God is in the Ordinary

In our popular culture (through media and advertising), we are regularly exhorted to purse the next big thing, and buy into the hype that we can (and should) change the world. If the Christian publishing industry is any indication, then the church has bought into this line of thinking as well. Words like ‘Radical. Epic. Revolutionary. Transformative. Life-Changing. Ultimate. Extreme,” have become increasingly commonplace.

The problem is that for most of us, it is simply unrealistic that we will ever “change the world” (Isn’t that God’s job any way?). Further, if we buy into the rhetoric, the expectations can become crushing to our souls.

Listen to the experience of Tish Harrison Warren. Raised in an evangelical culture, she began to buy into the “change the world” mentality.

I was nearly 22 years old and had just returned to my college town from a part of Africa that had missed the last three centuries. As I walked to church in my weathered, worn-in Chacos, I bumped into our new associate pastor and introduced myself. He smiled warmly and said, “Oh, you. I’ve heard about you. You’re the radical who wants to give your life away for Jesus.” It was meant as a compliment and I took it as one, but it also felt like a lot of pressure because, in a new way, I was torturously uncertain about what being a radical and living for Jesus was supposed to mean for me. Here I was, back in America, needing a job and health insurance, toying with dating this law student intellectual (who wasn’t all that radical), and unsure about how to be faithful to Jesus in an ordinary life. I’m not sure I even knew if that was possible.

After spending time in various “radical” Christian communities, Warren began to wonder if ordinary life was even possible.

Now, I’m a thirty-something with two kids living a more or less ordinary life. And what I’m slowly realizing is that, for me, being in the house all day with a baby and a two-year-old is a lot more scary and a lot harder than being in a war-torn African village. What I need courage for is the ordinary, the daily every-dayness of life. Caring for a homeless kid is a lot more thrilling to me than listening well to the people in my home. Giving away clothes and seeking out edgy Christian communities requires less of me than being kind to my husband on an average Wednesday morning or calling my mother back when I don’t feel like it.

So, if aspiring to change the world is not the goal, then what is? I love the phrase of one Christian sociologist, when he said that we are to have a “faithful presence” in our world today. It is not as dramatic as “radical, epic, and revolutionary,” but it is more biblical.

We are to be faithful to God in what he requires. He has revealed these requirements to us in the pages of scripture. In addition, we are to have a presence in this world that is oriented toward loving and serving others.

The biblical pattern is that God loves and gives his gifts to ordinary people, and sends us out into the world to love and serve others in ordinary callings. This is how God normally operates. We see this in Jeremiah 29:4-7: “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

• Settle in…build houses (v. 5)
• Grow gardens…put down roots (v. 5)
• Have families…this is how the generations will continue (v. 6)
• Be civically minded for God’s glory…your welfare is tied up with the welfare of the community (v. 7)

None of the above is particularly “radical” or “revolutionary”, but it is how God was went to work through his people for the good of others, it was how he carried out his purposes in the world.

This means that wherever God has placed you (and it may not even be where you want to be), however he has gifted you (it may not even be the talents and abilities that you want), you are to love God and serve your neighbor. It’s all very ordinary. In doing this we fulfill the ‘Great Commandment’: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.] This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’(Matthew 22:37-39).

As Tish Harrison Warren continues,

My life is really rich in dirty dishes (and diapers) these days and really short in revolutions. I go to a church full of older people who live pretty normal, middle-class lives in nice, middle-class houses. But I have really come to appreciate this community, to see their lifetimes of sturdy faithfulness to Jesus, their commitment to prayer, and the tangible, beautiful generosity that they show those around them in unnoticed, unimpressive, unmarketable, unrevolutionary ways. And each week, we average sinners and boring saints gather around ordinary bread and wine and Christ himself is there with us.

I’ve come to the point where I’m not sure anymore just what God counts as radical. And I suspect that for me, getting up and doing the dishes when I’m short on sleep and patience is far more costly and necessitates more of a revolution in my heart than some of the more outwardly risky ways I’ve lived in the past. And so this is what I need now: the courage to face an ordinary day — an afternoon with a colicky baby where I’m probably going to snap at my two-year old and get annoyed with my noisy neighbor — without despair, the bravery it takes to believe that a small life is still a meaningful life, and the grace to know that even when I’ve done nothing that is powerful or bold or even interesting that the Lord notices me and is fond of me and that that is enough.

