Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Courage”

Fight or Flight?

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.   Matthew 10:16   NIV  1984

The Good Shepherd of the sheep here makes an amazing proclamation:  He is sending His sheep into a pack of wolves!  What is He thinking?  Doesn’t He care?  Doesn’t He know that these sheep are defenseless and are going to attacked by these ravenous wolves?

Yes, the Lord knows very well what He is doing and why He is doing it.  Therefore, as we engage in His grand mission of making disciples of all the nations, we must go with the shrewdness of snakes and the innocence of doves.  He can send His sheep among the pack of snarling wolves because of two things:  He has all authority in heaven and on earth to do so and He has promised to be with His sheep and never leave them.  (see Matthew 28:18-20)

Shrewdness alone would force us to rely upon our own cleverness and intellectual keenness.  Innocence alone would be simple weakness and a passive surrender.  But, combined, they present a posture and an attitude of wisdom and dependence upon the Shepherd who sends His sheep into areas where packs of wolves roam.

Note, that immediately after this statement, the Lord exhorts His sheep to, “Be on your guard again men…” (Matthew 10:17).  This sending of the sheep in not foolish ignorance, but rather a watchful, careful knowledge of the dangers faced and how best to respond to them.

When threatened, we have two natural responses – fight or flight.  There may be times when facing ‘wolves’ that we stand and fight.  We engage in the battle trusting not in our own strength, but the Lord.  The battle is the Lord’s!  (2 Chronicles 20:15)  Our fight is not against flesh and blood, but rather against the forces of evil behind those who oppose us. (Ephesian 6:12)  We engage knowing that the Lord is with us, helping us respond to the threat and trusting Him regardless of the outcome of the battle.

But, there are other times when the way of wisdom is flight instead of fight.  In Ecclesiastes 9:4 we read, “Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!”  Martyrdom may come, and should the Lord ask of us that supreme sacrifice, we can trust Him for the courage and faith to face that trial.  But, we need not go looking for martyrdom!  If it comes, so be it.  But, sometimes the best course of action is a strategic retreat!

What to do when facing a threat?  Should we stand and fight or flee to fight another day?  Trust in the Lord’s leading through His Spirit who lives within His sheep.  You will know which way to go.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”  Isaiah 30:21   NIV  1984

Your Convictions are Showing

Now the men of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me.  I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land.  And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my brothers who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt with fear.  I, however, followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.  So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.’

“Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert.  So here I am today, eighty-five years old!  I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.  Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day.  You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”

Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance.         Joshua 14:6-13   NIV  1984

As Caleb recalls the report of the 12 spies that Moses had sent to view the land 45 years previously, he says that he acted based upon his convictions.  Convictions are much more closely held than opinions.  Convictions are something that we are willing to die for.  It has been said, as we get older, we have fewer and fewer convictions, and more and more opinions.

Here’s my observations on Caleb and his convictions:

  1. He stood against peer pressure  –  Bringing a minority report was not easy for him, but his convictions that God was with them and would help them emboldened him (and Joshua) to stand against the prevailing ‘wisdom’ of the group.
  2. He acted wholeheartedly  –   Caleb was ‘all in’ regarding his conviction that God was with him and would do as He had promised.  No holding back.
  3. He acted upon his convictions  –   Not only did Caleb bring a minority report, but, some 45 years later, he boldly goes to Joshua and requests the land promised to him by Moses.
  4. He acted consistently over a long time  –  Caleb’s convictions stood the test of time.  This was not a passing fad or trend that he had aligned himself to.
  5. He trusted God, not people  –  He still had to work for his inheritance that had been promised.  He had to defeat his enemies in the promised land.  But his confidence was in the Lord and His promises, not people, to obtain it.

What convictions do you have that are demonstrated in your actions?

Handling Our Fears

It is interesting to note the number of times that the Bible says, “Don’t be afraid.”  By my count, that phrase is repeated 77 times in the Scriptures (NIV).  We know that all emotions are God-given and morally neutral.  It is what we do with our emotions, how we express them and act upon them, that make them good or bad.   If that is true, then why does God say many times, “Don’t be afraid?”

My understanding is that the exhortation is not to deny the natural response to threat and become some type of unfeeling, machine-like personality.  Rather, a better way to understand this is to say, “Don’t be controlled by the fear that you are now feeling.”

Fear is one of our God-given emotions.  It can protect us from threats, initiating a ‘flight or fight’ response that can, in some serious situations, save our lives.  But fear can also paralyze us – like a deer caught in the headlights; we freeze, don’t act and are rolled up by the rapidly approaching threat.

