Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “character development”

Confronting our Greatest Fear

When reflecting upon all the things in life that threaten me and induce a fear response, it seems that the final threat is the greatest – the threat of dying.  It is the ultimate threat in that it appears to be a terminus – so final and so unknown.  All of life we are working to advance the Kingdom, fulfill a personal destiny and serve others.  But with death all of this appears to end.

Jesus says to us in John 14:1-3 (ESV), “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”  When Jesus says “I will” do something, it will be done!

Death is not a terminus, rather it is a junction.  It is a transition from one form of existence to another.  We finally fulfill our ultimate destiny – seeing Jesus face-to-face and joining those who have gone this path before us.  We exchange our current reality for one much more real for the rest of eternity.

Paul reminds us of our destiny in 1 Corinthians 15:19-26 (ESV), “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

I was recently encouraged by the following poem from the great hymn writer, Fanny Crosby, titled ‘Some Day.’

Some day the silver cord will break,
And I no more as now shall sing;
But, O the joy when I shall wake
Within the presence of the King!

And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story, saved by grace:
And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story, saved by grace.

Some day my earthly house will fall,
I cannot tell how soon ’twill be,
But this I know—my All in all
Has now a place with Him for me.

Or some day when my Lord will come,
And called to meet Him I’ll be blest,
He then will say to me, “Well done,”
And I shall enter into rest.

Some day, till then I’ll watch and wait,
My lamp all trimmed and burning bright,
That when my Savior I will greet,
My faith will then be changed to sight.

Until such time as the Lord calls us home, let us do the work He has asked of us, not shrinking back in fear due to present difficulties. He has given all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”   1 Corinthians 15:54-55  ESV

Responding to Fear

Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’  So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.   Acts 27:23-25  NIV

Paul and his shipmates had been driven across the Mediterranean by a storm for the past two weeks.  The crew had lost all hope of survival and all were in a state of despair.  With no sign of abatement in the tumult, out steps Paul with a word of hope for all.

The previous night an angel from the Lord had appeared to Paul and promised to see him out of this storm and on to Rome.  Paul exhorts those onboard not to lose hope, respond with courage, for he believed what God had promised.

Note that Paul takes a public stand that God would do exactly as He promised, regardless that present circumstances seemed to preclude a good outcome.  It was Paul’s faith in God’s promises that they were encouraged not to lose hope and keep up their courage.

Like Paul, faith in the promises of God can be contagious and bring hope when others have lost their own.  As Kingdom leaders we can be confident in God’s faithfulness to His promises and point others to these, boldly proclaiming that we believe that He will do exactly what He has promised to do.

For those of this world, confidence in their own ability experience or resources, is the response to fear.  But when those worldly resources are exhausted hope is lost and a sense of gloom can take over. For Kingdom people – God’s children – faith is the opposite of fear.  But our faith is based upon God, His promises and power to never leave us or forsake us in our trials.  It is founded on the reality that He never changes and has promised to never leave us. He will see us through every trial that He allows to touch us.

We must avoid the sin of presumption, for presumption acts based upon zeal or worldly wisdom, without God’s direction.  Presumption is foolishness and God will expose it.  David prayed in Psalm 19:13 (ESV), “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.”

The storms of life come upon all people (see Matthew 7:24-27).  But only one type of person stands the test – those who hear the Word of God and obey it.

May we be those people and point others to the ONE who will see us through the storm!

Acting in Faith, not Fear

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”   Luke 12:32  NIV

Jesus frequently talked to His followers about the subject of fear.  In particular, He exhorted them to not be controlled by their fears, rather respond to fear with faith in God.

Note what He says in Matthew 8:26 (NIV): He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”  That is, why are you so fearful that your fear has taken control of you.  Jesus had led them into the boat, into the storm and was with them in the midst of the storm.

In Hebrews 11:7 (NIV) we read of the response of Noah as he confronted his fear. “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.”  Noah’s fear of God and His promised punishment of the world’s sin moved him to build an ark and protect his family.  It was an act of faith as it appears that to this time there had never been rain on the earth.  It was by faith that Noah acted based upon what God had promised to do.  Noah’s holy fear was a combination of fear and faith.

