Developing Kingdom Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Faith”

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

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?

Planning into a Turbulent Future 2

Storm clouds precede a coming change, but what exactly that storm will be when it arrives is unknown.  Scenario planning anticipates several possible future situations and helps us prepare for the coming changes. It is not a lack of faith, but it is wisdom to anticipate the coming storms.

Here’s some practical ideas on how to lead your team in scenario planning:

  1. Scenario planning requires that leaders think ahead in order to stay proactive and not reactive in their leadership.  While one can’t be too detailed in future scenario plans, one can anticipate possibilities and likely responses.  Then, as the future becomes clearer, we add more details and follow one of our most likely scenarios.
  2. A key word is “if”  – that is, if this happens, then this should be your response.  If….then… thinking and planning is scenario planning.
  3. When thinking about a future scenario, you must first determine the time horizon for your planning.  To use a weather metaphor – are you thinking about the blizzard, the winter season or the beginning of a ‘little ice age?’
  4. Start future scenario thinking by taking stock of your current reality.  Use a tool like a SWOT analysis (current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) to think on a macro scale for the whole.  Once you have a handle on the current reality, then begin to think and plan for possible future scenarios within your time horizon.
  5. It seems wise and prudent to think out scenarios dealing with three possible futures:  1) minor changes in the future (we go back to almost our previous normal, with a few minor adjustments – like normal start dates are pushed back a little); 2) some significant changes that impact our ability to serve as we have in the past (fall schedule is disrupted – virtual connections continue; access to our audience is difficult, funding gets difficult due to a poor economy and job losses); and 3) major changes (this is ‘little ice age’ thinking – what we thought was just for several months, now looks like it will continue for the foreseeable future).
  6. Do this scenario thinking with your leadership team because there will be differing perspectives from different people and especially if you are geographically dispersed.  Being more inclusive in this will help with ownership and build a ‘guiding coalition’ for leading change as you go forward (see Kotter’s book – Leading Change).
  7. Always remember that the future is known by the Lord and His Spirit can help you anticipate it and prepare wisely for it.  Listen to Him for guidance.  He’s vested in your ‘success’ because His name, glory and purposes are at stake.  Trust Him to lead you.

Be wise.  Be safe.  Be bold!  Trust Him who knows the future!

Planning into a Turbulent Future 1

And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart.  As you enter the house, greet it.  And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.  And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.     Matthew 10:11-14  ESV

Jesus was preparing His disciples for a short-term mission assignment.  He gave them very specific instructions on what to take or not take with them, the audience of their mission and how they were to interact with those they were sent to.  But note that He also helps them anticipate various responses when they enter the villages – both when received positively and also when they are rejected.  He is helping them by doing some scenario planning.

When Jesus sends the two disciples to get a colt, he again helps them anticipate a possible response to those who might think they are stealing it (see Mark 11:1-7).  And it came to pass exactly as anticipated.

Now this is fascinating because Jesus knows the responses they will receive, but they don’t.  Thus, He gives them some preparation so that they are not taken by surprise and have some forethought on how to deal with differing scenarios.  Scenario planning that anticipates several possible future situations is not a lack of faith, but rather it is wisdom.

The enemy will always try to take your focus off the Lord and place it on our threatening circumstances.  While paying attention to and planning for current and possible realities, always, always keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.  Key your head up and your eyes fixed on Him.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.     Hebrews 12:1-2  ESV

Next we will address how to do wise scenario planning… stay tuned!

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