I pondered this as I sat with other expectant family members in the Family Retreat at Baptist South on Sunday and Monday. Waiting. Eating junk food. Playing card games and watching endless re-runs of game shows. Jumping every time the door to the Labor and Delivery floor came open. Reaching for another of those devilish Hot Tamale candies I am now addicted to. (Thank you Ashley!!)
Frankly, I knew it would be moving. But life-changing? For me? Wasn’t sure how that really could happen. And then, at the end of over 24 hours of labor and waiting, my son Dave sent us a snapshot from his phone inside the room. The baby was here! Three days after her due date, she almost stuck the landing. And she was born on my Dads birthday!
After our first excited rounds of texts and phone calls were made, and great-grandparents and aunts and uncles were notified of their new “promotion,” something incredible happened. My son walked into the waiting room and for the very first time I saw it. He was a father. It showed on his face, weary after a sleepless night and standing alongside his wife. I was filled with a pride for him at that moment that was beyond description. He was now different. I could see it. We embraced for a moment and he disappeared behind the double doors with two weary and anxious grandmothers and a newly minted aunt.
The other grandfather and I sat in the room waiting for our invitation to go back and meet our new granddaughter. We were both aware that grandpa’s take a back seat in moments like this, and we were ok with that. Paul and I chatted as we waited thumbing mindlessly through an AARP magazine. I looked for another Hot Tamale. Sadly, there were none.
Then it was our turn to enter. I walked into a room to the sound of the baby crying as Dave changed her diaper. Knowing it would be the first of many thousands, I knew he would become adept at this skill.
I surveyed the emotion-packed room as a spirit that I can only describe as God-sent joy was pervasive. I saw it in the new mother’s face. Logan is a beautiful woman, but as she lay in the bed disheveled by the hours of labor she had undergone, I saw a radiance and beauty in her that was remarkable. She was a mother. She was now different. I could see it. I could feel it around her.
Then I had the privilege of watching as my son carefully handed his now-swaddled, contented, perfectly-formed, lovely, dark-haired daughter to my wife. And as I watched, Pam changed as she carefully and adoringly held her newly born granddaughter in her arms. A joy and beauty emanated from her that made me love her in a way that I had not experienced before. She literally radiated with joy. She was a grandmother! She was now different. I could see it in her eyes, her face. I could sense it in her spirit.
By now my eyes were so tear-filled that the room was blurred. I had to step aside to clear them. Because then they said, “Poppy, it’s your turn to hold her.” And when they handed her to me, I changed. I could feel it from the depths of my being….a love and joy flowing out that only a caring Creator-God and a beautiful newborn baby could bring. As I looked into the beauty of McCail Violet’s face, I was now different.
I am a grandfather. And I am certain my life will never be quite the same!
19 3/4 inches long
Nehemiah saw the wall before anyone else. Not the old walls. Everyone who had returned saw the devastation and rubble the Babylonians left behind. Nehemiah saw the walls rebuilt before anyone else. Not on an architect’s drawing board. Not in an artist’s depiction. But in dreams and visions that now preoccupied his daily thoughts. Images that obscured his ability to move on with anything else. Nehemiah had a vision. He saw the walls completed. God had birthed this vision…drawn it in the deep places of his spirit. It bordered on an obsession that made it worth risking everything…his job, position, reputation, his money…even if necessary his life.
Leaders see things first. Every building project that becomes reality has already been clearly projected on the screen of the leader’s mind. It’s not in question to the leader. Every business start-up, military campaign, staff restructure, or idea is seen, felt, or tasted by the leader first. Ray Kroc tasted the first McDonald hamburger. Howard Schultz refined Pike Place coffee and passed the expertise on to the first Starbucks barista. Leaders see things first. They lead from a vision toward that vision. They help others see what they see.
The second essential item in the leader’s backpack is a vision that they have lived in, walked through, or tasted first.
Even in decision-making, vision drives the process. I have counseled numerous young pastors in processing a vital question: “How do you know when God is in a move, a change, or a different path?” The answer is this: When God is in something He will always give you dreams and visions about it. If He hasn’t, the decision is not from Him.
