Suppose you knew a struggling businessman. You've watched this person struggle to get his footing for years, but he's faced one failure after another and seems ready to give up.
But then someone approaches your friend and says, "Great news. We now have the scientific means to put on you the combined fullness—the full ability and nature—of Warren Buffett, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Interested?"
What would your friend say? "Absolutely!"
Once he had the abilities of these men, your friend would start thinking of ways of investing he'd never thought of before. He would become very successful and exceed anything he had ever achieved. He'd become a leader in his field, and everyone connected to his work would benefit from his success. It would be astounding to behold.
This is a nice hypothetical, isn't it? It's too bad we don't actually have a way to take on the nature of the leading men and women in our fields. Maybe you're even reading this story and thinking right now, "I wish that were possible because I could use it!"
But hold that thought.
Assuming the Nature of Jesus
In his first epistle, the apostle John makes a stunning statement: "As (Jesus) is, so are we in this world" (1 John 4:17). That's a huge declaration. Essentially, John is saying that while we don't have a way to take on the nature of Warren Buffett, Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, we do have access to the nature of someone greater than any of these men. How? Through God's grace.
If that statement surprises you, you're not alone. There are a lot of misconceptions about grace in the church today. Most of us don't really understand what grace is or what it does in our lives.
Here's a case in point. In 2009, a survey was conducted with thousands of Christians across America. They were asked, "Give three or more definitions or descriptions of the grace of God." Of the thousands surveyed, only 2 percent stated that grace is God's empowerment. Yet this is exactly how God has defined and described His grace!
He says: "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9).
The word weakness means "inability." So God is saying, "My grace is My empowerment, and it is optimized in situations beyond your ability." This applies in our homes, our churches, our workplaces and every other area of our lives. How amazing is that!
This isn't an isolated idea in Scripture either. The apostle Peter defines God's grace the same way. He writes, "Grace ... be multiplied to you ... . His divine power (grace) has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness" (2 Pet. 1:2-3). Once again, grace is referred to as God's "divine power," and Peter says every resource or ability we need is available through that empowering grace.
This leads me to something the Lord revealed to me during a recent prayer time. He asked me, "Son, how did I introduce grace in My book, the New Testament?"
As an author who has written over a dozen books, that question carried significant meaning to me. Whenever I'm bringing up a new term in a book, I give the primary definition when I introduce it. So when a new term is introduced in the book of an experienced author, I assume it carries the primary definition.
But my response to the Lord's question was, "I don't know." I went to my concordance to find out how God introduced grace in His book. Here is what I discovered: "We have all received from His fullness grace upon grace" (John 1:16).
The apostle John is stating here that the grace of God gives us the fullness—the full ability and nature—of Jesus Christ. Did you hear that? Not Bill Gates. Not Steve Jobs. Not Albert Einstein or Johann Sebastian Bach or any other great man or woman in history. The fullness of Jesus Christ Himself!
This is why John can boldly declare, "As He is, so are we in this world." It turns out our hypothetical situation isn't so far-fetched after all. In fact, it understates the reality of what God has given us.
Leading on the Job
The grace of God is overwhelming. It's a gift of salvation, forgiveness and the empowerment to live rightly before God. Not only that, but it also enables us to be fruitful and reign in life. Paul says: "For if by one man's trespass death reigned through him, then how much more will those who receive abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:17).
The implications of this statement are astounding. By God's grace, we can rule in life. We're empowered to overcome any obstacle, and we're ordained to make a significant mark in our spheres of influence.
How does this look in practice? We are to break out of the status quo, to surpass the norm. We are called to influence—to be the head and not the tail, above and not beneath (Deut. 28:13). Not only are we to rise above the adverse circumstances of life, but we're also to outshine those who don't have a covenant with God. We are to be leaders in the midst of an unenlightened world. The head sets the direction, course and trends, whereas the tail follows. We should be leaders in all aspects of our society, not followers.
Allow me to spell it out clearly. If your profession is in the medical field, by God's grace, you have the ability to discover new and innovative ways of treating sickness and disease. Your potential is immeasurable and unlimited. Your fellow workers should marvel at your discoveries, and your work should inspire them. Your innovation and wisdom will cause them to scratch their heads and say, "Where is this person getting their ideas from?" Not only can you shine in your sphere of influence, but you will multiply your effectiveness in your field. Others will aspire to follow in your steps and seek to know the source of your ability.
