Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Promises of God”

Wisdom and Its Source

“Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him and rescued him from all his troubles.  He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt; so he made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace…. Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.       Acts 7:9-10, 22     NIV  1984

Note the contrast between the wisdom of Joseph and the wisdom of Moses (up to the age of 40).

Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers.  But having been shown his future destiny in two dreams as a 17-year-old young man, God’s plan for him was not frustrated.  In fact, the favor of the Lord was with Joseph, even in the midst of the most trying circumstances.  And it was God who gave Joseph wisdom (godly wisdom) that opened opportunities for him in Potiphar’s household, in prison, and finally with Pharaoh.

In contrast, Moses was educated in the best system of the day – the Egyptian education system – having grown up in Pharaoh’s household as an adopted son.  The result was that he was “powerful in speech and action” – a gifted, natural leader.  But all of his natural ability and education did not qualify him to lead God’s people by the age of 40.  The world’s wisdom was not enough in God’s eyes to qualify Moses to lead.  It would be 40 more years of preparation before the Lord would appear to him in the burning bush when he was finally ready, with God’s anointing, to lead.

Wisdom is easily understood as necessary for leadership – especially for Kingdom leaders who are constantly balancing seeking to please God and meeting the demands of the world.  But the wisdom needed for Kingdom leaders must come from God Himself.  Yes, a certain wisdom can be gained by learner’s hearts and through increased experience.  But, it is the wisdom that comes from the Lord that will bring the outcomes desired for Kingdom leaders.

This God-given wisdom can be asked for (see James 1:5) and the wonderful promise is that it will be given to all who ask.

So….are you asking?

Vision and Provision

When a leader plans for the future, they must anticipate the resources needed to accomplish any idea that is planned.  Now there are two approaches to this planning process.  One involves walking by faith the other walking by sight.

One can plan according to the resources one has – taking stock of the current inventory and then planning accordingly.  Planning based upon what we see we currently have ‘in stock’ can be wise, but it is also limiting.  We are not free to dream, take bigger faith initiatives, or think beyond what our current limited resources allow us to do.

For Kingdom leaders a better approach would be to ask the Lord, “What would you have me/us to accomplish?”  Having gotten clear direction on that goal, we then look to the Lord Himself to provide the necessary resources to accomplish the task He has assigned.

In John 6:1-13 we see Jesus asking the Twelve to feed 5000 people.  Note that this was simply a developmental question for Philip (v. 5-6) “…for he already had in mind what he was going to do.”  Andrew answers by looking to the resources that they currently have on hand – not much.  “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” (v. 9)  NIV 1984

Then Jesus springs into action.  He has them sit down. Then, taking what they had, the boy’s lunch of bread and fish, He provides for the current need.  He blesses food and the Twelve distributed it to the seated masses.  Note that those who were seated got “as much as they wanted” (v. 11) and that they even had twelve baskets of leftovers.

God’s provision for whatever task He asks of us is not limited to whatever current provision we have.  Rather, we have access to unlimited resources to accomplish whatever He may ask us to do.  His provision will come in such a way that we are assured it is from Him, for then He will receive the glory.  And His provision will be abundant, lavish, to the point of even having excess.  Note too the stewardship of the excess.  Jesus said to the disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over.  Let nothing be wasted.”  (v. 12).

As you think about the future plans that He has for you what perspective do you have regarding the resources needed?  Are you planning based upon what you see or what you can trust Him for?

The Leader’s Sense of Destiny

A Kingdom leader’s personal sense of purpose and destiny serve to guide their leadership choices and decisions.  It informs the selection of their team members, their leadership priorities, and personal development.  Where does this sense of purpose and destiny come from?

