Jesus replied, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don't know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?" — John 14:9
Knowing God personally is the greatest satisfaction a human can have while living on earth. What a privilege to be able to talk and spend time with the one who created us! And yet there are times in our lives when we don't strive to be truly satisfied in the Lord. Leaders always have to be on guard against callousness when it comes to their personal faith in Jesus. Head knowledge, education, and work experience do not equal intimacy. Instead, intimacy involves a meaningful friendship with Jesus where deep secrets, struggles, and successes are shared. What results is an extension of his life in their thoughts, attitudes, and actions.
But what if our hearts are calloused and hardened, wrapped in protection much like an artichoke? We first must realize that we cannot, in our own power, fix the problem. Secondly, we have to be willing to discard our pride and re-surrender our lives to the Lord. Only he can peel away our layers of protection so we can be changed for his glory. He knows our hearts even when it's hiding behind the artichoke leaves.
The twelve disciples had life experiences unlike any of us will ever have. They were able to spend time daily with Jesus, walking, talking, and watching him perform countless miracles. Even with their proximity to the Lord, they still didn't understand who he was. Jesus' question to Philip in John 14:9 is one that he asks his followers today. Just replace Philip's name with yours. At the same time, Jesus says to us, "Come and know me. Really know who I am." It's a call of hope, of rest, of excitement that cannot be easily forgotten.
Not now. Not ever. Can you hear that call to intimacy with Jesus today?
I gave you your master's house and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more. Why, then, have you despised the word of the LORD and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and stolen his wife. — 2 Samuel 12:8-9
The life of King David was filled with numerous triumphs, conquests, and successes. He single-handedly took down Goliath with a sling and a stone. He wrote many of the psalms from which we find comfort in our times of difficulty. He presided over the nation of Israel and was considered by many to be its greatest leader.
David also learned a harsh lesson about the importance of trust. While sitting on his rooftop one day (when he should have been at war), he saw Bathsheba bathing and sent for her. This act led to adultery, the murder of Uriah the Hittite, and a cover-up of the whole situation. Only when the prophet Nathan confronted David about his actions did the king ask God for forgiveness. However, the Lord did not let David off easy. The child he fathered with Bathsheba died, there was a constant threat of murder in his family, and his son Absalom caused David problems until he was killed in battle.
When someone is trusted with a leadership role, they are given the opportunity to use their talents, time, and influence for causes bigger than themselves. As they make good decisions while showing integrity and concern for others, they earn trust. John Maxwell likens this to putting change in their pocket. However, when they betray that trust, it becomes difficult to regain. In addition, the leader has to pay some of their change back to the people. When one runs out of change, trust is gone. And when trust is gone, the leader ceases to be a leader.
King David's story should serve as a reminder of the importance of trust and how quickly it can disappear. Allow God to mold and refine your character so that your decisions will inspire others to trust your abilities.
"Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come." This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. — 1 Timothy 4:8-9
Each year, people from around the globe compete for the title of world's strongest man. Held in exotic locales, these competitions feature events involving the placing of heavy stone spheres atop pillars, lifting large numbers of children on one's back, and pulling double-decker buses down a street. The strength and determination of the contestants are second to none. But for them to get to the world championships, they have to be disciplined in the way they train, the foods they eat, and the way they recover from injuries. If any one of these three aspects is neglected, the results could be disastrous.
Christians are not typically known for carrying 300-pound weights long distances, but their feats of strength are equally remarkable. People are healed of sickness and disease, families are reunited, and individuals surrender their lives to the Lord God for eternity. For the leader, there has to be a constant regimen of spiritual training. The apostle Paul understood this and made sure Timothy got the message.
The routine is pretty straightforward: Talk to God, the Lord of heaven and earth, daily. Tell him your needs and the needs of others, thank him for his answers, and let him know how wonderful he is. Get to know him and his son Jesus better by reading about them in the Bible. Learn what your spiritual talents are and begin to use them. Spend time with other followers, encouraging and challenging them to become more like Christ. As opportunities arise, tell those who don't know Jesus as Forgiver and Leader about him and his love for them. Repeat daily.
If properly followed, this regimen will provide a lifetime's worth of challenge and excitement. It's time to get serious about the faith. It's time to become truly strong.
It's time to get disciplined.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. — Psalm 51:12
The IRONMAN TRIATHLON© is one of the most grueling endurance events in the world. In order to complete the race, an athlete must swim 2.4 miles, ride a bicycle 112 more miles, then run a 26.2-mile marathon. The best athletes in the world can complete this monumental challenge in under nine hours. But for Australian Chris Legh, his Ironman experience in 1997 was memorable for the wrong reasons. Known as one of the top competitors in the sport, he was unable to keep any fluids or food down during the course of the race. As a result, he became dehydrated, leading to a number of his organs shutting down. Fifty yards from the finish line, his body completely gave out. Legh never finished the race and would've died without immediate medical attention. Thankfully, he recovered and has won two Ironman events since. But first, he had to be restored.
While experiences like Legh's show us humans have physical limits to their endurance, the same can also be said about their spiritual lives. Thankfully, there are warning signs that exist before it becomes too late. When people don't want to read their Bible or pray, if they decide to shut people out of their lives, or if church becomes just a ritual, something deeper may be going on. They may be suffering from spiritual dehydration.
Just as a "Low Fuel" light tells us to fill up the car with gas, it's time to ask God for a renewed spirit when we see these warning signs. Consider that Jesus had crowds following him everywhere, but he knew his spiritual limits so well that he consistently took time to recharge, even when death was near (see Luke 22:39-43).
When your life's "Low Fuel" light comes on, don't ignore it. God wants to recharge and renew your life. Allow him to do just that. Make sure you accept his help to cross the finish line.