In our wedding ceremony, my pastor warned my husband that every so often, I would bound into the room, anxiety etched on my face, certain we’d settled for mediocrity because we weren’t “giving our lives away” living in outer Mongolia. We laughed. All my radical friends laughed. And he was right. We’ve had that conversation many, many times. But I’m starting to learn that, whether in Mongolia or Tennessee, the kind of “giving my life away” that counts starts with how I get up on a gray Tuesday morning. It never sells books. It won’t be remembered. But it’s what makes a life. And who knows? Maybe, at the end of days, a hurried prayer for an enemy, a passing kindness to a neighbor, or budget planning on a boring Thursday will be the revolution stories of God making all things new.

If you want to see what God is doing in the world, don’t think that it is only to be found in the extraordinary, but look for it in the ordinary – the everyday. That is where you will see God at work. And don’t just be a passive observer, but join in wholeheartedly – “Whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

The Marks of a Spiritual Leader (Part 6)

We are continuing on with John Piper’s The Marks of a Spiritual Leader. His thoughts on “The Outer Circle of Spiritual Leadership” are below.

13. A DREAMER

According to Joel 2:28, in the last days (in which we now live), “Your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” This is the positive counterpart to restlessness. We must not only be discontent with the  present but also dreaming dreams of what could be in the future. In 2 Kings 6:15–17, Elisha and his servant were surrounded by Assyrians in the city of Dothan. When the servant sees this and cries out with dismay, Elisha prays and says, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” The Lord answered Elisha’s prayer and “opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

Leaders can see the power of God overshadowing the problems of the future. This is a rare gift—to see the sovereign power of God in the midst of seemingly overwhelming opposition. Most people are experts at seeing all the problems and reasons not to move forward in a venture. The spirit of venturesomeness is at a premium today. O how we need people who will devote just five minutes a week to dream of what might possibly be. The text says that old men will dream dreams. How sad it is, then, to see so many old people assuming that their age means that now they can coast and turn over the creativity to the young. It is tragic when age makes a man jaded instead of increasingly creative. Every new church, every agency, every new ministry, every institution, every endeavor, is the result of someone having a vision and laying hold on it like a snapping turtle.

14. ORGANIZED AND EFFICIENT

A leader does not like clutter. He likes to know where and when things are for quick access and use. His favorite shape is the straight line, not the circle. He groans in meetings that do not move from premises to conclusions but rather go in irrelevant circles. When something must be done he sees a three-step plan for getting it done and lays it out. A leader sees the links between a board decision and its implementation. He sees ways to use time to the full and shapes his schedule to maximize his usefulness. He saves himself large blocks of time for his major productive activities. He uses little pieces of time lest they go to waste. (For example, what do you do while you are brushing your teeth? Could you set a magazine on the towel rack and read an article?) A leader takes time to plan his days and weeks and months and years. Even though it is God who ultimately directs the steps of the leader, he should plan his path. A leader is not a jellyfish that gets tossed around by the waves, nor is he an oyster that is immovable. The leader is the dolphin of the sea and can swim against the stream or with the stream as he plans.

15. DECISIVE

In 1 Kings 18:21, Elijah cries out, “How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” A leader cannot be paralyzed by indecisiveness. He will take risks rather than do nothing. He will soak himself in prayer and the gospel and then rest himself in God’s sovereignty as he makes decisions, knowing that he will very likely make some mistakes.

16. PERSEVERANT

Jesus said in Matthew 24:13, “the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Paul said in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not grow weary in doing good.” We live in a day when immediate gratification is usually demanded. That means that very few people excel in the virtue of perseverance. Very few people keep on and keep on in the same ministry when there is significant difficulty. Vision without perseverance, however, results in fairy tales not fruitful ministry. My dad once told me that the reason he thought many pastors fail to see revival in their churches is that they leave just before it is about to happen. The long haul is hard, but it pays. The big tree is felled by many, many little chops. The criticisms that come your way will be long forgotten if you keep on doing the Lord’s will.