Resting in God and His Promises

The Lord Jesus invites all those who are weary and burdened to take up the yoke that He offers.  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Not only do wise Kingdom leaders yoke themselves with Jesus, but they find confidence to rise above the daily circumstances by resting in His promises for them personally and their leadership.  Those personal promises form the basis for their sense of destiny and purpose.  Psalm 138:8 says, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me…”  God’s power and character stand behind His promises, thus a Kingdom leader’s confidence.   Regarding David, Paul reminds us, “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep…”

Purpose and Destiny Revealed

The Lord will guide and direct the Kingdom leader as they seek to follow His purposes.  The Lord will use the Word (Psalm 119:105), the inner voice of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 30:21), and open doors of opportunity (Isaiah 43:18-19; Revelation 3:8).  And who the Lord calls He also equips to accomplish His purposes.

So as we begin a new year and you reflect upon the coming months, how is your sense of purpose and divine destiny?  Are you yoked with Him and in step with Him?  Are you praying over His promises and listening carefully to the voice of the Spirit within you?  What doors of opportunity has He opened for you to trust Him to help you through?

Living a Life of Faith #2

Faith is not trusting the seen but believing the unseen.  It is not looking at circumstances and probabilities, but to Him who knows no limits to resources and power.  Abraham demonstrated this when at the age of 75 he was told that he and Sarah would have a son from whom the world would be blessed.  For twenty-five years Abraham walked with the promise of God while his body aged.

Finally, at the age of 100 Isaac was born.  Paul writes in Romans 12:18-21, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”  Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead–since he was about a hundred years old–and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.  Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”

God knows our tendency to shrink back when facing the unknown and unseen.  He thus gives us promises, promises backed by His character and resources, that we can cling to as anchors for our souls in times of trials.  These Scriptural promises are the bedrock of our faith that keeps us believing when hope is gone.

Here is what A.W. Tozer said concerning walking by faith: “We must remember that God always acts like Himself.  He has never at any time anywhere in the vast universe acted otherwise than in character with His infinite perfections.  This knowledge should be a warning to the enemies of God, and it cannot but be an immense consolation to His friends.

“Though God dwells in the center of eternal mystery, there need be no uncertainty about how He will act in any situation covered by His promises.  These promises are infallible predictions.  God will always do what He has promised to do when His conditions are met.  And His warnings are no less predictive:  “The ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous” (Psalm 1:5).

“In the light of all this how vain is the effort to have faith by straining to believe the promises in the Holy Scriptures.  A promise is only as good as the one who made it, but it is as good, and from this knowledge springs our assurance.  By cultivating the knowledge of God we at the same time cultivate our faith.  Yet while so doing we look not at our faith but at Christ, its author and finisher.  Thus the gaze of the soul is not in, but out and up to God.  So the health of the soul is secured.”  [i]

J.O. Sanders said, “God encourages us to ask as freely for the impossible as the possible, since to Him all difficulties are the same size–less than Himself.”  Trust Him!  Trust His promises!!

“Great faith isn’t the ability to believe long and far into the misty future.  It’s simply taking God at His word and taking the next step.”   Joni Eareckson Tada

[i]   The Incredible Christian  by A.W. Tozer,  Tyndale House Publishing, Wheaton, Illinois  1964   p. 28

 

 

 

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.

Concerns When Claiming Promises

A legitimate concern when claiming promises in prayer is the fear of putting God to the test. We remember Jesus’ rebuke of Satan when tempting Him to throw Himself off the highest point of the temple. The devil then quotes a promise (Psalm 91:11-12), implying that no harm will come to Jesus because of God’s promised care. Jesus rebukes Satan by quoting Deuteronomy 6:16 saying, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

It would seem that our attitude is a key factor in whether we are praying in faith or demanding something from God and violating the command not to put God to the test. For, there are passages where the Lord encourages us to take Him up on His promises, to test them and see if they are true. In Malachi 3:10 He says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”

When claiming promises in prayer, we are not seeking to bind God in some solemn oath, forcing Him to act according to our own desires as the devil was seeking to do when tempting Jesus. Rather, we come to Him in humility and reverence, acknowledging His Lordship over us and His right to act as He pleases. We come asking Him and pleading with Him to fulfill His promises, not demanding that He perform according to our wishes. God will not “jump through our hoops” like some trained circus animal, no matter how advantageous we may think the answers are for the advance of the Kingdom. We cannot purposely place ourselves in desperate situations and expect the Lord to deliver us. He will not be forced by us into acting a certain way. Yet, if we do find ourselves placed into desperate circumstances, we can confidently claim the promises of God for peace, strength, protection, etc. knowing that He will watch over us and care for us.