In Luke 12:4-7 (ESV) Jesus reminds us of this Kingdom truth regarding having a holy fear of God, “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do.  But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!  Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.  Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”  And the author of Hebrews reminds us in Hebrews 10:31 (ESV), “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” 

Kingdom leaders are called to respond by faith when facing  threats that cause fear.  Faith does not deny the reality of these threats, but rather, sees them in perspective of God, His promises and His power.  “Nothing is impossible for Him” (Luke 1:37).  A faith response results in courage to meet the threat and act because of the greater reality of God’s ability and faithfulness.

What is controlling you today – faith or fear?

 

Frozen by Fear

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”   Mark 4:40 NIV

Fear is an emotion we experience in response to a perceived threat that could be harmful.  Like all God-given emotions, fear is morally neutral; it’s not good, bad or purple.

Fear can be protective as it warns us of something that may be dangerous.  Imagine you are walking in the woods alone, enjoying the solitude and beauty of God’s creation, when suddenly the peace of the moment is jarred by the sounds of rustling, dry leaves and cracking sticks behind you.  Adrenaline is immediately released into your blood stream.  Your heart rate jumps, blood pressure increases, pupils dilate and you quickly move to high sense of alertness.  Is it a bear?  Perhaps it’s a mountain lion?  Or is it just a squirrel or a rabbit?  This reflex-like response is God-given to protect us. Once the potential threat is identified – oh, it was a squirrel – our fear abates and our physiology returns to normal.

Fear can be paralyzing and destructive causing us not to act if we let fear control us.  “Like a deer in the headlights” describes one who is frozen by fear with no response to the on-coming threat.  Kingdom leaders can experience extreme fear of the unknown future that seems so foreboding and too difficult or challenging to want to think about.  They ‘freeze’ and fail act, hoping that the threat will just go away and leave them alone.

God has no fear, for nothing is a threat to Him!  Kingdom leaders have the God knows no fear as One who promises to never leave us – even in the valley of the shadow of death.  Note the exhortation from Jesus in the passage above:  “Why are you so afraid?”  That is, why are you letting your fear control your actions to the point of panic.  His response was to point them to faith – faith in Him. He had said we are going to the other side of the lake, not going to the middle and drown!

Kingdom leaders respond with faith when confronting our fears.  We acknowledge our fears, but do not let our fears dictate our actions. Rather, we act by faith in God who knows the future, who sovereignly controls the present and is powerfully able to deal with any threat we may face now or then.

Frozen or full of faith?  Which are you during these foreboding days?

Leading with Courage – 5

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!               Psalm 27:14 (ESV)

The power of modeling courage is not hard to imagine.  One leader who leads courageously will encourage others to do the same.  You can be catalytic in your courageous leadership.  Below are several examples of courage that can serve to inspire and motivate you and others.

Abraham and the Offering of Isaac   (Genesis 22:1-24)

God chose to test Abraham by telling him to offer his only son as a burnt offering (v. 1-2).  Abraham displays courage immediately in his response as he rose early (v. 3) to assure completion of the journey.  After 3 days of travel he saw the mountain God led him to. He told the men traveling with him to stay behind as he and his son would worship and return to them (v. 5).  This statement not only displays his faith and hope but also the courage Abraham possessed to go alone to the mountain top to offer his only son.   Abraham’s immediate reward was the salvation of his son and God’s provision of a ram for offering instead (v. 13).  One can only imagine the impact on Isaac for the rest of his life.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego   (Daniel 3)

The king, Nebuchadnezzar, made an image of gold (v. 1) for the province of Babylon to worship.  He assembled the residents and authorities to hear his proclamation (v. 4-6) commanding worship of this idol or death by being cast into a furnace of blazing fire. Once it was recognized that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not obey the proclamation (v. 12), King Nebuchadnezzar sent for them (v. 13).  Standing before the king, they were confronted with the king’s commands.  Without hesitation, bold in courage, they told Nebuchadnezzar that their God was above all others and able to rescue them, if he chose to do so, and that they would not worship his gods or images. The king responded in anger and had them thrown into the furnace (v. 23).  Because of their faithfulness and courage to give the king an honest answer, risking death, the Most-High God (v. 26) saved them and changed the life of the king and Babylon.