17. RESTFUL

We began with the quality of restlessness, and we end with the quality of restful. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:1–2). The spiritual leader knows that ultimately the productivity of his labors rests in God and that God can do more while he is asleep than he could do while awake without God. He knows that Jesus said to his busy disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). He is not so addicted to work that he is unable to rest. He is a good steward of his life and health. He maximizes the totality of his labor by measuring the possible strains under which he can work without diminishing his efficiency of unduly shortening his life.

CONCLUSION

No doubt, many other qualities could be mentioned which, if a person has, would make him an even more successful leader. These are simply the ones that came to my mind as I was pondering this subject. One need not excel in every one of them. But the more fully each one is developed in a person the more powerful and fruitful he will be as a leader. Let me emphasize again that it is the inner circle that makes the leadership spiritual. All genuine leadership begins in a sense of desperation; knowledge that we are helpless sinners in need of a great Savior. That moves us to listen to God in the Scriptures and cry out to him for help and for insight in prayer. That leads us to trust in God and to hope in his great and precious promises. This frees us for a life of love and service which, in the end, causes people to see and give glory to our Father in heaven.

“Not as Secular as it Looks”

John Stott, before his death in 2011, sat down with Tim Stafford from Christianity Today, and addressed questions on the global state of Christianity. At one point in the interview, he perceptively offered insight into the longings still that haunt a secular culture. He gives tremendous insight for directing approaches in which we can faithfully witness to Christ in our increasingly secular context.

Q. What about what some call the greatest mission field, which is our own secularizing or secularized culture? What do we need to do to reach this increasingly pagan society?

A. I think we need to say to one another that it’s not as secular as it looks. I believe that these so-called secular people are engaged in a quest for at least three things. The first is transcendence. It’s interesting in a so-called secular culture how many people are looking for something beyond. I find that a great challenge to the quality of our Christian worship. Does it offer people what they are instinctively looking for, which is transcendence, the reality of God?

The second is significance. Almost everybody is looking for his or her own personal identity. Who am I, where do I come from, where am I going to, what is it all about? That is a challenge to the quality of our Christian teaching. We need to teach people who they are. They don’t know who they are. We do. They are human beings made in the image of God, although that image has been defaced.

And third is their quest for community. Everywhere, people are looking for community, for relationships of love. This is a challenge to our fellowship. I’m very fond of 1 John 4:12: “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us, and his love is perfected in us.” The invisibility of God is a great problem to people. The question is how has God solved the problem of his own invisibility? First, Christ has made the invisible God visible. That’s John’s Gospel 1:18: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

People say that’s wonderful, but it was 2,000 years ago. So in 1 John 4:12, he begins with exactly the same formula, nobody has ever seen God. But here John goes on, “If we love one another, God abides in us.” The same invisible God who once made himself visible in Jesus now makes himself visible in the Christian community, if we love one another. And all the verbal proclamation of the gospel is of little value unless it is made by a community of love.

These three things about our humanity are on our side in our evangelism, because people are looking for the very things we have to offer them.

The Marks of a Spiritual Leader (Part 5)

We are continuing on with John Piper’s The Marks of a Spiritual Leader. His thoughts on “The Outer Circle of Spiritual Leadership” are below.

9. ABLE TO TEACH

It is not surprising to me that some of the great leaders at our church have been men who are also significant teachers. According to 1 Timothy 3:2, anyone who aspires to the office of overseer in the church should be able to teach. What is a good teacher? I think a good teacher has at least the following characteristics:

• A good teacher asks himself the hardest questions, works through to answers, and then frames provocative questions for his learners to stimulate their thinking.

• A good teacher analyzes his subject matter into parts and sees relationships and discovers the unity of the whole.

• A good teacher knows the problems learners will have with his subject matter and encourages them and gets them over the humps of discouragement.

• A good teacher foresees objections and thinks them through so that he can answer them intelligently.

• A good teacher can put himself in the place of a variety of learners and therefore explain hard things in terms that are clear from their standpoint.

• A good teacher is concrete, not abstract, specific, not general, precise, not vague, vulnerable, not evasive.