If you're a web designer, your creations should be fresh and innovative, so much so that others emulate your work. You and other believers in your field should set the prevailing trends that society follows. You will be sought out for your work and known for your innovation. You'll be so ahead of the curve that others in your field scratch their heads and say to one another, "Where do they get this creativity from?" You will multiply your effectiveness by imparting your knowledge into others, growing your industry and giving into God's kingdom.
If you're a school teacher, by the empowerment of grace, you can develop fresh, creative and innovative ways of communicating knowledge, understanding and wisdom to your students. You can think of approaches none of the other educators in your school system have considered. Your fellow educators will say, "Where is he or she getting these ideas?"
If you're a businessperson, you can come up with inventive products and sales techniques that outclass what's been done before. You'll engage keen marketing strategies that are ahead of the curve. You will deftly perceive what's profitable and what's not. You'll know when to buy and when to sell, when to get in and when to get out. Other businesspeople will scratch their heads trying to figure out why you're so successful. And you'll multiply by developing young entrepreneurs and generously giving to build the kingdom.
The same principle applies if you're a musician, researcher, athlete, scientist, policeman, flight attendant or stay-at-home mom—or if you're in the media, the military or any other arena of life.
Each of us is called to different sectors of society. Wherever we're located, we should flourish. Our businesses should thrive even when others struggle. Our communities should be safe, delightful and prosperous. Our places of employment should boom. Our music should be fresh and original, emulated by secular musicians. The same should be true of our graphics, videos and architectural designs. Our creativity should inspire and be sought after on every level.
Our performances, whether in athletics, entertainment, the arts, media or any other field, should stand out. When the righteous govern, our cities, states and nations should flourish. Our schools should excel when we teach and lead. When believers are involved, there should be an abundance of creativity, innovation, productivity, tranquility, sensitivity and integrity. All because of grace!
Depending on His Grace
Now, before you go away thinking this is nice in theory, let me assure you that it is the reality of what God can do in each of our lives when we yield to Him. I've personally witnessed this transformative power of grace.
One of my worst subjects in high school was English and creative writing. I struggled anytime I was assigned a three-page paper. It would take many hours for me to finish a paper—and not before going through half a notebook pad. I'd rip up and throw away page after page of awful writing. I scored a mere 370 out of 800 points on the English portion of the SAT.
When God told me in 1991 that He wanted me to write a book, I thought He had me mixed up with someone else. How could I write a chapter, let alone a book? What I didn't originally factor in was the immeasurable, unlimited and surpassing greatness of the grace of God in me.
Within 10 months of receiving my "write a book" directive from God, two women from different states approached me two weeks apart and said, "John, God wants you to write. In fact, if you don't, He'll give the messages to someone else." So I wrote a contract with God and acknowledged my complete dependence upon His grace.
Since that day, I've written 19 books. Millions of copies have been distributed worldwide in over 90 languages. Why the change? Because before, I wrote in my strength. Now I've learned to believe for and depend on God's grace.
What about you? What has God entrusted you with? Do you see the evidence of His grace in your work, or have you been attempting to labor in your own strength? Has God given you a gift, a goal or a dream that seems impossible to achieve? The truth is, whether you're succeeding or you're struggling, God wants to take your efforts to the next level by His grace.
I encourage you to let the words of Ephesians 3:20 stir your faith: "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or imagine, according to the power that works in us."
Are you ready to engage with His remarkable power? Make this your prayer:
Father, today I ask You to work mightily in my life. I know grace is the power that enables me to live above and beyond anything I could imagine or request. As I steward the influence and skills You have entrusted to me, help me shine as a light for Your glory. Help me set a precedent in my field and point many to You. Thank You for empowering me with the fullness of Jesus Christ! In Jesus' name, amen.
John Bevere and his wife, Lisa, are the founders of Messenger International. This article is based on content from Good or God?: Why Good Without God Isn't Enough by John Bevere. For more information on the book or to dig deeper into this topic, visit goodorgod.com.
Good or God? John Bevere Dared to Ask
Ministry Today publisher Dr. Steve Greene recently spoke with Pastor John Bevere on several episodes on the Charisma Podcast Network. In this article, we share selections of that content, reflecting on the message of Good or God?, Bevere's new book.