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. — Philippians 2:1-2
As author John Maxwell has noted, there is a difference between being a leader and being a manager. He often points out that management focuses on maintaining systems and processes, while leadership is about "influencing people to follow." One way to cultivate such influence is breathtaking in its simplicity: Influence involves caring sincerely about others.
While going through my senior year of college, there were days when it seemed as if the weight of the world had been placed on my shoulders. Classes were scheduled at odd times, so I had to plan meetings, work, and other errands as opportunity allowed. One day, I was feeling particularly frustrated when I stopped by my mailbox. Most of the time, there was nothing inside. But on this day, I found a card containing a few encouraging lines penned in blue ink.
What struck me was that it didn't have a name on it. It didn't have to. The card had done the job it was intended to do--to show me that I was cared for and appreciated.
Of course, showing someone that you care can be accomplished in ways other than sending a card to someone. A kind word can do the same thing. If somebody is struggling with an issue (or life in general), simply sitting and listening can be worth more than any words that may come to mind. And don't forget prayer, for "the earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results" (James 5:16).
However, encouragement isn't just reserved for those who know Christ Jesus. All people need to hear positive words, especially the words that tell of One who died for us so that we can have eternal life. Let's strive to be an encouragement to all we come in contact with daily.
A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls. — Proverbs 25:28
In ancient times, cities were often surrounded by walls for their protection. If those walls were breached in any way, the city became vulnerable to attack from a wide variety of enemies. The maintenance of city walls, therefore, was of constant concern.
Proverbs 25:28 likens self-control to a city wall. When we maintain self-control, we keep ourselves safe from forces that would wear us down, attack our weaknesses, and prey on our failures. Scripture warns us that losing our self-control can lead to disastrous results. We may have tendencies to lose our tempers easily, gossip about neighbors or coworkers, or criticize those in authority. We may have an unhealthy desire to own many possessions, an addiction toward food, or an obsession with television. A careless word, a broken promise, or a disrespectful action is an outward sign that our inner wall of self-control has collapsed. Weak self-control makes us vulnerable to living a life of hypocrisy, and then we lose all credibility as a witness to the freedom and joy of the Christian life.
But developing self-control is not just a matter of willing right behavior. We all have experienced the "just do it" break-down. We decide that we will finally regain control of a certain personal weakness only to find a few days later that we have succumbed once again to temptation. Self-control is not as simple as just "doing it" or "not doing it."
Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit desires to guide our lives. Only he can overcome our sinful cravings and build self-control with staying power. As we turn our moments over to the direction of the Holy Spirit, we will find that we are more often able to resist those things that used to prey on our weaknesses. It is with the power of the Holy Spirit alone that our walls of self-control can be securely maintained.
Jesus' brothers said to him, "Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! You can't become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!" — John 7:3-4
The pressure was on. Michelle was really being pushed to launch the new product in the spring and get a jump on the competition. Everything was ready--almost, but not quite. It was the "not quite" that caused Michelle to hold back and reexamine the data. By the time the product was ready to be launched in the fall, the product had required critical changes. In the end, Michelle's ability to stand firm against outside pressures ensured the viability of the product and preserved the integrity of the company.
Jesus faced similar pressures in John 7. His brothers were pushing him to go to the Feast of Tabernacles early and show off his miracle-performing abilities. Like many Jews, these brothers were looking for someone to "wow" the crowds and eventually lead the people in a rebellion against the Romans. The Feast would have been an ideal platform for launching Jesus' political career.
But Jesus could not be persuaded to become a crowd (or brother) pleaser. Jesus knew that his mission on earth was not to win fans, but to redeem people from their sin. Keeping his ultimate purpose in mind, Jesus chose to go to the festival, but in secret. In his wisdom, Jesus could not be persuaded to veer from his purpose, not even for one day of earthly glory. His choice to enter the festival quietly, instead of with a fanfare, led to a day of heated debates with his enemies and intense discussions with the crowd but no flashy miracles. By the end of the day, "many among the crowds at the Temple believed in him" (v. 31).
Regardless of the agenda others have, a leader needs to stand firm and keep her goal in focus. Leaders with integrity know that they cannot allow themselves to be persuaded to cave in to people-pleasing or glory-grabbing decisions. Pursuing integrity may not always be the popular or easy path, but it usually proves to be the wiser path.
Jesus used many similar stories and illustrations to teach the people as much as they could understand. In fact, in his public ministry he never taught without using parables; but afterward, when he was alone with his disciples, he explained everything to them. — Mark 4:33-34
The fine, the deep mid, the silly, the short square, the leg slip, the gully . . . If one is not familiar with these terms, he will find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and will certainly lose the game of cricket for his team. Where would one learn the terminology for the game? It is readily available in the encyclopedia. But learning the terminology and actually playing the game are two different things entirely. Playing the positions well can only come from experience on the cricket field.
Jesus was a master at speaking in riddles for the public while at the same time teaching his disciples valuable lessons. He spoke with words that both taught and challenged. He taught those who could hear with faith and challenged those who were trying to trap him.
There were times, however, when even the disciples were unable to understand Jesus. Then Jesus would patiently explain everything to them in detail. Jesus knew that as the disciples gained experience in the mission field, their understanding of his parables would grow. Meanwhile, Jesus took the time to spell parables out for the disciples by defining terms or by retelling the stories more simply.
Sometimes it may seem that things would go faster if we just used shortcuts to get the task at hand over and done with. However, in the long run, spelling things out and bringing new people along can be more efficient than doing it all on our own. Growing people into their positions takes patience and diligence. It requires commitment to the betterment of that other person. It requires the ability to see beyond the task at hand to the value of the person at hand.
Are we as patient as Jesus was with new Christians at church, or even new people at our workplace? The patience we show to our teammates can make the difference between a weak team and a strong, maturing, effective team.