• A good teacher always asks, “So what?” and tries to see how discoveries shape our whole system of thought. He tries to relate discoveries to life and tries to avoid compartmentalizing.

• The goal of a good teacher is the transformation of all of life and thought into a Christ-honoring unity.

10. A GOOD JUDGE OF CHARACTER

Jesus knew the hearts of men (John 2:17), and he urged us to be perceptive in assessing others (Matthew 7:15ff). Leaders must know who is fit for what kind of work. Good leaders have good noses. They can sniff out barnacles in a hurry, that is, people who are forever listening but never learning or changing. They can detect potential when they see it in a beginner. They can hear in a short time the echoes of pride and hypocrisy and worldliness. The spiritual leader steers a careful course between the dangers of rigid pigeonholing on the one hand and indifference on the other hand.

11. TACTFUL

Paul said in Colossians 4:5–6, “Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” And the writer of Proverbs said, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). We must remember that leaders are aiming to change hearts, not just to get jobs done. Therefore, alienating people unnecessarily is self-defeating. Tact is that quality of grace that wins the confidence of people who are sure you won’t do or say something stupid. You can’t inspire a following if people have to hang their heads in embarrassment at the inappropriate and insensitive things you say or do. Tact is especially needed in a leader to help cope with embarrassing or tragic situations.

For example, very often when you are leading a group someone will say something totally irrelevant, which is recognized to be very foolish by everyone in the group. A tactful leader must be able to divert the attention of the group back to the main course of the discussion without heaping scorn upon the individual. Another example, which I recall, comes from my experience at Wheaton College. I was present at the chapel service where V. Raymond Edman had a heart attack in the pulpit and fell over and died. Hudson Armerding, who followed him as president, was sitting behind him when Dr. Edman paused in his lecture, took one step to the side, and fell over. In one of the most beautiful and sensitive demonstrations of tact that I have ever seen, Dr. Armerding quickly kneeled beside him as 2,000 students fell silent. Then he stood, led us in a brief prayer committing Dr. Edman to the Lord, and dismissed the students quietly. Dr. Edman died as we walked out.

The tact of a leader must demonstrate itself in forthright confrontation. The person who is unwilling to approach a person who needs admonition or rebuke will not be a successful spiritual leader. Combined with his judgment of people’s character, a leader’s tact will enable him to handle delicate negotiations and  opposing viewpoints. His choice of words will be astute rather than clumsy. (There is a big difference between saying, “Your foot is too big for this shoe” and “This shoe is too small for your foot.”)

12. THEOLOGICALLY ORIENTED

Colossians 3:17 says, “Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,” and 1 Corinthians 2:16 speaks of the spiritual man as having “the mind of Christ.” A spiritual leader knows that all of life, down to its smallest detail, has to do with God. If we are to lead people to see and reflect God’s glory, we must think theologically about everything. We must work toward a synthesis of all things. We must probe to see how things fit together. How do war and sports and pornography and birthday celebrations and literature and space travel and disease and enterprise all hang together? How do they relate to God and his purposes?

Leaders must have a theological standpoint that helps give coherence to all things. This will give the leader a stability that keeps him from being knocked off his feet by sudden changes in circumstances or new winds of doctrine. He knows enough about God and his ways that things generally fit into a pattern and make sense even when they are unpleasant. So the leader does not throw up his hands but points the way onward to God.

For Better or for Worse…

Letter from James C. Dobson, Sr. to his then fiancé and future wife Myrtle:

I want you to understand and be fully aware of my feelings concerning marriage covenant which we are about to enter. I have been taught at my mothers knee, and in harmony with the word of God that the marriage vows are inviolable, and in entering into them I’m binding myself to you absolutely and for life. The idea of estrangement from you through divorce for any reason (although God allows one – infidelity) will never at any time be allowed to enter into my thinking. I am not naïve in this. On the contrary, I am fully aware of the possibility, unlikely as it now appears, that mutual incompatibility or other unforeseen circumstances could result in extreme mental suffering. If such becomes the case, I’m resolved for my part to accept it as a consequence of the commitment I am now making and to bear it, if necessary, to the end of our lives together. I have loved you dearly as a sweetheart and will continue to love you as my wife. But over and above that, I will love you with a Christian love…And I pray that God Himself will make our affection for one another perfect and eternal.”

