Learning to lead (3)

2 Timothy 4:2 NIV

When you crave acceptance and approval, you end up being controlled by those you’re supposed to lead. Paul recognized this. That’s why he instructed Titus: “Teach…and encourage your people…correcting them when necessary as one who has every right to do so. Don’t let anyone think that what you say is not important” (Titus 2:15 TLB). Afraid of causing upheaval in the ranks, insecure leaders agonize over decisions and assume responsibility for other people’s emotional reactions. They don’t realize that when you’re doing what you should be doing and others don’t agree, that’s their problem, unless you make it yours. A mature leader deals with disappointment and keeps a good attitude; they’re willing to face the music even when they don’t like the tune. Think: When you warn your children about putting their hand on a hot stove, it’s not your responsibility to make them enjoy hearing it, right? Hopefully, as they mature they’ll understand. But the truth is, some people won’t like hearing the word “no” regardless of how old they get! But we all need to hear it from time to time; otherwise, we’ll never be happy with anything other than getting our own way – and that means getting nowhere, or getting into trouble. Paul, who was training Timothy for leadership, told him, “Correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” Correct people when they’re wrong, rebuke them when they’re stubborn, encourage them when they struggle, be patient as they learn and grow, and make sure your instructions are clear and understandable. That’s what good leaders do – and the only way you learn it is by doing it.

Soul food: Isa 8-11; John 5:16-30; Ps 85; Prov 27:20-22

Growing through tough times

James 1:4 CEV

James writes: ‘Be glad, even if you have a lot of trouble. You know that you learn to endure by having your faith tested. But you must learn to endure everything, so that you will be completely mature and not lacking in anything’ (vv. 2-4). Trouble isn’t something we’re usually glad to have. In fact, we probably try and avoid it, or pray for it to end quickly. When life brings us to a low, we can become low with it and get tired waiting for a good season to come along. How often do we begin to question God’s goodness and nearness? How often do we end up asking God ‘why’? But James tells us that through tough times we gain endurance and spiritual maturity. The same thought appears in Romans: ‘We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next’ (5:3-4 MSG). Our faith grows when it is put to the test. Tough times require us to really trust God and lean on Him for support. We start to realise that we can’t control everything, and that, ultimately, God’s the One in control. We may not get answers to our ‘why’s’ but what we will get, if we ask, is a ‘how’. God will show us how He can use the situation we’re in to develop us into who He’s created us to be. So when we’re facing trouble, let’s not become discouraged and frustrated but instead keep focusing on what God can do through it.

Josh 8:30-10:43; Mark 9:30-37; Ps 111; Prov 23:4-6

Growing through life’s tests

James 1:4 CEV

James writes: “Be glad, even if you have a lot of trouble. You know that you learn to endure by having your faith tested. But you must learn to endure everything, so that you will be completely mature and not lacking in anything. If any of you need wisdom, you should ask God, and it will be given you…But when you ask…you must have faith…Anyone who doubts is like an ocean wave tossed around in a storm. If you are that kind of person, you can’t make up your mind, and you surely can’t be trusted. So don’t expect the Lord to give you anything at all” (vv. 2-8). Note three things in this Scripture: (1) Your faith grows when it’s tested. You’ll never know the strength of your anchor until you feel the blast of the storm. (2) God will give you wisdom to handle the test. Now, He won’t answer all your “whys.” So instead of questioning Him, you need to pray, “Lord, how do You want to use this trial to develop me spiritually? How can I cooperate with You to reap the maximum benefit? What changes do You desire to bring about in my life?” Those are questions God will answer. (3) You must be willing to obey. It’s possible to ask God for wisdom, then debate, stall, or mess around trying to decide whether or not to obey Him. “If you’re that kind of person…don’t expect the Lord to give you anything at all.” When God gives you His wisdom, your first response should be: “Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10 NIV).

Soul food: Josh 8:30-10:43; Mark 9:30-37; Ps 111; Prov 23:4-6

Learning from David (1)

Romans 8:28 NKJV

It’s not over until God says it’s over. Look at King David’s life. He fails time and time again, even while he’s a leader walking in the middle of God’s calling. Right after he does something truly horrific and thinks he’s got away with it, 2 Samuel 12:13-14 shows God coming to him with unexpected grace. David’s story is a warning to the wayward, a rebuke to the self-righteous, a reminder of God’s justice – but also, crucially, of the fact that His love that will never let go of you. Give it a read today if you haven’t in a while. You have no idea what good God might be bringing out of your mistakes. You don’t know what God’s planning to release in your character through the lessons you learn in failure. The uncomfortable thing is, this all applies to everyone else too. When others go morally bankrupt, or betray their relationship with Jesus, you never know what God may have planned for them. If you rush to judgement when someone does something awful, you could be rushing ahead of God’s plan for them. And even if His plan turns out differently, His heart is always for their good. Grace is always amazing: not just when it’s for us, but when it’s for others too.

Nah 1-3; Mat 27:1-10; Ps 65; Prov 19:5-8

Don’t let fear stop you

2 Timothy 1:6 NAS

Don’t let fear make you hide your talents and abilities. One Christian author says: “God expects us to make the most of what He gives us…to keep our hearts aflame, grow our character and personality, and broaden our experiences so we’ll be increasingly more effective. Paul told the Philippians, ‘Keep on growing in knowledge and understanding’ (Philippians 1:9 NLT). And he told Timothy, ‘Be sure to use the abilities God has given you…Put [them] to work’ (1 Timothy 4:14-15 TLB); ‘Kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you.’ When you don’t exercise your muscles, they weaken and atrophy, and when you don’t utilize the skills God gave you, the same thing happens. Referring to the servant who because of fear hid his talent in the ground, Jesus said, ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents’ (Matthew 25:28 NIV). Don’t be afraid. Put your gifts and abilities to work and they’ll become enlarged and developed through practice. No one reaches full development all at once. But with study, feedback, and practice, a good teacher can become a better teacher, and in time grow to be a great teacher. Stretch yourself. Learn all you can. ‘Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won’t be ashamed of’ (2 Timothy 2:15 TM). Take advantage of every opportunity to develop and sharpen your skills. Remember, in heaven we’re going to serve God forever, and we prepare by practicing here on earth. Like athletes getting ready for the Olympics, we’re training for the big day.”

Soul food: Ex 34:29-35; Mark 9:2-27; 2 Cor 3:7-18