When God builds a leader He begins working from the inside out. He does not immediately send him or her to management school or the executive training program. No, He starts with a heart that can be dislocated… removed from its present stasis and alignment. And interestingly, as painful as that is (think about a dislocated joint) it is the place where God begins to do a great work.
Nehemiah’s heart was broken. (Nehemiah 1:4-5) It had been dislocated by the news brought from the old city of Jerusalem that the people there lived in danger, reproach and vulnerability because there was no wall… and no one to build it. So many people get their hearts dislocated in this way… missionaries for an unreached people group… a successful professional who feels led to ministry… a student who meets poverty for the first time and decides to raise funds to make a difference.
But a dislocated heart is only one step toward the ultimate goal: change. Genuine, lasting change… both in the leader herself and in the circumstance that needs to be addressed. Prospective leaders will encounter (at least) three enemies along the way. These enemies are attacking that “dislocated heart” God has given.
The enemies are: disillusionment, distraction and discouragement. Any one or any combination of these dangerous “d’s” will threaten to “relocate” the leader’s heart and move them away from the accomplishment of God’s vision for them.
Before the Journal/Book of Nehemiah comes to a conclusion, each of these enemies will be confronted. But they come to serve God’s purpose in the second important aspect of building a leader; having a humbled spirit. None of these outside intruders are the most dangerous enemy for the leader. It is on the inside that the real war must be fought and won.
Pride is the enemy of leadership effectiveness. We see the preening and pride of leaders on display every day in every walk of life. Pride manifests as one of two things: an attitude that says, “I can handle this myself” or an attitude that says, “I can’t trust God to do this.” The first attitude moves us toward a self-reliance that leads to a fall. Even heavenly angels fell prey to the seduction of this sin.
The second attitude is one that says, “Even God couldn’t do this work through a vessel like me.” It sounds so self-effacing, so humble to say. In reality, this also is a denial of God’s ability to BE GOD. When Moses tried this on God because God called him out of his comfort zone to communicate His message to Pharaoh, Moses said, “I can’t speak.” God’s reply? “Who made your mouth??”
Of the two manifestations of pride, the second hides better. But it reveals an insidious problem: the problem of refusing to trust God to do what He needs to do. A leader is confident but not so much in him or herself but as in God’s ability to do “exceedingly, abundantly more” than we could ever think or ask.
The leader is first of all, a follower and a person who leans on God alone for strength. A dislocated heart leads to a contrite and broken spirit. And it is there that God can allow His presence to dwell.
FOR MEMORIZATION: The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit: A broken and contrite heart, these O God, You will not despise. Psalm 51:17
FOR REFLECTION: Are you more prone to the pride of self-reliance or the pride of refusing to trust God? Do you possess the one place on earth that God promises to abide: in a broken and contrite heart?