Posted by: JennyRain | January 24, 2010

A Leader’s Character — Does it Really Matter?

Does a leader’s character development ever end?

If we are striving to be the best leaders we can be – hopefully not.

Sometimes, however, it would be so nice to just “be there” for a season. I feel like I am continually in-process. The more that I grow, the more that I know, the less I feel like I am actually knowledgeable or mature.

I continually find new cracks, bumps, and blemishes that need to be addressed…There always seems to be so much to work on!

We had to do a “character-assessment” for my Fuller Leadership class using the temptation narrative found in Luke 4.1-14.

I have reflected on the backside of this scripture passage many times (i.e., Luke 4.14-37), however, I tend to avoid the temptation narrative itself.

Perhaps that is because Isaiah 61.1-3 is what God has used so many times in my life as a “calling scripture” and that is what Christ refers to in the back-side of the Luke narrative. Isaiah and its counterpart in Luke 4 galvanizes me into action and prepares me for battle, so I love hanging out around these scriptures rather than the temptation narrative.

Then again, perhaps it is just because the desert is so uncomfortable in any form – written or literal – so I try and avoid it in reading and reality.

It would take a force of nature – or the requirements of a seminary class – to drop me into the front-half of Luke 4.

So here we are…

Several aspects of the scripture stood out as I read it. I read it in the Message version to get a different taste and feel, and this is what impacted me.

I: “It takes more than bread to really live.”

Man lives on the words of God, yet how much lately have I been really living on them? Chewing on them? Allowing them to sustain me?

How many times in my life has God’s word penetrated a circumstance and provided illumination and clarity and given me a heartiness that can only be provided by God Himself? How many times has God’s word provided a word in due season that has carried me for months, years, even decades?

God’s word is one of my favorite things, yet it can also be the first thing I neglect to return to for sustenance time and time again.

Can we ever hope to lead others by God’s examples if we are not returning to His procedural manual daily? This is a weakness of late that I thought I had conquered, yet it does not seem so.

One word that God has provided in the last few months in response to prayer on a difficult circumstance in my family is Isaiah 30.21:

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

It’s a great word, but how is it relevant when you do not see answers and direction for the queries you have? What does that word look like, taste like, smell like? Knowing how to trust God for the fulfillment of a promise looks differently when there is no evidence of things moving.

God has been challenging me lately with the concept of fasting – which is another reason that this scripture is not a favorite of mine. I have gone through seasons where I am seeking God for His direction and He leads me to fast consistently. It has happened twice and I have always been amazed at how God works. Yet, I have been avoiding this character-development activity for the last six months.

II: “Worship me and they’re yours, the whole works”

What struck me about this passage is that it actually presents a long-term solution that results in the complete absence of true power and freedom! I had never seen that before. That if we follow this path, it will lead to sin and slavery, versus righteousness and freedom.

How often am I less than humble in my dealings with the world? How often do I assert my own power rather than waiting on God, and while I am waiting, worship Him for what He can do, and what He is?

The scripture says,

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Cor 3:17

God’s Spirit gives freedom!

But the spirit of the world enslaves. It is this type of “If/Then” proposition where the world tells us “If you do this for me, only THEN will I do something for you. But God’s spirit has already done the giving before we even approach Him with our requests and needs (2 Cor 5:14; John 3:16)

I may get the “whole works” but if I believe this lie, I will lose the very thing that truly empowers me, the spirit of God.

How many times – as a leader – have I worshipped “techniques, practices, or theories” in training and leadership over the “spirit of God”? How many times do I rely on my own abilities over submitting to God’s authority in a given situation and thus receiving the empowering of His Spirit? And how often does this keep me from “serving Him with absolute single-heartedness”?

III: “You won”t so much as stub your toe on a stone”?”

This part of the narrative struck a nerve.

For me this part of the text read as the temptation to play it safe. I am definitely guilty as charged since screeching to a halt in my late thirties.

Lately, I find myself frequently asking, “Am I doing enough? Am I being challenged enough? Am I stepping out of my comfort zone enough at work, at home, in ministry?”

I’m not church planting, or speaking to the masses, or doing anything highly visible, but there is no place that I would rather be – especially when I walk through the doors of my workplace. I have peace, joy, and contentment almost every day at my job. I feel competent, I feel like I am encouraging the leaders around me as well as making a valuable contribution.

I am flying under the radar screen. Not many people know I am here. I am not invisible, but I am not in the public eye either. No mass scrutiny – it’s beautiful!

But I find myself doubting the peace, joy, contentment, and contributions I am making because of this passage and others similar to it. I have this perception that ministry is supposed to be really difficult and not fun at all – just one big labor after another.

Am I playing it too safe as a leader so that I will not stub my toe on a stone?
Am I allowing my skills and abilities to sustain me so that I will not have to rely on the living bread?
Am I allowing things other than God to have an influence over my thoughts, feelings, and actions in the world?

These are the questions I am wrestling with as a developing leader.

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