Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

The Call to Suffer

July 19th, 2018

Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with.” (Mark 10:39)

I cannot suffer for my own salvation. Jesus has already born the whole cost. “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:22-24).

Yet as followers of Jesus Christ we are called to suffer. There is no Savior without a cross, and there is no discipleship without suffering. This is true because there is no true discipleship without love creating in us a burden for someone. Paul said, “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish” (Rom. 1:14). But love – and the burden is one of love, not of guilt – eases the heaviness of it all until we feel as though there is no burden at all. As it was said of Jacob who worked seven years for Rachel, “They seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her” (Gen. 29:20), so it can be said of us and those things and people for whom God gives us a burden of love.

I say “things” not because they are as important as people, but that sometimes it is that our task of love will be to invest in Christian organizations, or the building of church buildings, or the writing of Christian texts that will help others. God’s love is for people, but there is more than just one way we must function. Though Mary received the better blessing for sitting at the feet of Jesus, still there are many things that Marthas are called to do for Christ and for others, and if these opportunities are surrendered to Christ and done under His loving Lordship, they can be as much labors of love as winning souls.

How do we suffer? The ways in which we suffer are too many to mention them all, but a sampling would include: sleepless nights, generous giving, patience with people, long days and nights of service and difficult travels, sicknesses, fatigue, threats against our lives, going without recognition or thanks, persecution and rejection, being misunderstood by friends and loved ones, humiliations, and labors in prayer. We see what the apostle catalogued of his own experiences:

As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. (2 Cor. 6:4-10)

Who are you suffering for? That person is the one you love. Do you do it happily, as a privilege? Then it is profound love. Do you keep score of your hardships so as to complain later? Then your love must grow. Do you do it out of guilt? Then that is not love at all, and your guilt will never enable you to carry the load in joy. Paul said, “I am willing to spend and be spent” (2 Cor: 12:15). Spend time before God until He gives you the love you need to serve where you are, or calls you to the place and people He has put on your heart.


Daily Devotions, Leadership

Pitfalls of Leadership

July 13th, 2018

Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy. (Psalm 61:1-3 ESV)

To be a leader in the service of God is a call to make a difference for Christ in today’s world. But there are many pitfalls in leadership – pride, power, ego-trips, selfishness, and the like. Any Christian who leads in today’s world – whether in the church or in anywhere else in life – will be tempted in many ways to take that which was meant to be an unselfish act of service for Christ’s sake, and turn it into something ugly, selfish, and harmful.

The wounds of the leader

One of the common things that happens in leadership is that leaders use their position in an effort to heal the wounds of their own soul. Of course, leadership is not a self-healing activity, it will, in fact, bring more wounds, not less, into our lives. So immediately we should realize that any leader must have their wounds already sorted out to some extent, or at least know that this position will not heal them.

For example, if someone feels unimportant, ignored, and insignificant, if they long for acceptance, attention, and respect, then they may think that leadership is the way to meet these goals. The leadership position can become like a pain-reliever. The position does not resolve anything, for these issues lay deep in our psyches, but it at least helps to numb the pain for a while. It is as if the leader can say to his detractors, or those he felt slighted by, “See, I’m important after all.”

Twisted leadership

It does not take much imagination to see how this type of leadership will lead to the abuse of others. These leaders who lead to numb their pain will hang on to their position because it helps them feel important. Their goals in leadership will vary widely from seeking the approval of others, or punishing those who resemble the ones who rejected them. These leaders will exercise leadership styles that will swing wildly from people pleasing to dominating others, all the while basking in the limelight of attention or in the addiction of power over others.

They will hang on the position at all costs because it numbs their pain. But like all pain-relievers, its effects will be less and less over time. They will eventually turn to negativism, skepticism, cynicism, and the “sour-grapes” attitude that rejects the world, and scoffs at everything.

The first requirement of leadership: possessing God’s peace

The first need in the life of all leaders is to know the source of your strength is found in God. This psalm is so well-phrased because David wrote this, most likely, while on the run from King Saul. Saul was an insecure leader who used his position as a pain-reliever. But David asked God to minister to his soul, and in this same psalm prayed for King Saul. David knew that the help his soul required could only come from God.

David had plenty of reasons to feel rejected. We know that his father Jesse did not include him among his sons when Samuel came to his house to anoint the next king. David was considered the “runt of the litter,” the youngest and least important. His brothers used harsh words to him when he came to visit them on the battlefield. So there were plenty of reasons why David could take the position of king and turn it into an ego-trip and a pain-reliever.

But instead he sought help from God. He cried out, “Lead to the rock that is higher than I,” and he knew that only God could mend the wounds of his soul. Those years in the wilderness taught him that peace was possible under adverse conditions, that peace did not depend on the respect of others, or any certain position of leadership. It came from God and it came through his faith.

The leader must help others, not just himself

Neither did David become cynical and reject the whole idea of kings and kingdoms. Many who have been rejected and deprived of positions of honour have turned into marauding outlaws, and David certainly could have done that. But instead he still saw the potential to do good in being the king, and when it was finally his, he took it humbly and acted justly.

Leadership is not always fun and games. Anyone who has really been in Christian leadership for very long would laugh at the idea of leadership being a pain-reliever, for quite often it is just the opposite. “No good deed goes unpunished,” is a truism that leaders can identify with. Trying to do right, even in Christian leadership, even among good Christian folks, can be a difficult and painful thing. The leader must know that he has to do the right thing by God and for the people of God, even if the people do not see it that way.

The leader must have the integrity to do the right thing even if no one else believes it is the right thing. The godly leader receives peace and inner healing through the gospel and by his faith. He lives confidently because of Christ in his life, and not because he has a position of leadership. He seeks to do the right thing because he knows that he must answer to God. “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17).

Acceptance in the Lord

The Bible preaches that we are accepted by God through Christ. The Bible says of God and of our salvation:

In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace… (Eph. 1:4b-7)

To believe this and to claim it by faith is the beginning of the inner healing of our souls. We have a Lord who loves us and cares for us deeply. He is the Rock that is higher than we are. The leader must know this first and foremost in his heart before he takes any position of leadership. His inner peace and security must come from God.