Seven Days of Devotion
Do your circumstances determine your emotions and your hope for the future?
Written by Barry-Werner
A Christian leader’s only hope is in the character and promises of God. Read Lamentations 3:22-26.
With the horrors of the complete destruction of Jerusalem still in his mind, Jeremiah wrote the book of Lamentations. Almost right in the middle of Lamentation’s five chapters Jeremiah wrote words of hope not despair. In his words he reminded the remnant of Jews left in the land as well as today’s leaders that our only real hope is in the character and promises of God.
When everything else had been stripped away, Jeremiah realized it was God’s lovingkindness, compassion, and faithfulness that gave him a personal peace and a hope for the future. In the rubble of Jerusalem Jeremiah realized that God is always good to those who seek Him and put their hopes and trust in Him. Jeremiah realized that everything in God’s plan was for the people’s ultimate good.
Leaders must be very careful not to judge God’s faithfulness according to appearances of the moment but rather they should seek God’s wisdom for the larger view. There are only two possible perceptions of God’s character and our circumstances and every leader will choose one. Leaders will either view God’s character in light of their circumstances or view their circumstances in light of God’s character. If a leader’s core truth views God’s character in light of their circumstances, they will tend to look away from God and to themselves or other powerful resources for help.
Do your circumstances determine your emotions and your hope for the future? Like Jeremiah, God-honoring leaders seek to find hope by putting their circumstances in perspective based on God’s character and promises.
Do you have team members who are in the midst of discipline?
Effective leaders understand that discipline for the individual or for the team should have a time of restoration when the process fulfills its purpose.
Read Lamentations 3:31-36.
As Jeremiah lamented the destruction of Jerusalem, his thoughts went to God’s mercy even in the midst of an extremely difficult situation. Jeremiah wrote, “For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, He will show compassion…to deny a man his rights before the Most High, to deprive a man of justice – would not the Lord see such things.”
Every leader has seen times when a member of the team has made a careless, inadvertent mistake. Wise leaders do not overreact. Exhortation may be required but seldom discipline in these cases. Every leader has or will see times when a teammate willfully defies those in authority and violates the organizations’ established core values. This was the case of the people in Judah and Jerusalem. God established a discipline so harsh that had He not brought an end to the Babylonian siege of the city, no one would have survived. Yet, God established a time for the discipline to end. Even before the Babylonians made their final assault on the city in 586 BC, Jeremiah had sent a letter to some former residents of Jerusalem already exiled in Babylon that there would be a time when the Jewish people would come back and occupy the land and rebuild the city of Jerusalem.
Do you have team members who are in the midst of discipline? Do you have a definite intent to restore this teammate to the full rights and privileges of any other teammate should the discipline achieve its intended purpose? Have you established clear criteria for restoration? God’s model of discipline had a time to begin, a process of learning, and a time of full restoration. Wise leaders seek to live by God’s model of effective discipline.
Do you feel like God has something bigger for you?
There are certain truths that must be understood by every Christian leader. Read Lamentations 3:37-38.
As Jeremiah sought to understand why the nation of Judah and the city of Jerusalem had been so brutally devastated by the Babylonian army he came to a truth that every Christian leader must adopt as their own. He said, “Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?” Jeremiah addressed in his own heart the issue of the sovereignty of God and God’s right to make decisions about human history.
God-honoring leaders accept as truth that God has called every leader and has a purpose for them. In light of His purpose, God sometimes assigns leaders to courses they would not choose for themselves. These assignments are part of the process of a leader’s development. Sometimes a leader’s preparation may seem slow and even painful but there is no cheap, easy way to create a servant leader with a heart for their team. It is through this process of testing and learning to trust in every situation that leaders finally become ready to be assigned the task God created them to complete.
Do you feel like God has something bigger for you but your current circumstances has your leadership influence limited? Wise leaders understand that God sometimes puts leaders through a lengthy, painful process of character and personal development before they are ready to serve and lead others. It is only as a leader discovers the truth concerning the sovereignty of God that Jeremiah spoke of in Lamentations 3:37-38that they will be ready to serve in a way that truly honors God.
Do you use rewards as part of your leadership?
Wise leaders use rewards as a natural part of positive reinforcement for accomplishments and they also have a system that applies appropriate consequences for failure.
Read Lamentations 4:6-8.
Over the years God had blessed the nation of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. Under David and Solomon’s rule no other nation knew such business or military success. God had blessed the nation with abundance through their agricultural system and had established such a military power under David’s leadership that Solomon knew almost 40 years of peace. Even during these most prosperous days God detailed a consequence should the kings, priests and people of the nation fail to keep their covenant.
Good leaders know how to attach both rewards and consequences to a team or team member’s performance. An effective system of rewards establishes priorities for the most important areas of conduct and productivity and the system must also prioritize the non-negotiable negatives. There must be a price attached to actions or attitudes that damage the team.
A few questions to ask as you determine the effectiveness of your system of rewards:
- What is the best way to communicate the system to your team?
- Do you have clear criteria in place so evaluations of performance are fair and just based on performance not popularity or personality?
- Does your system of rewards align with your stated core values?