Greene: You asked an important question in the first chapter of Good or God?, "What is good?"
Bevere: People think we are born with the inherent knowledge of what's good and evil. To take it one step further, today in our society—and this has even crept into the church—we assume that if something is good, it's got to be of God. Well, if good is so obvious, why does Hebrews 5 tell us we have to have discernment to recognize the difference between good and evil? If you look at Solomon at the dawn of his reign, God appears to him and says, "Ask me anything you want." He says, "God, give your servant an understanding heart that I might discern the difference between good and evil." Isn't it interesting that Solomon cries out for that?
If you look at the rich young ruler, he comes running up to Jesus and he says, "Good teacher, what do I do to inherit eternal life?" Before Jesus even answered this very important question, he looks at him and says, "Why do you call me good? Nobody is good but God alone." Is Jesus saying that He's not good? Absolutely not! He's perfectly good, but what Jesus is saying to this man is, "You have a standard for good, and God has a standard for good, and the two aren't the same."
Good is all about reference point. You can have two different families moving into identical homes. They're three-bedroom, two-bath houses; they're $150,000 houses. To one family, it's a bad move, but to the other family, it's a good move. To the family who thinks it's a bad move, they've just moved out of a $2 million estate. To the family for whom it's a good move, they've just moved out of a one-bedroom apartment. So what Jesus is saying to this rich young ruler is, "You are not going to reduce God's reference point of what is good down to your level."
God really got this across to me when I was getting ready to speak to 5,000 leaders in Sweden, I'd written 10 books by this point, and I was really having a great time of prayer with God, and I had judged a certain situation to be good, and the Holy Spirit said, "No, it's not good." He gave me Scripture to show me that it wasn't good. I remember getting in an argument with Him, and I finally slammed my foot down, and I said, "But God, all the good that's come out of this situation." The Holy Spirit said this to me: "Son, it wasn't the evil side of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil Eve was attracted to." He said it was the good side. And when He said that, I literally flew to my Bible in Genesis 3. I read, "and she saw the tree was good," and the word "good" leapt up off the page. It was pleasant, it was desirable to make her wise, so all of a sudden, I realized there is a good that will actually lead us away from God's presence. There is a good that will lead us away from God's best for our lives. I realized what would really deceive, if possible, even the elect in the days that we're living in because Jesus said that. It used to bug me, bug me, bug me that Jesus said, "If possible, even the elect would be deceived." I'd say, "God, those are Christians." I realized that what is going to deceive Christians isn't satanic rock concerts, it isn't drug-infested parties. It is evil masked with good.
Greene: A Christian is deceived by evil masked with good. Now that's heavy and it's scary.
Bevere: It is scary, and it's a healthy scary. Jesus talks about deception so much in the days just before His return. Paul said some are going to depart from the faith, talking about deception, and he's talking about Christians there. Peter talks about deception. Jude talks about deception, so there's only one problem with deception and that's this—it's deceiving. The person who's deceived believes with all their heart they're right when, in reality, they're wrong.
Good Leaders Are True Influencers
Greene: What moves a good leader?
Bevere: A good leader is someone who knows how to get in the presence of God, knows His heart and then influences the people under him—and not just influence but also to build a team. A team of leaders can do so much more than one leader himself. A successful leader today is a leader who builds excellent teams.
David, to me, is an example of a great leader. Here is a guy living in the wilderness. He spends time with God, and so much does he love God that he literally transcends what a man is supposed to do back then. Back then, you know, you were either a prophet or you were a king—or a leader, I should say. And yet David has so much of the heart of God in him because he spends so much time (with Him). So what happens is all these people come out to the wilderness and they are the most disgruntled people. They are people who are in debt. They are people who are offended. These are the guys who are the scum of Israel, and they come out and spend time in the wilderness. These guys end up becoming some of the most renowned men of the nation of Israel and the most renowned men of all the nations around during David's reign. Why is that? Because they got in the presence of a true influencer, and they built a team out of these guys. We still talk about them today. So David is spending time with God in His presence, and he is really getting the heart of God so that when he gets around these disgruntled men, they don't influence him. He influences them and makes them into great leaders. To me, that is true leadership. It is not when we influence people.