Perhaps you will not be asked to risk death or sacrifice a loved one, but life is full of challenges that call for courageous responses, especially for Kingdom leaders.  What challenge are you currently facing that needs a courageous response?  Lead with courage!

Leading with Courage – 4

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.         Proverbs 28:1

The times demand courageous Kingdom leaders who fear nothing other than failing to please the Lord God Almighty.  Below are several more considerations as you face challenges that call for bold, courageous leadership decisions.

1. Be very courageous when God goes with you into a situation (He always does), asks you to do something, and promises to care for you (Genesis 22:1-12, 46:3, Exodus 14:13, Numbers 14:6-9, 21:34, Joshua 1:1-9, 8:1, 10:25, Acts 4:1-31, 5:27-32, 23:11, 27:21-25).

This type of courage seems to be related to trusting in God’s guidance and provision (Isaiah 28:16).  It results from spending time with the Lord (Acts 4:13) and often requires obedience on our part (1 Chronicles 22:13).

2. People want to follow a courageous leader (Joshua 1:18, Ezra 10:1-5).

3. People lose courage when they know God is working against them (Joshua 2:9-11, 5:1, 1 Samuel 4:5-7, 18:12-15, 28-29, Nehemiah 6:15-16).  Then those who God is working with can gain courage (Judges 7:10-11).

4. It is very important to stimulate one another in courage (Ezra 10:1-5, Colossians 3:21).  Notice the encouragement patterns between God, Moses, Joshua and Israel (Numbers 13-14, Deuteronomy 31:6, 23, Joshua 1:6-9, 18, 10:25).

5. Courage involves being willing to rebuke people, especially those in high places
(2 Samuel 12:1-14, 2 Chronicles 26:16-18, Matthew 3:7-12, 14:3-4, Luke 3:7-20).

6. Courage also involves taking a stand for integrity and doing what is right, not easy or convenient (Deuteronomy 1:17, John 9:22).

7. Courage involves putting one’s relationship with God above all else (Daniel 3:16-18, John 11:16).

8. Lack of courage can lead to sin (Genesis 18:15, 26:7, 1 Samuel 15:24).

9. We can gain courage by looking at what God has done for us in the past (Deuteronomy  7:18).

10. Making a commitment to someone or something can give a person courage to persevere and complete the task (Ruth 1:16-18, 2:2, 3:5).

11. Courage is needed to take risks on behalf of others (Exodus 2:1-4, Joshua 2:1-6, Esther 4:12-16, 7:3-4, 8:3-6).

It’s time to take a ‘courage inventory’ regarding the leadership situations you find yourself facing today.  What courageous act is God asking of you?  Trust Him – He will never leave you!

Leaders and Crisis

Life and leadership bring crisis moments whether we are expecting them or not. They just happen! This reality should prepare us to address them when they show up. But we are often taken by surprise when a crisis interrupts our plans. Crises are not something to be dreaded, but rather embraced.

The following are several thoughts on how to face up to your next leadership crisis:
1. Adjust your attitude! This current crisis is an opportunity for your personal growth as a leader as you address this latest ‘disaster.’ Rather than fearing this crisis, embrace it and look for the Lord to help you not only conquer the problem, but also turn this into a hidden blessing.

2. Move towards it now! It will not solve itself! If ignored, it will probably grow worse, bigger, more ominous, or ripple out to influence more people. Just as David ran towards Goliath (see 1 Samuel 17:48), move towards this threat and engage!

3. Do not delegate your problems to someone else on your team. Others can ‘smell’ that kind of lack of courage or unwillingness to deal with something that is messy.

4. While not delegating the crisis to another, loop in some others for help. You continue to run point on the crisis, but by bring in others for help they too will grow from the experience and their contributions will often help bring about a better solution than if you handled it all yourself.

