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In the same way, when you obey me you should say, "We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty." — Luke 17:10
The goal of any college or professional football player is to help his or her team win the championship game at the end of the season. It takes dedication, strength, and a good measure of teamwork to get to that point. In recent years, however, the sport has focused more than ever before on outstanding individual performances, helped in no small way by the media. Sports figures can rarely avoid the spotlight. So when athletes have microphones shoved at them and are asked questions, they have an opportunity to exhibit a key leadership trait. They can brag and boast about their personal accomplishments, they can criticize another team and its players, or they can make sure that everyone on the team gets the credit he or she deserves.
The ability to deflect praise toward those who deserve it is important for a number of reasons. Giving credit to others keeps us from becoming conceited and self-absorbed. In addition, it allows those who had a contributing role to experience the success as well. Praising others also shows our personal desire to be a servant, a true mark of leadership (see Luke 22:26).
This attitude is not one that comes naturally to people. To this end, we must commit ourselves to God daily, asking him to help us live lives that reflect his character. If we're constantly looking for glory and praise from being a "significant" Christian, then our priorities are wrong. The same is true if we choose to give God and others praise, but in a showy, "look at me" manner. Jesus made it clear that we are to simply do the things he asks us to do and reflect any praise we might receive away from ourselves. We're only doing what he asks, right? And in the end, that's more important than any honors and awards we might receive.
Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jehozadak responded by starting again to rebuild the Temple of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them and helped them. — Ezra 5:2
The term guru has become a description of a person so knowledgeable on a subject that people seek him or her out for advice. These individuals are often depicted as sitting alone on a mountaintop, waiting for someone to stop by for some wisdom. And when the time comes to share, their answers are brief and filled with multiple levels of understanding.
However, leadership does not come from dispensing mysterious advice. Nor, to be more exact, does it come from acting in isolation. God created people to be creatures of community, and within that network of relationships come opportunities to allow others to challenge and encourage each other regardless of title or distinction.
Zerubbabel learned this while attempting to rebuild the Temple after the exiles returned to Jerusalem. Some of the Levites were distraught and wept when the foundation was laid, knowing this version wouldn't be as magnificent as the one Solomon built. Meanwhile, Israel's enemies wanted to help with the building, but when Zerubbabel told them no, they used their power and persuasion to stop construction for sixteen years.
During this time, Zerubbabel could have given up on the whole project. However, two individuals offered him advice and help: the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. Not only did they prophesy to the people, but they also helped get the project back on track again. Their advice and encouragement helped Zerubbabel and the people to complete the Temple despite all the opposition.
Not only do leaders need to be able to encourage others, but they also need to find their own consistent sources of encouragement. This doesn't mean that a "guru" needs to be found. Instead, a leader needs to find trusted people who will listen, pray, and offer advice as God directs them to. Leaders flourish under consistent counsel. Now that's good advice!
For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. — Luke 14:28-29
One of the most recognizable landmarks in Washington, D.C., is the Washington Monument. This 555-foot tall obelisk in the middle of town provides a spectacular view of the city and surrounding areas. It also has a rather fascinating story regarding its construction.
Work on the monument began in 1848, but six years later, members of the Know-Nothing Party (the nickname of the American Party) stopped the flow of funds, leaving an unsightly stump in the middle of town. It would be 25 years before construction resumed. Visitors can take note of this by looking at the color of the marble used in the building. A lighter shade is used for the first third of the monument, while the remaining section is darker.
I'm thankful that the Washington Monument was completed. It wouldn't look too good unfinished! And neither will our Christian lives if we don't consider the cost of following Christ.
With a large crowd following, Jesus told a story illustrating how costly faith is. No one would build a tower or go to war without first considering whether the endeavor would be successful. If the builder decided to plunge into these activities with reckless abandon, the results would be disastrous. Faith is not just reserved for church services but has a part in every decision we make at work, at home, and at school. It affects our choices of entertainment, our comments to other people, and how we spend our spare time. It reveals what our true beliefs about God are.
The cost of being a follower of Christ is immense. In fact, judging from the parable of the treasure hidden in the field (Matt. 13:44), the cost is total. But it pays huge dividends in the end. And we will be complete, instead of unfinished.
"Aren't the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn't I wash in them and be healed?" So Naaman turned and went away in a rage. But his officers tried to reason with him and said, "Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn't you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, 'Go and wash and be cured!'" — 2 Kings 5:12-13
In 1962, the Mariner I space probe was scheduled to travel to Venus and provide information to NASA scientists. It never got there, as it plunged into the Atlantic Ocean four minutes after takeoff. An investigation was launched into the cause for the crash and was later traced to the computer program directing the spacecraft. It turned out that somewhere in the program a single minus sign had been left out.
For some people, living out the basics of the Christian faith isn't exciting enough. Too insignificant. Not brave enough. However, the way a follower of Jesus handles small things, both in attitude and execution, determines to a large extent how they will handle larger things.
Naaman learned a lesson about this in today's passage. He was a mighty warrior of Aram but had leprosy. After getting permission to visit Elisha the prophet, he planned out in his mind exactly what would happen: Elisha would meet him, wave his hand, and call on God to heal him.
Instead, the prophet sent a messenger to Naaman, who told him to wash in the Jordan River seven times. Naaman was upset with this cure. He wanted something with a little more fanfare. But his officers called him on his attitude and encouraged him to take Elisha at his word. When Naaman decided to bathe in the Jordan, his small act of obedience cured him of his leprosy.
