October 1, 2015 • Life for Leaders
The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, ‘Raise your eyes now, and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever.’”
In Genesis 13, Abram chose to be gracious to Lot, his nephew, allowing Lot to have the land that was apparently better for livestock. Abram took the land that was less obviously beneficial, though it was the land of Canaan, the land God had promised to Abram. Immediately after Abram’s decision to be gracious to Lot and to trust God, God spoke to Abram, graciously affirming him and reassuring him.
As I think about my own experience of leadership, I can remember times when God has graciously encouraged me when I have chosen the difficult path of faithfulness. For example, years ago, when I was pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, I had an associate pastor who was failing to fulfill our expectations for her work. Nothing I tried as her boss helped her do better. In time, it became apparent to all of my elders that she was simply not going to work out. We got denominational officials involved and tried to work out a gracious separation.
Because this person was a pastor, the church could release her only with a vote of the congregation. Thus we called a meeting of church members to dismiss her with a generous severance package. Moreover, since this was a tricky HR matter, we couldn’t say to the congregation in detail why she needed to be dismissed. When it was time for congregational discussion, those who had been lobbied by this associate pastor stood up to express their great unhappiness not just with the church but especially with me. The problem was me, they said, my lousy leadership, my inability to relate well to a woman subordinate, my unfair expectations, etc., etc., etc. I desperately wanted to defend myself. My colleagues were just about jumping out of their skin with their desire to speak up on my behalf. But I knew we needed to be quiet, to listen, and to trust God. This was truly one of the hardest leadership moments of my life.
After the meeting was over and the vote was taken, I felt deeply discouraged, not to mention emotionally exhausted. I wondered if I was in the right line of work, if I should be a pastor. As I was leaving the meeting, I noticed a couple whom I did not recognize. They approached me and said hello. I said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t remember who you are. How long have you been members of this church?” “Oh, we’re not members. We are just visiting today,” they answered, to my chagrin. As I began to apologize for all that had just transpired, they interrupted me: “No, no. We came to the meeting to see how your church deals with difficult issues. What we saw today was impressive to us. We decided in the meeting that we’re going to join this church.”
I was stunned and very grateful not just for their decision but also for the fact that God, in his grace, had allowed me to hear from them that very day. In my moment of discouragement God delivered a word of affirmation and hope.
Of course things don’t always work out like this. Sometimes we who lead must press on in faithfulness and obedience without special evidence of God’s affirmation. Nevertheless, as I look back upon my life as a leader, I’m impressed by how much God’s grace has carried me, inspired me, and formed me for his purposes. Thanks be to God!
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Can you think of situations in your experience as a leader when God was exceptionally gracious to you?
How does God’s grace show itself in your daily life as a leader?
Gracious God, as I remember your extraordinary grace to me, I am filled with gratitude. Thank you for encouraging me in my hour of despair. Thank you for helping me to know that you are present even when I doubt you.
May your grace continue to form me as a leader so that I might be the person you have created and re-created me to be and so that I might lead boldly, with confidence in you. Amen.
Photo Credit: “Dune in Zeeland” by Piet Mondrian, 1910 – Public Domain via WikiArt.org.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.