Seven Days of Devotion
The Weekly Word is a Collection of Devotionals to be read on the Day Listed and presented freely as a service to and for the Body of Christ and Believers throughout the World that We may Hear God Speak to us as the Spirit of God gives us ears to hear and eyes to see what God would have for us daily in relationship to Him.
Confrontation is one of the toughest tasks of leadership; it takes real courage and is not without risks.
God told Ezekiel to confront the people of Judah that were being held in exile in Babylon with some tough facts of their past that needed to be dealt with if God was to be honored. Ezekiel uses striking imagery as he tells the story of two sisters, Oholah and Oholibah, both prostitutes from their youth who freely gave themselves in detestable acts. Oholah and Oholibah are symbolic names for Israel and Judah who had not been faithful to God but had prostituted themselves by worshiping the gods of other nations. God told Ezekiel that his job as their moral leader was to confront the people and hold them accountable.
There will be times when every leader must confront destructive behavior on their team. No healthy leader enjoys confrontation but no healthy leader can or should avoid it. Occasionally confrontation may be the most loving thing a leader can do for a teammate. Initially a confrontation may seem negative but effective leaders confront to build others up not tear them down. In fact for a leader to confront a teammate they must care enough for that teammate to challenge wrong behavior. Without relationship and a desire to help a teammate improve most leaders would find it easier to remove the problem than confront a teammate’s conduct. I have found that quite often the most straightforward confrontations are reserved for leaders that care the most.
- Do you struggle with the face-to-face encounters that are challenging because they involve a confrontation? A few things to remember in the process are:
- Determine to value the person even though you must confront.
- Do not assume you both see the situation the same way.
- Don’t come into the confrontation with a loaded verbal rifle intending to shoot to kill.
- Be specific and clear as you describe the issue.
- Listen to the other side of the story and make just judgments based on truth not a pre-determined conclusion.
- Give hope for a resolution if there is in fact any hope of resolution.
- Establish a plan and criteria for restoration and the consequences if no progress is made toward correcting the issue.
God-honoring leaders will exhibit the courage to address problems whether they are found in the janitor’s closet or the Boardroom.
Read Ezekiel 28:1-10.
When Judah and Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians as part of God’s judgment many of the counties around Judah were joyful. Their pride swelled in their god to see the God of the Jews dishonored when His city and His temple were destroyed. God instructed Ezekiel to prophesy concerning His punishment of these nations because of their hatred of the Jews and Him as their God. One of the nations that Ezekiel prophesied against was Tyre, maybe the richest, safest nation in the entire Near East.
The city of Tyre consisted of a mainland metropolis and a small Island that stood about half a mile offshore. The prophecy mentioned in Ez. 26:14 found its fulfillment regarding mainland Tyre under Nebuchadnezzar. Three years after Ezekiel’s prophecy Nebuchadnezzar moved in and besieged the ancient city of Tyre. He attacked the mainland city and held it besieged for about thirteen years. He then marched into the city to find it nearly deserted. The Tyrians had abandoned the mainland and fortified themselves on the Island of Tyre. The mainland was over-run and defeated, and walls and buildings were torn down and the entire city left in ruins.
It is one thing for a leader to have the courage to take on problems that have a negative effect on all involved but Tyre was a nation of merchants and sea traders. Tyre was a center of commerce and home of the rich and famous. If Tyre was destroyed it negatively affected the economy of virtually every country. When Ezekiel prophesied against Tyre he needed the courage to state facts from God that were unpopular to every powerful leader.
God-honoring leaders exhibit great courage by addressing problems no matter where they are or who is involved. This level of courage comes from firm convictions and strong core values concerning right and wrong. Like Ezekiel, wise Christian leaders establish these core values based on God’s leading and Word. It would be a shame to miss the key word in verse 10 that gave Ezekiel his courage to state truths even concerning powerful, popular nations, “I have spoken, declares the Sovereign Lord.”
When in a position to make a difficult decision do you seek God’s wisdom or rely primarily on your experience or what will give you the best benefit and cause you the least grief? Tyre was a godless nation, but they provided a great service and were of great benefit to all the nations that surrounded them. It would have been much easier from a human standpoint to simply leave out the prophecy about Tyre, but Ezekiel’s convictions came from God and with that truth he had the courage to act on those convictions
Whether leaders do good or evil, God is the one who allows them to have influence and He will either sustain them in that position or remove them from that position.
Read Ezekiel 30:20-26.
