One of the things I learned from this summer’s reading is that spiritual leadership is not for the faint of heart. In chapters eight and nine, J. Oswald Sanders outlines what it takes to be a Spiritual Leader. The list is long and daunting so I just want to spend today focusing on the three that stick out for me the most: discipline, courage, and humility.
Discipline is probably the hardest to master, yet it’s the most important to ascertain. As J. Oswald Sanders says, “Before we can conquer the world, we must first conquer the self.” As examples, Sanders describes men who went to bed early and woke up at the crack of dawn, only to welcome the morning with a cold bath. Now, that’s where I draw the line! You see, I’m not the “early to bed, early to rise” kind of guy. I’m actually okay with some other “early bird” getting the worm! I also love me some fried chicken. So, I suppose my self-discipline could use some work. However, where I lack in discipline in regards to food and sleep, I make up in hard work in both my career and my ministry. As I grew in my faith, I realized that in order to lead others, I had to illustrate a strong discipline both professionally and spiritually. I couldn’t be lazy in my studies or work ethic in either realm, otherwise how could I hope to effectively challenge other people to be better in their professional and spiritual lives? My main goal in life is to help them to honor God in both ways. Only discipline allows me to do this.
The second characteristic I find important, especially in the culture we live in today, is courage. Too many of us keep quiet to keep the peace. We’re all about social comfort and keeping every situation politically correct. However, there is nothing courageous about status quo and nothing brave about staying quiet about God in fear of creating an uncomfortable situation.
Fear stops many people from talking about their faith. It stopped me for years in my twenties. At that point in my life, I wanted to have fun rather than faith. But then I was dealt a huge financial blow, and all I had left was my faith in God and my family. It was a humbling, but necessary, lesson. Since then, being open about my faith in God has kept me centered and active in my church and ministry.
Finally, humility, which is the least admired trait of all. In our world today, the most blustery and brash get all the attention, however read here what Paul has to say about himself…
“I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle.” (1 Corinthians 15:9) He also said, “I am less than the least of all God’s people.” (Ephesians 3:8) At the end of his life he said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15)
I find these passages to be remarkable. Paul was specifically chosen by Christ to lead others to Him, yet he felt he was the “least of God’s people.” Each of us could follow Paul’s cue and realize that we are all sinners and the only thing that really makes us great is Jesus’ gift of salvation.
I encourage you that when you’re feeling weak or timid about expressing your faith, know that God will bolster you in your courage, discipline, and humility for Him. Believe me, it’s the most amazing feedback loop!