Developing Kingdom Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Prayer”

Prayer Life of a Kingdom Leader

It would seem that one of the most challenging spiritual disciplines for Kingdom leaders to build consistency in is prayer.  Often our prayers are more perfunctory in nature, similar to saying grace before a meal, but without much unction or personal depth and lacking strategic intent.

We are reminded in Ecclesiastes 5:2 (ESV), “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.”  Though we may pray with words, God is listening to our hearts.

In Luke 18:1 (NIV), Luke interprets the meaning of the parable of the persistent widow going before the judge, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”  Jesus knows it is hard for us to persevere in prayer when answers are a long time coming.  Therefore, we are encouraged to keep asking, keep seeking and keep knocking until we receive, find and the door finally opens (see Luke 11:9-10).

Here are three foci for the prayer life of a Kingdom leader:

Pray for Yourself

  • Personal Growth and Change – Christlike character, Wisdom – Galatians 5:22-23; James 1:5
  • Personal Promises – 2 Corinthians 1:20; Acts 13:46-47
  • Personal Needs and Desires of Your Heart   –  Philippians 4:19; Psalm 37:4

Pray for Others

  • Family members –  Matthew 10:34-39; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 18:29-30
  • Those we lead
    • Their Spiritual Growth and Change – Christlike character, Wisdom
    • Lordship of Christ in all areas of life as they follow Him
    • Vision for Disciplemaking and Spiritual Generations – that they may see the harvest
    • Their Personal Needs and Desires
  • Lost friends and acquaintances

Pray for the World-wide Harvest and Laborers

  • Current Laborers (disciplemakers) in the harvest –  Matthew 9:35-38
  • New Laborers (disciplemakers) for the harvest – Isaiah 6:8
  • Surrender of yourself and your willingness to volunteer for engagement in the harvest
  • Strategic prayer for unreached peoples – that they will have the Gospel –  Isaiah 49:6; Psalm 2:8
    • Joshua Project
    • Population of the world‎: ‎7.75 Billion
    • People Groups of the world‎: ‎17,441
    • Unreached Groups‎: ‎7,414
    • % Unreached Groups‎: 42.‎5%
    • People in Unreached:  3.23 Billion
    • People in Unreached:  41.6%

This is not a prayer time, but rather, the prayer life of a Kingdom leader!  Prayer is a moment-by-moment connection and communication with the living God.  It is learning to cultivate that connection as we go throughout our busy days.  Yes, we will have focused concentrated prayer times, but we want to establish a prayer lifestyle, learning to pray continuously as we go about our days.

This is not saying prayers, but rather, praying – pouring out our hearts to God!  “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”  Romans 8:26  ESV

So, how’s your prayer life?

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?

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.

Making Decisions According to God’s Will – 4

Because God is God, He will have no trouble in communicating to us what He wants us to do.  Our problem is doing God’s will, not knowing God’s will!  We must be willing to do whatever He desires for us, before He will let us know His plan for us.

Note, we are talking about major decisions in our lives, not things like, “What will I wear today?”  But rather such decisions as, “Is God asking me to assume this ministry leadership role?”

The Lord frequently uses five means to direct us into His will.  The first is the Word of God – the Bible.  The second is personal peace about the decision when you pray and reflect upon it.  The third means is wise counsel.

Proverbs 15:22 (ESV) says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.”  Note that it says, ‘many advisers.’  What the Lord will do is give you a consensus of opinion from many advisors, but not all will say the same thing.

Proverbs 13:20 (ESV) reminds us, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”  Who you choose to ask for counsel determines the quality of counsel you will receive.  Finding the right counselors who know us, want our best and God’s best for us is a challenge.

You don’t want biased counsel from those who are trying to direct you to a particular outcome.  It is hard to get counsel from someone who does not have hidden motives – someone who is neutral in whatever decision you may choose.  Objective counsel from mature believers will be used to give perspective and direction.

Look for counsel from those who are more mature and experienced than you.  If you ask your friends, they may only give you the answer they think you want to hear, not wanting to risk the friendship by telling you the truth.

Wise, godly counsel can be hard to come by.  Proverbs 19:20 (ESV) says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”  The Lord will see that you get good counsel if you seek it.

 

Creating a Platform for Influence

One of your primary functions as a leader is to develop those leaders around you, helping them grow in their capacity to contribute to the mission.  The ability to influence and help them grow is built upon the foundation of trust in the relationship that you have with them.  But, what do you do when you do not have that kind of history with them–when there is no real relationship established?

