March 29, 2016 • Life for Leaders
The blessings of your father are stronger than the blessings of the eternal mountains, the bounties of the everlasting hills; may they be on the head of Joseph, on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we began to consider a passage from Genesis 49 in which Jacob testified to the power of his verbal blessings to affect the life of his son Joseph. “The blessings of your father,” Jacob said, “are stronger than the blessings of the eternal mountains” (49:26). From this starting point, we reflected on the power of our words to bless others or to hurt them. This power is expressed, not just within family systems, but also in the workplace. With words, we can build each other up or tear each other down.
Lord, give us eyes to see whom we might bless today with our words.
Let me illustrate this truth by sharing a couple of incidents from my own life and work. Both of them came when I was pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, where I served for sixteen years. I remember, for example, a time early in my tenure when an influential member of the church accused me of seeking only to promote myself. In her opinion, I was using the church as a stepping-stone for my own career. She knew I would soon abandon them and leave for a larger and more prestigious church. Even though I knew that what she was saying wasn’t true of my intentions – during my sixteen years, I interviewed with another church only once, in my last year – her comment took the wind out of my sails for quite some time. I felt depleted and discouraged because of her judgmental words.
By way of contrast, I remember another time during my stint at Irvine Pres. It was a very difficult and discouraging stretch, one in which I questioned my competency as a pastor because the issues I faced seemed so overwhelming. An elder in the church took me to coffee one afternoon. As soon as we sat down, he said, “Mark, I know this is a hard time for you. But I want to remind you of the things that matter most. The church is doing great under your leadership. You are preaching the Gospel and people are responding. You are greatly loved by this congregation. You are leading us in the right direction. So don’t let the negativity of the moment get you down. You are a fine pastor.” His words did indeed touch my heart, giving me courage to press on in the face of daunting challenges. I recalled his words many times during the next few months until the crisis I faced was over.
My friends, you and I have been given the power of words. We can use our words each day to make a difference for good or for ill in the lives and work of our colleagues. Our blessings may not be stronger than the eternal mountains, as Jacob observed about his own blessings for Joseph, but we can, nevertheless, build people up, giving them new energy for their work and new joy in life.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Can you think of a recent situation in which you used your words to build up someone with whom you work?
How might you steward well the power of your words today? Can you think of someone at work who would be encouraged through your words? Someone in your personal life?
Gracious God, thank you for entrusting us with the power of words. May we use this power wisely, to build up others, to encourage, and to further your kingdom purposes. Give us eyes to see whom we might bless today with our words.
All praise be to you. Amen.
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.