In Sunday school as a kid I remember hearing the story of the spies scoping out the promised land. 10 gave a bad report: the giants of the land will devour us. 2 gave a good report: God is bigger than the giants (and have you seen the grapes?).
The heroes of the story are Caleb and Joshua, the spies representing the tribes of Judah and Ephraim. Of all the spies, only Joshua and Caleb trust the Lord and only Caleb and Joshua get to enter the land. Heroes. But Joshua wasn't a hero at first.
Somehow, I'd never noticed this. I've never heard anyone preach on this. In Numbers 12, Caleb gives a faith-filled report. Joshua isn't mentioned. The narrator says that the other spies (which would include Joshua) pushed the don't-go-into-the-land opinion.
Why do we think of Joshua as a hero in this story then?
In Numbers 14, he does the right thing. The people rebel and get ready to get rid of Moses. They give up on the promised land and then, then, that's when Joshua stands up. Joshua and Caleb urge the people to move forward in faith.
Where was Joshua when Caleb was giving his minority report? Why didn't he speak up then?
We want our leaders to do the right thing and to do it first. That's part of what makes them leaders.
One of the things I love about this part of the story is that Joshua isn't an early adopter. He doesn't do the right thing immediately. He isn't the first one to see it.
Leaders can't always be first. Leading when you're not first is a tough thing to do, impossible for most people. For most groups, the leader is the leader de facto because she/he got there first, early. How many pastors are in way over there heads because their churches grew faster than they did? How many Staff are hesitant to lead because someone else in the chapter or area has more experience? How many Small Group leaders make huge mistakes trying to be the first to some innovation?
Leaders can't always be first. They don't have to be. It's more important to do the right thing, even if that means copying someone else. Joshua isn't remembered because he got it first. He's remembered because he got it right.