In a recent conversation with Paul Stanley, former International VP of The Navigators, we discussed how to address this challenge.  Below are some of our practical ideas on how to build this kind of relationship, especially one that is geographically distant from you, so that you can help them grow and develop.

  1.  The first step is to begin to create trust
    • Remember, the depth of your relationship will determine the impact of your influence
    • You as their leader and mentor, want to be viewed as a ‘value-added’ asset to their life and leadership
    • Mutual vulnerability will create a growing bond of trust, with you, their supervisor, initiating the self-disclosure and openness
    • Mutual confidentiality must be assured, for any ‘leakage’ will quickly destroy any trust that has been built
  1. Seek to create a sense where they know that you are in it with them – we are in it together to help them succeed
    • Join their team in spirit, becoming their fan and champion
  1. Help them see a bigger vision for their life and future contribution beyond their current role
    • Help them believe that their future destiny is more than what they can currently ‘see’
  1. Early on in the relationship, they must feel practically helped in their current responsibility
    • Identify 2 or 3 leverage points for them to focus on in the next 1-2 years that will truly help them make progress and bring change to their mission
  1. Help them clarify their responsibilities before God and the organization that they are to steward
    • Help them shape the stewardship of these responsibilities, seeking to prioritize them into what is most strategic at this time
    • Help them identify 3-4 key responsibilities to focus on for the next 1-2 years
    • Pray for them and with them over these 3-4 key responsibilities
    • Talk with them regularly about progress in these 3-4 items
  1. Help them grow in confidence as a leader
    • Affirm, encourage, advocate for, and champion them
    • Help them identify certain leadership principles that they are already doing that models good leadership
      • Ken Blanchard reminds us to, “Find somebody doing something right and tell them about it.”
  1. Help them grow in self-awareness as a leader
    • What are their personal strengths and weaknesses as a leader
    • Help them learn how to lead from their strengths and staff to their weaknesses
  1. As you supervise and mentor them, adopt the attitude of asking, not telling!
    • Lead with questions, not answers!
  1. Open the bible together and pray together on a regular basis

Living Peaceful and Quiet Lives

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.       1 Thes. 4:11-12   NIV 1984

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.         1 Tim. 2:1-4  NIV 1984

Paul urges us to aim to live peaceful, quiet lives that shine as beacons of godliness and holiness to an unbelieving world around us.  For this to happen, we must be prayerfully interceding for kings (political leaders) and those in authority that the Lord might grant us favor in their eyes.  For, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases (Proverbs 21:1).

It is interesting to note that in Thessalonica and Ephesus Paul had caused riots and civil upheaval.  It was for the sake of the gospel that he was in these cities and we also note that in both cases it was not Paul who instigated the disturbances.  It was the enemies of the gospel who stirred up the crowds, drawing the responses from the civil leaders.  See Acts 17:1-9 and Acts 19:23ff.

Paul did not want this type of upheaval to be perceived as ‘normal’ for those following Christ in the respective cities.  Rather, the goal, as he reminded them, was to live peaceful and quiet lives; living such counter-cultural lives that they would win the respect of those who did not yet know Christ.

Our turbulent times call for us to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).   And in the midst of this turmoil, we are to be praying for our political and civil authorities – asking that the Lord would cause them to show us kindness and favor.  The result will be the advancement of the Kingdom and the gospel in the lives of many.

Are you praying for those in authority over you?

Knowing God

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

Ephesians 1:17  (NIV 1984)

In his letter to the Ephesian believers, Paul mentions two things that he is praying for them.  He prays that the Lord will give them, “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.”  These two attributes are truly important for all believers, but they are also essential for Kingdom leaders who would hope to faithfully serve Him.

The ‘Spirit of wisdom’ is foundational for all good leadership.  The world recognizes the need for leaders to have wisdom, but their answer for wisdom is by gaining experience.  This can be personal experience gained over time or by studying the experiences of others.  While this can be of some benefit, it does not necessarily translate into the paradigm of Kingdom leadership.

That is why Paul prays for the “Spirit of wisdom” to be given to us.  Godly, Kingdom wisdom comes from above and is given to us by the Holy Spirit who indwells all followers of Jesus.  This wisdom from above may be counter-cultural and counter-intuitive from the world’s perspective.  But it will be perfectly aligned with God’s purposes for us and those we lead as we seek to follow Him.  This Kingdom wisdom teaches us the ways of God as opposed to the ways of men (see Exodus 33:12-13ff) and enables us to lead in such a way that is pleasing to Him.