5. Look for the best solution to the problem, not just the quickest or easiest. One practical discipline that I have tried to develop in this area of problem solving is to force myself to come up with several possible solutions, not just one. But doing this I am often pushing myself to think more deeply or broadly to different, more creative ways to solve the issue. The final action is often some combination of several possible solution scenarios.

6. Expect God to help you. He has promised to never leave you or forsake you (Matthew 28:20). Look to Him in the midst of seeking a way forward. The prayer of Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20:12 is instructive, “Lord… we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

7. When the crisis abates, and it will, be sure to give thanks for deliverance from the current mess. An ungrateful spirit is disappointing to others serving with you and revealing about our hubris as if we were the ones who really solved the issue.

Crises come and crises go. Your either in the midst of one right now or one is coming soon. Get ready! One person’s crisis is another person’s ‘opportunity.’

[Re-posted from June 2015]

The Treasures of Darkness

The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.    Exodus 20:21  ESV

What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.   Matthew 10:27  ESV

I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.   Isaiah 45:3  ESV

Note where Moses had to go to meet with God – into the ‘thick darkness.’  What a description!  Try to imagine the difference between simply being in the dark and being in the ‘thick’ darkness.  Sounds quite foreboding doesn’t it?

It would seem that the adjective ‘thick’ implies something that can be felt, not just seen.  It is a darkness that it total, overwhelming and scary.  Perhaps it’s similar to being in a large underground cave where all lights extinguished.  It’s an eerie feeling for sure when you can’t see your hand in front of your face.  But it is in this kind of absolute darkness of soul that God invites us to meet with Him and He speaks to our innermost character.

Our tendencies are to run away from and recoil from the darkness.  We plead with God to remove it or shine some light within.  But it is in this foreboding darkness of soul that the Lord speaks, for He has our undivided attention with no other sensory distractions other than our own thoughts.  It is in the ‘thick darkness’ that we can hear the still, small voice of God piercing through into our hearts and bringing comfort, hope and assurance.

When we hear His voice, we begin to realize that He intends to use our darkness to bring new life within us.  And He gives a new life message that will transform us forever when we exit the darkness.  It is a platform of influence that we never would have had, had we not experienced Him in the darkness.  We exit the darkness with a new-found strength and message that He intends for us to share.  “What I tell you in the dark, say in the light…”

Therefore, do not shrink back from the darkness you may be facing.  Embrace it.  Plunge into it.  For in this darkness you will find the treasures of God Himself and the life-changing messages that He will give you.  He promises, “I will give you the treasures of darkness…”

He will see you through the darkness into the light.  When you exit, you will be forever changed more into His image than when you entered.  And He will use you as His instrument in ways you had not dreamed or imagined.

“When my schoolroom is darkened, I see most.”     Charles Spurgeon

This Thing Is From Me

… for this thing is from me…   1 Kings 12:24  (KJV)

“Life’s disappointments are veiled love’s appointments.”  Rev. C.A. Fox

My child, I have a message for you today; let me whisper it in your ear, that it may gild with glory my storm clouds which may arise, and smooth the rough places upon which you may have to tread.  It is short, only five words, but let them sink into your inmost soul; use them as a pillow upon which to rest your weary head.  This thing is from me.*

Have you ever thought of it, that all that concerns you concerns Me too?  For, “he that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of mine eye.” (Zech. 2:8)  You are very precious in My sight (Isa. 43:4).  Therefore, it is My special delight to educate you.

I would have you learn when temptations assail you, and the “enemy comes in like a flood,” that this thing is from Me, that your weakness needs My might, and your safety lies in letting Me fight for you.

Are you in difficult circumstances, surrounded by people who do not understand you, who never consult your taste, who put you in the background?  This thing is from Me.  I am the God of circumstances.  Thou camest not to thy place by accident, it is the very place God meant for thee.

Have you not asked to be made humble?  See then, I have placed you in the very school where this lesson is taught; your surroundings and companions are only working out My will.

