#248: Gratitude is Way More Than an Attitude

It is Thanksgiving week here in America. A week in which many of us take a few days of vacation, come together with family, eat too much turkey and stuffing, and perhaps watch a football game on television.

Gratitude Attitude

But this is not how it always was.

Thanksgiving started back in 1621 when the Pilgrims gathered together to thank God for His provenance and blessing in their lives.

Our focus on Thanksgiving certainly has changed.

When I was younger, we used to celebrate Thanksgiving in schools with children dressed in handmade costumes reenacting that first Thanksgiving (including the prayers).

Television sitcoms portrayed families gathering around the Thanksgiving table and praying as they gave thanks to God.

Not to be left out, Hollywood produced full-length movies celebrating Thanksgiving. There was A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving.

Today, Thanksgiving is just another holiday sandwiched between Halloween and the real main retailer event, Christmas.

But is that all there is to it? Is it just a day where we permit ourselves to grab another helping of mashed potatoes and another piece of pumpkin pie before we curl up on the couch for a food coma nap?

Or is it time to shift our focus once again and spend time thanking God for what He has given us?

And if so, in what way should our gratitude toward God come to life?

I’d like to propose gratitude toward God is way more than an attitude.

Gratitude Is a Decision Coupled to an Action

When Jesus cured ten lepers of their disease, one of them turned back glorifying God (decision) and fell on his face giving thanks (action).

“Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him” (Luke 17:15-16).

Gratitude Draws Us Closer to God

James, writing to the Christians throughout the land admonished them saying God opposed the proud but gives grace to the humble.

“…God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

Gratitude Is an Act of Humility

Continuing, James reminds Christians to be humble because God exalts the humble.

“Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 4:10).

Gratitude is God’s Will for Us

Writing to the Thessalonians, Paul said giving thanks to God is God’s will for us.

“in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Yes, it is vital that we be thankful to God by expressing our gratitude to Him. But our gratitude is far more than an attitude. It is a decision coupled with action. It is an act of humility that draws us closer to God. And most important, gratitude is God’s will.

So, this Thanksgiving let’s celebrate God’s provenance and His blessings. Let’s not forget that our gratitude toward God is way more than an attitude!

Many Thanks to Pastor Chris Brown of North Coast Church in Vista whose sermon, “The Nine Guys Who Missed Thanksgiving” gave me the idea and foundation for this week’s blog.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. What does Thanksgiving mean to you and your family? Is your gratitude to God more than an attitude of thanksgiving?

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Category: Personal Development | Priorities

#247: Faithless Whiners and Complainers Need Not Apply

Leadership Lessons from the Lesser Known

Have you ever experienced times when you felt like you were surrounded by whiners, complainers, and people who had no faith in you or your leadership?

Faithless Whiners

Me too!

I think all of us who have been in positions of leadership for any length of time have experienced the whiners, the complainers, and the faithless.

If you think your situation was bad, imagine what Moses was going through as he led some 4 million people out of Egypt on the way to the Promised Land. They were only gone a few days, and the people started whining about one thing after another.

  • They complained about the taste of the water (Exodus 15:23).
  • They complained about being hungry (Exodus 16:2-3).
  • Then they complained about being thirsty (Exodus 17:1-4).

Despite the miracle of being led through the Red Sea, the water being purified, the mana being provided every day, and the water flowing from the rock, they doubted God and Moses.

But Not Everyone

As leaders, it sometimes seems like we are standing alone, but that is seldom the case. It wasn’t the case for Moses either.

About a year after they left Egypt, God gave Moses detailed instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25-30). But who will do all the work? Not these faithless whiners and complainers!

Yet, where God leads He provides, and God knew exactly who He wanted to build the Tabernacle. Enter Bezalel, from the tribe of Judah, whom God personally chose and appointed to supervise the work of building the Tabernacle (Exodus 31:1 & 35:30).

