Passing the Baton
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering and the time of my departure is at hand…
But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of…
~ 2 Timothy 4:6 & 3:14
During one of the most painful seasons of my life in 2013, the Lord spoke to me in a vision. He confirmed what I had already been sensing and heard from other mentors. The time to go preach the gospel at UC Berkeley was here. For almost five years now, I have done just that. During the inception of my ministry there, a missionary team came from Bethel to partner with me. There was a time of prophecy at the end and one of the members said this:
“I see you as a baton runner. You are in a four by four race and you are the third runner. If you do not complete the corner run, you are not going to win the race. You are very important. You are going to have a team come and serve you.” ~ Prophecy from 2014 ~
As I have considered this word and its authenticity over the years, I am convinced this was of God.
I originally thought I was coming to UC Berkeley to see a full blown revival. I saw this in the spirit: hundreds of students packing out Sproul Plaza to hear the gospel and the Holy Spirit falling upon them bringing healing, miracles and the conviction of sin unto salvation. In my time at Berkeley, I have not seen this vision come to pass. Over the past four years, I have held three evangelistic crusades on campus over multiple days where we preached the gospel and worshiped in front of the whole campus via the PA system. We have been there faithfully every week, rain or shine as a witness for Jesus. I have been persecuted in and out of the church, have had demon possessed people come up to me and curse at, threaten me, or manifest by calling themselves “Lucifer.” I have endured betrayal, criticism, financial hardship, rejection, cosmic apathy on the campus, communist hate groups, and the ever present spiritual warfare that exists in that city.
Though on the outside I could be disappointed that I haven’t seen hundreds of salvations over the past four years, God is doing something bigger. The race is not finished yet. Despite the difficult journey, I have seen a hand full of students get so on fire for God, it has changed them forever. The spiritual atmosphere of the campus seems to be shifting. Other Christians are feeling less afraid and peace exists where there was strife and confusion. There is more unity among different churches and groups than we have seen before. People are joining us from all over now.
As I have meditated on the Scriptures, I see a pattern. Moses led Israel up to the Promised Land but Joshua brought them in. Elijah prophesied and saw the destruction of the prophets of Baal, but Elisha took his mantle to continue the work in Israel. Jesus came and preached the gospel of the kingdom, and then sent his disciples to go and finish the work he had begun. The apostle Paul raised up Timothy and then charged him to continue to fulfill the calling that God had given him.
Paul writes, “I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.”
(1 Cor. 3:6-7)
The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
I remember taking a political science class at UC Berkeley many years ago and the subject of collaboration came up. Political science deals with the study of government. And why do we need government? Because existence and human progress requires group participation. My professor said, “Some endeavors can only be accomplished by a group.” You many be able to make your bed, even build a house yourself, but try making an aircraft carrier, making a major motion picture… or discipling the world!
In the first two books of the Bible we see the story of Abraham and his lineage then going on to Moses and the journey out of Egypt. Look at how God reveals himself to Moses,
“Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.” (Exodus 3:6)
The Almighty is the God of all generations. The covenant was made with Abraham but it was carried down through the generations. God told Abraham his seed would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. How is that for a big vision statement?! Yet, when he died, how many children did Abraham have? One Isaac and a few others. Isaac was the one who was given the baton from his father. Then Jacob took it. And it continued to be passed.
Why do you think God chooses to reveal himself to us like this? I believe there are many reasons. One is for us to understand that his kingdom perpetuates throughout all generations. Another is that each person who participates in their generation is remembered before him.
To Hold or to Pass?
On occasion, I like to play Texas Hold ‘Em. In the game, you have a choice every hand, hold or fold. One time I even played at a casino and won a hundred bucks! (And you all wondered how I get funded.) An old friend of mine liked to say… “Gotta know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.”
This applies to more than cards. In a relay race, there are typically four runners. The transition of the baton is a crucial part of the race. Imagine if one runner said to himself, “I think I’m doing pretty well. I don’t need to pass this baton on… I can finish this by myself.” Not only would he inevitably fail due to the stamina of four versus one… but he would be disqualified. He didn’t compete according to the rules.
The passing of the baton is risky. Everything can be lost in a moment.
You have to trust the next runner. You have to be running in alignment with the same goal. You must let go of what was yours and pass it to another. It represents growth and change.
