Developing Kingdom Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Faith”

Why Are You So Afraid?

Fear is a God-given emotion that has the benefit of protecting us from potential threats.  Only God does not know fear, for nothing is a threat to Him.  To be afraid of something is not sin.  But fear can become sin if we let it control us.  So, when Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid,” He is not suggesting that we ignore our fears.  That would be impossible.  But He is saying that we are not to be controlled by fear, rather, act in faith – faith in Him who knows no fear!

In the gospel of Mark, we find these references to fearful situations that the disciples faced.  Reflect on the circumstances of each incident that created the fear response.

Mark 4:40 ESV     He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”  –  fear for physical safety

Mark 6:50 ESV      …for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”  –  fear from a very unusual experience

Mark 9:32 ESV      But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.  –  fear of being thought of as stupid or incompetent

Mark 10:32 ESV     And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him…  –  fear of possible death from persecution

Mark 16:8 ESV     And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.  –  fear of other’s opinions

Kingdom leaders face fear daily.  Nothing new here.  The only question we must answer is how do we respond?  Does our fear control us and dictate our actions?  Do we look to our own resources to deal with our perceived threat?  Or do we use these situations to remind us of our need for help from the Lord and the empowerment that can come only from Him?

We are not talking about putting on some ‘brave front’ or false bravado.  It’s OK to acknowledge whatever threat we encounter.  Foolishness denies the reality.  But faith names the threat and calls upon the Lord to help.  He has promised never to leave or forsake us.  He has promised to answer when we cry for His help.

… and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.   Psalm 50:15 ESV

What are you afraid of today?  Call for His help!

A Kingdom Leader’s Perspective

When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future.   Ecclesiastes 7:14 NIV

When times are good, we tend to be focused on the immediate and what is seen.  We are enjoying life and on ‘cruise control’ in our leadership.  We make our plans and execute them with vigor.  We testify that God is with us and point to our results as evidence of His blessing.  Our prayer life is full of thanksgiving and praise for the good that we are experiencing.

But then something happens.  Life and ministry turn difficult.  We face unforeseen challenges and difficulties.  Our well-proven plans don’t work the way they used to.  We compare previous outcomes with our current ones and see a downward trend line.  “Is there sin in the camp?” we ask.  It must be something we are doing wrong.  We must not be working hard enough.  And so, we double our efforts and trust that we will turn the trend line towards the positive.  But still nothing seems to change. How discouraging.

Why would God allow such a thing?  Paul had times of great fruitfulness and times of difficulty in his ministry.  Here’s his perspective in 2 Corinthians 1:7-11 (NIV) on why he faced the hard times.  “And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.  We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”

So, when the times are bad, the Lord is creating an opportunity for us to run to Him in prayer, trusting that He will deliver us from our current trial.  With these turbulent days greatly impacting all of us, one question arises.  “How’s your prayer life?”

So… How’s your prayer life?

A Kingdom Leader’s Life

We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.  Hebrews 6:12 NIV

Many have gone before us, modeling a life of surrender and commitment to obey the Lord wholeheartedly.  Here the writer of Hebrews exhorts us to imitate their lives; lives that demonstrate three qualities of a surrendered life.

They first model a life full of faith – a life that trusts God and His Word.  They trust His purposes when it makes sense or not; when it feels good, or not; and when supported by others or asked to stand alone against the cultural tide.   

Secondly, they model a life that patiently waits upon God to do what only He can do.  They are not passive in their patience, but they only act as He directs.  They rest in the assurance that He knows their circumstances and will, in His perfect time and His perfect way, demonstrate His power to do above and beyond what we can ask or imagine.

Finally, these models of the surrendered life inherit what God has promised.  They take God at His Word and align their lives to His promises.  Through faith and patience (perseverance), they receive what He promises, knowing His Word is backed by His unchanging character and that nothing is impossible for Him.  They pray over His promises with an expectancy that He will do just as He promised. 