The ‘Spirit of,,,revelation’ is also key for Kingdom leaders.  It means the bringing to light something previously hidden or unknown.  A Kingdom leader’s need to find root issues, causes, and see both the future intended and unintended consequences of their decisions is essential.  These things often cannot just be thought out.  We need insight from the Spirit within us to reveal that which is hidden, either through ignorance, lack of information, or just not being able to foresee far enough into the future.

The result of gaining both wisdom and revelation from God is  “… that you may know him better.”  It is this “knowing Him” that will bring blessing to our leadership and ensure that our outcomes are aligned with His overall purposes.

Are you asking for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation to come upon you and those you lead?

Living a Life of Faith #1

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).  “We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).  Faith involves the unknown and the unseen.  Living by faith is the normal lifestyle of the believer.  Life begins by believing a promise of eternal life and forgiveness of sin (1 John 2:25) and continues until we see Jesus face to face.  When dealing with the unknown, we naturally are fearful and anxious.  Faith is not the absence of fear and anxiety, but the ability to control these powerful emotions rather than to be controlled by them.

The Apostle Paul faced many stressful and anxious moments during his life.  He writes,  “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia.  We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.  Indeed, in our hearts we felt 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.  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” (2 Cor. 1:8-11).

Note several important points in this passage.  First of all, God allowed Paul to enter into a time of extreme pressure.  The stress he experienced was far beyond his human ability to endure.  In fact, he had given up hope of living through it!  Secondly, Paul tells us why God allowed this experience.  He says that God wanted to teach him to rely only on Him who raises the dead.  If God can raise the dead all other matters are no problem!  God is seeking to raise up dependent children–children who only depend upon Him.  Paul testifies that God has delivered him from the past peril, He will deliver him from whatever perils he is currently facing, and that He will continue to deliver him in the future from whatever may befall him.  Paul was to recruit prayer for his current trials that when God answered many would give thanks for God’s work.

Bold Prayer Requests

Jesus encourages us to make bold requests. He says, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11). In other words, because God loves us and wants what is best for us, He will not give us something that would be harmful or detrimental for us. He loves us too much for that.

Suppose one of my three children came to me and said, “Dad, I’d like you to give me a stick of dynamite for my birthday.” How would I respond? Obviously, I would not give it to them because of the danger. Having been refused, they continue to plead saying, “But I really, really want the dynamite, Dad! Please get me some!” Though they would ask me a thousand times (even with fasting) I would not give them what they wanted.

Why not? Well, not because I’m not capable or because I don’t want to meet their requests. The reason I don’t give them what they ask for is because I love them too much to give them something that could be harmful for them. Jesus says, if we who are evil and fallen in our natures can show that kind of reasoning and love, how much more will the love of our heavenly Father prevent Him from answering a request with something that will bring us harm.

James 4:3 says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” If we are seeking something with wrong motives, James says that we won’t get it. That is all; God will say, “Sorry, but the answer to that request is ‘no.’” He does not add, “And I will teach you never to ask for something like that again, you terrible person!” We simply won’t get what we request.

So pray and ask boldly!  But, always with the attitude that I submit my desires and will to His desires and will for me for I trust Him to always do what’s best for me.

Reaching the Nations

Dawson Trotman said, “World vision is getting on your heart what has always been on God’s heart.”

Christ’s Great Commission commands us to make disciples of all the nations. By ‘nations’ we do not mean geo-political units on a map, but rather peoples. We see the world as the Lord does – peoples with common cultures, languages, and affinities. It is within these peoples that the gospel moves and spreads.

There are 78 unreached people groups within our own U.S. borders, requiring no visa to reach them and few government restrictions (see Joshua Project statistics for current U.S. and world opportunities).

Immigrants and refugees are pouring into our country at unheard of rates. And we know from history that when people are in transitions they are more open to the gospel.

International students are also coming to study on our campuses at unprecedented rates. They too are in times of change and thus are very receptive to new ideas and relationships. And when they return to their home of origin they become leaders and influencers for a lifetime. These too require no plane ride or language school experience to engage. But they do require a huge heart, sustained commitment, and great perseverance to see the gospel take root and bear fruit!

The world today still is 40% unreached (see Joshua Project data). There remains 6,600 unreached people groups totaling nearly 3 billion people. These peoples will be reached if someone leaves their home and intentionally crosses cultures to plant the gospel among them. The remaining groups are historically the most resistant to the gospel – those with Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist background. It will require long-term effort and much sacrifice for the gospel to go to these ‘nations.’

Our Lord said, “Go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:18-20). Paul reminds us, “And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?” (Romans 10:14). Are you praying for the nations to come to know Him?  Are you listening to how He would have of you to become the answer to your own prayer?

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