As I write this, we are awaiting the birth of our first grandchild, a little girl named McCail Violet Maynard. Logan is due any time now and McCail’s Mamaw (aka my wife) is concerned with packing a bag for us to take to the hospital in case she decides to arrive in the middle of the night! I’ve been thinking about what is necessary and not necessary to pack for that particular journey.
We are all on a journey in life and some of us are on a leadership journey. What do we pack for that kind of journey to be successful? Let’s look at Nehemiah’s essential items for the leadership journey that he had embarked on.
First we find that Nehemiah had a quality of character that Oswald Chambers called “unconquerableness.” Yes, it’s a made up word. It will not survive autocorrect or spell check.
But it tells us volumes about a leader.
Any leadership challenge is going to involve obstacles. As we read through Nehemiah’s journal, we find over and over that he encountered difficult people, power structures, discouragement, people who kept looking at the rubble and a nearly impossible task to accomplish on an impossible timeline. Pressure within and pressure without confronted Nehemiah. Sometimes it took the form of external opposition and enemies determined to stop him. Sometimes the warfare was internal, as every leader understands.
But Nehemiah had “unconquerableness.” He did not let these issues discourage, dissuade or distract him. He saw the finished product. He knew God had called him to this. He knew God would be his strength and it kept him on his knees.
The first “unconquerable” obstacle was in the form of his boss, the King of Babylon, named Artaxerxes. While he and the king had a familiar and respectful relationship, he had to have his boss’ permission to move forward with this project. Complicating this was the fact that the project that God had placed in his heart was going to be subversive to the kingdom of Babylon. Years before the Babylonian king had issued an edict that said, “The walls of this city will never be rebuilt.” Jerusalem was seen as a rebellious, even a dangerous city. It was best to keep it vulnerable and uninhabitable.
But Nehemiah was sent to rebuild its walls. And so he prayed to God for mercy as he waited carefully for his opportunity to bring the subject up and speak to the king. He prayed for four months. (From Kislev to Nisan, over 100 days). And when the time came at the KING’S initiative (you do not walk into a king’s chamber and say, “I’ve got this great idea’) Nehemiah made his request know. And in a moment that only God Himself could orchestrate, the king gave his permission for Nehemiah not only to leave his post but supplied the project out of the kingdom’s treasury.
Amazing! But a leader must have “unconquerableness” for that to come to pass. If we move ahead of God, it may cost us… a job, a relationship, our life! If we move too slowly we miss the momentum and the divine moment that God has put in place.
We must not leave “unconquerableness” out of our leadership backpack. It is perhaps one of the most essential items we can carry!
FOR MEMORIZATION: O Lord, give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man. Nehemiah 1:11b
FOR REFLECTION: Are you “unconquerable?” Do you have that quality of character that won’t give up until the task is accomplished? Perhaps today you are facing an obstacle that challenges you… a difficult person; a tough conversation; taking on a task that is overwhelming? An “unconquerableness” of spirit is essential for those moments. Remember that “we are more than conquerors through him who loves us.” (Romans 8:37) Pray for God’s favor and move forward!
G od. The Gospel begins with God. Actually, everything does! The world and all that is in it began with God. It is God who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. It is God who chases after and searches for the lost sheep. It is God who is trying to find you if you are lost. It all begins with God. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son….” (John 3:16)
O ur sin is the problem. The greatest need of our world is not a better politician to lead us or more enforcement of stricter laws or even the elimination of terrorism or drug abuse. We are sinners…not sick. We are sinners… not “mistakers.” We are sinners… not dysfunctional. We have sinned and done what is evil in GOD’s sight. We need salvation, not therapy. All of us measure our problems on a sliding scale that sees other people’s flaws clearly and our own only vaguely. There is not a person in America today who would look at the Orlando shooter and not think, on some level, we are better than him… more moral than him… more righteous than him. But we have all sinned. God doesn’t grade on the curve. And we must admit that we have fallen short of his standard… some greatly, some less so…but our sin has rendered us spiritually dead. Our problem is not the act or acts of sin… it is the nature that drives those actions that must be redeemed and rescued from the wrath of God to come.