What made Bezalel so special? According to Exodus 35:30-34 Bezalel was:

  • Filled with the Spirit of God,
  • Skilled,
  • Intelligent,
  • Knowledgeable, and
  • Inspired.

When you think about a resume for a great leader, this is about as good as it gets!

How’s My Leadership Scorecard?

When I look in the mirror and honestly assess myself against these leadership qualifications, I feel woefully inadequate.

  • Am I as Spirit-filled as I could be? No. I often feel I should spend more time reading and studying the Scripture. I feel my prayer life is not as strong as it should be.
  • Am I skilled as I could be? Nope. I always feel like there are things I need to do to improve my skillsets.
  • Am I as Intelligent as I could be? Well, this one is out of my control. But the bigger question is, am I using what intelligence the Lord gave me in ways that honor Him?
  • Am I as knowledgeable as I could be? Again, no. As fast as the world is changing there is always something new to learn.
  • Am I inspired? Finally! Something I can say yes to! God called me to this ministry at this time in my life. I feel privileged to get up every day and do what I am doing!

So, here’s the thing. God chooses whom He chooses, but whom the Lord chooses, He qualifies (1 Thessalonians 5:24). God has called each of us to a specific work, and He has equipped us for that work.

In conclusion, the most important thing for us as Christians who are also called to leadership is

1) to be filled with the Spirit of God, and

2) to be skilled, intelligent, knowledgeable, and inspired

as we apply the gifts and talents, God has given us to our daily work and ministry.

Faithless whiners and complainers need not apply!

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. How do you rate yourself against each of the leadership characteristics God attributed to Bezalel? Are there some where you have room for improvement?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?

 

Category: Personal Development | Character

 

#246: Jesus’ Five Remarkable Tests For Leaders

One of the jobs of any good leader is to seek out and develop younger men and women to follow in our footsteps.

Leaders Tests

In the business world where I lived for most of my life the characteristics of leadership we look for in young people included attributes like knowledge of the business, technical and people skills, good judgment, and strong character.

I’ve often thought about how the attributes we tend to look for in future leaders is very different than what we see in leaders portrayed in the Bible.

That difference between man’s standards and God’s came into focus when I listened to a sermon by Pastor Bill Hybels (watch it here) that was recommended to me by a student. In this sermon, Pastor Bill identified five leadership tests Jesus used when He called Peter to be His disciple (Luke 5:1-11).

The five tests as Pastor Bill described them were 1) bias for action, 2) obedience, 3) who deserves the credit, 4) the grander vision, and 5) will you leave it all behind.

1. The Bias for Action Test (Luke 5:3)

Jesus had a large crowd gathering around him at Lake Gennesaret and knew it was an ideal time to preach the Gospel. Jesus got into Peter’s boat and told him to row out into the lake. Peter put down his nets, got into the boat, and rowed into the lake.

Passing the Test. Jesus saw an opportunity to minister to the people and to pass the Bias for Action test Peter needed to respond immediately. This was not a time for Peter to say, “Well, Jesus, I’m a tired right now. I’ve been out on this boat fishing all day, I still have to fix my nets and get them ready for tomorrow, and then I need to get home and have dinner!”

2. The Obedience Test (Luke 5:4)

When Jesus had finished preaching, He told Peter to row further out into the lake and throw out his nets for a catch. Peter started out with an excuse, “I’ve been fishing all day and didn’t catch anything.” But Peter quickly recovered and agreed, saying “But because you say so, I will.”

Passing the Test. Peter’s decision to act and put out the nets to catch fish was done despite his earlier lack of success. Peter obeyed Jesus in faith, and the result was the nets were immediately filled to overflowing. So much so, they had to get help from people on the shore to help them unload all the fish.

3. The Who Deserves the Credit Test (Luke 5:8)

Peter realized the catch was miraculous. He ran and fell down before Jesus confessing his sinful nature. He knew the catch was not because of what he had done but was due to Jesus.

Passing the Test. Peter didn’t thump his chest and proclaim himself to be the greatest fisherman in all the land. He kneeled and confessed his sinfulness knowing that Jesus deserved all the credit.

