Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “character development”

Beware of the Root of Bitterness

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled…   Hebrews 12:15  (ESV)

Life will bring wounds and hurts from others, even those we love and who love us.  It’s the nature of the fall and the curse that we now live under.  Though Kingdom people have been saved by God’s grace and mercy, we are still people in process, being conformed into the image of Christ daily.  To expect to never hurt or be hurt-wounded by another, even those who are followers of Christ, is unrealistic and only setting ourselves up for great disappointment.

When wounded by another we have a choice to make.  We can choose to forgive the offending party or we can harbor this wound, cultivate it, letting it take root in our souls.  This wound now becomes a ‘generalized infection’ within us and poisons our life.  Someone has said, “Harboring bitterness is like drinking poison thinking it will hurt the other person.”  How foolish of us, yet many still hang onto past memories and hurts, dwelling on them and letting these control our emotional well-being.

God’s solution for relational hurts and wounds is forgiveness.  It frees the offended person from the bitterness and the pain of the offense.  While we may not be able to forget the offense, the pain of it is removed.  Much like a physical scar can bring to mind past injuries, when the scar it touched there is no associated pain.

The only way possible to be free from past wounds is to forgive others.  And the only possible way to forgive others is to first, fully understand how much we have been forgiven.  Jesus reminds us that those who have been forgiven much love much (see Luke 7:47).

Is there some offense that you have been clinging too that has taken root and bears toxic fruit in your heart?  Release that offense and forgive the offender, knowing that you have been forgiven a much, much larger debt due to your sin against the God Himself.  The truth will set you free!

Defending Your Reputation

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.                 Isaiah 53:7   (NIV 1984)

When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer.  Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?”  But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge–to the great amazement of the governor.        Matthew 27:12-14

The chief priests accused him of many things.  So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer?  See how many things they are accusing you of.”  But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.    Mark 15:3-5

We have recently seen how accusations – whether verifiable or not, accurate or not – have become accepted as true.  The seeming emotional state of the accuser was proof of the accusations, rather than their veracity or falsehood.  The resulting damage done to both the accused and the process of law are hard to measure.

Jesus too was accused at His trials. Before the Sanhedrin it says, “The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they
could put him to death.  But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.”  Matthew 26:59-60  (NIV  1984)

Before the governor He acknowledged that He was the King of the Jews as accused (Matthew 27:11).  But, the other accusations against Him made by the Jewish leaders of inciting rebellion or insurrection against Caesar, He declined to answer – to the amazement of His accusers.

Jesus entrusted His fate to His heavenly Father.  Knowing that His destiny was to die for His people, He chose not to defend Himself or correct the accusations.  Rather, He asked His Father to forgive them for they did not know what they were doing.

How important is your public reputation?  Can God be trusted to defend you and your reputation should the need arise?  In what circumstances should we offer a rebuttal or a defense?  Wisdom is needed for sure!

 

Trusting God with your Legacy

Remember me with favor, O my God.          Nehemiah 6:31   (NIV 1984)

Four times Nehemiah asks that the Lord “remember” him for his faithful and sacrificial leadership (Nehemiah 5:19; 13:14, 22, 31).  Nehemiah entrusted the lasting impact and any possible reward for his labors to the Lord who sees all and rewards those who are faithful (see Hebrews 11:6; Matthew 25 – Parable of the Talents; Luke 19 – Parable of the 10 Gold Coins).  Unfortunately, for many leaders, we seek to ensure that we get the credit, reward, accolades, and affirmation of success we think are due us, rather than leaving those outcomes to the Lord.