S alvation comes from Christ alone. He is the sufficient one. He is the only one who has lived and died in a perfectly sinless state, proving both that he was and is God and that he is the only perfect substitute and sacrifice for our sin. He is the one seated in heavenly places in the place of honor. He is the ever-living, ever-reigning one. Christ alone is sufficient for our salvation. There is no other way; no other name under heaven given by which we must be saved. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6)
P ersonal commitment. This is an important point that we must not forget. No one else can make the decision to trust Christ for us. Our baptism as an infant or attendance at confirmation or good deeds cannot save us. Our membership in a church does not save us. Only a personal, one-on-one encounter with God as we are confronted with the reality of our sin and the claims of the Gospel can make that happen. God makes Himself known to all people so that “all are without excuse.” We must decide… for or against God.
E veryone may come. The invitation to salvation through Christ alone is open to all who will come. It is not a matter of being deserving. It is a matter of be willing to open your heart, recognize your need, and humbling yourself to receiving salvation that is “by grace alone through faith alone.” (Ephesians 2:8) “For it is by grace you are saved through faith….” The Word of God says. Now faith as it is used here does not just mean having blind faith in something you don’t understand or believing in someone you don’t know. Faith is placed IN the finished work of Christ and IN the truth of God’s Word which proclaims it.
L ife transformation. “If any man (person, woman, boy or girl) is in Christ he is a NEW CREATION; old things have passed away and all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) “For we are His workmanship (Ephesians 2:9), created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” A transformed life will produce works that are pleasing to God. In other words, change will occur. The things we once enjoyed that may have been wrong will grieve us now, even though we may still do them. We will want to do the things that please Christ now, even though at one time before we had no desire to do them.
If this GOSPEL presentation is something you want to make real in your life… personal in your life… then pray a prayer like this:
Dear Father, I know I have sinned against you and the things you love. I have gone my own way, like a wandering sheep. I know you are searching for me and today I stop, turn around, and come to You. Thank You for forgiving me. Thank You for loving me. Thank You for searching for me. I give myself totally to You, and surrender to You completely today. Come in and take control of all that I am.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
A Leadership Cue Card: I will serve them on their journey
Compelled by love, I will empty myself of self and live for the benefit of others. I want to see who they can become in Christ, trust them to realize that potential and serve them on their journey.
As we bring this week of devotions to a close, look back on what we have studied this week. Our goal was to develop a brief, “index-card ready” statement of beliefs about leadership. I would like you to re-consider that statement one final time today through a different lens: What if the leaders you followed adopted this philosophy of leadership? How would you respond to their leadership?
Who has influenced you to become the person you are today? Who continues to challenge you to greatness in your discipleship and service to others? Who coaches you to success and corrects you when you fail? As we re-consider our leadership cue card, think about how those who influence you most model the characteristics we have examined together. As you do that, think about your relationship with those leaders. How much of their influence flows out of the model of the concepts on our leadership cue card?
Compelled by love…
What motivates those who influence you to serve you? Do you perceive they are “in it to win it for themselves” or are you joined together in the battle? Have the leaders over you been controlled, directed and focused on a desire for the welfare of others over their own needs? How do you respond to their leadership?
I will empty myself of self…
How would you describe the ego of those leading you: are they edging God out or exalting God only? Would you describe them as selfish or selfless? Is their battle to “empty myself of self” over or is it an ongoing struggle? How do you respond to their leadership?
And live for the benefit of others.
How have the leaders around you shared the benefits gained with you and others? Do they serve with an expectation of reward? How do you respond to their leadership?
I want to see who they can become in Christ…
How have those with the greatest influence over you challenged you to grow and develop your skills, talents and character? In what ways does their interaction with you reflect a pastor’s heart and care for you? How do they affirm that you are of great value to God and the Kingdom? How do you respond to their leadership?
Trust them to realize that potential…
To what degree to those who lead you micromanage you? In what ways do you recognize that they trust you to do the right thing? When you fail, how do they respond? How do you respond to their leadership?