Pray that we would model faith, patience and trust in the promises of God as found in His Word, encouraging others to imitate our surrendered life. 

Pray that God would raise up a new generation of surrendered followers of Jesus whose lives demonstrate the power of God to fulfill His promises.

Pray over the Scriptural promises God has given you, asking Him to do just as He promised. 

“You do not have because you do not ask God.”   James 4:2  NIV

Your Assumptions are Showing!

He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith… Mark 6:5-6 NIV

Jesus had come home to Nazareth after an extended time away. Having launched His public ministry in Jerusalem and Judea, He had moved to Capernaum and large crowds followed Him, listening to His teaching and observing His many miracles. By this time His popularity had increased such that even King Herod had heard of Him (see Mark 6:14).

Now He came back to His boyhood home and gave to them the same opportunity the other villages of Judea and Galilee had received. He entered the synagogue at Nazareth and taught them about the Kingdom of God. Mark had already noted that when Jesus taught, He did not quote other rabbis as sources of authority as was the custom. Rather, He contrasted their thoughts with His own, claiming a greater authority. This caused questions and confusion among those who knew Him. “… and many who heard him were amazed. ‘Where did this man get these things?’ they asked. ‘What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing?'” (Mark 6:2 NIV)

These people had certain assumptions about Jesus (see Mark 6:3). He was a man who had grown up in their village like many other young men. He had brothers and sisters like many families. He had learned from His father the trade of carpentry and had worked among them as a carpenter. He had never received religious training to be a rabbi and yet here He was teaching others about the Kingdom of God and recruiting disciples. They had heard that He was performing all sorts of miracles and certainly the crowds that followed Him seemed to indicate something unusual about Him. But, their assumptions about Him blocked their faith and they took offense at Him. As a result He could not do any miracles among them, other than a few minor healings.  Why?

It was their assumptions that led to their unbelief and lack of faith in Him. They did not even bother to ask Him for help! Certainly, Jesus’ power was the same in Nazareth as elsewhere. But, their previous assumptions about Him did not allow them to even consider asking Him for help. No wonder Jesus was ‘amazed at their lack of faith!”

What assumptions about Jesus do you have that are negatively influencing your leadership? The opportunity for Jesus to show Himself strong on your behalf is extended, but will your assumptions about Him lead to unbelief and a lack of even bothering to ask for His help? He has stated that all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18). He has promised to never leave you or forsake you. Will you even ask for His help?

“…You do not have because you do not ask God.”   James 4:2  NIV

He’s Out of His Mind!

Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” Mark 3:20-21 ESV

Jesus grew up the son of a carpenter who had little rabbinical training and yet at the age of 30, having been baptized by John the Baptist, was now acting very much like a Jewish rabbi. He had begun recruiting personal disciples to follow Him. He was gathering large crowds and teaching them about the Kingdom of God. He taught them with authority, contrasting what He said, with what was said by other rabbis. “You have heard it said… but I say…” People marveled at His teaching, saying that He spoke with authority.

He had begun performing miracles – healing the physically sick and curing the demonized of their spiritual sickness as well. He demonstrated His authority over both the physical and spiritual worlds. These acts of power and authority astounded those around Him. And as His popularity grew, news of these things traveled back to Nazareth to His family.

One would hope that His mother, knowing of His immaculate conception and having had a personal conversation with the angel, Gabriel, would have understood what was happening. But, thirty years had passed and perhaps she was now being influenced by her other sons (Joseph having died).

And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:31-35 ESV

We don’t know what the interaction was between Jesus and His family members that day, but we do know that He did not stop His ministry and return to Nazareth with them. And we do know that after His resurrection His family had come to believe in Him. His family was with the other disciples in Jerusalem praying. “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” Acts 1:14 ESV

There may be times when the Lord’s calling on us goes contrary to the wishes of our family. Should this be the case, those who would be followers of Jesus are instructed to obey Him (see Luke 14:25-33). We would hope that family would be supportive as we pursue God, but if not, we can know that even Jesus had similar experiences and He will see us through. He is enough!

