, Christ Community Church