And serve them on their journey.
Would you consider those who have and are influencing you as serving you? Why? How accurately does the term “servant leader” apply to those who have the greatest influence over you? How do you respond to their leadership?
Do you see a common theme in your answers? I am going to go out on a limb that those who have the greatest influence in your life have demonstrated that they have a genuine concern for your benefit. They may not have expressed their leadership exactly as we have described, but I believe there is evidence that love, humility, altruism, optimism, trust and service are among the values that drive them.
So, how have you responded to their leadership in your life? Do you see where their values have become yours, or, at a minimum shaped your thinking on leadership? How has their humble servant leadership made them great?
Jesus taught the disciples and those gathered around him
The greatest among you will be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Matthew 23:11-12 (HCSB)
It has been my hope this week that you would see that servant leadership is significant, of great value, possible and sorely needed in our world today. In your home, your workplace, your school and in your closest relationships, I pray you will take this leadership cue card and lead those around you with love, humility, altruism, optimism, trust and service.
For reflection: Please take time to consider the many questions listed above. Ask God to show you how you might be a more influential person to your friends and family.
For memorization: “The greatest among you will be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:11-12 (HCSB)
A Leadership Cue Card: Trust them to realize that potential
They stood on a Galilean mountainside. Eleven disciples and Jesus. Mark tells us that in the last few days, Jesus had rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart because they did not believe those who saw Him after the resurrection (Mark 16:15). Matthew tells us when they saw Him on the mountain, they worshiped, but some doubted (Matt 28:17). Luke says they were eager to know if this was the time He would restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6)
None of the writers tell us directly what Jesus thought at that moment. If it were me, I would probably be shaking my head and asking myself, “What was I thinking? Father, are you sure? These ragamuffin, doubting, betraying, still rough around the edges men? Can I trust them?”
Then He spoke. We know what He said. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:15-16 (HCSB) He was taken into heaven before them.
He trusted them. Jesus trusted the disciples with His continued mission to redeem all of creation.
It was not misplaced.
Where are we in our leadership cue card?
Compelled by love, I will empty myself of self and live for the benefit of others. I want to see who they can become in Christ and trust them to realize that potential…
It is a matter of trust.
James Kouzes and Barry Pozner in the book The Leadership Challenge, say trust is “the central issue in human relationships.” Leaders who build trusting relationships are willing to consider alternative viewpoints and to make use of other people’s expertise and abilities. On the other hand, managers in a distrustful environment often take on a self-protective posture, are directive and hold tight the reins of power.
Leaders who trust followers to live up to their potential begin with a simple premise that people basically want to do the right thing. When people do not live up to those expectations, it is often because they do not have capacity, the competency, or it is a character issue.
When people do not have capacity in their schedule, they do not necessarily do the wrong thing as much as they do nothing. The servant leader’s response is to help them create capacity or manage their schedule for them. The former is more helpful than the latter. When a follower lacks the competency, the leader can offer training or can take the work back. Again, the former is more helpful than the latter. If the follower refuses to do the right thing because of a character issue, the remedy is a hard, but necessary conversation.
Unfortunately, the less than helpful approach many leaders take is to micromanage their followers when they fail to do the right thing. Micromanagers resist delegating, immerse themselves in oversight, take back delegated work before it is finished or if they find a mistake and discourage others from making decisions without consultation. This approach does not build trust; rather it destroys it and leads to animosity, anxiety and frustration.
If leaders begin with the premise that followers basically want to do the right thing, they can diagnose the root issue – most often capacity, competency or character – and help followers live up to their potential by creating room to grow in their capacity, training to improve competency or coaching them to strengthen their moral character.
Nehemiah trusted the exiles in Jerusalem to live up to their potential. Nehemiah chapters 3 and 4 give an account of the actual rebuilding of the wall. Nehemiah could not be everywhere and he could not do all the work. So he developed a plan, delegated the work (according to the capacity and competency of the people) and trusted its implementation.