4. The Grander Vision Test (Luke 5:10)

Once they managed to offload some of the fish, Jesus cast a greater vision before Peter. He told him not to be afraid, from now on he would be a fisher of men!

Passing the Test. Peter was probably a pretty good fisherman who provided for himself and his family. But Jesus’ vision for Peter was grander; Peter was to change his focus from providing for himself to the salvation of others.

5. The Leave It All Behind Test (Luke 5:11)

The final test occurred once they got to shore. Peter left everything and followed Jesus.

Passing the Test. Jesus asked Peter to leave his life of fishing behind and follow Him. Peter left his boat and his nets and followed Jesus because he believed in the grander vision.

Three Key Insights for Leaders

There are three things I think are very important and often overlooked as we read this passage.

  1. The Test Funnel. I see these tests as progressive. If we fail at one, we won’t get the next one. Jesus is looking for people who have a bias for action, will be obedient, who know the credit goes to God, who believe in the grander vision, and are willing to leave something behind to follow Him.
  2. Jesus is with us. Notice in the passage when Peter agreed to put out his nets the language changes to the plural “they” (vv. 6-7). They put down the nets. They caught a lot of fish. Their nets were breaking. We are not working alone when we are working with Jesus. I know sometimes it feels like we are battling evil by ourselves, but we are not, Jesus is right there beside us!
  3. Others will see and follow. When the catch was made, all those with them were astonished, as were Peter’s partners, James and John (vv. 9-10). Then (v. 11) they all left and followed Jesus. This is the power of effective witness. Others will see our good works and be drawn to the Father (Matthew 5:16).

When I feel God calling me, I need to be especially mindful of Jesus’ five remarkable tests for leaders. I need to remember if I fail at one test I may not have the opportunity to do a work for the Kingdom that God has called me to do. I need to remember that whenever I am working for the Kingdom, I am not working alone. And I need to remember all I do is seen by others and done well for Christ’s sake, has the power to draw others to the Father.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. How are you doing at Jesus’ five leadership tests? Do you sometimes feel like you are working alone?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?

Category: Skills | Leadership Development

#245: What Are the Five Solas Everyone Is Talking About?

OK, I admit, maybe not everyone is talking about the Five Solas. But the Solas are pretty popular among nerdy theologians, seminary professors, and more than a few pastors.

Five Solas

You see, 500 years ago, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther hammered his 95 theses onto the door of a Wittenberg church. His disputations, as they are sometimes referred to, started the Reformation which led to the emergence of the Protestant denominations that exist today.

The Solas are doctrinal statements that evolved during the early days of the Reformation and on into the 20th century. The Reformers articulated Sola Fide (faith alone) and Sola Gratia (grace alone). In 1916, Sola Scriptura (scripture alone) was added. Then in 1934, Soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone) was added. Rounding out the five Solas, Solo Christo (Christ alone) was added in 1965.

Sadly, many Christians have never heard of the Five Solas. They rarely get a mention in most pulpits on Sunday morning. It’s a shame really because our salvation and the power of what we believe as Christians are contained in these five simple Latin phrases.

Here’s a look at each of the Solas.

  1. Sola Fide (“Faith Alone”). Salvation is a free gift available to all who accept it by faith. Faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross is the only means by which we can stand justified before God.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

“Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, ‘THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH’” (Galatians 3:11).

  1. Sola Gratia (“Grace Alone”). We are all sinners and can do nothing to earn our salvation. No amount of good living cancels out the sin in our lives. Our salvation is a result of what God has done through His grace.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

  1. Sola Scriptura (“Scripture Alone”). The Scriptures are the sole source of divine authority. Man’s religion is not. Man’s traditions are not. The Scriptures are clear and contain all necessary teaching for faith and salvation.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

  1. Solo Christo (“Christ Alone”). As our mediator and high priest, Christ alone intercedes on our behalf before the Father. His finished work on the cross assures our salvation through faith in Him.

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).

  1. Soli Deo Gloria (“To the Glory of God Alone”). God alone is due the glory for our salvation, and the goal of our lives is to glorify God in all we do.

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

“Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11).

Summarizing the Five Solas, our salvation is according to Scripture alone, in Christ Jesus alone, by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, for the glory of God alone.

Paul said, speaking of the Bereans, “…they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

Let us all be like the Bereans, examining the Scriptures daily. This is how we will come to know the Father and how we will become more like Christ.

Thanks for bearing with me as we took a little bit of a departure from our usual focus on leadership this week to dive into some church history. I think it’s important, especially for us as leaders, to have an appreciation for and understanding of that which we believe.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. What do the Five Solas mean to you?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?

Category: Personal Development | Dependence on God

#244: Why “Leaders Must Be Readers” is Wrong

Harry S. Truman said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” Was Harry right, or is his statement yet another political platitude meant to tickle the ears? Well, I think he was at least partially right.

Leaders Readers

Not All Readers Are Leaders

Reading by itself doesn’t make you a leader. If it did, college students would all be leaders, and recruiters would be looking for leaders among subscribers of romance novels. No, reading by itself won’t make you into a leader.

All Leaders Are Readers

Is Harry saying there hasn’t been a leader from the dawn of time that wasn’t a reader? Probably not. The earliest known texts didn’t come on the scene until 2600 BC. So, before that, there was nothing for anyone to read!

Let’s give Harry the benefit of the doubt and assume he is referring to modern times. There are numerous native tribes around the world today who still don’t have a written language, yet they have leaders.

Apparently, there is no causal relationship between leading and reading. All leaders are not readers.

But, can reading make you a better leader? Now, I suspect, this is what Harry was really trying to get at!

Are Readers Better Leaders?

I suspect the answer to the question, “Are readers better leaders?” is, “yes.” But, not just because they read. No, the answer to why readers are better leaders lies in what they read!

Better leaders are purpose driven readers. Their reading selections are intentional. They read with the intent to improve their ability to lead.

Author Michael Hyatt wrote Five Ways Reading Makes You a Better Leader (you can read his article here). In this article Hyatt says:

  • Reading makes us better thinkers. Studies show reading helps increase our analytical skills.
  • Reading improves our people skills. Studies show understanding others through their stories helps increase our EQ (Emotional Quotient).
  • Reading helps us master communication. It helps us improve our language skills.
  • Reading helps us relax. It helps us reduce stress.
  • Reading keeps us young. It helps us stay sharp mentally.

John Coleman, writing for the Harvard Business Review (For Those Who Want to Lead, Read), noted there is a sharp decline in reading among leaders despite the many benefits for leaders who read. Coleman notes:

  • Reading can improve intelligence and lead to innovation and insight.
  • Reading increases verbal intelligence, making a leader a more adept and articulate communicator.
  • Reading can improve empathy and understanding of social cues, allowing a leader to better work with and understand others.
  • Reading can make you more personally effective by keeping you relaxed and improving health.

Reading has a lot of tangible benefits for a leader, but to leverage the time we spend reading we need to be purposeful about our reading choices.

Becoming a Purpose Driven Reader

Time is limited. To maximize the benefit of time spent reading we need to be intentional and purposeful about our reading choices.

Here are six tips to make your reading time both intentional and purposeful:

  1. Establish the reading habit. Set aside a specific block of time to read, and put it on our calendar like any other appointment or commitment. For some folks this is early morning, for others, it’s their lunch hour. Still others find the evenings a perfect time to dive into a book.
  2. Read a variety of genres. If you are a business person step out and try reading a biography, a history book, or go crazy and read some Shakespeare! Be intentional about your selections.
  3. Apply what you read. Whether the book is specific to your industry or not, look for ways to apply what you are reading to your work. Get out your sticky notes and your highlighter. Make notes in the margins if you want, but take action on key points you discover as you read.
  4. Read with others. This might be something as formal as a book club or just a friend who agrees to read along with you. The benefit comes from the accountability and the discussions you’ll have about what you’re reading.
  5. Share the fun. If leaders grow by being intentional, purposeful readers then share the fun with co-workers. It’s a great way to build the depth of your organization.
  6. Relax and enjoy. Have some fun. Relax. Yes, be intentional and purposeful, but don’t forget to have some fun along the way!

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Are you a reading leader? What have you read recently that inspired you in some way?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?

 

Category: Personal Development | Self-Discipline

#243: What Kind of Leader Will Defend Their Principles?

Leadership Lessons from the Lesser Known

The first time I stepped into an ocean I was probably 13-years old. I was only in the water up to my knees but as the tide went out the pull of the water nearly sucked my feet out from under me.

Leader Principles

I found to stand up I needed to dig my feet into the sand and anticipate the pull of the water. Otherwise, I could not stand against the pull of the tide.

Leaders often find themselves in a similar situation. The pull of popular opinion sucks at your feet threatening to pull you under unless you are firmly rooted in your principles.

How often in the last few years have you listened to a politician say one thing while he/she is running for office and then say something else once they are elected? How quickly do they change their tune when polling data goes against them? They excuse their changed minds and lack of principles while claiming their “thinking has matured.”

Their behavior begs the question, “Is there a point at which a leader must dig in and stand against the pull of popular opinion in defense of their principles?”

Yes, I believe there are times when leaders must be willing to stand against popular opinion. It is whenever men defy God’s principles.

One such example comes from a young prophet named Micaiah. His story is recorded in 1 Kings 22.

Micaiah Stands Firm

King Jehoshaphat of Judah had foolishly aligned himself with King Ahab of Israel against the king of Syria, King Aram. Before attacking Aram, Ahab called for 400 prophets to discern the will of God, and all of the prophets told him to go ahead and attack Aram.

Jehoshaphat asked for a real prophet of God, so Ahab reluctantly suggested they consult Micaiah.

Messengers sent to Micaiah told him all the other prophets had unanimously told the kings to attack Aram and suggested he should fall in line with the other prophets.

When Micaiah was brought before the two kings, he sarcastically told the two kings to attack Aram. But King Ahab told Micaiah to swear to tell the truth of what the Lord had told him.  Micaiah then told the two kings all the other prophets had lied to them; the Lord had revealed they would be defeated and their armies scattered.

As a result of opposing all 400 of the prophets and telling the truth of what the Lord had revealed, Micaiah was turned over to a jailor and put in prison where he was to remain until after the battle.

The two kings proceed to wage war against Aram. Just as Micaiah had prophesied Ahab was killed, and the armies of Israel and Judah were defeated.

Stand Firm Against the Tide

Imagine the pressure Micaiah felt as he stood before the kings of Israel and Judah surrounded by 400 prophets. Every eye is on him. It certainly would have been easier to say what they wanted to hear. Instead, Micaiah’s message opposed 400 prophets. He called them out as liars, and told God’s truth regardless of the consequences.

As leaders, we must be willing to stand firm for God’s principles. We must, as Micaiah was, be willing to oppose the wisdom of the world regardless of the consequences. This kind of courage is the mark of a real leader.

I wonder if Paul had this in mind when writing to the Ephesians. He told them, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:11-12).

Let us join together as leaders with our feet firmly planted in God’s Word. Let us put on the whole armor of God that we might stand against the tide of popular opinion that opposes God and His righteousness!

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Are you the kind of leader who stands firm on your principles against those who oppose God regardless of the consequences?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?

 

Category: Personal Development | Leader Qualifications

 

#242: An Instructive Letter from My Back-to-the-Future Self

In the Back to the Future trilogy, Marty McFly travels back in time and then into the future using a time-traveling DeLorean. I loved that DeLorean. It was a great looking car, but more importantly, it enabled Marty to go back in time. Marty could see where his younger self went wrong and helped him straighten out his life.

Back to the future

I don’t have a DeLorean, much less the specially equipped version that enables time travel. But that doesn’t mean I can’t get advice from my older self.

And you can as well—that is, get advice from your older self.

I just finished reading David Green’s (Hobby Lobby founder & CEO) book, Giving It All Away…And Getting It All Back Again. At the end of his book, Green suggests having your 80-year-old self, write your younger self an instructive, yet loving, letter explaining what it means to live a meaningful life.

What a great idea!

My Back to the Future Letter

It’s a bit like traveling back in time to advise your younger self. My 80-year-old self wrote an instructive letter to my 40-year old self. This letter included five key points that frame what I consider important elements of living a meaningful life:

1) To have a great marriage that honors God. Barb and I stood before God in 1980 and made a promise to each other. The older I get, the more precious she is to me, and the more important that promise has become.

2) To raise my daughter to use her gifts and talents to serve God. I can’t think of anything more important than raising a child who loves Christ and dedicates her life to serving Him.

3) To raise my special needs son in a way that helps him be all he can be. God entrusted this special boy’s care to me. It is incumbent on me to reflect Gods love to him and help him grow into a loving and considerate young man.

4) To use my gifts and talents to serve God wherever He places me. Who knows where God will lead me over the span of years He has allotted to me? Wherever God leads, I will use the gifts and talents He has given me to serve Him.

5) To be a faithful steward of the resources the Lord provides. The resources the Lord has placed at my disposal need to be invested carefully and faithfully to advance the Great Commission.

My younger self’s view of a meaningful life included different things like “be successful in business” and “save a lot of money to enjoy a comfortable retirement.”

Mind you; there is nothing wrong with being successful in business or saving money for retirement. The Bible supports both (Proverbs 12:11, Proverbs 6:6-8).

But my 80-year-old self realizes there are fewer years ahead of him than behind him. From this perspective, being successful in business and saving money for retirement is just not as important.

It is far more important to raise children who live lives that honor God and for my own life to be a Godly example to them.

My life journey has been a long way from perfect. Looking back on my 66 years, I realize I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way. I wish my 40-year old self had gotten this letter sooner. But if I take the advice of my 80-year old self now and focus on these five things I will one day stand before the Lord having lived a meaningful life.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. What advice would your older self give you? How would that advice change how you live your life today?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?

 

Category: Personal Development | Values

 

#240: Here’s Another Nice Mess You’ve Gotten Me Into!

Will God Still Use Me When I Mess Up?

“Here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into!” is a catch phrase popularized by Laurel and Hardy in nearly 20 of their movies that released in the 1930’s and 40’s. Laurel was continually getting the hapless pair into some kind of trouble and Hardy’s response was always “Here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into!”

Mess Up

The times may have changed, but it seems we still manage to get ourselves and others into some kind of mess or another on a regular basis.

The question on the mind of many Christians, especially those in leadership positions, is, “Will God still use me even if I mess up?”

The apostle Paul wrestled with this very question. He said, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:15, 19).

Will God Still Use Me?

Looking at some examples from the Old Testament it’s clear that God is a God of second chances, continuing to use those who mess up while following Him.

Adam & Eve. There’s that whole eating the apple issue against God’s command (Genesis 3). While there were consequences to their actions, God still used them to populate the world.

Jacob. Jacob deceived his father and took advantage of his brother, but God still used him (Genesis 25). God made a covenant with Jacob and Jacob became the father of the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 28).

Moses. Moses killed an Egyptian and buried him in the desert (Exodus 2). Then there is the issue of not following God’s command regarding speaking, not striking, the rock to get water (Numbers 20). Despite these transgressions, God used Moses to deliver His people out of Egypt to the Promised Land.

There are also several examples of God using people who messed up in the New Testament. Three of the most prominent examples are from Peter, James, and John, Jesus’ own disciples.

Peter #1. Peter rashly cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the High Priest (John 18). Jesus rebuked Peter telling him to put away his sword and then healed Malchus’ ear.

Peter #2. When Jesus warns the disciples they will all fall away from him that night; Peter declares that he will never deny Jesus. Peter goes so far as to say he will die with Jesus (Matthew 26). Then, as predicted, Peter denies Jesus three times before the next morning.

Peter #3, James & John. Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him into the Garden of Gethsemane and asked them to stay awake and keep watch while he prayed (Matthew 26). Three times Jesus checked on them, and three times they had failed to stay awake and keep watch.

These men were Jesus’ disciples. They had been with him for the three years of his earthly ministry. They had been personally discipled by Jesus. They had witnessed His miracles. They had performed miracles themselves in the power of His name.

Despite sitting at the feet of the Lord, they messed up. They made mistakes. Yet, the Lord continued to use them.

An Ongoing Struggle

We can sense Paul’s angst in the Romans 7 passage. He wants to do so much better, to be better as a follower of Christ. Yet, he struggled to do the good he knows he should do.

This same theme emerges again in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:

For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me (1 Corinthians 15:9-10).

Despite all he has accomplished in the furtherance of the Kingdom, Paul says he is unworthy because of his past actions.

Yet, and this is most important, Paul realizes what has been done was done by God’s grace and the Holy Spirit working through him.

Leaders, we will mess up. We will never be the powerful, inspired leaders God intends us to be until we come to grips with our weaknesses and failures. We must, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:10, submit our weaknesses to God, then we are strong.

It is God’s will that we are made holy, conformed to His image (2 Corinthians 3:18b).

God does not condone our failures; He redeems them when we submit to Him. Because, as Paul said, God began a good work in us, and He will continue this work in us until we are united with Christ once again (Philippians 1:6).

So, no matter what mess you’ve gotten yourself into, submit your messiness to the Lord, and humbly ask Him to continue the process of making you into His glorious image.

There is much work left to be done, and you and I have a part to play in the Kingdom.

Many thanks to Pastor Doug Fields who gave me permission to adapt his wonderful sermon into this blog post. If you liked the post it’s because of him. If you didn’t like it, it’s all on me!

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you ever questioned how God could use you after you made a mess of things? Do you see how God can continue to use you when you submit to Him?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?

 

Category: Personal Development | Character

 

#236: Are These Trials at Work Good for Me?

In the margin of my performance review, one boss wrote, “RRK’s sense of integrity sometimes gets in the way of getting things done.” He concluded the review saying if I didn’t quit he would find a way to fire me.

Trials at work

Another boss made grand promises and sweet-talked me into joining his organization, only to renege on all his promises within two years.

Everyone I know whose career has spanned a number of years have some kind of stories of workplace trials like these. Some, sad to say, are much worse.

Can these workplace trials possibly be good for me? For us?

According to James, yes! James says these workplace trials are good for us, and furthermore, he says, we should expect them!

James, writing to the people of Israel, said, “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials” (James 1:2).

Was James on some form of ancient happy juice?

He says they should be joyful whenever they experience trials? And what kind of trials is he talking about? James says these are trials that will test our faith.

Well, the Israelites had been kicked out of their land and dispersed throughout the Roman empire. So, they lost all their land, their cities, and their ability to provide for their families. They had to start over with nothing in hostile territories.

Admittedly, the workplace isn’t exactly like what James is talking about when he says we should be joyful when we encounter trials. But some of our workplaces are becoming more and more hostile territories!

What kind of trials can we expect in the workplace that will test our faith?

Types of Workplace Trials

I see three broad categories of trials:

1) People openly hostile to our Christian beliefs. These trials range from simple prejudice to limitations on career growth, or even threats of physical violence.

2) Ethical trials. These trials include our own temptation to abandon our faith and compromise our beliefs to “succeed.” They may also be pressure from outsiders to compromise our beliefs.

3) Faith shaking events. Sometimes the workplace trials we face may come events that shake our faith. Promises made are broken. We are laid off. We question how God could let these events happen to us, His faithful servants.

