Apr 2014

True Leadership is Forged in the Fire

Many biblical leaders such as Joseph, Moses, David and Paul were built in the fire of suffering.

You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings – what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, (2 Tim. 3:10-12)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. (2 Cor. 1:3-5)

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; see also 4:7-12; 11:21-29; )

These are the ways of God: healthy leaders are built – and lead – in the fires of suffering.

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”… (Matt. 20:20-22)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (Jam. 1:2-4; cf. Ps. 119:71)

… we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character… (Rom. 5:3-4)

As Abigail Adams wrote to her son John Quincy:

These are the times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman.

Or, in the words of Helen Keller:

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.

Intentionally Introducing Pressure into Leader Development

Jesus used pressure to refine the character of His disciples. Mark 6 gives an example:

When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. (Mark 6:47-48)

Jesus allowed His disciples to struggle against the wind for nine hours – from “evening” (about 6 PM) to the “fourth watch” (about 3 AM)! He could have stopped the storm at any time, but He sat and watched them go through it.

Jesus used pressure to mold His disciples both actively (creating situations of pressure) and passively (taking advantage of circumstances). An effective leader development process will do the same.

While the learning community itself should be a relational haven of peace and blessing, at the same time it should not be exempted from the rigors of having to trust God for the practical necessities of life and ministry. For example, the builder should not bear all the financial responsibility for any learning community by himself, but should allow the emerging leaders to help him carry the load of trusting God for daily financial provision. Accordingly, the disciples stood with Jesus in faith for provision. He didn’t shelter them (e.g., Matt. 17:27; Mark 6:35-37).

In addition, we should not shield emerging leaders from unpleasant or difficult circumstances, such as:

  • personal or family traumas
  • intense spiritual warfare
  • persecution for their faith
  • leadership rejection
  • career setbacks involving demotions and missed promotions
  • relational conflicts
  • leadership mistakes, in which bad judgment and poor decisions lead to failure
  • having to deal with problem subordinates (one of the most dreaded of all leadership responsibilities)

Allowing them to go through hardship will teach emerging leaders many things, such as:

  • reliance on God
  • deeper submission to God’s will
  • responding with grace and forgiveness, instead of bitterness and anger
  • sensitivity to others
  • coping with personal rejection
  • coping with events beyond one’s own control
  • personal limits
  • integrating family responsibilities and ministry responsibilities
  • endurance

Naturally, we cannot expect to deal with every issue or problem in the emerging leader’s life during the training period. However, during this time the young leader will become better prepared to deal with his own struggles later on:

  • He will learn how to turn his heart to God for help (2 Cor. 1:9).
  • He will learn how to establish relational webs of nurture, support and accountability that he will hopefully maintain for the rest of his life.
  • He will learn how to open his heart and life to others around him, becoming vulnerable and honest.
  • He will learn how to receive help from others.

 

Mar 2014

Jesus Showed Us the Path of Suffering

Leaders are built through fire. Godly leaders know that sufferings can build spiritual maturity, brokenness and genuine faith in God; thus, they do not shy away from the cross in their lives.

Accordingly, Jesus showed the way of suffering to the leaders He was building. He personally demonstrated sufferings to them:

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Feb 2014

Leaders Are Built Through Fire

Leaders are built through fire – like steel is made hard in the fire, like gold is purified in the furnace, like carbon is formed under pressure into diamonds.

Pressure reveals the impurities in one’s life so they can be dealt with. It is far better to put the emerging leader under pressure before he is given significant responsibility and authority than to wait until the time when failure under pressure will destroy both the leader and those with him. Therefore, the leader development process can intentionally put the participants under a certain amount of pressure to squeeze heart contaminations to the surface so they can be revealed, confronted and removed.

Significantly, the formation of diamonds from carbon requires three things: (1) extreme pressures, 100 miles or more deep under the earth’s surface, (2) high temperatures, 2000 °F or more, and (3) time, diamonds are formed very slowly.

Of course, this is not only true for leaders; this is how God deals with all of us. He has always used suffering as a vital part of the Christian life.-

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Jan 2014

Jesus is the Source of Everything

Everything is in Jesus. Do not seek anything outside of Jesus. He died on the cross to restore you to Himself.

Jesus did not die just so that you may live a righteous, ethical life; He died to restore you to Himself, and in union with Him your heart will be captivated by the beauty and invigorated by the power of Divinely-imparted holiness. He did not die that you might be bound with a life of religious busyness and duty; He died to bring you to Himself that you may know the delightful privilege of living every moment in His gracious fellowship and zealous service.

So let Him be your desire; purely to behold and to know Him your longing. Be captivated with Him; and not just so you will receive anything from Him or can do anything for Him. But seek communion with Him simply because He is precious. Worship Him merely because He is God and you are man. Let Him become your song just because He is worthy. Long for Him for His own sake. Hunger for Him for no motive other than Him. Thirst for Him because only He can ever satisfy.

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Dec 2013

It’s All in Him!

