By Dave Hodgson
Having an assignment helps bring purpose and hope back in people’s lives. The assignment is not always easy, it can seem to be mission impossible, just like everything we had to do in the SAS, but it is always doable because God applies the favour. This is more than the broad context of being a good Christian. A broad assignment would be the Great Commission: let’s go and take the gospel to everybody, and teach them what Jesus taught us. These are things for all of us. Within that we each have our specific assignment. Other people are relying on us to do our assignments whether we know it or not. We have been put on this earth for special things to do and other people actually rely on us to do it.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)
Our individual life experiences are a training ground for us to do our assignments. God has given us natural gifts, things that we are good at in our DNA, at our core. I’m an entrepreneur so I’m naturally good at doing entrepreneurial things. Everybody has gifts within them that they are good at. Some people are good at building things. Whatever our gifts we need to learn to use those gifts. Here’s some examples out of the Bible, ‘Noah there’s a flood coming I need you to build an ark’ that’s an assignment; ‘Joseph there’s a famine coming I need you to get my people into Goshen in Egypt where there was fertile soil’ that was an assignment; ‘Moses there’s an emancipation coming, I need you to get my people out of Egypt into the promised land’.
Imagine you were the new marketing manager at Coca-Cola. You would have to abide by the Coca-Cola code of conduct in the workplace – no sexist behaviour, no smoking in the office etc. But that’s not the reason you are there, that’s just the code of conduct – that’s just how you are expected to behave. The reason you are there is to be the marketing manager. If you don’t do your job then the business is going to suffer –and eventually you’re going to get sacked. The assignment or role was to be the marketing manager and it’s no different in Christianity – as a Christian we are called to live by the Christian code of conduct – loving our neighbour, not gossiping, and so forth. But there’s an assignment that God wants us to do within this and if we don’t do that then people who were depending on us are going to have consequences and we will have to answer for it one day.
My life’s training has been immense adversity from the age of 4 years old right up until 10 or 15 years ago and even now running a reasonable sized company and massive worldwide ministry there’s still adversity with all that. But my life’s training has equipped me for that. I expect it and can deal with it. For you, it is important that you do your assignment. Naturally if it’s your gifting and your life’s training – no one else can do that. You have a unique purpose; God wants you, not someone else.
To unpack this further, let’s have a look at the journey of Joseph (see Genesis 37-50). There are three key reasons Joseph was so good at his assignment. Firstly, he understood his assignment and accepted it. Next, he knew it had to be him who did it. Finally he knew that people were depending on him to do it.
One of Joseph’s natural gifts was to understand dreams from the Lord. That wasn’t a gift that emerged 13 years later when he was in gaol. He was born with that gift. He knew what those dreams meant. He was able to interpret and to get his nation and family into Egypt. Also Joseph had been trained in management. A gift of reading dreams and gift of management, which is why he went on to manage the biggest economy in the world in those days. But he also had a level of moral rectitude that no body else had.
You might expect this kind of assignment to fall to the oldest brother. That was Reuben – Reuben had already slept with his Father’s wife Bilhah (Gen 35:22) – there was no way on earth he was ever going to get past Potiphar’s wife – he just didn’t have the moral foundation to do it. Next was Simeon and Levi – they’d wiped out the Shechemites because they raped their sister (Gen 34). That is tantamount to an international crisis – there’s no way these wild, unruly, unwise brothers are going to do any good managing Egypt. I could go on. Despite the challenging path ahead it had to be Joseph that took on this assignment. He couldn’t fail as his family would starve otherwise.
In like manner the Lord said ‘Noah it has to be you that builds this ark’. 500 years old the only righteous man left standing on the earth – had to be him. ‘Moses get my people out of Egypt’. Imagine what Moses thought when God told him to do that – you must be crazy I killed one of their officers, they are waiting for me back there and I’ve also got a speech impediment. The Lord was saying you don’t just walk into the palace, you lived there for 40 years, you know everybody, you’ve got all those relationships, you can get into the palace – no one else can. You’ve also lived in the desert for 40 years with the Midianites this is where you are bringing the people, they went back through that same land (just like SAS desert training) and you have this incredible gift of leadership. So it had to be him. Just as it had to be Esther – ‘Go to talk to the king on behalf of the Jews’. If she goes to make supplication for the Jews and if he rejects her she gets executed. She’s not allowed to do that and the king hadn’t called on her for 30 days. But Esther’s life experiences led her to this point; her gift of beauty, she had the training of a queen, she knew how to do it and she was a very shrewd and clever woman and she went and did it and it worked.
