Developing Kingdom Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Promises of God”

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!

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?

Making Decisions According to God’s Will – 2

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 have for lunch today?”  But rather such decisions as, “Is God calling me into vocational ministry?”

The Lord uses five means to direct us into His will.  The first is the Word of God – the Bible.  You can expect to have specific biblical passages or Scriptural promises that speak to the decision you are working through.

Obviously, if something is contrary to a direct teaching or command in Scripture, or contrary to God’s character, it is not the will of God (i.e. marrying a non-Christian – see 2 Corinthians 6:14).  But God can also speak to us concerning our specific situations through personal promises from the Bible.  The Holy Spirit will confirm in  your heart that this is God’s promise to you.  For more details, see Praying Over God’s Promises.

In Psalm 119:105 (ESV) we read, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  The Word of God is like a small, hand-held, oil lamp that sheds enough light for us to take a few steps, illuminating the path as we move ahead.  It’s only enough light for the next few steps, but as we go, we have light for the next few steps.  See also Proverbs 6:22-23.

When wrestling with decisions have an expectant attitude as you interact with God’s Word.  You may hear Him speaking while in your morning devotions, when listening to a Sunday sermon, or He may bring to mind a passage you have memorized.  His direction from the Word will often be multiple passages, not just a singular one.  He does not want us confused or mistaking His voice for another’s.

Jesus promises us, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  John 10:27 (ESV)

Trust in the Lord

Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.                      Isaiah 26:4   ESV

All of life and leadership is a faith journey for no one knows the future and how it will come to pass.  Kingdom leaders make decisions based upon the best information available and then trust that the Lord will establish the work of our hands.  (see Psalm 90:17)

Faith is only as good as the object of our faith. I could have great faith that if I jump off my roof and flap my arms rapidly, then I will fly.  But my faith and strenuous effort will not conquer gravity.  The object of my faith was not worthy of my trust.

The more we know about what (or Who) we are placing our trust in, the more confident we will act.  Some leaders are placing their faith and trust in themselves and their leadership experience.  While your ability to control outcomes and recall previous experience may prove helpful, there still is no certainty of outcome.  Your vision is fixed on the ‘rear-view mirror’ instead of on Him who controls the future.

Some leaders will put their faith and trust in other people – their team, their co-workers or their friends.  But once again this is short-sighted and can lead to great disappointment as all people are fallen and people in process.  They will disappoint you (and you too will disappoint others) – it is only a matter of when, not if.

Some others will trust their processes or their own resources.  They take reasonable risks in their leadership and assume that their ‘rainy day resources’ will cover any eventuality.  But there will always be something beyond the expected norms – the 100 year flood – that far out-strips all available resources.

Any trust placed outside of the Lord Himself is doomed to be shown as folly.  Having our trust and faith in Him alone will ensure a stability and security that rises above the everyday trials of life and leadership.  This does not mean that we live a ‘pain-free’ life or have a leadership that is devoid of great upheavals.  But what it does mean is that He will see us through whatever comes our way.  He is sufficient for all that we experience and He has promised never to leave us.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.       Psalm 20:7   ESV

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.                           Proverbs 3:5-6   ESV

The more you know the Lord and His ways, the more your faith and trust in Him will grow!

Where’s your trust today?

Rewards for Laboring

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.  If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.   If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.   1 Corinthians 3:10-15  (NIV  1984)

In the passage above Paul is talking about his labors for Christ.  He, the ‘expert builder’ of people, reminds the Corinthians that there will be rewards given at the ‘bema’ judgment seat at the end of days.  All of our labors will be tested by the fire of God, revealing true motives and outcomes.  Some will lose potential rewards while others will be rewarded for their faithfulness.  Salvation is not at risk, this is rewards for service.

As Kingdom leaders who labor for the Lord and His purposes, the reminder that we will have to give an account of our labors should be sobering.  The writer of Hebrews says, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.”  Hebrews 13:17  (NIV  1984)  We are stewards of a trust given to us by the Lord, the trust of leading His people to accomplish His purposes.

