Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Wisdom”

Worldly vs Godly Wisdom

And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household.    Acts 7:9-10   (ESV)

And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.     Acts 7:1, 22  (ESV)

There are two sources of wisdom for Kingdom leaders:  wisdom that comes from the world and wisdom that comes from above.  In Stephen’s testimony before his accusers, he distinguishes between these two as illustrated in the life and leadership of Joseph and Moses.

Joseph was given wisdom and favor from God when he was brought before Pharaoh and interpreted his dreams.  Having explained that the dreams meant 7 years of plentiful harvests followed by 7 years of drought, he volunteered a solution.  He suggested constructing huge granaries to store the surplus grain during the first years in order to feed the hungry during the years of famine that would follow.

Pharaoh and his counselors recognized the wisdom of this plan and Joseph was elevated to a position of number two in Egypt.  He executed the building, gathering, storing, and eventually, the distribution of the grain in the years of famine.  All of this came from the godly wisdom that was given to Joseph as the Lord sought to accomplish His purposes in and through Him.

Years later Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s court, having been adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter when she rescued him from the River Nile.  He was ‘instructed’ in all of the wisdom that the Egyptian culture had to offer.  He got the best education and training possible during his day.  But, we note that he was not ready to lead God’s people yet.

He was powerful in speech and deed according to Stephen.  But his training, education and natural ability did not make him qualified to lead God’s people out of Egypt.  He tried on his own strength and failed, eventually ending up in Midian caring for sheep for his new father-in-law Jethro.

Now, one can imagine that the sheep management system implemented by Moses was quite the setup, given all of his background.  But, it was simply a training program for God to humble him and shape him into the man God could eventually use to lead over 2 million of His people out of bondage.  Forty more years of managing sheep would bring Moses to the point where he was now ready to meet God in the burning bush.

Kingdom leaders need wisdom to lead.  And worldly wisdom based upon collective wisdom can have some advantages.  But, it will not be enough to fulfill our God-given missions.  We will need godly wisdom, given to us from Him, to see His work accomplished in His ways.

Are you trusting in the world’s wisdom only or are you pleading with God to give you His wisdom as you lead out in the task He has called you to?

I’m Free …. But …

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.    John 8:36 (NIV)

You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.       Romans 6:18

Those who have put their faith and trust in Christ have been set free from sin and given the promise of eternal life.  Yet, this freedom has limitations and responsibility that comes with it.  God’s grace poured out upon us is not the freedom to do what we want, but rather the power to live as we ought.

Here are some sobering reminders on the exercise of our Christian freedom:

  • Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.    1 Corinthians 8:9
  • “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.            1 Corinthians 10:23
  • You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.    Galatians 5:13

Because of the influence we leaders have, others will be watching and imitating our example.  We are reminded that those who lead and influence others will be held to a higher standard.  James 3:1 states, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

Yes, we have great freedom in Christ!  Hallelujah!  But… with our freedom comes responsibility to exercise it wisely for the glory of God and for the service of others, not ourselves.

Therefore…

Watch your life and doctrine closely.  Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.       1 Timothy 4:6

Forms and Functions

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”     Mark 2:22  ESV

As Kingdom leaders seek to advance the gospel, they take new initiatives and seek the Lord’s guidance as they pioneer.  For many, one of their greatest challenges is their own success.  What?  How can that be?

When we are trying something new and different, we are sensing a real need for the Lord to help us – to intervene on our behalf as we try new ways and means.  And, when the Lord does answer and intervene on our behalf, we rejoice and continue seeking to ‘push’ the advance further and further forward, enjoying the Lord’s favor.  But, after a period of some ‘success’ a new, more insidious challenge appears.

Our ‘success’ can cause us to focus on efficiencies and methodology.  We double down on economies of scale, leverage points, and look to maximize opportunities.  Now, in and of themselves these things are not wrong, but we can drift from our initial dependency upon the Lord and our focus now moves to our own abilities instead of seeking the Lord’s blessing and help.

When our tried and true ‘methods’ no longer seem to yield the same results, instead of seeking the Lord’s guidance for new ideas – new ‘wineskins’ – we simply put our heads down and try harder.  We think, “Well, it worked in the past, certainly it will work now; we just have to try harder.”

What we don’t understand is that we have entered into a new reality that will require a new way of serving.  It’s a new day that needs new forms for this new context.  The ‘new wine’ must find new forms for connecting with our new context.  Given the rapidity of change today, if we are not continually evaluating our ‘forms’ we are doomed to be marginalized and irrelevant very quickly.

