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What causes good leaders to go bad? How do people who take God seriously, sometimes with the best of intentions (sometimes not), cause damage to the organizations they lead? What might Jesus’s teachings in his day have to say to us in our day about the critical ways in which we as leaders come to “behave badly”? And, perhaps most importantly, what is Jesus’s remedy?
Would you like to live in God’s country? I imagine you would. I would too. But where exactly is God’s country? Plenty of people think they can answer that question, because they claim to live in God’s country… The truth, according to Psalm 82, is that every country on earth is, in some sense, God’s country. Verse 8 reads, “Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.”
When we are set free from our “prisons,” we also join Jesus the Servant in his mission of setting others free. We share the good news of the Gospel. We stand up against oppression. We do battle in the Lord against all that keeps human beings in chains… We who have been entrusted with leadership have a particular responsibility to seek God’s justice in our places of influence.
When we acknowledge Jesus as the Servant of God, we also acknowledge that he brings God’s justice. We pray as he taught us, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We seek first the kingdom of God and his justice. And we offer ourselves in humble service to Jesus the Servant. We become servants of the Servant, ready to do his will on earth.
As the children of Israel were buffeted about by the more powerful nations of the ancient Near East, they must have sometimes felt like “a worm.” This image conjures up a sense of smallness, powerlessness, and vulnerability. Worms can’t fight back. And they are easily crushed. Yet God offered reassurance to his people. Though they may have felt like a mere worm, he was there to help them. He would redeem his people—bringing them back to their homeland, protecting them, and blessing them with his presence.
Do you feel tired and weary today? Do you worry that you might stumble and fall? Then why not put your hope in the Lord? Why not choose to wait upon him? I’m not suggesting this is always easy. It’s certainly not for me. But the promise of God through Isaiah encourages us to turn fully to the Lord, to wait for his provision, to hope in him even when we feel hopeless. God will strengthen us for all that lies ahead.
Jesus taught that the Sabbath was given to us as a gift. As often as we observe Sabbath—whether once a week, a few times a day, or on the occasional three-day weekend—we say “yes” to God for the gift of rest.
I step through the doorway onto the deck, down the stairs, and out onto the driveway, which is concrete, gritty and warm—almost hot—beneath my feet. It is the thick of summer now, and our tomatoes hang heavy on the vine, laughing at our inability to accurately predict how many tomatoes one plant will bear… On lazy days like these, when no deadlines or meetings or other commitments call, I am most assuredly drawn outside—always barefoot, a dog or two sauntering or bouncing at my heels.
Do you believe that you usually know what’s best for your life? Do you make choices based on dubious but bold confidence in yourself and your own judgments? Or, do you seek God’s truth and walk in God’s ways? Do you choose to follow the Lord, even when his guidance contradicts your own hunches? When it comes right down to it, do you really believe that you know what’s best for your life?
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we glimpsed a vision of God’s power and tender care. Yes, God has a mighty arm, which he sometimes uses to judge the guilty. But, in Isaiah 40:10-11, God’s mighty arm is used as “he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.” Yes, God is strong, stronger than anything we can imagine. Yet God is also tender, tender in ways for which our hearts yearn. As I reflect on this picture of God’s power and tenderness, I wonder if I am faithfully imitating God’s example in my leadership.
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