Seek His approval rather than the approval of others! 

The Other Side of God’s Promises

But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD, none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers.  And none of those who despised me shall see it. … I, the LORD, have spoken.  Surely this will I do to all this wicked congregation who are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall come to a full end, and there they shall die.    Numbers 14:21-23, 35  ESV

We love to emphasize the goodness and generosity of God demonstrated by His faithful fulfillment of His promises to those who receive them by faith.  He does meet our needs, grant us desires according to His good and perfect will for us and do above and beyond what we could ever ask or imagine.  Thanks be to God for His unspeakable grace poured out upon us through faith in Christ!

But there is another side to this topic that is often neglected; one that is rooted in the same character of God that we love so much.  Yes, the Lord is faithful to fulfill His promises – all His promises.  And He promises to bring retribution and justice on those who disobey Him, those who willfully put Him to the test and rebel against Him.

In the above passage we note that God had promised those who He delivered from the bondage of Egypt a Promised Land inheritance.  But when the 12 spies returned with their report after completing their forty-day mission, ten (the majority) spread fear, doubt and disobedience regarding their future.  Two, Joshua and Caleb (the minority) reminded all that though there were challenges in occupying the land, the land was all that God promised and that one with God is a majority!

The people chose to believe the majority report, disobeyed God and received the consequences of their disobedience.  God promised them that there would be severe consequences for their disobedience and He was faithful to His promises.

The justice of God demands that He never ignore disobedience or show partiality, for to do so would be injustice and contrary to His very nature.  He will and does punish sin.  Let us tremble at that reality and praise Him that we are delivered from His wrath by grace in Christ.  For it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!  (Hebrews 10:31)

May we who lead others, remind those we influence about the promises and faithfulness of God.  May we be true to the whole message of God’s faithfulness, the pleasant and ‘not so pleasant’ realities and warn others of the consequences for disobedience.

Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong.   Exodus 23:2  NIV

“But my righteous one will live by faith.  And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”  But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.    Hebrews 10:38-39  NIV

From Patience to Perseverance

Initially, we thought it would last two weeks to a month.  Then it was ‘Well, certainly by the beginning of summer…’  Next it was ‘For sure, by the start of the fall…’  Now we are looking to Christmas or early spring for relief from the Covid pandemic.  Does it seem like we are playing a type of game where they keep moving the goalposts?

When will it end?  We set our expectations and hope on a future date for relief and a ‘return to normal,’ only to have our hopes dashed by the reality of a virus that seems hard to ignore or conquer.  “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”  (Proverbs 13:12  NIV)  It’s very normal to have feelings of disappointment when our expectations are not met.  But we must guard against going from disappointment to despair where we lose all hope and just give up.

Given the long trial of faith that we all are suffering, we must shift our attitudes from one of being patient to one of persevering.  Perseverance means, “persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.”  We acknowledge our disappointment before the Lord, plead for His mercy and determine, by His grace and strength, to persevere until He determines the end of our trial.

Our hope is not in new policies, better disinfection or therapeutics or even a vaccine.  Rather, our hope is in Him and His strength.  Here are several biblical truths that strengthen my soul during these days.

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

… even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.    Isaiah 46:4  ESV

For nothing will be impossible with God.    Luke 1:37  NIV 1984

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.    1 Corinthians 10:13  ESV

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.  But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.  He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.    2 Corinthians 1:8-10  ESV

… fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.   Isaiah 41:10  ESV

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.    Romans 5:3-5  ESV

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.    Matthew 6:34  ESV

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.    James 1:2-4  ESV

But the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.    Isaiah 50:7  ESV

Don’t despair!!!  Persevere!!!

Why Go I Mourning?