Functions (truths anchored in the Scriptures) remain true, but the forms they take are constantly in need of updating, improving, or at times, being discontinued or replaced by more contextually relevant ‘wineskins.’  It’s not a matter of working harder or more efficiently.  It’s just that our audience is constantly changing and needing to be reached with new ways and means.

Wise Kingdom leaders will understand this process and lead out in discerning forms from functions, continually updating the former and staying focused on the latter.

Continuing the Pursuit of Godly Wisdom

Spiritual, godly wisdom springs from the knowledge of God, His character, and His Word.  This spiritual knowledge leads to spiritual understanding of how God works—the ways of God.  And spiritual understanding translates into spiritual wisdom, the final application of our knowledge of God and His ways into our daily decisions.  It is this spiritual wisdom that God gives to Kingdom leaders to help us accomplish His purposes in us and through our leadership.  It arises from spending time with Jesus and His Word, being taught by His Spirit, and learning from others who have done the same.

The catalyst for turning spiritual knowledge and understanding into spiritual wisdom is the Holy Spirit Himself, who lives within those who know Christ.  He guides us to truth, helps us discern root issues, provides creative solutions to problems, and seeks to glorify Christ in and through us.  He will bring the help that Kingdom leaders need.  In Luke 2:46-47, the Jewish religious leaders were amazed at Jesus’ answers, given His age of twelve.  It was no doubt a similar observation made about Peter and John when they were brought before the Jewish leaders, who “recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

Godly wisdom allows Kingdom leaders to accomplish God-given tasks in such a way that people thrive and God is glorified.  They don’t seek credit for any success because they acknowledge that success comes from Him.  They thus share the spotlight with those who serve with them.  Such leaders are attractive; people move toward them not because of their charisma but rather because they sense that God is with them.  They willingly submit to that leader’s influence.

Becoming a wise leader can help in your recruiting of talented people to your mission.  Many have an internal, Spirit-discerned ‘radar’ that can detect wisdom in others, especially other leaders.  And we move towards wise leaders, wanting to join up with them and the vision that they project.  This same ‘radar’ can also detect foolishness and warns us to stay away from those who do not project God’s wisdom.

So, are you continuing in your pursuit of God’s wisdom for your life and leadership?

For more thoughts on leading with Kingdom wisdom:  Growing Kingdom Wisdom

The Pursuit of Godly Wisdom

Godly wisdom is applying knowledge and understanding to life situations
by considering what is pleasing to God. Our goals are measured
against the ultimate goal: a life that ends with Jesus telling us
“Well done, good and faithful servant.”

We never “arrive” when it comes to wisdom. We can always grow
in wisdom, for we encounter it in God Himself, who is infinite, and
therefore the wisdom He offers us is inexhaustible.

Kingdom wisdom doesn’t just happen; it must be pursued. We
can ask God for it (see James 1:5) and it will be given to us, because
He has promised to do so. Therefore, even young people with limited
personal experience can be considered wise if God has given
them wisdom from above. This is what happened with Solomon. He
acknowledged that he was young and inexperienced (1 Kings 3:7)
yet boldly asked God for “an understanding mind to govern [God’s]
people” so he could “discern between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:9).

We can and should, regardless of our age and experience, learn
godly wisdom from others. Wise spiritual mentors are invaluable to
our development. They help us continue growing throughout our
life. As we age, our mentoring needs change, moving from a whole-life
perspective to a more focused, targeted mentoring later in life.
Asking others for help in your growth and development is wise. If
you are beginning your spiritual journey, look for someone to disciple
you, helping you to become a follower of Christ. If you are
well established in your walk with Jesus, then look for someone who
demonstrates spiritual wisdom in an area that you can learn from,
someone who is strong and wise in a specific aspect of life that you
feel you lack.

Proverbs 3:13-15 reminds us, “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold.  She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.”

Have you committed yourself to the life-long pursuit of God’s wisdom?

For more thoughts on leading with Kingdom wisdom:  Growing Kingdom Wisdom

Kingdom Wisdom’s 7 Pillars – #7

In Proverbs 9:1 we read, “Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars” (NIV 1984).  What are the seven pillars found in the house of wisdom?

We find them listed for us in the previous chapter in Proverbs 8:12,14 (NIV 1984):  I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretionCounsel and sound judgment are mine; I have understanding and power.  And note how verses 15 and 16 connect wisdom to leadership.

By power we mean the ability to act, to produce an effect. Power involves having authority over others and possessing qualities that allow individuals to achieve their aims. Within godly leaders, this power is often seen as an inner strength—personal courage to trust God to accomplish what that leader has determined as their divine purpose. Wise leaders seek to use both positional and relational authority to serve and bless others.