Another concern when claiming promises relates to Psalm 106:14-15: “In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wasteland they put God to the test. So he gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease upon them.” The fear is that perhaps the promises we are praying over and claiming are actually desires arising from our flesh. Perhaps in diligently praying over these promises God will answer, even though He knows that in answering according to my desires the answer will be harmful or not beneficial for me. Or perhaps the Lord will give me the desires of my flesh, but in doing so also punish me for my wrong motives

At first glance that is what seemed to happen to the Israelites. It would appear that they wearied God by their constant complaining about a lack of meat and having worn down His resistance to answer, God finally relented and sent an abundance of quail. But, along with the quail, He also sent a disease that killed many of them; a kind of object lesson not to ask for your desires, for you may get more than you ask for! But is this what really happened?

In Psalm 78:17-31 we find another recounting of the same incident. It says, “they willfully put God to the test by demanding the food they craved” (:18); the Israelites challenged God’s ability to provide for them in the midst of the desert and it says that “they did not believe in God or trust in his deliverance” (:22). In response to their sinful attitudes it says, “He rained meat down on them like dust, flying birds like sand on the seashore. He made them fall inside their camp, all around their tents. They ate till they had more than enough, for he had given them what they craved. But before they turned from the food they craved, even while it was still in their mouths, God’s anger rose against them; he put to death the sturdiest among them, cutting down the young men of Israel” (:27-31). Thus, we see that it was their sinful, demanding attitudes that brought the wrath of God on them, not the request itself.

When Promises Don’t Come True

It was another exasperating, faith-challenging confrontation with the Indonesian Immigration Office. Our yearly visa renewal was in trouble again. We’d experienced this numerous times during our ten years in the country and so, once again, I reminded the Lord of our desire for an extension and recruited others to pray on our behalf. I reminded Him of Philippians 4:19, stating that this visa was a need and He had promised to meet all of our needs. I also prayed over Psalm 37:4, saying that it was our heart’s desire to stay and serve Him there, so please grant yet another renewal. We had seen several miracles in previous years regarding visa renewals, so I was confident that God would once again come through.

Imagine my shock and disappointment when the letter that came from Immigration was not our yearly renewal, but a denial of any extension and an “invitation” to leave the country. Why had God not answered? We had prayed over the same request, used the same promises, recruited the same, if not more, people to pray with us. But this time God had said “no.” Can God’s promises be trusted? Why weren’t our prayers answered according to our desires?

Some time later I was studying Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before he was crucified. In Mark 14:32-42 we see a remarkable exchange between Jesus and His Father. Jesus was deeply distressed and troubled by the reality of the crucifixion and having to become sin for all mankind (vv. 33-34), so He came to His Father with a specific request, “Take this cup from me.” He based it upon the reality that, “everything is possible for you,” (v. 36) therefore certainly there must be another way other than this death. Had not God promised that if we call upon Him in times of trouble, He will deliver us (Psalm 50:15)? Had not Jesus Himself said that if we ask anything in His name He will do it? He prayed three times; certainly the Father would know His sincerity. Certainly the Father would answer.

But we find an amazing thing! The Father let His Son die on the cross the next day, taking upon Himself the sin of all mankind. Why did God not answer Jesus’ request? But then it hit me—God had answered! But, the answer was “no.” Jesus Himself had received a “no” answer in prayer! Why? Was it because He had some unconfessed sin? Certainly not—He was sinless! Was He not sincere in His request? No—He repeated His request until he sweat blood (Luke 22:44). The Father did not grant His request because His perfect plan required His Son’s sacrificial death. There was no other way!