Here’s several spiritual checks that help keep us on the right path:

  1.  We all want to be well-thought-of.  That’s natural.  But, do we tend to grab the ‘spotlight’ and make sure that it is shining directly upon us?  Can we share the spotlight with others, acknowledging their contribution in our success?
  2. Leaders often sacrifice much – many times without the knowledge of others.  Is it enough that Jesus sees my sacrifices and the hard work I put in?  Or, do I need to let others know of my labors on their behalf, seeking words or deeds of appreciation back from them?
  3. Can I trust Jesus that He not only sees my labor and sacrifice, but that He will also reward me in His way and in His time for my labor?
  4. How important is it that I get the credit for any successes or contributions?
  5. Do I see my leadership as a right or a privilege?  Do I have a sense of stewardship of my leadership responsibility – a responsibility that one day I will have to give an account to God for?

Jesus says in Luke 17:7-10 – “Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep.  Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’?  Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’?  Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do?  So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ”

For who makes you different from anyone else?  What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?     1 Corinthians 4:7   (NIV  1984)

Lasting Impact

“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” …. Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”    Matthew 16:13,15  (NLT)

Jesus was asking these questions to bring into focus of the Twelve what they believed about Him.  He used questions to force them to reflect on their personal beliefs.  He was not having an identity crisis!

How to insure that your investment in others will have a lasting impact?  It’s a matter of focus – focusing on beliefs.

You can influence another my focusing on their outward actions or behavior.  Accountability structures or ‘rules’ will insure that others conform to the expected performance standards.  But, as soon as they step out of this environment, they will revert back to their ‘default’ behavior patterns or adopt new patterns that align with the new environment they are in.

A more lasting impact can be had by focusing on a person’s values.  By helping shape values, we can impact behavior because values determine choices which result in behavior.  Values can be encouraged and re-enforced by the environment we create.  But, once again, when others leave this environment they will find themselves in a new one with different values that are influencing them to conform.

By focusing on beliefs / convictions and deeper matters of the heart, we can see true transformation in the lives of others that will last.  Personal beliefs will deepen and mature over time, but need to be rooted in the Scriptures which do not change and God’s character which is immutable.  Beliefs drive values which cause choices resulting in behavior.

These three levels of focus – beliefs, values, or actions (behavior) all will have impact.  But, impact that lasts comes from influencing what one believes.  Helping others answer “why,” not just “what” or “how” will plant seeds that grow to a fruitful maturity over time.

So, where’s your focus?

A Healthy Fear of God

This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.       Isaiah 66:2   (NIV 1984)

It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.    Hebrews 10:31   (NIV  1984)

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.     Hebrews 13:17   (NIV  1984)

There’s a certain perspective when it comes to accountability for our leadership in the Kingdom.  This perspective knows that our leadership roles and responsibilities are given to us by the Lord.  They are delegated to us for a period of time and then we will be asked to transition them to another.  All roles are temporary and are a privilege, not a right!

When serving in our leadership roles, we are asked to steward the Lord’s resources – people, money, time, opportunities – for His glory.  We are expected to increase Kingdom assets (growth is a Kingdom value) – see the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25) and the Parable of the Ten Coins (Luke 19).  And when our leadership is done, we will have to give an account to the One who gave us the responsibility in the first place.

This accounting should be sobering and humbling.  It should inspire and motivate us, as well as help us purify our motives.  It can be an accounting that yields rewards for faithful service.  Or, it can be a time of loss for unfaithfulness and a revealing of impure motives (see I Corinthians 3).

Whose glory am I seeking?  My flesh cries out for attention, credit, and honor from others.  I want to be successful!  But, why?   Is it for the Lord and to advance His Kingdom that I strive so hard?  Or is it for myself?  Whose glory am I really seeking?

Lord – may you purify my impure motives and may any credit that comes my way be rightly reserved for you alone.

What’s motivating you…. really?

Names are Important

As we look throughout the Bible we see many occasions where God determines the name for a person.  On some occasions these names are selected before birth and speak about God’s purposes for this child.  At other times the Lord changes the name of a person when they are adults.  This adult name change marks a turning point in their life as they carry out God’s purposes.