I love what Rick Warren has to say about this:
“There is no growth without change. There is no change without loss. There is no loss without pain. There is no pain without grief…. Growth requires loss because you have to let go of the old to grab hold of the new. ” (Leadership TED talk)
The problem of holding on too long usually revolves around the fear of change, or egocentric leadership.
You and I are called to steward what God has given us be it our children, our money, or ministries. We have the baton for a time and we charge ahead. But there must come the time where we let go. It must be passed, or we have failed.
Who is Lord of the Harvest?
Imagine showing up to your job at Starbucks or the construction site or the school. What would you think of someone at the coffee bar saying, “I think I want to make a painting today. That’s what I’m going to do…” Meanwhile, the espresso and latte orders are piling up. Or showing up on the construction site and saying… “I’m kind of tired of all this drywall… itchy stuff. It’s time to play guitar and sing Mariachi!”
They would certainly entertain but wouldn’t have a job for long.
It’s important to remember that we are serving the Lord of the harvest. It is his field. And we must use his methods, fulfill our role, and work according to his timing.
In my personal journey, life hasn’t always worked out the way I expected. When I came to Berkeley, I had a vision of what I thought was going to happen: massive revival, warm welcome from all the churches, honor and acceptance. Glory, glory, gloraaaaay!! Yet, I have found it to be much harder work than I expected with fewer immediate results. The questions ensue, “Do I get offended by this? Am I being effective? Is this a waste of my time? Did I fail somehow?”
As it says in the Word,
“The steps of the righteous man are ordered of the Lord.” (Psalm 37:23)
“A man may plan his way but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
We all desire to be fruitful and to feel like our lives have meaning. The trouble is our definition of effectiveness may be different than God’s. Without a doubt, God desires that none should perish, but our role in that mission and how quickly or slowly things progress is in the hands of the Lord. We are simply called to be faithful.
Even more, I am convinced that God allows seasons of frustration and barrenness to provoke us to prayer, and to remind us that it is his harvest and his anointing not ours. Remember the disciples who fished all night long and caught nothing? Have you been there? I have.
But then Jesus speaks a word…
And the nets are filled…
The nations shake….
The most difficult college campus falls to its knees…
The dead are raised and the lame are healed…
Jesus said this:
“Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” (John 4:37-8)
What?!! You mean I have to do all the hard work and someone else is going to reap?!! Are you kidding me? That’s not right!!
…… Or is it?
The revelation that God’s story is like a relay race changes everything. Then, all of a sudden, it doesn’t seem so unfair. Those who went before who labored… the Abrahams, the Moseses, the Apostle Pauls, the Charles Finneys, the Mother Theresas… laid a foundation that others got to build upon.
The Transcontinental Railroad in the United States seemed like very slow going but once complete, people from all over the country were transported in days to places they could never get to before.
This is how the kingdom works. Perhaps your season is to do the hard labor and see no immediate results. Perhaps you are one of those who gets to reap after others who have gone before.
At the end of it all, we are building a railway that will take mankind from death to life.
The Great Cloud of Witnesses
My grandfather who is now in Heaven gave his life to go to Japan to preach the gospel to a nation that didn’t know Christ. Right after World War II, general MacArthur called America to send missionaries into this war torn country. My grandfather heeded this call. When he began, many villages had never heard the gospel, there was no suitable Bible college in Tokyo, and there wasn’t much of a Christian footprint in the nation. Decades later, my mother was in Minnesota and met some Japanese women who knew of my grandfather. “Thank you! Thank you for coming to us to bring us Jesus!” they exclaimed. Now there is a Bible college in Tokyo to this day and a number of churches he helped to plant. He may have never gotten to meet these women but they benefited from his obedience to the call.
The Bible speaks in Hebrews of a great cloud of witnesses. Those who have gone before us for the sake of Christ. They have run their race.
“They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—
of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.”
“Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses… let us cast off every weight and the sin that so easily entangles us and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
(Hebrews 11:37 – 12:1)
Anytime you find yourself feeling like life is hard work, full of failure or not what you expected… read Hebrews chapter eleven.
It is my time to pass on what I began in Berkeley to the next generation of disciples so that they may continue to see the fulfillment of revival on the campus. It is time to go to the next mission the Lord has: other campuses, other cities, other nations. I will stay connected to the work at Berkeley as a spiritual father, but the stewardship of the public ministry of the gospel will be passed on to others.
God is able to keep what we have entrusted to him until that Great Day, and he will reward each one according to his work.
… so pass the baton.