May 31, 2015 • Life for Leaders
But you, O LORD, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.”
I recently attended my son’s graduation from New York University. Because so many students graduate from NYU’s many schools each year, the ceremony took place in Yankee Stadium. There, tens of thousands of people gathered to acknowledge those who had completed their course of study. Speaker after speaker told them how talented they are, how filled with potential, how wonderful.
It feels good to be told you’re wonderful. Some of us hear this at our graduations. Others might receive this from our bosses, congregations, clients, or families. Still others of us may not hear this from people, but we reassure ourselves of our wonderfulness on the basis of our accomplishments, income, or social status. Of course, some of us don’t ever hear that we are wonderful and our hearts yearn for such reassurance and affirmation.
Psalm 3 reveals David’s answer to the question: “What tells you you’re wonderful?” The psalm envisions a time in David’s life when the crowds weren’t cheering him, but rather opposing him. He did not have the benefit (or detriment!) of basing his self-worth on the adulation of others. In verse 3, David acknowledges that God is his protector (“a shield around me”) and the one who gives him confidence (“the one who lifts my head”). Between these two affirmations, the Hebrew original reads, simply, “My glory” (kevodi). When all is said and done, David’s source of self-worth is God. God is his glory. God is the one who honors him. God is the one who tells David he’s wonderful.
If you and I base our value on the accolades of others, we are building our self-worth on shifting sand. This is especially true for leaders, who inevitably must make decisions that disappoint people. One day we’re wonderful; the next we’re despicable. If we who lead base our value on what others think of us, our sense of wonderfulness will never last. Either we’ll be stuck with a poor self image or we’ll be forever seeking to please those who will never be fully satisfied with us (or both, as is often the case).
But if God is our glory, if God is the one whose pleasure defines us, then we can lead without hesitation or fear. When we succeed, we won’t be seduced by the accolades of the crowd. When we disappoint the masses, we will experience the grace of God who lifts our head, comforts our heart, and says to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” If God is our glory, we won’t be puffed up with pride that leads to a fall. Rather, we will live for God’s own glory and allow God to be the one who tells us we are wonderful.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
What tells you that you are wonderful? From what or whom do you derive your sense of self-worth? In what way is God your glory? What might it mean for you to derive your value mainly from God? How might you live for his glory today?
Gracious God, can I truly say that you’re my glory? In a way, yes. I do derive my sense of worth from you, at least in part. And I do seek to live for your glory, at least some of the time. Yet, I’m aware that I have many other “glories.” I am defined by what I do, by my influence, by my successes (and sometimes, my failures). Forgive me, Lord, for all the ways I cannot truly say you are my glory.
Help me, by your grace, to discover more of what it means for you to be my glory. May I derive my sense of self from you, from your love and affirmation. May I seek your glory above all else.
To you, O Lord, be all the glory! 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.