Some leaders seek to manage fear by becoming more risk averse.  They reason that by not taking any (or minimal) risks, they will be safe and not have to face their fears.  But, leadership means we have to take risks, for leaders bring change.  The exact outcome of that change is unknown because it is in the future.  Fear of unknown future outcomes can paralyze leaders into simply maintaining the status quo instead of initiating risk-taking change for the better.

Another common fear of leaders is a fear of failure or looking incompetent before others.  This finds its root in our ego or in finding our identity in our leadership role.  Failure is perceived as exposing my incompetence before others and perhaps resulting in my loss of leadership responsibilities.  Mature Kingdom leaders recognize that all leadership roles are God-given and we will all transition these roles at sometime.  We don’t find our security or identity in being a leader.  Rather, we find it in being a servant who has the privilege, for a time, of leading others.

Mature leaders also know that everyone fails sometime.  It’s only a matter of when, not if, we fail.  Failure is not necessarily a bad thing.  It’s how we respond to failure that makes the difference.  Winston Churchill said, “Success in never final; failure is seldom fatal; it’s courage that counts!”  It is the courage to get up and try again that is key when one fails.  The writer of Hebrews puts it this way, “You need to persevere, so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.”  (Hebrews 10:36   NIV  1984)

Leadership is a long journey filled with highs and lows, successes and failures, safety and threats.  Learning to take appropriate risks will enable us to accomplish our God-given tasks for His glory.

How’s your risk tolerance?  Don’t be afraid!

 

Martin Luther – Courageous and Combative!

We have just come through the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenburg church which helped launch the Protestant Reformation in 1517.  I decided to read a biography on Luther (Luther the Reformer: The Story of the Man and His Career by Kittelson) to better familiarize myself with the life of one used by God in such a mighty way.  Here are some of my favorite quotes attributed to this amazing man.

I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.  Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God.  Amen.

Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.

Pray, and let God worry.

You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.
Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.

Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God.

Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.

I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth.

The Bible is the cradle wherein Christ is laid.

I more fear what is within me than what comes from without.
If I am not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don’t want to go there.

Faith is permitting ourselves to be seized by the things we do not see.

You should not believe your conscience and your feelings more than the word which the Lord who receives sinners preaches to you.

May the Lord use the example of Martin Luther and many others like him who have the courage to stand for the Lord against the cultural tide of the day!

7 Woes for Leaders – #6

Jesus launches into a scathing rebuke of the religious leaders around Him at the dinner table of a local Pharisee (see Luke 11:37-52).  This passage begins a list of seven failures that these leaders experienced.  The following continues the list of six failures that are prefaced with a dire warning, “Woe to you…”

Here’s #6  –  “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them.  So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs.”  v 47-48   (NIV 1984)

These leaders were charged with giving superficial or temporary solutions to long-standing problems, rather than dealing with root issues or causes that would yield lasting, positive change.

There is a reason why long-standing problems are not dealt with in a lasting way.  They are messy, complicated, the change may require systemic changes, solutions may point out failures of previous leaders, they may be financially or emotionally costly, or disruptive to the status quo.  These religious leaders built nice looking monuments to the prophets killed by their predecessors, instead of addressing the root of why those prophets were ignored and killed by their forefathers.

We often make decisions on the ‘mini-max’ principle.  When making decisions, we seek to minimize the cost and maximize the benefit.  It’s easy just to give a temporary solution that makes us feel like we are solving something, rather than address the core of it.  We kick the can down the road and realize that the next leader will have to deal with it.  Someone will have to have the moral courage to take it on at its root and bring a lasting change for the good.

Doing what is right, instead of doing what is easy is the way of the leader who is pleasing to God.  Half-way solutions are not solutions!  They are simply patches on a leaky hull.  They stop the water flow for the time being, but later, they loosen and the water again begins to flood our ship.

What long-standing, messy problems are on your do list?  What can you do to address at least one of them?  Screw up your courage and lead!

God Give Us Men

The American Civil War was looming on the immediate horizon and everywhere one looked there were problems with no easy solutions.  Opinions were polarized and there was no apparent means for compromise.  Leaders were stepping back instead of stepping up due to fear and the overwhelming size of the challenges.

It was in this environment that the following was penned.  May it be true of you and me as we go forward to face the challenges of our own day.

The Day’s Demand 

GOD, give us men! A time like this demands

Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands;

Men whom the lust of office does not kill;

Men whom the spoils of office can not buy;

Men who possess opinions and a will;

Men who have honor; men who will not lie;

Men who can stand before a demagogue

And damn his treacherous flatteries without winking!

Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog

In public duty, and in private thinking;

For while the rabble, with their thumb-worn creeds,

Their large professions and their little deeds,

Mingle in selfish strife, lo! Freedom weeps,

Wrong rules the land and waiting Justice sleeps.

 

Josiah Gilbert Holland              Circa 1860

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