The outstanding example of a child’s name given by God to parents before birth is Jesus.  In Matthew 1:21 we read about the Lord speaking to Joseph in a dream concerning Mary’s pregnancy, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (NIV 1984)  Other examples of names given before birth are John the Baptist (Luke 1:13), Ishmael (Genesis 16:11), Isaac (Genesis 17:19) and Hosea’s three children (Hosea 1:4, 6, 9).

At other times the Lord changed the names of people to signify a new season and purpose of their life.  This can be shortly after birth or as adults.  The classic example is Abram being renamed Abraham and Sarai renamed Sarah.  “No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.” (Genesis 17:5-6  NIV 1984)  “God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” (Genesis 17:15-16  NIV 1984)

Other examples of name changes are:  Jacob becomes Israel (Genesis 32:27-28), Solomon becomes Jedidiah (2 Samuel 12:24-25), Simon becomes Peter (Matthew 16:17-18) and James and John are named Sons of Thunder due to their apparent volatile temperaments (Mark 3:17; Luke 9:53-55).

And in Revelation 2:17 we read that to those who overcome the world, the Lord will give a white stone with a new name written on it.

Our names go before us and create an identity.  They can create a sense of destiny for our children as we explain why they were given the name we chose for them.  Even nicknames can be important, creating an image or impression, whether positive or negative.

As leaders, we can ‘name’ someone with a nickname that sets them up for positive influence or we can ‘name’ them with a moniker that hinders or creates difficulty for them.  It’s our choice and how we steward our influence on others is very important.

What ‘name’ is on your public name tag?  What names are you using to describe those you lead? Are you setting them up for success?

 

Bend Your Neck

“I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people.      Deuteronomy 32:9   (NIV 1984)

Isn’t it interesting that the Lord uses a phrase – stiff-necked – to describe a people who are unwilling to obey Him or submit to His authority over them.  Why not something like ‘cold-hearted’ or ‘hard-headed’ or just ‘strong-willed?’

A ‘stiff-necked’ person is one who holds their head rigidly erect.  It’s a sign of inward pride and self-confidence gone to an extreme.  The stiff-necked person is one who is inwardly (sometimes outwardly also) rebellious to the rule and reign of God in them. They would rather trust themselves than take the risk of entrusting themselves to the Lord.

The person who bends their neck demonstrates a sign of submission and a willingness to trust the Lord’s leadership in their lives.  They acknowledge their limits and willingly invite the Lord into their leadership knowing that they are really not that important in the grand scheme of things.

Signs of a ‘stiff-necked’ person:

  1.  A shallow, hurried, perfunctory prayer life.
  2.  An unwillingness to delegate responsibility to others.
  3.  A leader who is focused more on control than outcomes.
  4.  An unteachable attitude to others, especially those who they are leading.
  5.  A selective teachability, picking and choosing from those who they see as worthy of their attention.
  6.  In decision-making – especially important decisions – made without taking counsel from the Lord or others.
  7.  Self-centered talk with a lack of active listening and few questions for others.
  8.  Taking credit for the success of others.

The stiff-necked leader may be one who has some ‘success’ – at least short-term.  They seem to get things done.  But, this is a short-lived result.  For the Lord says that He actively opposes the proud (see 1 Peter 5:5-6).  He will not share His glory with another.

So… how’s that stiffening feeling in your neck these days?

Be Very Careful How You Live

The late Francis Schaeffer titled his now famous book on Western culture and a Christian apologetic, How Should We Then Live?  In light of who we are and who we represent as Kingdom leaders, how should we live?  How should we lead?  Paul has much to say in answer to this question in his book, Ephesians.

In Ephesians 4:1-2, Paul states, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  The exhortation to live a certain lifestyle is couched in the heavenly calling that we have received as followers of Christ.  He immediately follows this contextual reminder with an exhortation on ‘being,’ not doing.  Note the character qualities listed as keys to being able to live out this calling lifestyle – humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance rooted in love.  The ability to live and lead a life worthy of our calling flows out of Christlike character.

Paul continues the theme on how to live the Christian life in verses 17-19 of the same chapter – “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking…Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”  The wasted (futile) life is one that gives itself to sensuality and temporal pleasure.

