We have identified ten patterns of healthy thinking; core habits of the mind that come from inward divine life and lead to fruitful outward action.
The last several Letters introduced the first: looking at God. The continuous experience of inward union with Christ is the source and center of all other healthy thinking behaviors. This is an inward choice to look at Him, by His Spirit.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18, ESV)
Union with Christ is the living nucleus of transformational thinking; every other aspect of our thinking, and our lives, must revolve around this – around Him.
…If a man abides in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
When we live out of His inward life, we will have His enabling, His presence, His victory, and we will pursue the highest. This is the second habit of transformational thinking: passion for the highest. The healthy leader will strive to grow, to solve, to build, to overcome – always pushing, pressing on, moving forward to fulfill God’s highest purposes.
And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father… (Col. 1:10-12)
This is an inward growth orientation, a decision to move forward, a choice to act with purpose expecting growth, ultimate victory and fruitfulness. This comes directly from looking at God.
…If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom. 8:31)
God created the universe – there is nothing too hard for Him!
Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. (Jer. 32:17)
Transformational thinking chooses to believe that whatever great things God has done in the past, there is still more! There is always more! And we’re going to have it!
Not Just Half Full
We commonly recognize two kinds of thinking: “the cup is half empty” or “the cup is half full.” There is a third option: “whatever the cup is now, it’s going to be full… and running over!”
This is an inward choice, an inner discipline of transformational thinking – to always look for growth, for positive change, for impact. To choose to think that it can – in fact, it will – be better in the future. We will grow, we will build, we will overcome, we will be fruitful – by God’s grace and for His glory.
And even if we fail, we will still succeed – somehow! Even if it’s not better, it will be better – somehow! Even if we die, we will live again!
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. (Dan. 3:17-18)
…Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. (Phil. 1:20)
We Will Take the Land!
Caleb was a transformational thinker. He had a compelling growth orientation:
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. (Josh. 14:12)
In the wilderness, both Caleb and Joshua chose to believe God’s promise about the land, in spite of the giants:
…We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it. (Num. 13:30)
God considered Caleb to have followed Him “wholeheartedly.”
[Caleb] will see [the land], and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the LORD wholeheartedly. (Deut. 1:36; cf. Num. 32:12)
Thus, transformational thinking is not content with merely thinking the right things; it will act, it must act. And it will act with confidence, with boldness. Transformational thinking expects victory, chooses victory. “If God is for us, who can be against us? We will not be defeated!”
Beyond Human Motivation
A passion for the highest is the choice to believe God, to expect God to do what He promised. This is not mere human positive thinking. A healthy growth orientation comes from the inward presence of God and it is directed to His purposes. It is based on the faithfulness, power and passionate forward-moving vision of God. Thus, the outward effectiveness of our leadership will never exceed the quality of our inner life in God. Without the first habit of transformational thinking – looking at God – an inward growth orientation will be mere human energy, fleshly passion, the hype of self-confidence.
From the presence of God in their hearts – out of inward union with Christ – healthy leaders are infused with divine vision. As they grow in Christ, increasingly they think as God thinks, they see as God sees. They move ahead believing, trusting, hoping – always pushing, anticipating, expecting. They serve a living God!
…the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. (Rom. 4:17)
Healthy leaders see the great potential that God has placed all around them. They see the gifts, talents and callings of their coworkers. Even in impossible circumstances, healthy leaders see divine opportunities. Even in death, they believe God will bring life. They have an inward growth orientation; they choose to believe in victory. They have a passion for the highest!
A Biblical Pattern
The Bible is filled with such thinking. Jesus epitomized a growth orientation, a passion for the highest. He looked at the lowly group of disciples around Him and He saw the transformation of the nations:
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations… Therefore go and make disciples of all nations… (Matt. 24:14; 28:19)
Paul looked at the church of his day – wrestling with sin, error and division, sometimes up and many times down – yet he saw a mature, unified, spotless bride in the future; he saw a radiant church!
…Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Eph. 5:25-27; cf. 3:16-19; 4:12-16; John 17:21-22)
Healthy leaders believe God for His best. They want to turn around a dying church or failing business, or start up some new radical ministry or entrepreneurial venture, or revolutionize an existing process. They want to mobilize others in the face of strong inertia or resistance. They may not change the entire world, but they passionately pursue making a significant difference. They are not content merely to scrape through. Leaders want to transform; they are not content merely to maintain. Leaders lead. With boldness, they go first. They begin the quest for a new order. They plunge into new, sometimes dangerous, and always unpredictable territory. They take us to places we’ve never been before, and probably could never find on our own. Their faith compels us. Their vision urges us, empowering us, insisting that we follow.
From inward union with Christ, transformational thinking has a passion for the highest!
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:12-14)
Next Letter: The Two Critical Responsibilities of the Leader