How easy it is for those of us who are in positions of leadership to squander our integrity at home. We appear to be people of high ethics in our workplace or public endeavors, but we may be altogether different when we’re with our family and friends or when we are alone. No matter how I live and lead in public, I ask myself what my wife and children really think of me. Do they see me as a person of integrity? Or do they know I major in hypocrisy?
Leadership formation, at least in the biblical sense, seems like a long, painful process. We live in an age of abundant, easy-to-consume leadership advice. But, as others have noted, learning about leadership is not the same as becoming a better leader… Rather, the story of Joseph reminds us that the formation of a leader’s character through suffering, often over long periods of time, is critical.
Psalm 100:3 reminds us that we belong to God: “Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” We belong to God because he made us. He made each one of us individually. And he made us to be his people together… What difference does it make that we belong to God? A huge difference, really. The fact that we belong to God can transform our lives.
I had lunch the other day with a young business colleague. He has a good job for which he expressed gratitude. Nevertheless, he struggles with a lack of intrinsic meaning and purpose in his work. He believes that work should be an expression of God’s calling in his life. Still, he couldn’t reconcile that conviction with his own lack of personal connection to his work. If God has called him to his work, shouldn’t he find meaning and purpose in that work?
Today, we explore Psalm 98. Almost three centuries ago, this psalm inspired an English hymn writer who was working on a collection of compositions based on the Psalms. Most of Isaac Watts’s psalm-based hymns have been long forgotten. However, one of his compositions remains extremely popular today. In fact, I’ll bet you could sing at least one verse from memory. This hymn is based on Psalm 98.
I’m not quite sure how my parents, Bible-loving Christians, dealt with Psalm 97… I do wonder what they thought when they came to Psalm 97:10: “Let those who love the LORD hate evil.” What’s surprising about this verse is not just its unsettling use of “hate.” The context is equally or even more unnerving: “Let those who love the LORD hate evil.” Love and hate in one short sentence of one verse!
As Christians, it’s easy to see God’s hand when we flourish in our work. But can we trust that God still calls and sends us into our work when, despite our best efforts, we are “sold out”? Perhaps some of you are facing just such circumstances. Today’s text is both reminder and encouragement that God’s providence is at work in our lives in the most difficult circumstances, and for the most unimaginable results.
For those of us with a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and shoes on our feet, it’s hard to justify any reason for complaint. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with admitting that a certain state of affairs or some event has irritated or frustrated us. Really, it’s okay… David was a master complainer, and we can follow his example. Check out Psalm 13.
The more we reflect on God’s greatness, the more we will be impelled to praise him. Moreover, we will find that our praise, however inadequate it might be, will increasingly reflect God’s nature. Because he is great, so our praise will be great. It makes no sense to be stingy in honoring one who is utterly worthy of all honor and praise.
As we begin this journey, the first insight about becoming a lead servant is that our leadership is not, in the first place, about us or even about our role as leaders. Instead, it is about God’s larger purpose and work in the world, and about his formation of us for the sake of the world he loves. We are, after all and first of all, servants.