Forging the Way
Written nearly 600 years ago, Thomas à Kempis’s words are for us today:
God has so ordained it, that we should learn to bear one another’s burdens, for there is no one who has not some defect, no one without some burden, no man independent of others, no one wise enough of himself; but we ought to bear with one another, comfort one another, help, instruct, and advise one another.
We need each other. If we are not a team, we will burn out. If we try to make it all happen on our own, we will fail. We need one another.
In Acts 2:14 (NIV) we read, “Then Peter stood up with the Eleven ... ” It was not Peter standing alone, but Peter standing together with the apostles as one unit. Everything God does is in unity. He is the Trinity. It is all three persons in the Trinity being one that make up the godhead. It is by working together with mankind that God brings about His purposes. If there were any being who could do something without anyone, it is God. Yet He still chose to work with us to build His kingdom.
Genuine proof that someone is led by the Holy Spirit is that they don’t have the attitude, “I am the most important one,” but instead, “I am one among all.” It is by God’s grace that we are in the positions that God has given us. That person sitting across from us may be far more brilliant than us, and they very well may have something more important to say. Don’t be threatened by them, but instead see their brilliance as your team being strengthened. Listen to what they have to say.
We give others security when we are secure without having to be the best. And they give us moral authority when they see we are not moved by who is better.
Don’t necessarily view disagreements as disloyalty or insubordination. In such times, guard your heart from seeking to get your own way, and value others’ opinions. Be open to change and seek the best solution, not just your own thought. Criticism can be constructive, even if it was intended to hurt. Don’t just reject it outright when people criticize you, but try to find the truth in it, even if it is only five percent of what they said.
Remember Jesus’ words to Peter, “Feed My sheep” (John 21:17). God didn’t bring these people under your care just to “get the job done,” but also so they could grow into His likeness.
Actively seek to cultivate their skills and their ambition to serve God. Follow Christ’s example of how He led and trained His disciples. Begin by simply explaining what you expect and giving them the opportunity to ask questions. Then show them how to do it by the things that practically come up. The next step is to give them the opportunity to do it as you watch on. Give them credit for what they have done. Then give them opportunity to do it on their own. If there is a deficiency, come alongside them and help them see how to improve.
Ask yourself questions like: How can I inspire them to rise to their full potential? How can I train them to understand my thinking and do this without me in the future? Seek also to encourage their godliness, humility and walk with God.
As leaders, God has given us a tremendous assignment to recognize those whom the Lord is calling into positions of leadership. Ask God to help you understand His appointing for them. Give them opportunities to learn, grow and fail, and empower them to go forward. Anticipate and even look forward to the day that, with the proper training and input, you can hand your position over to them.
I am still learning to apply some of these principles too. But if we truly want to make a difference for the generation to come, we must lead and empower others based on the future—5, 10, 20, 50 years from now.
The ultimate proof of our leadership is not only what we have done, but also the way we enabled others to go far beyond us.
Everything looks different when you are in an airplane. What seems big on the ground can look very small when you have a higher perspective. Life on earth is so short. It is essential that we don’t become distracted by focusing on the here and now instead of the much bigger picture.
The writer of Psalm 73 was a leader in God’s work. He saw those who didn’t follow God’s ways, yet they seemed to get everything (see Psalm 73:3, 12). We can just imagine they must have had their mansions, bank accounts, cars—the list goes on. He was envious and basically says to himself, I have nothing! I’ve been faithful, but for what?! Why don’t I have all these things? What have I done with my life? (see Psalm 73:13–14).
Then he talked to God about it, and God opened his eyes. He began to see things from a different perspective. And he responds, essentially saying, “Oh my God! I didn’t realize that they are standing on slippery ground. Everything is going to get burned up. Their position, power, everything—it has no meaning. It is all for such a short time” (see Psalm 73:16–19).
And in the end he concludes, “It is good for me to draw near to God” (Psalm 73:28).
Read through Ecclesiastes, and it will add some soberness to your thinking. Nothing is permanent here.
We are all smart people. But keep in mind that a day is coming when every intention and thought of our hearts shall be revealed and judged. Don’t focus your life around fleeting, temporal things instead of the One who is eternal.
Ecclesiastes concludes by saying: “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13–14, KJV).
Live with the fear of God in view of that Day of Judgment. We can try to fool each other by projecting something we are not, but God sees and He knows.
One day we all will stand before His throne and hear what God has to say about how we led our lives. This is a sobering reality.
We have been given much, especially as leaders, and we will have much to give an account for. We also will give an account for the people He asked us to lead (see Hebrews 13:17). As Thomas à Kempis said, “The more you know and understand, the heavier will be your judgment, unless, in consequence of your greater knowledge, your life is a more holy one.” Because God is the One who put us where we are, our aim should be to please Him.
As leaders and as children of God, the only honor and praise we should seek is that which comes from the Lord in the end.
Source: Thomas à Kempis, Of the Imitation of Christ
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