In the following chapter, Ephesians 5:1-2, Paul encourages us to, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  The mature Christian life will be marked by love in all areas.  Like the love of God, it will the a sacrificial love that unconditionally accepts others.

He ends the qualities of this life we are to live with one final exhortation in Ephesians 5:8-10 – “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.”  He comes back full circle to the necessity of Christlike character in the Christlike life – goodness, righteousness, and truthfulness in all we say and do.

And now we come to the conclusion of the question we began with, “How to live a life pleasing to God?”  In Ephesians 5:15-17 we read, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.   Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”   (NIV  1984)

May we live and lead in such a wise way, understanding the Lord’s will and seeking to please Him alone, that we hear Him say at the end of our life, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

Aim for Perfection!

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.          Matthew 5:48     (NIV  1984)

Finally, brothers, good-by.  Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace.     2 Corinthians 13:11     (NIV  1984)

Perfection seems like such an impossible goal.  How could Jesus or Paul set this before us as something to be pursued, much less attained?  Are you kidding me?  Come on – get real!

If we understand this goal of perfection as sinless perfection, then it truly is an unattainable pursuit.  Though we are hopefully making progress daily in our battle against sin, we are under no illusion that we will attain sinlessness until we exit this body and live in heaven.

So, what is the aim here?

Paul helps bring some deeper understanding when he speaks of the goal of his ministry in Colossians 1:28.  “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.  To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.”  (NIV  1984)  The word ‘perfect’ here actually means mature.  Paul’s goal was to seek to bring all those he ministered to into a state of maturity in Christ.

Thus, when Jesus says we are to ‘be perfect,’ He is saying that we are to be mature in our relationship with our Father – especially in how we love others (see the context of Matthew 5).  When Paul exhorts the Corinthians to ‘aim for perfection,’ he is encouraging their pursuit of maturity in Christ, not some sinless perfection.

Peter encourages us all, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.   1 Peter 2:2-3   (NIV  1984)  We are to grow up in our salvation to maturity in Christ.  This pursuit is grounded in developing intimacy with Jesus, especially as we spend time with Him in His Word.

Perfect maturity in Christ is attainable.  It will be found over a life-long pursuit of Him – being filled with His Spirit and knowing Him and His ways as we know the Bible and apply it to our life and leadership. Maturity is not necessarily a factor of age, but rather a result of spending time with the Lord.

So….. how’s your aim?

You’re Really Not That Important!

You’re really not that important!  Really!

For many leaders, especially those that have experienced some measure of success, the temptation to promote themselves and their accomplishments is a temptation that is easy to embrace.  When young and inexperienced, it was easy to acknowledge our inabilities or weaknesses.  But with more experience and more accolades can come a subtle (sometimes not so subtle) shift.

We can begin to believe our ‘press clippings’ and pride takes root.  Initially it’s not so obvious as we seek to cover up the shifting ground within our hearts.  But, what is taking root finally bursts forth in our behavior.  We talk more and more about ourselves and take more and more credit for our accomplishments without giving at least tacit credit to others who truly did a lot of the work.  It becomes more and more about ‘me’ and less and less about the Lord.

Here’s some reminders on what the Lord has to say about self-promotion and its root – pride.

But, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”  For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.                                  2 Corinthians 10:17-18

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
someone else, and not your own lips.     Proverbs 27:2

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul?  Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.  I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.     1 Corinthians 3:5-7

It is not good to eat too much honey,
nor is it honorable to seek one’s own honor.     Proverbs 25:27

The greatest among you will be your servant.  For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.     Matthew 23:11-12

Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,

“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.     1 Peter 5:5-6   (NIV  1984)

So, how’s your heart when people praise you?  Think back on some recent conversations – how much did you talk about yourself and your accomplishments?

It was Abraham Lincoln who said, “If you want to find out what a man is to the bottom, give him power.  Any man can stand adversity–only a great man can stand prosperity.”

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