God had allowed Egypt superpower status for centuries. Egypt had taken in and assisted God’s chosen leader Jacob and his family back in the day but when a Pharaoh came into power that did not know the great leader Joseph, Jacob’s son, they enslaved the tribes of Jacob and kept them that way until God used Moses to lead the people out of Egypt. Even when God removed His people from Egypt and settled them in the land He had promised them, He did not take the superpower status from Egypt. Now, through the prophet Ezekiel, God is sending a message that Egypt will be become helpless before His appointed enforcer the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. Their days of superpower status were finished.
According to Psalm 75:6-7, “No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man. But it is God who judges; He brings one down, He exalts another.” God orchestrates the rise and fall of the world’s superpowers. God will raise up one leader and God will remove another. God’s support is the ultimate qualification for leadership. God’s Word says that whether a leader is good or evil, He is the one that puts them in positions of power and He can sustain them there or He can remove them.
God’s direction concerning who has influence is not only true of the world’s greatest, most powerful leaders this is true for every leader. So, who are the people God raises up to be leaders? The Bible is full of examples and those God chooses are not always the most obvious choice. God chose Moses to lead the people out of Egypt when he was 80 years old, exiled from his homeland and working as a shepherd. God chose David to be the next king of Israel when he was just a boy before any of his family saw his potential. Jesus chose several fishermen and some social misfits to be His disciples and eventually lead the early church and He chose them over the brilliant theologians and religious leaders of the day.
God isn’t looking for human strength or degrees or experience, He is looking at the human heart. Skills, intelligence, and hard work may all be part of a leader’s package but in the final analysis those are not the criteria God consistently shows us through His Word. Whatever else qualifies a person for leadership, no one is qualified for greatness, by God’s standards, until their heart is ready.
What are you depending on to either give you more influence or to keep the influence you have? Are you stressed out that you won’t get the position you desperately seek or that you will be removed from the one you have because this quarter’s numbers are down? Do you want to be more relaxed and find security in your position? Ezekiel reminds us that it is God who determines who will lead and for how long. Leaders who bow to God’s sovereignty can be more relaxed about their promotion or their security in their current position.
Daniel 2:21 “He (God) changes times and seasons; He sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.”
Leaders can take on a dangerous kind of pride when they accept credit for what God is doing.
Read Ezekiel 31:1-18.
Ezekiel tells us that on June 21, 587 BC God asked him to write His words about the upcoming fall from power of Egypt. Ezekiel used an allegory comparing Egypt to a cedar tree that had grown more massive (powerful) than all other trees (nations) because it was nourished by the rich soil along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. They were being judged and would fall from power because the Pharaoh took credit for their lofty position and in his pride usurped God’s glory. Egypt was handed over to Babylon who is described in verse 12 as “…the most ruthless of foreign nations.”
Chapter 31 is a powerful reminder for today’s leaders. When leaders accept credit for what God did through them, they will develop pride and according to Proverbs 8:13 the Lord hates pride and arrogance. A prideful leader’s haughty attitude ignores the fact that God positions each leader where He wants them for a specific purpose.
Leadership gives leaders a god-like function when they exercise control over the lives of others. Today’s leaders live in a time when people are more inclined to give them the credit for their power and influence than see it as a gift from God. When people respond to a leader’s influence as if it were created and sustained by the leader’s own actions, leaders can easily take on a self-pride that ignores God. That kind of pride puts a leader in a dangerous position where the next step is to steal God’s glory for their own.
Have you found yourself depending less on God and more on your own instincts as you make decisions? Do you believe you should receive recognition for certain achievements and become frustrated if you don’t? Have you started to ignore the leadership gifts of other leaders in your organization and started overreaching in the decision-making process? These are all signs of a pride that lacks trust in God’s sovereignty and demonstrates a core belief that everything depends on you. Wise leaders consistently look for signs that their pride is out of balance with their dependence on God and humble themselves in prayer, seeking forgiveness from the sovereign God.
God holds leaders accountable as a watchman to warn their team when they drift from God’s standards.
God had established a remnant of Jews from the nation of Judah in Babylon. Even though they were captives exiled in Babylon their lives had been spared and they had been allowed to establish community. Ezekiel was assigned by God as their prophet to bring His words directly to the people.
In today’s verses God spoke to Ezekiel concerning his responsibility to warn the people he was assigned to as a watchman. If Ezekiel was faithful to fulfill his leadership responsibilities and the people changed their actions they would be spared and Ezekiel would be innocent before God. If he warned them and they ignored the warning they would die for their sin but Ezekiel would be innocent. If he failed to warn them and the people died for their sin unwarned, Ezekiel would be held responsible for their death.
