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In Isaiah 44, God speaks through the prophet to highlight his divine uniqueness. Though there are many other “gods,” the Lord reveals, they are mere idols, formed by human hands from material elements… The Lord, on the contrary, is unique. He alone is “the first” and “the last,” the one who is before all things and who will be there at the end of time (44:6).
Leaders do not only regularly disappoint those we lead, we can also disappoint ourselves. When we don’t hit benchmarks, when we let down a parishioner, or when we fail to reach a goal, we not only have to contend with the swarm of people disappointed in our leadership but also with our own self-criticism. Often, we are our own worst critics.
In my twenty-plus years as a leader in the non-profit sector, I’ve found that much of leadership involves disappointing people. When I got into church leadership, I assumed I would spend the majority of my time inspiring people with my vision, comforting people with my pastoral skills, and instilling God’s Word through my preaching. Little did I know that in every one of those areas (and more) I would disappoint people.
Psalm 83 begins with a bold request: “O God, do not remain silent; do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof, O God.” This is one of scores of places in the Psalms where the psalmist does not hold back from demanding something of the Almighty. This is not neat, tidy prayer, but gut-wrenching, heart-yearning, no-holds-barred communication with God.
Scripture proclaims to us that if anyone is in Christ, that person has been made new and begins to participate in the reality of the new creation (2 Cor 5:17). Yet when we look at our lives, when we see our failures and frustrations, we often can’t see the new thing God has done in us. If he were to ask, “Do you not see it?” our answer might well be, “No. I really don’t.” So how can we see God’s renewing work in our lives?
Scripture teaches that God is with us even when we cannot perceive him. God is watching over us as a good shepherd. God dwells within us through his Spirit. Sometimes we struggle to experience or even affirm God’s presence. But if we base our faith on what God has revealed, then we know that he is with us.
The prophecies of Isaiah testify to the treacherous “waters” and scorching “fires” of Israel’s experience. Because Israel persistently rejected him, the Lord disciplined the nation through the domination of foreign rulers. Yet, even in those hard times, God did not abandon his people. He promised to be with them, protecting them from ultimate devastation.
Why would a loving God allow his people to suffer? We can’t find a full answer to this question from one small verse of Isaiah. Indeed, the question of suffering is one of the toughest questions that Christians face, not to mention Christians who are presently suffering or sharing in the suffering of others. But Isaiah 42:24 suggests one small facet of an answer.
Regeneration—a word we don’t use often enough. It describes salvation and the realities of our new lives in Christ. This word suggests that salvation necessarily comes with changes in the way we act, speak, and think. In other words, regeneration speaks of being transformed. Although this may feel like a farfetched notion to some people, even to believers, it is a Biblical guarantee. 2 Corinthians 5:17 assures us that for those of us in Christ, “the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!”
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?
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