In the parable of the Talents there is an accounting when the servants are called to report to their Master the results of their labor.  Faithfulness is rewarded by the Master (see Matthew 25).  Immediately following this parable is another titled the Sheep and the Goats.  Referring to the final judgment, the sheep (faithful ones) are welcomed into heaven and are surprised at their reward.  Note that in this instance, they are rewarded for service given to other believers -“whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”  (Matthew 25:40)  We see similar principles of reward for labor taught in the parable of the Ten Gold Coins (see Luke 19).

Your labor for the Lord does not go unnoticed by Him.  There will be a reckoning one day and rewards will be given for your faithful service.

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.   1 Corinthians 15:58   (NIV  1984)

Developing Kingdom Leaders for What?

In Genesis 12:1-3 we read of God’s promise to Abram that the blessing upon Abram and his descendants would be a blessing to all the world.  1500 years later, Isaiah writes a prophecy about the coming Messiah and states that the mission of the Messiah would be to take the message of salvation not just to the tribes of Jacob, but to all the nations (peoples) of the world.

500 years after Isaiah, Jesus summarizes His entire public ministry with a commission to make disciples of all the nations (see Matthew 28:18-20).  And at His final public appearance, the Ascension from the Mount of Olives, the Lord instructs them to begin at Jerusalem and reach to ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

This mission of discipling the nations is why we need Kingdom leaders.  These missional leaders will seek to advance the gospel and the Kingdom into the various peoples of the world.  These leaders will be called of God to engage in this great cosmic task.  They will hear His voice and raise their hand.

The grand vision of making disciples of all the peoples of the world will need leaders of disciplemaking ministries and disciplemaking movements; leaders who see globally and act locally.  They will not be discouraged or shrink back from the immensity of the task.  Rather, they will rise to the challenge, trusting God by faith to use them is some way to further His purposes.

What better way to spend your life?  Some will be called to engage in this vocationally as full-time workers.  Others will have differing vocations, but their missional commitment will not waver as they engage in the grand enterprise of seeing the nations come to know Him.

These Kingdom leaders must be prayed for, worked for, recruited, trained, developed, and deployed strategically into the peoples of the world.  They will be few in number, given that the ‘laborers are few’ (see Matthew 9:35-38).  But, God does accomplish this mission with just a few (see Revelation 9:7).

We are not disheartened by the few who may raise their hand and volunteer for this daunting mission.  With God, one is a majority!  And with Him we have all the resources needed to accomplish everything He desires of us.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?    Romans 8:31  (NIV  1984)

Your Convictions are Showing

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

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

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

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

Here’s my observations on Caleb and his convictions:

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

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

Handling Our Fears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Dependence or Independence?

“And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”      Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence

In Congress  July 4, 1776

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…

Tomorrow is the celebration of Independence Day in America – when America’s Founding Fathers declared the 13 colonies’ independence from Great Britain.  For Americans this day reminds us of our country’s heritage and the fact that many risked and sacrificed much for the freedom that we now enjoy.

But for those who claim to be disciples of Jesus Christ there is no personal independence day.  Rather we celebrate our total, moment-by-moment  dependence upon Him.  For God does not want independent children.  He wants dependent ones.

Independence is a mark of standing upon your own two feet – saying that you are capable of governing your own life without the guidance or help of others.  This type of attitude is found in the world, but not in the Kingdom.  For citizens of the Kingdom of God know that we are Created beings who draw our very breath because our Creator wills it.  We are constantly leaning into Him who made us for strength, help, protection, guidance, and provision to live each day.

Therefore, we boast in our weakness, for then the power of Christ is evident in our lives (see 2 Corinthians 12:9).  This attitude is counter-intuitive to the world’s values.  The reality of our dependence on Him causes us to celebrate for He is faithful and will never leave us.

So, how is your attitude towards Him who made you?

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