A key insight is found in Mark 14:36b where Jesus says, “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Though Jesus made a specific request, His underlying attitude was not a demanding of His own will, but rather, a surrender to the will of the Father. We too must assume this attitude when we pray. Not a fatalistic attitude in which we subliminally say, “I know it isn’t going to do any good to pray, but just in case…” But rather a prayer life that is bold in it’s specific requests, yet surrendered to our Heavenly Father’s higher will, knowing that His will is best. Someone has said, “God’s will is what you would choose if you knew everything that He knows.”

Praying over and claiming the promises of God as found in Scripture is a wonderful means of praying. But the promises are given as anchors for our hope when times of pressure come, not levers to make God do what we want He to do. We make specific requests related to specific Scriptural promises, but we also submit to the good and perfect will of our Father. We trust Him even when we don’t get the answer we expect, when it does not feel so good, and even when don’t understand.

Leading from the Promises of God – Part 2

Kingdom leadership is a leadership of faith.  While it can be said that those who don’t lead in the Kingdom also must exercise faith, their faith is founded in something other than God.  It may be experience, resources, skills or something else.  But we who lead in the Kingdom find our faith rooted in the promises of God.

Within the Scriptures we can find both general promises, for all people at all time, and those specific personal promises that are for our own life and leadership.  J.O. Sanders reminds us of this regarding a promise from God, “A promise by God is a pledge by God. It provides the warrant and forms the basis of the prayer of faith. The stability of a promise rests upon the character and resources of the One who makes it, even as the value of a cheque depends on the probity and resources of the one who signs it. The character and fidelity of God vouch for the credibility of the promises He makes.”

God sometimes gives to individuals specific promises that relate to their own unique situations at a certain time. The Holy Spirit impresses these special passages of Scripture upon our hearts and we have an inner assurance that this is part of His special leading in our lives. The immediate context of the passage may refer to another person, place or time, but we hear God’s voice speaking to our heart concerning our current situation.

Though such personal promises are a means of God revealing and confirming His will to us, we must always remember that this is a very subjective process. “The heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9) and as such we are capable of reading into certain passages of Scripture what we want to see. We can deceive ourselves, if we are not careful.

Again, Sanders encourages us, “But promises must be distinguished from facts. We accept a stated fact of God’s Word, but we plead a promise. When God proclaims a fact, faith accepts and acts upon it. When God makes a promise, we comply with its conditions, claim its fulfillment and receive the promised favour. The function of the prayer of faith is to turn God’s promises into facts of experience. The patriarchs through faith obtained the fulfillment of God’s promises (Hebrews 11:33), and turned them into personal experience.”

Leading from the Promises of God – Part 1

Kingdom leadership is a leadership of faith.  While it can be said that those who don’t lead in the Kingdom also must exercise faith, their faith is founded in something other than God.  It may be experience, resources, skills or something else.  But we who lead in the Kingdom find our faith rooted in the promises of God.

Here’s a reminder from Charles Spurgeon regarding Scriptural promises/  “A promise of God may very instructively be compared to a check payable to order. It is given to the believer with the view of bestowing upon him some good thing. It is not meant that he should read it over comfortably, and then have done with it. No, he is to treat the promise as a reality, as a man treats a check. He is to take the promise, and endorse it with his own name, by personally receiving it as true. He is by faith to accept it as his own. He sets to his seal that God is true, and true as to this particular word of promise. He goes further and believes that he has the blessing in having the sure promise of it, and therefore he puts his name to it to testify to the receipt of the blessing.

“This done, he must believingly present the promise to the Lord, as a man presents a check at the counter of the bank. He must plead it by prayer, expecting to have it fulfilled. If he has come to heaven’s bank at the right date, he will receive the promised amount at once. If the date should happen to be further on, he must patiently wait till its arrival; but meanwhile he may count the promise as money, for the bank is sure to pay when the due time arrives.

“Some fail to place the endorsement of faith upon the check, and so they get nothing; others are slack in presenting it, and these also receive nothing. This is not the fault of the promise, but of those who do not act with it in a common-sense, business-like manner.”

Charles Spurgeon
Faith’s Checkbook, a collection of God’s promises for daily use

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