Positional authority comes with the organizational title or job and is defined by one’s job description. Personal authority is authority voluntarily given by another to you based upon your character or perceived competency and is not limited by any role or responsibility. Wise leaders do not use either type of authority to promote themselves or further selfish ambition. They know that to have institutional power is not necessarily to have Kingdom power, and to have Kingdom power is not necessarily to have institutional power.

All power and authority find their source in the relational dynamic of leader and follower. Note what the devil offers Jesus in the second desert temptation: “The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to” (Luke 4:5-7). Jesus would have to first acknowledge the devil’s leadership, then be given worldly power. Jesus did not refute the devil’s ability to give it. The devil has authority, but it is limited under the ultimate authority of Christ who has “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18).

Contrasted with worldly power founded on a leader-follower relationship is the power that comes from the Lord—an anointing of His Spirit that is given to accomplish His purposes in and through us. Through the blood of Christ and because of His atonement, believers now have power over sin, demons, and our ultimate enemy, death. God’s servant leaders are given authority to lead and influence others and are called to steward that influence well. Spiritual leaders will all give an account to Him of how they use this authority and influence (see Hebrews 13:17).

Are you stewarding well both your positional authority and power as well as your personal authority and power?  We will have to give an account for it one day!

For more thoughts on leading with Kingdom wisdom:  Growing Kingdom Wisdom

Kingdom Wisdom’s 7 Pillars – #6

In Proverbs 9:1 we read, “Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars” (NIV 1984).  What are the seven pillars found in the house of wisdom?

We find them listed for us in the previous chapter in Proverbs 8:12,14 (NIV 1984):  I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretionCounsel and sound judgment are mine; I have understanding and power.  And note how verses 15 and 16 connect wisdom to leadership.

Understanding is the ability to see the relationships between a series of facts. As such, it is closely related to knowledge. Once we have gathered knowledge, this information must be correlated in our minds so we can understand how things work or how they influence each other. The world uses the scientific method, for example, to show the relationship of various elements. Once an experiment is shown to be repeatable, we arrive at a certain level of understanding. For example, when we apply heat to water, we know that the water boils when it reaches 212ºF (100ºC) at sea level. By combining the facts we know about water and heat, we understand that by turning on a stove and applying heat to the bottom of a pan of water, it will boil at a very specific temperature, given enough heat and time. This type of understanding is useful in life, but it is still short of the goal of wisdom.

Understanding allows us to discern trends or patterns in behavior, seeing whether something is a onetime aberration or the beginning of something new. Understanding patterns of behavior helps us to not only see actions but also discern motivations. Additionally, it helps one see a person’s strengths for contribution and then position them where they can contribute from these strengths. It allows a leader to select and recruit valuable team members who are complementary in their strengths to yield a well-balanced team.

Understanding that leads to godly wisdom includes what we can observe about God’s character manifesting itself in the way He interacts with people in the Bible. For example, we will realize that God makes promises, and that because of His very nature, He does not lie or change. Therefore, we understand that His promises found in Scripture can be trusted. Psalm 119:140 says, “Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them.” Our love for God’s promises (and the Promiser) will grow as we prove the promises true by seeing them fulfilled in life.

God gives understanding that can lead us to make wise decisions as Kingdom leaders.  Ask Him to give you ‘eyes to see” what is happening around you.

For more thoughts on leading with Kingdom wisdom:  Growing Kingdom Wisdom

Kingdom Wisdom’s 7 Pillars – #5

In Proverbs 9:1 we read, “Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars” (NIV 1984).  What are the seven pillars found in the house of wisdom?

We find them listed for us in the previous chapter in Proverbs 8:12,14 (NIV 1984):  I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretionCounsel and sound judgment are mine; I have understanding and power.  And note how verses 15 and 16 connect wisdom to leadership.

By sound judgment we mean “efficient wisdom,”1 wisdom that leads to practical application and success in problem-solving. “Sound judgment is based on the righteous character of God’s rule. The upright have sound wisdom hidden in them (Prov 2:7).”2 Sound judgment is closely linked to discernment—the ability to see strategically, discover root issues, and determine cause-and-effect relationships. Note that Solomon prayed for a “discerning heart.” This relates to a wise leader’s ability to identify leverage points that will bring about change in the best way possible and to recognize a way forward into the unknown future. It speaks of resourcefulness and competence.

The sound judgment of a leader is often seen in retrospect rather than in the moment. As Jesus reminds us, “Wisdom is justified by all her children” (Luke 7:35). The results of a decided course of action demonstrate whether that decision was a sound judgment. The path is sometimes counterintuitive and countercultural. It takes great courage for a leader to stand for God’s ways rather than compromising and aligning with the world’s ways.

Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” The world’s ways are often logical, common, politically correct, seemingly easier to follow, and may even yield short-term wins. But the world’s ways result in long-term loss. In contrast, God’s ways are often illogical (counterintuitive from a human perspective) and uncommon. Because so few people choose to follow them, God’s ways are countercultural and seemingly difficult to follow. And just because something is uncommon or difficult does not necessarily mean that it must be God’s plan. Here again, sound judgment can discern the wise way, not just any way forward.

Leaders with sound judgment differentiate between the ways of the world and the ways of God. They choose to follow the ways of God rather than conform to the normal patterns of the world.

For more thoughts on leading with Kingdom wisdom:  Growing Kingdom Wisdom

Kingdom Wisdom’s 7 Pillars – #4

In Proverbs 9:1 we read, “Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars” (NIV 1984).  What are the seven pillars found in the house of wisdom?

We find them listed for us in the previous chapter in Proverbs 8:12,14 (NIV 1984):  I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretionCounsel and sound judgment are mine; I have understanding and power.  And note how verses 15 and 16 connect wisdom to leadership.

Leaders are often looked to for advice. It is a wonderful privilege to truly help another by pointing them to the Lord and His Word as we give godly counsel. There is also a trap to avoid.

Our inflated egos often drive us to offer our own thoughts and commentary instead of His thoughts. Rather than referring others to God’s Word for the best counsel, we share our own experiences and insights without referencing the Bible. Our experiences can be used to illustrate wisdom from His Word; in fact, this real-life application builds authenticity when counseling another. But it should never substitute for God’s thoughts as recorded in Scripture.

Giving wise counsel is an art to develop. It involves listening well, asking questions for insight and discernment, trusting God for solutions to difficult problems, and walking by faith after reaching decisions. Those who mentor others must be excellent counselors — not in the clinical sense of counseling the hurting or broken but in the sense of guiding another person’s growth and development. Those who possess wisdom are often (though not always) recognized by others and thus sought after for advice.

Leaders are frequently asked to solve problems that are too difficult for another person to solve. They are frequently asked for help because they have authority to make the exception or decide between two pathways of equal validity. Counsel that will truly resolve an issue or at least move forward toward its resolution must be rooted in wisdom from above.

Not every issue is necessarily a biblical one. For example, should we open a new ministry initiative in this city or that? What makes one a better, wiser choice than another? Our strategy would have a lot to say about which city we choose. The Bible helps inform and shape our strategy and the process by which we arrive at a strategic decision, not necessarily the decision itself. But, when choosing members of a ministry-leadership team, we’d want to have some clear criteria, especially in moral behavior, because of the influence and tone they would set in the ministry. Here, the Bible clearly has a lot to say about qualifications for leadership.

Are the Scriptures informing and shaping your leadership counsel?

For more thoughts on leading with Kingdom wisdom:  Growing Kingdom Wisdom

Kingdom Wisdom’s 7 Pillars – #3

In Proverbs 9:1 we read, “Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars” (NIV 1984).  What are the seven pillars found in the house of wisdom?

We find them listed for us in the previous chapter in Proverbs 8:12,14 (NIV 1984):  I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretionCounsel and sound judgment are mine; I have understanding and power.  And note how verses 15 and 16 connect wisdom to leadership.

Discretion describes perceptiveness and cautiousness in speech and action—careful consideration of the circumstances and possible consequences of one’s actions and influence.

Discretion includes the ability to anticipate a response during an interaction and choosing words carefully as a result. It does not mean that we avoid conflict but rather that we are aware of possible responses to our words and deeds and are seeking to help, not to harm. Discretion involves emotional intelligence—the ability to monitor how our interaction is impacting all involved on an emotional level.

Jesus reminds us, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:6). Not everyone will be receptive to Kingdom truth. We must discern a person’s level of receptivity and share accordingly. We must also ensure that they are wrestling with God’s truth and not stumbling over our method of delivering this truth.

Discretion can be demonstrated by speaking, but it can also be demonstrated by remaining silent. When we do speak, we use discernment, carefully pursuing our desired impact on those around us by our choice of words.

Leaders are often asked for advice and counsel (we’ll address wise counsel in the next chapter). When giving advice, it can be so tempting to tell all we know and have experienced over our entire journey with the Lord. And we can feel so compelled to tell everything now rather than let the process of growth and maturity run its course over time. A wise and discreet person will first ask themselves: What does this person need to hear now? What you don’t say can have more impact that what you do share!

Discretion is foundational to leading with wisdom. It focuses awareness both internally and externally, keeping us conscious of our influence on those around us.

Are you using discretion in your leadership words and actions?

For more thoughts on leading with Kingdom wisdom:  Growing Kingdom Wisdom

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