In Nehemiah chapter 7, he tells us
When the wall had been rebuilt and I had the doors installed, the gatekeepers, singers, and Levites were appointed. Then I put my brother Hanani in charge of Jerusalem, along with Hananiah, commander of the fortress, because he was a faithful man who feared God more than most. Nehemiah 7:1-2 (HCSB)
Nehemiah left these in charge and returned to Babylon. When he returned, however, Nehemiah learned that some the people he had left in charge had failed. As a result, he instituted reforms that helped restore trust. In some cases, he had to replace people with others. What was the guideline he used to select these replacements?
I appointed as treasurers over the storehouses Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and Pedaiah of the Levites, with Hanan son of Zaccur, son of Mattaniah to assist them, because they were considered trustworthy. They were responsible for the distribution to their colleagues. Nehemiah 13:13 (HCSB)
Sometimes followers do not live up to expectations. They may be overworked or undertrained. In some cases, they must be removed from their position. A wise servant leader responds not by micromanaging but by serving.
For reflection: Do you expect the best out of people? Are you a micromanager? Are you worthy of trust?
For memorization: … they were considered trustworthy. They were responsible… Nehemiah 13:13
A Leadership Cue Card: I want to see who they can become in Christ
Compelled by love, I will empty myself of self and live for the benefit of others. I want to see who they can become in Christ…
This next phrase just might be one of the most challenging of our entire leadership cue card. First, it is a true test of how well you are able to reject selfishness and put others first. Second, it may truly challenge your view of what is often put forward as the number one task of leadership: casting vision.
Who are the followers behind you? Do you really know them? How about the names of their spouses? Their children? What is the number one challenge facing them personally outside of work? How about their relationship with Christ? Do they have one? Is it growing or stagnant?
Have you ever considered that you might have a great responsibility to pastor or shepherd those under your influence? Is it possible that God has placed you in a position to intercede, bless, protect, care for and serve those around you that they might come to know God in a personal way? If you really want to see who they can become in Christ – to live up to their potential not in a secular, but spiritual way – you may have to lead them to the place where they respond in faith to God’s call on their lives. Are you ready to embrace that responsibility?
Once you begin to truly recognize that the people around you are created by God in His image (Gen 1:27), with a purpose in life (Ps 139, 2 Cor 4:11, Gal 2:20), and gifted and talented to fulfill that purpose (Rom 12, 1 Cor 12, Eph 4), you can begin to appreciate the incredible, untapped potential of people around you. When they see themselves as God sees them, they can begin to embrace their unique identity before Him and live wholeheartedly to honor Him. Moreover, you are in a position to help them do so, if you will make a conscious effort to put them first!
Paul’s letter to the believers in the Colossian church is filled with reminders and admonitions for them to live their lives in the church and in the community. Consider these nuggets, just from chapter 3:
And, two of my favorite verses, “whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (17); and, “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men.” (23)
I do not think Paul was limiting these verses to our “church” life, rather, he was urging us to apply them to all areas of our lives. In fact, imagine how your workplace, family or school might be changed if these values governed the behavior of those you influence.
One final test of your ability to reject selfishness and put others first will come when you recognize that there are others around you who are better at some things than you are. In fact, someone may even be more gifted to lead, influence or serve in the role that you currently occupy. How you embrace their abilities and promote them will be a test of your leadership, and those you lead are watching. Embrace the model of John the Baptist before Christ to “decrease so that he might increase (John 3:30) and you’ll be well served.
The idea that those we influence are just as much a part of God’s plan affects one other key aspect of leadership. Many advocate that the chief role of a leader is to develop and cast vision in the organization. By vision, we mean a narrative that describes an ideal future toward which we are striving. If you consider those whom you lead, their identity in Christ, the talents and resources they bring to bear to your organization as integral parts of your team, is it reasonable to expect, beyond that, to demand, that they be a part of developing and casting vision? A humble, other-oriented, servant leader will draw his team into that discussion and hear from their unique perspectives as the vision, strategies and plans are developed. Again, imagine the untapped potential that could be released if leaders truly devoted themselves to seeing how followers might realize their full potential as they live out Christ’s example in their community.