The words God spoke to Ezekiel indicate that the responsibility of Christian leaders to give moral leadership to their team is a major part of how God evaluates their faithfulness. When Christians accept the assignment to be a leader and God allows them influence over people, that leader accepts the obligation to be a watchman for God. If that leader sees moral drift or outright moral rebellion, sounds the trumpet clearly to warn their team, and takes every possible action to insure they are part of the solution not part of the problem, they will be innocent before God. If the watchman-leader fails to warn their team, God will hold the watchman-leader accountable for the lives lost. WOW – what a sobering truth concerning a leader’s responsibility!
The watchman role tends to be easier when you are leading in a Christian organization and the team has common core beliefs but quite another thing when your team is made up of individuals who don’t accept the Christian values as a standard. When I was leader of a Control Data Corp research and development project and when making films for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association with a mostly non-Christian crew, this job of watchman took some major effort. Each situation was different, and yours will be too, but God will give wisdom when a leader truly seeks to do His will and fulfill their responsibility in this area. The one piece of advice I can give for all situations is to lead by example.
Have you seen moral drift within your team? Have you allowed it to grow without confrontation? Have you tended to ignore your responsibility of watchman-leader because of its difficulty based on the lack of common values? Wise leaders don’t ignore their responsibilities as God’s watchman and effective leaders understand that their team will pay close attention to their actions as a leader.
God raises up leaders to nurture their team.
Read Ezekiel 34:1-16.
At the end of chapter 33 God has Ezekiel explain the fall of Jerusalem to the Jews living in exile in Babylon. Inchapter 34 God uses an analogy of a shepherd to describe how leaders in Jerusalem had abused those entrusted to their care. Their actions were part of the problem that led to the destruction of Jerusalem. In verses 11-16 the Lord of Israel explains how He leads the people as the Great Shepherd and gives leaders today a model for care of those entrusted to them:
- God rescues the scattered sheep (v. 12). A rescue by definition is to save someone from a harmful situation i.e. to rescue a failing factory. In today’s world this may mean a confrontation or exhortation to those teammates that have strayed from moral behavior or who have become slothful. This involves insuring the policies and procedures are applied fairly to all employees without favoritism as the team is held accountable.
- God promises to gather His people from hostile nations and feed His people (v. 13-14). This has to do with the leader caring for his team. It is providing a safe workplace, fair wages, and creating an environment where people can work with a relaxed spirit rather than constantly being on their guard to protect themselves.
- God promises to be a leader with personal involvement (v. 15). A leader does not do every job or micro-manage how leaders lead but they must take responsibility to insure God-honoring organizational core values are understood and implemented in the workplace.
- God strengthens the weak (v. 16). A leader can’t create a healing hospital for every sad case or dissatisfied individual in the job market or the organization will collapse under the weight of people’s demands, but neither should an employer layoff or fire good employees who are currently struggling with issues or attitudes. In the ebb and flow of life some teammates will fail and need help to rebuild. In the last half of verse 16 God condemned those powerful individuals that would push them out or take advantage of them for personal gain.
Each of these actions involves concern for those under a leader’s influence and they require relationship. Savvy leaders understand the better their relationship with their team the more effective they can be in their role as shepherd-leader. The relationships described in verses 11-16 will benefit all that are involved in them.
Leaders must manage conflict to develop teamwork among those on their team. Read Ezekiel 37:15-28.
This Messianic passage describes God’s ideal for what leadership is to accomplish. Ezekiel enacts a symbol. Two sticks, representing the southern and northern kingdoms of Israel (Judah and Joseph being the chief tribes, respectively), are joined to form one stick, symbolizing the unity of the nation of Israel on its return to the homeland. These verses contain several references to peace and unity. Tribes that butted heads often during Israel’s history will have their conflict end. When conflict management works as it will in the Messianic Kingdom tensions are released, there is mutual understanding, and teamwork flourishes.
Until the Messianic Kingdom is established it is certain that every leader will face conflict. The question for today’s leaders isn’t how to entirely avoid conflict but how to best manage it.
A few ideas that when properly applied will assist leaders in managing conflict:
- Don’t ignore the problem.
- Create an environment where people are allowed to work through their issues one-on-one.
- If the one-on-one has failed tackle the problem head on.
- Enter the process quickly.
- Go to the parties involved and address the issues face-to-face.
- As much as possible and as long as possible avoid involving a fourth person as this can lead to choosing up sides or lobbying for others support rather than addressing the issue.
- If all efforts have failed bring in “professional” help making it clear their involvement is for the purpose of bringing about reconciliation.
- If the conflict persists and reconciliation cannot be reached, you as the leader will need to impose a solution i.e. separation or transfers, or outright release of one or both.
Until the Messiah establishes His kingdom conflicts can’t be avoided. But they can be managed. The wise leader will be devoted to learning how to do that.
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