So take the time to get to know God through consistent prayer. Read about the characters in the Bible and their triumphs and failures. Make the most of the opportunities the Lord presents, no matter how insignificant they may seem. After all, little things do matter.
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. — James 5:16
When New York's Citicorp tower was completed in 1977, many structural engineers hailed the tower for its technical elegance and singular grace. One year after the building opened, the structural engineer William J. LeMessurier came to a frightening realization. The Citicorp tower was flawed. Without his approval, joints that should have been welded were bolted. Under severe winds that come once every sixteen years to New York, the building would buckle.
LeMessurier weighed his options: Blow the whistle on himself. Suicide. Keep silent.
LeMessurier did what he had to do. He came clean. He confessed the mistake.
Plans were drawn up to correct the problem. Work began. And three months later, the building was strong enough to withstand a storm of the severity that hits New York once every seven hundred years.
The repairs cost millions of dollars. Nevertheless, LeMessurier's career and reputation were not destroyed but enhanced. One engineer commended LeMessurier for being a man who had the courage to say, "I've got a problem; I made the problem; let's fix the problem."
You may be at that point where you realize your life is like that flawed building. Although by all appearances you are strong and successful and together, you know you have points of weakness that make you vulnerable to collapse. Sin is corroding the very foundation of your life. What do you do?
You come clean, get help, and get fixed.
Confession is good for the soul. When we hide sin, we hide ourselves from others. Like William J. LeMessurier, when we come clean, we can, as James writes, live together whole and healed.
James is not suggesting merely to confess sin to a preacher or a priest. We confess our sin first to God, but we must confess our sin to those who have been affected by our sin as well. It is also beneficial to confess your sins to a trusted fellow believer who can offer a physical reminder of the grace of forgiveness and encourage you to live rightly.
So, confess your sin. Get it out of your heart. Make it right. And, move on.
They were completely amazed and said again and again, "Everything he does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak." — Mark 7:37
Leaders pursue excellence. They lead their organizations, their families, their businesses, and, in fact, their very lives striving for their best.
Jesus was committed to excellence. God gave his very best--his Son. And, as the New Testament writer Mark reminds us, God's Son gave his very best--his life. He made the best wine (see Matthew 14:13-21), and the limbs he restored were perfect (see Mark 3:1-5). His followers should do no less. Less than our best is inadequate, considering the fact that God has given us his very best.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry." Whatever our role, our position, our organization, or our lot in life, we should strive for the best. The measure of our success should not be attached to our particular career or what we earn but on our character and what we give.
Excellence does not mean being the best but being your best, understanding that variation makes all the difference in the world. Excellence is being better than you were yesterday. Excellence means matching your practice with your potential.
Some people have fame thrust upon them. Very few have excellence thrust upon them. Excellence is achieved. What will you do to have people say, like they said of Jesus, "Everything he does is wonderful"?
Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God's will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. — Hebrews 10:36
Effective leaders accomplish seemingly impossible tasks because they never give up. They never buckle under. Despite mounting criticism, intense opposition, and overwhelming obstacles, they persevere with determined resolve. They refuse to throw in the towel.
Often, the easiest thing would be to quit. Just give up. Forget about one's dream and return to the comfort and convenience of mediocrity. Give in to the words of the critics, give up to the opposition, and give way to the obstacles. Simply tuck tail and run away.
Great power is embodied in persistence. The race is not always won by the fastest, nor the game by the strongest, but rather by the one who keeps on keeping on, who refuses to give up. Consider the postage stamp. Its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there. Race car driver Rick Mears said, "To finish first you must first finish."
It is always too soon to quit. One of the most powerful and destructive tools that Satan has in his arsenal is discouragement, the subtle but dangerous compulsion to give up, to quit, saying, "What's the use?"
When you are tempted to quit: resist. We must endure in the battle until the evil day is over. We must press on in the face of the temptation to quit. Until the war is over, we must fight to the end. Until the race is finished, we must keep running. Until the wall is built, we must keep stacking bricks. Never give up. Never. The promises of God are always at the end.
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. — 2 Peter 1:3
"Sorry, you just don't have the experience we're looking for."
"Sorry, but we're looking for someone with a little more education."
"What were some major accomplishments (if any), while being a stay-at-home parent?"
"While working at your previous company, did you do any volunteer work at all?"
It can really be tough in the job market. After a few interviews and even more rejection letters, a person can feel completely inadequate. Fortunately, in God's economy, every believer is immediately qualified for Kingdom work. Peter reminds us that the Holy Spirit equips each believer with everything necessary to please our Father. That's great news.
But, even within the earthly church, it's easy to feel inadequate when surrounded by believers with long histories of ministry or the ability to memorize long passages of Scripture. We need to remember that nothing more special than the Holy Spirit is required to serve God effectively. We all have everything necessary to do our jobs within the Kingdom.
Still, Peter doesn't stop with this reassurance. He challenges every believer to add personal disciplines that will build character, mature us, and be used to encourage the church as a whole. He goes on to write, "Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone" (2 Peter 1:5-7).
The pursuit of these virtues is just one way of expressing our thanks and love to the God who rescued us from our complete inadequacy. Having the Holy Spirit with us at all times, we can depend on him to guide us through the stresses that are used to hone these virtues. All that is asked of us is that we continue on and not give up.
Being fully equipped by the Holy Spirit, let's heed his guidance and pursue spiritual maturity. May we ever strive to become all that God has called us to be, and may he ever grant us the ability to serve him faithfully.
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