Jesus is the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Our personal experiential knowledge of Him and our faith in Him are inseparable. Faith that is purely academic, consisting in nothing more than mental assent with Scriptural principles that may in themselves be sound, is not authentic faith and in times of trial and testing it will eventually fail. A true faith will triumph and abide forever, and it is only present in the hearts of those who know Him, to whom faith is not a requirement nor duty but a privilege.

Abide in me, as I also abide in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must abide in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you abide in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)

Before we can expect to see the growth of Christian character, fruit and leadership in our lives, we must first encounter God. We must first come to know Jesus inwardly and personally. Anything else is false, external religion and a worthless substitute for Christian reality. Anything else will never satisfy: either us or God. Anything else is of no value.

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Nov 2013

We Need Real Christians; We Need Real Leaders!

We do new Christians the gravest of injustices when we teach them how to “play the part” of a Christian without giving them the inward reality of experience of Jesus Christ. We teach them how to act “holy”, how to live “righteously”, and how to talk “faith”, and then require it all of them. But unless we have in truth actually led them to Jesus Christ who will be the only true inward Source of all these fruits, we have only succeeded in teaching them how to imitate the Christian life, and have not at all helped them to become real Christians. We have taught them how to display the outward forms of godliness all the while neglecting the inward power thereof. We have done little more than to bring them into religious captivity.

This produces several classes of Christians. On the one hand are those who play along with the game, mouthing all the right things and learning how to climb the religious ladder of church acceptance and respectability – “professional Christians”. They become expert at making the right moves, and all their spiritual exercise is stereotyped and based on approved convention rather than simply being the outgushing of a genuine fellowship with God. They profess spirituality, but possess very little. Others will see and hear their Christian lives but no-one will feel them. As one brother said, “You can’t get warm by a painted fire!” Their hearts are empty, and their lives barren, while outwardly they smile and play the part. Unfortunately, these self-motivated souls are often the ones who end up as leaders in the world of organized religion.

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Oct 2013

Union with Christ is the Source of All True Leadership

Christianity is the restoration of man to fellowship and union with His God. Out of this inward union, the Christian life grows. Out of this partaking of the life of Christ Himself, is generated that same life within the believer:

unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you… Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live by the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live by me. (John 6:53, 56-57)

In our own strength and ability we cannot reproduce His life and image in our lives – but He can! Man, in himself, is not able to live a life that is holy, righteous and faithful, and therefore pleasing to God; but the Christian life comes easily and naturally to the life of Christ. “There is none good but One, that is, God.” (Mark 10:18) When His life abides within, godly outward actions will follow.

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Sep 2013

The Christian Life and Leadership Are in Jesus!

The Christian Life and Leadership Are in Jesus!

The Christian life is in Jesus. The Christian life is Jesus Christ. It is a living union and communion with Him. It is a daily experience of inward fellowship with Him, out of which everything else flows.

Unfortunately, the church today is filled with goals that fall far below this great purpose. But if we will set our face toward the single pursuit of the personal knowledge of Jesus, we will discover that it is an all-embracing pursuit.

Our pre-eminent call is to God. He is the highest and the all-encompassing call to the Christian. He is our salvation. He is our life (Col. 3:4). To know Him is our goal, our ultimate purpose. And when we have Him, we have all He is. When we have Him, we have everything. Eternal salvation, healing, deliverance, eternal security, peace, joy, holiness, righteousness, faith, the fruits of the Spirit, leadership, vision, ministry fruitfulness, spiritual strength and power – all are in Him. Do not seek for anything outside of Him. In Him we are complete, and can do all things – and without Him we are empty, and can do nothing.

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Aug 2013

Our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3)

In the beginning of the first chapter of his first epistle, John sets forth his principal motivation in preaching the Gospel. And it was not his motivation only, but it has been that of all true servants of God, then and since.

What could this motivation be to cause these men to endure hardships, persecutions, beatings, stonings, imprisonments, journeys, perils, shipwrecks, misunderstandings, betrayals, weariness, painfulness, watchings, hunger and thirst, fastings, cold and nakedness? What could this passion be that those consumed by it would forsake all worldly fortune, pleasure and pursuit in seeking to take the Gospel to others? Surely it must be their concern for man’s deliverance from an eternal hell? Surely no other purpose could justify such sufferings as the true servants of God have experienced historically? But, no, this was not their primary motivation.

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Jul 2013

The Purpose of Biblical Knowledge is That We May Know Him!

Our knowledge of the Word of Truth has many God-ordained purposes, some of which are as follows. Firstly, our knowledge of the Word of God, by the revelation of the Holy Spirit, should lead us into the personal experience and knowledge of God.

We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true… (1 John 5:20)

Then, our knowledge of the Word will help us to understand and articulate that experience.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

Finally, our knowledge will guard our experience by protecting us from false influences.

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! (Gal. 1:8; see also Acts 17:11; Ps. 19:11a; 119:11)

But our knowledge was never intended to supplant our experience.

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