“Why go I mourning?” — Psalm 42:9

Canst thou answer this, believer? Canst thou find any reason why thou art so often mourning instead of rejoicing? Why yield to gloomy anticipations? Who told thee that the night would never end in day? Who told thee that the sea of circumstances would ebb out till there should be nothing left but long leagues of the mud of horrible poverty? Who told thee that the winter of thy discontent would proceed from frost to frost, from snow, and ice, and hail, to deeper snow, and yet more heavy tempest of despair?

Knowest thou not that day follows night, that flood comes after ebb, that spring and summer succeed winter? Hope thou then! Hope thou ever! For God fails thee not. Dost thou not know that thy God loves thee in the midst of all this? Mountains, when in darkness hidden, are as real as in day, and God’s love is as true to thee now as it was in thy brightest moments. No father chastens always: thy Lord hates the rod as much as thou dost; He only cares to use it for that reason which should make thee willing to receive it, namely, that it works thy lasting good.

Thou shalt yet climb Jacob’s ladder with the angels, and behold Him who sits at the top of it-thy covenant God. Thou shalt yet, amidst the splendors of eternity, forget the trials of time, or only remember them to bless the God who led thee through them, and wrought thy lasting good by them. Come, sing in the midst of tribulation. Rejoice even while passing through the furnace. Make the wilderness to blossom like the rose! Cause the desert to ring with thine exulting joys, for these light afflictions will soon be over, and then “for ever with the Lord,” thy bliss shall never wane.          Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)

“Faint not nor fear, His arms are near,
He changeth not, and thou art dear;
Only believe and thou shalt see,
That Christ is all in all to thee.”          Hymn, Fight the Good Fight, by John S. B. Monsell (1863)

Fig Tree Prayer Lessons

As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”  Mark 11:20-25 ESV

When Jesus cursed the fig tree after not finding any fruit on it, His disciples took note (see Mark 11:12-14).  Upon passing by the tree the following day, Peter draws everyone’s attention to the withered tree. Jesus used the opportunity to instruct them in some key principles of prayer.

1. Jesus begins the fig tree lesson with a reminder that the object of their prayer of faith is God Himself.  It is God who answers and moves mountains, not our faith.  We just need have the faith to ask!  Jesus did not say, “Have faith!” – but rather, “Have faith in God!”

2. He goes on to remind us that we must bring our requests before the Lord.  We must ask! Jesus assumes that we will ask specifically – “Lord, move this mountain!”  While this may seem obvious, James rebukes us with, “…You do not have, because you do not ask.”  James 4:2 ESV

3. Jesus now instructs His followers that when making our petitions we are not to doubt in our heart that God will answer.  This does not mean that we have to self-brainwash ourselves trying to remove all doubt.  But the exhortation is to avoid a type of doubt that says, “I know this is a waste of time, but just in case, I’ll make my request.”  That type of praying sees the act of prayer as a kind of good luck charm or perfunctory act.  God is not honored with such requests.

4.  Next Jesus reminds us that instead of doubting, we are to believe in our heart that our prayers will be granted.  Even more, He says, we are to believe that we have already received the answer.  This is an attitude of expectancy from the Lord based upon His promises, faithfulness, love and generosity towards us. It is rooted in the reality, “… If God is for us, who can be against us?”  Romans 8:31 ESV

5. Lastly, Jesus states that unresolved conflicts and a failure to forgive those who have wronged us will hinder our prayers.  The Holy Spirit will remind us as we pray of those who we are to forgive. (see Matthew 5:23-24 and 1 Peter 3:19)

Certainly Jesus had much more to say about the subject of prayer (see Matthew 6 and Luke 11) .  But it is important to note that during the last week of His public ministry, He taught His followers about prayer as illustrated by a withered fig tree.

 

PS  A Primer for Kingdom Leaders:  100 Reflections for Improving Your Leadership – A collection of 100 of my most popular blogs – compiled, edited and available for FREE download.  See Tom’s Books page above to download.

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

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: