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Jesus’ parting words and Hebrews 12: how to soldier on leader.

Leaders know about resistance, criticism, even rejection.

In a way, a leader is like a lightning rod – he/she sticks out and attracts both the praise and the electrical charges that come in a storm. There is plenty of good wisdom out there about this reality.

But what struck me as I listened to Scripture today in John 15 is how Jesus prepared his disciples for what was coming when he would no longer be physically with them.

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”

As with most of what Jesus said, this probably sounded enigmatic to them. The crowds were just hailing him as he entered Jerusalem. Sure, there were the nasty religious leaders; but they are too uptight and laden with layers of professionalism and public persona to unwind enough to ‘hate’ – such an intense emotion that inevitably spills over into irrational behavior!

Then Jesus explains that he is telling them this so that “they will not go astray” (16v1). He spells out for them to expect that the usual places of safety (synagogues) may turn into places of danger… and the world can get so crazy that –

“..anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.” (v3).

Yes, think ISIS. But I am afraid to say, we may need to think about the murderous activity happening within our own ranks; when we put down, defame or malign another.

 

I looked back at my journey as a follower and a leader. When have I demonstrated courage? When have I shrunk back, or worse; compromised? This reflection – necessary – is not to bring shame but to shed light.

But then I thought too: when I have spoken up or stood up, was I compelled by my love for God and my brethren or was it more about me really: my sense of justice, my need to establish my understanding of what is right, my ‘right’ to speak and fight for others?

And I am gently reminded,

“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” ~ Hebrews 12v3

I love, follow and serve a Master who knows opposition and endured it – for me. Dwelling on this infuses me with a supernatural strength that renews my courage and helps me persist. Reflecting on Jesus’ responses refines and hones my responses and tampers my heart with wisdom. I am to expect a struggle with sin – the sin within, the sin about me. The former I can repent and be cleansed; the latter I must stand and resist.

Then the writer of Hebrews continues:

“and you have forgotten..”

Forgetfulness costs us.

“you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons..”

This we seldom hear preached as divine encouragement: discipline.

We are still somewhat buzzing from the Mother’s day weekend. One of the best gifts for a mom or dad — when a child writes, “mom/dad, thanks for making me say sorry (do what’s tough, stay on the task, choose the right way).” When our children recognize what the discipline was and that at the heart of it is a love that wants the best.

Discipline in the form of deprivation, denial, (God says ‘no’), delay, even time-outs!

God did not come to your rescue soon enough?

God did not appear to defend you?

God seemed quite silent when you desperately need a word?

 

Today’s word lifts us up to the heavenly plane and calls us to see with our spiritual eyes: God has something better in store. Be encouraged, there is something more in you that will emerge and shine. Don’t lose heart. And if you are a lightning rod right now; bear the heat like a good soldier. Ask for true courage that will love God and His people.

And remember, you are a servant because you are a child of the Most High. Go to God with all your tears and rest, rest, rest.

For your ministry is but the overflow of who you are, really.

 

When it boils down to ‘me’.

With our eyes firmly in front of us, our natural gaze is outward, and ahead. We are born and raised to look out. What is going on outside of us therefore becomes the focus of our attention. We are led by what we see. Can this be the reason Jesus exhorts us to mind what we set eyes on, for it enters us and often takes root deep within us.

The eye is the lamp of the body. if your eye are good, your body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness…“~ Matt 6v22

These words are spoke in relation to the truth that whatever we set our heart on becomes our treasure; and that we were created to need a Master, and it will always have to be just one master. There is a clear connection between what we set our eyes on, what occupies our heart, and thus what we are truly serving.

What we focus on – becomes our priority – becomes our God.

This does not apply just to the prohibitive things we mustn’t allow our eyes to wander to, the temptations that lurk everywhere. Dealing with temptation is a needful part of the faith life.

But it isn’t just temptations that can rock us. Often, as leaders who feel the responsibility for others, we can be deeply affected by what we see too: frustration, a lack of zeal, sloth, division, problems of life… .

This is why in the end leadership boils down to ‘me’: we need to ask this question often: “what has my attention now?”.

In our typical problem-solving mode, what has our attention are often problems, issues, difficulties. Is it any wonder that leadership is such a tiresome thing?

We cannot escape from the reality that there are issues and challenges to work at; but we need to have a way of seeing them that will not burn us up! We need to ruthlessly deal with –

a/ wrong ideas. you may have heard common semi-truths such as “God helps those who help themselves”, “the buck stops here”, “if it’s going to be, it’s up to me”. These ideas have some kernel of truth but that’s all they have. In fact, the come from a very humanist standpoint and though they sound noble, they effectively edge the Sovereign God out of the picture.

b/ bad habits. we are when stripped to bare essentials, creatures of habits. Most of us have bad habits that simply do not help us to stay God-ward in orientation. We may fritter away time, indulge in gossip, refuse to rein in our emotions and our thoughts (often very right to us).

These cloud us and hinder us from developing healthy, God-ward perceptual capacities.

One of the best ways to develop spiritual sight is to ask questions, such as,

i. where is God in this?

ii. why am i reacting / responding like this?

Asking such questions and waiting for the answers to surface require time, discipline and solitude. But these are questions that pierce the fog and invite the rays of the sun to shine.

In that sense, it does boil down to ‘me’ – but a ‘me’ in God’s hands, before God in prayer, waiting on God for answers, knowing God carries the burden with us. This ‘me’ that is is thus led by God is better able to see, discern and decide – better a leader.

Link: A story of learning to see better: I fly away!

http://jennihh.blogspot.sg/2013/05/i-fly-awayliterally.html