When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem, he kept his mission low key. He did invite a “few men” with him to inspect the walls (Neh 2:12). We do not know who or how he invited them, but it is not hard for me to imagine Nehemiah listening to them as they surveyed the city. When he finally told the city leaders his idea to rebuild the walls, “they said, “Let’s start rebuilding,” and they were encouraged to [do] this good work.” Nehemiah 2:18 (HCSB) Who did the encouragement? Well, it started with Nehemiah desiring them to be who God willed them to be, and he unleashed a great potential in a great people (Neh 3).
For Reflection: Think once more of those you lead. Do you really want to see who they can become in Christ? If they don’t know Him, they won’t even know where to begin.
For Memorization: Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men. Col 3:23 HCSB
A Leadership Cue Card: I will empty myself of self
Quick! What is the first word that pops into your head in response to this question: “What is the opposite of love?” It would not surprise me that you might have come up with the word hate. Certainly, those two words are often put together as the opposite of one another. However, think about that just a little bit.
We began yesterday to develop a “leadership cue card” as a simple statement of belief about leadership. Today, we continue to unpack our first statement “Compelled by love, I will empty myself of self and live for the benefit of others,” focusing on that middle phrase of emptying myself of self.
Think of a time when someone came into your sphere of influence and you did not really love him or her. You did not act for their benefit or in their best interest without regard for how you might benefit. Perhaps it was a homeless person at a stoplight or someone in your office that just “rubs you the wrong way.” Got an example? Good. So what was your attitude toward them if it wasn’t love? Was it really hate? Or something else? Like ambivalence. Or impatience. Or indifference. Or simply ignoring them. The root of these actions is not necessarily hate but more like selfishness. Perhaps, the opposite of love is not hate so much as it is selfish.
Our leadership challenge then is to learn to empty self of self: to make one’s self-interest subordinate to the need of others.
This is a difficult task in the making of a leader, especially when one considers that so much of leadership is oriented to the benefits given the leader – perks, status, benefits, etc. But, as we look at biblical examples of leadership, we see repeatedly that leadership is best exercised in service to others. That means putting aside selfishness and becoming “other oriented.”
Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges, in their book, The Servant Leader speak to the “Leadership Ego.” In contrast to the psychological term, they offer two definitions of ego: 1. Edging God Out; or, 2. Exalting God Only. The first definition is often realized when leaders become prideful or fearful. Prideful leaders promote themselves over others. Fearful leaders hide behind position, withhold information, intimidate others or become “control freaks”.
On the other hand, leaders who Exalt God Only embrace an attitude of humility and confidence that God is working through them for His glory. In other words, the latter kind of leader has learned to set aside personal pride and insecurity and the self-centeredness that it demonstrates and, in its place, put the work and intention of God for another at the center of attention.
Philippians 2:3-8 is a classic biblical example of what we are discussing here:
Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not [only] for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death- even to death on a cross. (HCSB)
Re-read that last paragraph. Christ, our example, God incarnate, chose not to enter our world as conquering king (yet) but as a servant-slave. Humble. Obedient. Other-focused. Exalting God Only. Is there a better model of leadership than Christ? And, is there a person more opposite of selfish than He? He is love. He was compelled by love, devoid of self-centeredness, and lived for the benefit of those who were still His enemies. Us.
Finally, we can look again at Nehemiah as an example of this self-less, other-focused style of leadership. In chapter 5, we read two stories: one of Nehemiah’s reform to stop oppressive practices to the poor and a second of Nehemiah’s refusal to take on the traditional benefits of his position. Eugene Peterson paraphrased the latter in this way:
From the time King Artaxerxes appointed me as their governor in the land of Judah-from the twentieth to the thirty-second year of his reign, twelve years-neither I nor my brothers used the governor’s food allowance. Governors who had preceded me had oppressed the people by taxing them forty shekels of silver (about a pound) a day for food and wine while their underlings bullied the people unmercifully. But out of fear of God I did none of that. I had work to do; I worked on this wall. All my men were on the job to do the work. We didn’t have time to line our own pockets. I fed one hundred and fifty Jews and officials at my table in addition to those who showed up from the surrounding nations. One ox, six choice sheep, and some chickens were prepared for me daily, and every ten days a large supply of wine was delivered. Even so, I didn’t use the food allowance provided for the governor-the people had it hard enough as it was. Nehemiah 5:14-18 (Message)
Emptying oneself of self is not demeaning or degrading. In fact, it is quite the opposite. It is allowing the God of all creation to live through your humility and obedience to demonstrate His grace and mercy to others. Jesus did that, and God exalted Him. You do that, and God will never let you down.