Each of these types of trials can test our faith and they are the ones James says we should be joyful about enduring!

The Result of Enduring

Why in the world would James say that? Because, says James, of the result. If we can manage to withstand all types of trials and maintain our faith in God, the result is endurance. When we can look back on the trials of life and see that God was always with us, this endurance helps us become spiritually mature, complete children of God (James 1:3-4).

That boss that wrote my integrity got in the way of getting things done? An executive who heard about the situation (I still don’t know how he heard) offered me a better job in a better market.

That led to me living in a neighborhood where my wife and I were led to the Lord. It’s where we met people who helped us adopt our beautiful daughter, Rebekah. That boss may have meant to harm me, but looking back, I see God’s hand directing it all to the benefit of our family.

That boss that made promises and reneged on them led me to start writing this blog reaching out to Christians leaders around the world. It may be years before I see all of God’s plan with this ministry, but one thing is clear, His hand is in it. He is in control!

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. What workplace trials have you endured? And looking back, do you see God’s hand leading and protecting you?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?

 

Category: Personal Development | Character

 

#235: Will God Still Use Me If I Mess Up?

Have you ever encountered someone doing something dumb during a crisis and you thought to yourself, “What in the World Was He/She Thinking?”

Jonah Mess Up

Sadly, as I look back on my life I can remember too many situations where I didn’t do what I should, and afterward said to myself, “What in the world was I thinking?”

When I became a Christian at 33-years old, these “What in the world was I thinking?” situations took on even more meaning. I thought, “Boy, I really messed up this time! Will God still use me?”

It turns out there are quite a few people whose story of messing up is recorded in the Bible.

One of the big mess up’s is Jonah.

Jonah’s Big Mess Up

Jonah was a prophet of God. His job was to bring God’s messages to whomever God told him. God spoke directly to Jonah and directed him to go to Nineveh to preach a message of repentance to the Ninevites.

God said, “Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because their wickedness has confronted Me” (Jonah 1:2). There is no ambiguity in this command. Jonah, get up and go preach to the Ninevites.

What does Jonah do? He thumbs his nose at God and jumps on the closest ship headed in the opposite direction. Jonah rebelled against God.

How often does God call us and we rebel, and head off in the opposite direction?

God caused a big storm on the sea that threatened to sink the ship. Jonah realized the storm was his fault, so the sailors on the ship ended up throwing Jonah overboard.

How often do storms come into our life after we rebel against God?

But here is the amazing thing. Despite his rebellion against God, God hasn’t abandoned Jonah. God is watching out for him. God has a large fish swallow Jonah, and Jonah has an uncomfortable three days in the belly of the fish to think about what his rebellion has cost him.

Jonah’s Redemption

Jonah finally prays to God asking to be saved and forgiven. He repents of his rebellion.

Immediately God forgives him and has the fish vomit Jonah up on the shore. Hopefully, Jonah grabs a shower somewhere and puts on a clean set of clothes because God is not done with Jonah yet!

God speaks to Jonah a second time saying,Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach the message that I tell you” (Jonah 3:2).

With this command, God has restored Jonah to his previous mission, to go and preach to the people of Nineveh.

This time Jonah does what God has told him to do. Jonah puts on his big boy pants and heads off to preach against the dreaded Ninevites.

Jonah rebelled against God. He refused to do the one thing God had called him to do.

Jonah repented of his rebellion against God and prayed for a second chance.

God restored Jonah.

I have rebelled against God. At times, I have refused to do what I feel He has called me to do. But I take comfort knowing that if I repent of my rebellion, like Jonah, God in His mercy will restore me. He will give me a second chance to do His will.

I take great comfort knowing that those future “What in the world was I thinking?” mess ups don’t mean that God is done with me or that He won’t use me. It just means I need to get back to Him as quickly as I can!

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you had, “What in the world was I thinking?” mess ups in your life? Have you repented of your rebellion and been restored by God?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?

 

Category: Personal Development | Obedience to God