Aaron influenced people. He built a calf, and if you think about it, that is all they saw in Egypt for 80 years. He was invited to the top of the mountain to get into the presence of God, but he didn't do it. Moses ended up there. ... Aaron goes back to the congregation. He goes back to where the people were because Aaron found more comfort in the presence of people than in the comfort or in the presence of God. So Aaron is an influencer. He is a leader, and he builds this calf and calls it Jehovah. ... If you look at the difference between his leadership and David's, you see a great, great contrast. One knew how to get into the presence of God to affect his team, and the other one affected his team but wasn't in the presence of God.
Discovering the Key to True Discernment
Greene: How did you address discernment in your Good or God? book? Help us understand how to develop greater discernment as Christian leaders.
Bevere: The key to discernment is found in one phrase, "the fear of the Lord." If you look at Malachi 3 and 4, it depicts three groups of people. It depicts the wicked, the person who doesn't know God. It depicts the righteous who are complaining and then it depicts the righteous who fear God. And God says a book of remembrance will be written about those who fear God. See, the ones who were complaining, the righteous who were complaining say: "It's not fair. We obey God. We see the wicked prospering, but we're not prospering. This isn't fair." They're constantly complaining. Complaining just says to God, "I don't like what You're doing in my life, and if I were You, I would do it differently." It is an absolute slap in God's face.
The righteous who fear God, they're going through all this turmoil, but they keep talking about the ways of God and the principles of God and the Word of God, and God says, "I'm going to write their names down in a book, and I'm going to write down what they're saying in a book." He said, "Then when the fire comes, you're going to be able to discern once again the difference between what's truly righteous and what's not righteous. "So when I say that the key to true discernment is the fear of the Lord, it scares people, and let me tell you why it scares them. It's because anytime you mention the word "fear," people go, "Oh no, no, no. God's not given us a spirit of fear. He's given us a spirit of power, love and of a sound mind." Those people are confusing the spirit of fear with the fear of the Lord. There is a difference. If you look at when Moses delivered Israel out of Egypt and the presence of God comes down, the people run away from God, and Moses looks at them in Exodus 20:20 and says, "Hey, do not fear because God's come to test you to see if His fear is in you so that you may not sin." Moses isn't contradicting himself because he says do not fear because God's come to see if fear is in you. ... The person who fears God is the person who embraces God's heart. What's important to God becomes important to him. What's not so important to God is not so important to him. The person who fears God loves what God loves and hates what He hates.
Fueled by Grace for Leadership
Greene: In your new book, you have a chapter titled "The Fuel." How does that fuel relate to leadership?
Bevere: In that chapter, I deal with a very controversial subject in the body of Christ, and that is grace. I know there are a lot of people who say, "Hey, there's teaching on hyper grace and extreme grace" and, to be honest with you, I am a teacher of extreme grace. I'm a teacher of hyper grace because I want all the grace that I can get. I think my attention was really arrested when the Holy Spirit amplified to me that James says He gives more grace, and I thought, "More grace?" I thought I got all the grace I ever needed when I got saved, and then I saw Peter said, "Grace be multiplied to you," and I started digging and I realized that we haven't painted the whole picture of what the grace of God does in our life. ... Grace gives us the empowerment to do what we otherwise couldn't do in our own abilities. It gives me the ability to live godly because the Bible tells me I'm to live just like Jesus. This is the way I define grace: It's God's empowerment that gives us the ability to go beyond our natural ability. That is the fuel we need for leadership.
Greene: Let's say I have an underperformer on my team. They're "good people," I love them and believe they were sent by God, but they're not getting the job done. Does grace apply in this situation?
Bevere: You have to get the right people in the right position. When they're in the right position, God has given them the grace to do that. They just need to learn to depend on it. So if I have a person and I've ministered to them about the grace of God and trusting God for His ability in a position, and it just doesn't seem to be working, a question I always ask the Holy Spirit is, "OK, do I have this person in the wrong position?" ... I had a team member that was in a department, and he was not doing well. I kept encouraging him. I kept ministering to him. I kept saying, "Now listen, just pray and believe God for His grace to do this." He couldn't do it. Well, one day I'm in prayer and I'm thinking, "Oh, I should put this person over in this department." I moved him over there, and that person started excelling. So I believe that God has put a sweet spot in all of us and that sweet spot is where that grace is.
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