- Is your system so simple that people will easily understand expectations or so complicated there will be misunderstandings?
- Does your system of rewards give proper credit for priorities both negative and positive?
- Are the rewards balanced? Are the positive reinforcements and negative penalties roughly equal in intensity and value?
Effective leaders understand the human need for rewards and the equal but opposite need for boundaries.
Do you include God as an integral part of your leadership?
Wise Christian leaders include God as an integral part of their leadership. They have a high level of dependence on God in their attitude and actions.
The leaders of the nation of Judah failed to recognize the authority of God over their nation and that oversight led them to make decisions and condone actions that broke their covenant with God. Jeremiah confesses the sin of the people and also acknowledges that God reigns forever and will ultimately restore what has been lost. Successful Christian leaders don’t depend on their own strength and wisdom but on the sovereign God.
In the abstract, it is hard to see how any knowledgeable Christian leader could trust their own instincts rather than depend on God for wisdom, but we live in a fallen world where the deceiver has tactics that allow a leader to feel morally superior even to God’s wisdom. If today’s leaders don’t have an accountability system with trusted Christian partners, they can be quickly lured away from trusting God just as Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden. The Bible is clear that the autonomous mindset is a mark of foolishness because it ignores a leader’s fundamental need to depend on God. Wise leaders recognize God as an active leader on their leadership team.
Romans 1:21 “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
Have you fallen into a rut in how you communicate?
I heard once that if the communication is fuzzy from the leader it will be foggy for the team. Effective leaders work hard at communication skills.
Read Ezekiel 1:1-28.
Ezekiel was a prophet appointed by God to serve the Jewish people in exile in Babylon. He was taken into exile approximately 10 years before the fall of Jerusalem. God used Ezekiel as a watchman. He called Ezekiel to warn the exiled Jews in Babylon that their exile was not a fluke but in the plan of God and that the city of Jerusalem would still fall to the Babylonian army. God had Ezekiel communicate the future through extraordinary mysteries, visions, symbolism, parables, and allegories that were meant to stretch the minds of the listener. The book of Ezekiel is a complex collection of prophetic messages offering significant ways to grasp God’s future plan for salvation and righteousness on the earth.
In chapter one Ezekiel gave a memorable vision of a sovereign God delivering a message to the captives in Babylon. Ezekiel began the vision with images the people knew with the dark clouds of a mighty storm they would have seen many times coming in over the Euphrates river. This time however the blackness of the clouds and the unnatural fiery glow and the lightning flashing provided the framework for the manifestation of the greater glory of God.
Leaders can learn from the means God used to communicate through the prophet Ezekiel:
- Ezekiel used a memorable mental image. People frame their thinking in pictures. Often a visual image as simple as a white board drawing will give the leader’s communication a lasting impression.
- Ezekiel used everyday objects such as the storm. This object was so easily understood that it supported the point of the vision rather than detract from it.
- In the same vision that used everyday objects such as the storm, Ezekiel stretched the mind of the listener with his vision of the unearthly chariot and its wheels that formed the throne of God. Wise leaders use communication to stretch the mind of their teammates.
- Ezekiel’s word picture was motivational and gave incentive to listen to what would be said in the rest of the prophecy. Wise leaders see each communication as part of a process not an end.
Have you fallen into a rut in how you communicate? Are you making assumptions that your team knows what they should do and only need encouragement from you to complete the job? The exiled Jewish people knew exactly why they were in exile but God sent Ezekiel to keep the goals for change in front of them. Effective leaders use creative communication to help their team stay focused on the goals and to sustain forward momentum.
Are you in a situation where your team has rejected your leadership?
There will be times when leaders need to stand their ground even when their team disagrees.
Read Ezekiel 2:1-10.
God made it clear to Ezekiel that He was not giving him an easy leadership assignment. He was to dash the hopes of his Jewish brothers for an early return to Judah from their exiled life in Babylon. He had to consistently remind them that Jerusalem would still be destroyed and that God wanted them to repent of their worship of other gods, their self-dependence, and evil treatment of the poor and defenseless. God told Ezekiel that He was sending him to a rebellious people who acted like stubborn children and made sure Ezekiel knew his call did not depend on the people’s response.
There will be times in every leader’s life when their assignment is extremely difficult because of their team’s attitude and predisposed objection to a specific plan of action. Leaders will have times when their strongest relationships break down, when trusted allies betray them, and key subordinates fail. It is during these moments that it is vitally important for a leader not to have any hindrances in their relationship with God. Leaders can lead a team that is in disarray if they are sure God has called them to this moment and He is directing their every step.
Are you in a situation where your team has rejected your leadership? Ezekiel knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that God had called him. He knew his assignment would be difficult. He built his expectations and prepared his mind and emotions for isolation and rejection. He could withstand the human disrespect because he was sure God had confirmed his path.
Like Ezekiel, if a leader knows God has supplied the fire inside, if they are living with ever increasing amounts of the fruits of the spirit, if God has supernaturally given signs reinforcing the course along the way, if a leader is experiencing God’s gifts and grace, then a leader can have confidence God is in control in their situation.
Colossians 3:15-16a “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”
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