Compelled by love, I will empty myself of self and live for the benefit of others
For Reflection: As a leader, are you more likely to Edge God Out or Exalt God Only? Find a copy of The Servant Leader by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges. It’s beautiful little book you can read in an hour but will take a lifetime to master.
For Memorization: Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Philippians 2:3 (HCSB)
A Leadership Cue Card: Compelled by Love
Leadership. A lot of trees have been sacrificed to publish books on the subject. The term yields over 250,000 results on Amazon; over 3,000 results for “becoming a leader.” At its most basic, leadership is influence and leaders become spiritual leaders as God dislocates their hearts and places them in a particular time, place and circumstance to influence others for His glory. If it takes over 250k books and resources to explore the topic, is it possible to reduce the concept and practice of leadership to an “index card ready” statement of basic beliefs about leadership – a leadership cue card – that can guide us in our efforts to lead?
Obviously, I think the answer is “yes” and over the next five days, we will do just that: develop a leadership cue card.
Compelled by love, I will empty myself of self and live for the benefit of others.
I want to see who they can become in Christ, trust them to realize that potential and serve them on their journey.
Today, let’s look at that first sentence together.
In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul writes of his desire to persuade people to come to a knowledge of God. In verses 14-15, he summarizes the reason for his labor – his motivation for leadership: For Christ’s love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: If One died for all, then all died. And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (HCSB)
The word translated compelled means to be “to hold together or compress.” Imagine a father taking his son’s head into his hands, placing his hands on each side of his son’s head, pressing in the ears and looking his son square in the eye. The son’s attention is now focused on the father, right? And the father can exert tremendous control over the son by keeping the pressure on and directing the son’s attention. As much as the son might want to escape, he is constrained by the grip of his father.
So, what is it that compelled or constrained Paul’s ministry to Asia Minor? It was love. Agape love. Love that acts for the good of others without any expectation of reward in return. Love demonstrated most completely when Christ died for the sins of the world.
To truly love another, you focus attention on them, without expecting anything in return. That doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy their gratitude if given, but it means you act even if they don’t express it to you. Love puts the work and intention of God for another at the center of attention. That’s what Christ did for us. He acted for our benefit, knowing that many would reject Him, because it was God’s desire to redeem us.
Where do we see this in Nehemiah’s example? Read Nehemiah’s prayer in chapter 1:5-10. Does this read like a man compelled by selfishness or love for God and for his fellow countrymen? What about the classic mission and vision statement in chapter 2:17. So I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins and its gates have been burned down. Come, let’s rebuild Jerusalem’s wall, so that we will no longer be a disgrace.” (HCSB) Nehemiah could have stayed in the king’s courts. But the news of Jerusalem’s ruin so moved his heart that Nehemiah’s concern for others compelled him to action. He was constrained, he was compelled to live for the benefit of others: first, as an instrument to demonstrate God’s glory to the nations around Israel; and, second, to the exiles who were living defenseless and disgraced.
So, the idea today is that a leader is compelled or constrained by love – unselfish concern for the welfare and benefit of others. Love places its hands on each side of our head and points us in the direction of service. It will not let us go. Compelled by love… I will live for the benefit of others.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at the idea of emptying one’s self of self. In the meantime, what is focusing your attention? Is it love? Or something else?
FOR MEMORIZATION: For Christ’s love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: If One died for all, then all died. 2 Corinthians 5:14
FOR REFLECTION: Create your own leadership cue card: Compelled by love, I will empty myself of self and live for the benefit of others. I want to see who they can become in Christ, trust them to realize that potential and serve them on their journey. Place it in a place of prominence and review it several times a day this week.