Are you in money difficulties?  Is it hard to make both ends meet?  This thing is from Me, for I am your purse-bearer and would have you draw from and depend upon Me.  My supplies are limitless (Phil. 4:19).  I would have you prove my promises.  Let it not be said of you, “In this thing ye did not believe the Lord your God.” (Deut. 1:32)

Are you passing through a night of sorrow?  This thing is from Me.  I am the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief.  I have let earthly comforters fail you, that by turning to Me you may obtain everlasting consolation (2 Thes. 2:16,17).  Have you longed to do some great work for Me and instead have been laid aside on a bed of pain and weakness?  This thing is from Me.  I could not get your attention in your busy days and I want to teach you some of my deepest lessons.  “They also serve who only stand and wait.”  Some of My greatest workers are those shut out from active service, that they may learn to wield the weapon of all – prayer.

This day I place in your hand this pot of holy oil.  Make use of it free, my child.  Let every circumstance that arises, every word that pains you, every interruption that would make you impatient, every revelation of your weakness be anointed with it.  The sting will go as you learn to see Me in all things.    Laura A. Barter Snow

* Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Robert E. Cowman  –  a daily devotion for February 1

Leading with Courage – Facing the Black Death!

In 1527, the Black Death with a mortality rate of 50%+ arrived in Wittenberg, Germany.  Many fled the city, but Martin Luther and his pregnant wife stayed to minister to the sick and frightened people.  Other friends who lost family members moved into Luther’s house for mutual support and encouragement.

There was a difference of opinion among church leaders on whether to stay or flee the plague.  All looked to Luther for advice.  The following is an edited version of his guidance titled, Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague.  Many of his thoughts ring true for Kingdom leaders today in the midst of our own pandemic.

“To begin with, some people are of the firm opinion that one need not and should not run away from a deadly plague.  Rather, since death is God’s punishment, which he sends upon us for our sins, we must submit to God and with a true and firm faith patiently await our punishment.  They look upon running away as an outright wrong and as lack of belief in God. Others take the position that one may properly flee, particularly if one holds no public office…”

“From what has been said we derive this guidance:  We must pray against every form of evil and guard against it to the best of our ability in order not to act contrary to God, as was previously explained.  If it be God’s will that evil come upon us and destroy us, none of our precautions will help us.  Everybody must take this to heart: first of all, if he feels bound to remain where death rages in order to serve his neighbor, let him commend himself to God and say, “Lord, I am in thy hands; thou hast kept me here; thy will be done.  I am thy lowly creature.  Thou canst kill me or preserve me in this pestilence in the same way as if I were in fire, water, drought, or any other danger.”

“If a man is free, however, and can escape, let him commend himself and say, “Lord God, I am weak and fearful.  Therefore I am running away from evil and am doing what I can to protect myself against it.  I am nevertheless in thy hands in this danger as in any other which might overtake me.  Thy will be done.  My flight alone will not succeed of itself because calamity and harm are everywhere.  Moreover, the devil never sleeps.  He is a murderer from the beginning [John 8:44] and tries everywhere to instigate murder and misfortune…”

“In the same way we must and we owe it to our neighbor to accord him the same treatment in other troubles and perils, also.  If his house is on fire, love compels me to run to help him extinguish the flames.  If there are enough other people around to put the fire out, I may either go home or remain to help.  If he falls into the water or into a pit I dare not turn away but must hurry to help him as best I can.  If there are others to do it, I am released.  If I see that he is hungry or thirsty, I cannot ignore him but must offer food and drink, not considering whether I would risk impoverishing myself by doing so.  A man who will not help or support others unless he can do so without affecting his safety or his property will never help his neighbor.  He will always reckon with the possibility that doing so will bring some disadvantage and damage, danger and loss.  No neighbor can live alongside another without risk to his safety, property, wife, or child.  He must run the risk that fire or some other accident will start in the neighbor’s house and destroy him bodily or deprive him of his goods, wife, children, and all he has.”

“… You ought to think this way: “Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal.  Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it.  I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.  If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others.  If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above.  See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

The Lord promises to guide and direct us along paths we have not walked (see Isaiah 42:16).  We can count on Him when all else fails.  May the Lord give you wisdom from above as you navigate this storm.

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