Don’t be intimidated by assignments. We aren’t all called to take over the planet – I’ve mentioned some really big ones from the Bible just because we know them. However we all work at our own level of gifting and our own level of life’s experience so assignments can be small, can be big, can be multiple, and can vary. But we just need to get engaged with what God would have us doing. I think that the safest place any of us can be is doing their assignment. If Noah didn’t do his assignment he would have drowned. If Joseph didn’t do his he would have starved. If Esther didn’t do hers they would have all been wiped out. It’s much, much safer doing your assignment then not doing it.
‘You must not let the circumstances destroy you! Too many in the kingdom are counting on you to come through this because of the calling on your life!’
This statement sums it up. A Christian business man Os Hillman was told this. He was an author and a publicist working for magazines, very high achiever, but things went wrong in his life and he lost all his money, his wife left him, his kids left him, he was right at the end of his tether and about to give up and a mentor came to him and said this to him. That sunk in and he picked himself up and went on to become what I would say is one of the most influential devotional writers in the Christian business world. He writes a free devotional http://www.marketplaceleaders.org/tgif/ and is making a big impact. The point being his life’s training has brought him to where he is – his gifting is publishing and writing, he had been trained as a lay pastor beforehand and he had now been right through the pit experience and that was his life’s experience – which he can now help other people going through that pit experience. So it had to be him.
I now want to share with you an SAS operation from the Rhodesian SAS from a long time ago (1976) that I was on and this will show you the importance of individuals in an assignment. I’m not here to big note or to glorify war but want to use this as an illustration.
The following took place at the confluence of the Zambezi and Luangwa rivers in Central Africa in what is now modern day Zimbabwe. It was Rhodesia in those days. Zambia and Mozambique had declared war on us amongst other countries. We were at war with all our neighbours except South Africa to the south. Across in the town of Zumbo there were three ferries, quite big boats and they were ferrying terrorists into Rhodesia. We were being invaded. Thousands of terrorists were coming in they were killing our civilians, killing our farmers, blowing up our oil depots, that was the war that we fought. Our job in the SAS was to go behind enemy lines and tidy them up. So we arrived at Kanyemba on a Thursday night late in 1976, eighteen of us, to the distress of the garrison that was running Kanyemba because as soon as we leave they get bombed cause we tended to stir up the hornets a bit. It was Thursday night deliberately as we had to get prepared and then go in on the Friday night. Friday like everywhere else in the world people have a few drinks including soldiers, and it’s easier to do stuff if they are all lying around drunk in the parade square. So there we arrived and we crossed the river the next night – eight of us went across so ten held the camp – that’s our covering, our protection. So we went across and put the canoes on the north bank of the Zambezi. Two guys were left behind, hidden in the bush to look after them. Now there are six of us. Six guys now moving along the banks of the Zambezi; down towards Zumbo. Zumbo had a massive garrison, many thousands of FRELIMO troops: these were freedom fighters if you will that had been fighting the Portuguese army. Now the Portuguese had since pulled out and FRELIMO had taken over. They’d been at war for about 20 years. All of these guys were very experienced. As well as several thousand FRELIMO troops there were also ZIPRA and ZUNLA Terrorists which are the ones we were fighting against. These terrorists were getting onto those ferries at night and crossing the river and killing our Civvies. Our assignment is to stop them killing our civilians by blowing up the ferries. So it’s Friday night and everyone in the cities in Rhodesia are all down the pubs and clubs, rugby matches are going on. They have no idea what’s going on behind the enemy lines – there’s six young guys heading through Zumbo and sneaking around. They’d gotten so drunk the flag was still flying in the parade square which is a big no, no in the military. As we went down towards the ferries, we left guys at key points along the way. Now there are only two of us to go down onto those boats and blow them up. It’s not easy to blow up diesel, and these were diesel powered boats. So we had specially designed charges, and we had to put them on those engines and on the tanks, and those boats weren’t empty they were full of drunken troops. So we had to creep on there, arm those charges, get on the next vessel and so forth. Then head back where we’d come from, collecting the pairs of guys, then back through Zumbo and across the Zambezi. It was as we are paddling back at first light the whole thing blew up. This set the incursion back in that part of Mozambique for many, many years. You can’t swim across that river – it’s full of floating handbags, you need a boat.
The whole country (not that they knew it) were reliant on two men and the other six guys who were trained for their roles. Everyone had a role to play and it was important that each do their role. This is an example to see how important it is that we each do our assignment.
In like manner people are reliant on us to do our assignments that God has called us to. Everyone in God’s kingdom has a role to play. Take the challenge and use your gifts, your life’s experiences, your training to get on with that which God has for you.