You can make a difference this New Year, but not if you pursue the American Dream. Live a comfortable life, work at a good job, enjoy good health insurance, own a two-car garage, provide a good education for the kids, and then enjoy a retirement program that will allow you to kick back and take it easy. That is the typical American Dream, but it is certainly not God’s plan for Jesus’ followers. Yet, the vast majority of professing Christians choose this plan as their life’s goal. The contradiction with Scripture is real.
Jesus’ life contradicts it at every step. The Savior invested His energy, His days, and heart into a small group of people. Jesus was the trainer of the twelve, the discipler and equipper who consciously poured His life into a small group. After His ascension, that well-trained group would continue His unfinished task. Leaders, life-changers are not born. Leaders are made. Life-changers are developed.
Jesus’ Method is Inspired
We believe the message of Jesus is inspired; but we seem to forget that the method of Jesus is also divinely inspired: taking a small group of people and preparing them for life’s difficult journey and to equip the next generation.
Why do we believe the inspired message but ignore the inspired method? Why do we believe that attending big meetings develops women and men? It never happened in Jesus’ day.
Think it Over
Ask a doctor, a plumber or welder, a carpenter or a lawyer: were you developed by attending big meetings? Pose this question to a pilot, an artist, a pianist, a craftsman, a blacksmith, or a mechanic: how did you overcome challenges and problems and become proficient in your profession? All things being equal, they will answer: someone took a personal interest in me, saw my potential, developed my strengths and helped me overcome my weaknesses and failings. None will answer: it was the big meetings who got me through the tough times and shaped me.
Think it over. Jesus’ methodology works in other areas of life. Yet, His own people ignore it. Go figure.
The big crowds at big meetings who heard Jesus were fickle, at best. The crowds loved the free lunches and the free, religious entertainment, but they disappeared when things got tough.
Jesus Trained Twelve, Not Twelve Hundred
No one in Jesus’ big crowds ever amounted to anything. It didn’t work in Jesus’ day and it has not worked in our day. It’s not God’s method. Big meetings and crowds are the method of show business and Christian concerts. They develop fans, but not true followers, nor disciples. Jesus trained twelve, not twelve hundred. He made a difference. So did they.
From that group of twelve, Jesus met privately with just three, occasionally four, and sometimes just one-on-one or one-on-two. When Jesus ascended after three years of such personal development, His disciples were ready to lead and fulfill the task God planned for them—and it certainly was not to pursue something as self-gratifying as the American Dream. Jesus’ method is inspired.
Like Jesus, Like Paul
Paul adopted the same method. He poured his life into the Ephesian Elders for three years. Then, he departed. They were ready. Like Jesus, like Paul. But not, ironically, like Jesus’ church.
Look Behind Jesus
And what is easy to overlook is that behind Jesus there was a man who prepared the Savior. And behind Paul, there was a man who prepared the apostle.
Paul Imitates Jesus
When Luke wrote his two-volume story (Luke-Acts), he used the pattern of the life of Jesus in the Third Gospel as a model with which to write the pattern of Paul’s experiences in Acts (Acts 9-28). Luke depicts Paul as imitating Jesus’ life at every turn. Paul reenacts the life of Jesus in Acts. For every major character in Jesus’ life (in Luke), there is a corresponding major character in Paul’s life (in Acts). For every major event in Jesus’ experience (in Luke), there is a parallel event in Paul’s life (in Acts). Paul’s life mirrors Jesus’ life.
In both Jesus and Paul’s life there is a Joseph who made a difference. Both Josephs were father-figures, but not related by blood. Both father-figures made a profound difference in the formative years of Jesus and Paul. Behind the success of Jesus and Paul there was a Joseph at the beginning of their life’s journey.
Every Future Leader Needs a Joseph
Every future “Jesus” or “Paul” needs a Joseph. Every future leader, female or male, needs a Joseph. They need more than big meetings in church or another Bible study to make them smarter sinners. They need a Joseph who can intentionally work the Bible into their values and flaws, just like Jesus did.
Every future leader, man or woman, needs an advocate, a Joseph who will pour into them, life-on-life. Every young man or woman needs someone who will believe in them when they stop believing in themselves. We all need someone who sees our potential and is willing to forsake the American Dream to develop that God-given capacity in us. The two Josephs accomplished just that.
You Could Be a Joseph
You could be a Joseph. You could be the Joseph behind the next “Jesus” or the next “Paul.”
Join us this Sunday as we examine the two Josephs who made a difference in the life of Jesus and Paul. You too can make a difference. Be a Joseph. At the end of life, you won’t look back with regret. You’ll be comforted and feel fulfilled by the fact that you made a difference. Be a Joseph.
Thank you for reading.
 2 Timothy 2:2.
 For example, Joseph, Simeon, Anna, John the Baptist, the Twelve, Judas, Barabbas, Simon of Cyrene, the Two Thieves on the Cross, Herod, and Joseph of Arimathea. Luke’s depiction of Paul’s life in Acts shows a major character that parallels each of the figures in Jesus’ life.
 For example, birth, baptism, temptation, raising the dead, feeding a large crowd, death, resurrection, choosing successors, among many other events. Luke’s depiction of Paul’s life in Acts shows him experiencing the same type of major events. Paul imitates Jesus in life.