As a not-for-profit founder and men’s ministry leader I’ve had my shares of ups and downs. From the victory of watching male mentors spirits being awakened to the Christ-like Warriors they truly are to the agony of failing my board of directors, family and friends in my capacity to lead courageously and fearlessly.
I recently discovered while reading God’s word one particular leadership quality that’s taken the past eighteen months to conquer, that is, the quality of trust. Not the trust I put in others, nor the trust they put in me but rather yet the very trust I put in God himself to lead me where I need to go. The trust I need afford Him to lead me in what I do. Solid faith in Him to deliver me beyond my capacities.
It came while reading Jeremiah 42
In response to Ishmael, the son of Nethaniah, who was going on a power hunger killing spree Johanan, son of Kareah, and his army’s officers muster up a force to come against Ishmael. They meet Ishmael near the pool at Gibeon where Ishmael’s captives somehow come over to Johanan. Amazingly, Ishmael and eight of his men escape.
In view of Ishmael’s power Johanan’s group of captains strongly feel they should return to Egypt. Maybe it was their fears, affections or very own politics pushing them to return home – we simply don’t know.
In a bold and transparent move they make a bargain with the prophet Jeremiah about calling upon God to advise them in their own matters. In doing so, they cough up two incredible things:
- First, they have no idea what to do – they are clueless.
- Second, they commit to being content with God’s answer, good or bad – they are at the very least a bit faithful.
Jeremiah obliged them saying:
“I have heard you,” replied Jeremiah the prophet. “I will certainly pray to the Lord your God as you have requested; I will tell you everything the Lord says and will keep nothing back from you.”
True to form, Jeremiah holds nothing back. Upon hearing from God he answered them. Through Jeremiah God answered their question with the following details:
- They were commanded and encouraged to continue prospering in the land of Judah.
- They were given the assurance that if they did it would go well with them.
- They were forbidden to return to Egypt.
- They were explicitly told should they do so did it would be to their ruin.
As a leader reading this, I’ve came up with two simultaneous responses, “Ouch and Thank You”. Maybe that should be, “Thank you” then “Ouch”? For as many of us in leadership know, sometimes the best lessons come at the end of a greasy 2×4’s recoil off the top of our heads. In the blunt delivery a truth is absorbed, but at the cost of a painful experience.
Hopefully as a Christian leader you’re beginning to see the parallel in your own leadership journey. If not, let me get as real, transparent and vulnerable with you as possible to help it come into full view.
First, Johanan see’s an injustice going on with Ishmael so he musters up a force to come against Ishmael. Have you ever seen something wrong, something needing attention and it caused in you a response to take up an effort to provide justice or safety? Maybe it was with others or something in your own life.
Second, Johanan’s top officers get a little shaky saying, “Maybe we should simply to return to Egypt”. Have you ever experienced something similar? Wherein you start to realize you’re in over your head, your task looks insurmountable or you have doubts and consider, “Maybe I ought to do things like I’ve always done before?”
Third, being honest with themselves they seek God’s counsel and submit, whether the news is good or bad, they’ll accept it. Come now, as a leader have you really, I mean really, had the intestinal fortitude to go before God on really big matters and say, “OK, God, good or bad, I’ll accept your answer to my prayer.” (Marinate on that one)
Fourth, in Chapter 43 when Jeremiah delivers the final detail to Johanan and the prophecy of exactly what he and his leaders are to do their response is bone-chillingly painful. In a stark about face they flat out ignore the deal they just made to accept the word of God, good or bad. Yelling at Jeremiah they say, “You are Lying!” How bout you? Have you been delivered a response from God, a truth you know as a leader you should follow, but you disobey and in your spirit, tell God the same, that He is lying by way of your response?
I submit, I’ve done this my friends.
My ability to succeed/fail in this area comes from the leadership quality to trust (Psalm 3:5-6). As leaders God has stationed us with the unique ability to move forward in Him and Him alone. We are to trust where He has planted us and He has made it complete with instructions on what to do.That is, if we simply seek Him with an earnest and open heart.
For me, I’ve dropped the ball in this area and failed a test of leadership when I’ve sought God through the counsel of wise men, gone to God in prayer, had clear and concise conviction on knowing what I should do – in full light of the consequence – only to find myself resorting to my old ways and the arm of the flesh (Oh how I longed for a return to Egypt…) I’ve felt the pain of being found out by the King of Babylon, suffering destruction for my distrust. Don’t go there as my friend.
Here’s my advice to you if your questioning God what to do next:
- Prosper where you are at, where God has you firmly placed.
- If you do, God promises it will go well for you.
- DO NOT return to Egypt (Layman’s terms – don’t resort to the old way of doing things in YOUR power)
- Should you do that, it leads to RUIN every time.
Think about it…