The Marks of a Spiritual Leader (Part 4)

We are continuing on with John Piper’s The Marks of a Spiritual Leader. His thoughts on “The Outer Circle of Spiritual Leadership” are below.

5. THICK-SKINNED

At least this much is sure in leadership: If you begin to lead others, you will be criticized. No one will be a significant spiritual leader if his aim is to please others and seek their approval. Paul said in Galatians 1:10, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Spiritual leaders do not seek the praises of men. They seek to please God. Dr. Carl Lundquist, former President of Bethel College and Seminary, said in his final report to the Baptist General Conference that there was hardly  one of the twenty-eight years in which he  served that he was not actively opposed by  many people.

If criticism disables us, we will never make it as spiritual leaders. I don’t mean that we must be the kind of people who don’t feel hurt, but rather that we must not be wiped out by the hurt. We must be able to say with Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:8, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” We will feel the criticism, but we will not be incapacitated by it. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “We do not lose heart.”

Leaders must be able to digest depression because they will eat plenty of it. There will be many days when the temptation is very strong to quit because of unappreciative people. Criticism is one of Satan’s favorite weapons to try to get effective Christian leaders to throw in the towel.

I should, however, qualify this characteristic of being thick-skinned. I do not want to give the impression that spiritual leaders are closed off to legitimate criticism. A good leader must not only be thick-skinned but also open and humbly ready to accept and apply just criticism. No leader is perfect, and Jonathan Edwards said once that he made it a spiritual discipline to look for the truth in every criticism that came his way before he discarded it. That’s good advice.

6. ENERGETIC

Lazy people cannot be leaders. Spiritual leaders “redeem the time” (Ephesians 5:16). They work while it is day, because they know that night comes when no man can work (John 9:4). They do “not grow weary of doing good,” for they know that in due season they shall reap if they do not lose heart (Galatians 6:9). They are “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). But they do not take credit for this great energy or boast in their efforts because they say with the apostle Paul, “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). And: “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:29).

The world is run by tired men, someone has said. A leader must learn to live with pressure. None of us accomplish very much without deadlines, and deadlines always create a sense of pressure. A leader does not see the pressure of work as a curse but as a glory. He does not desire to fritter away his life in excess leisure. He loves to be productive. And he copes with the pressure and prevents it from becoming worrisome with promises like Matthew 11:27–28 and Philippians 4:7–8 and Isaiah 64:4.

7. A HARD THINKER

Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” (1 Corinthians 14:20). It is not easy to be a leader of people who can outthink you. A leader must be one who, when he sees a set of circumstances, thinks about it. He sits down with pad and pencil, and he doodles and writes and creates. He tests all things with his mind and holds fast to what is good is, not gullible or faddish or trendy. He weighs things and considers pros and cons and always has a significant rationale for the decisions that he makes. Careful and rigorous thought is not contrary to a reliance on prayer and divine revelation. The apostle Paul said  to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:7, “Think over  what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” In other words, God’s way of imparting to us insight is not to short-circuit the intellectual process.

8. ARTICULATE

It is hard to lead others if you cannot state your thoughts clearly and forcefully. Leaders like Paul aim to persuade men, not coerce them  (2 Corinthians 5:11). Leaders who are spiritual do not muster a following with hot air or waves or words but rather with crisp, solid, compelling sentences. The apostle Paul aimed, like all good leaders, at clarity in what he said. According  to Colossians 4:4, he asked the people to pray for him, “that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.” It is astonishing and lamentable how many people today cannot speak in complete sentences. The result is that a great fog surrounds their thought.

Neither they nor their listeners know exactly what they are talking about. A haze settles over the discussion, and you walk away wondering what it was all about. If no one rises above the muddle-headedness and verbal chaos of “You know . . . I mean . . . Just really,” there will not be any leadership.

The Marks of a Spiritual Leader (Part 3)

We are continuing on with John Piper’s The Marks of a Spiritual Leader. His thoughts on “The Outer Circle of Spiritual Leadership” are below.

THE OUTER CIRCLE OF SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP

Everyone in the church has one or more spiritual gifts. Everyone should be involved in ministry. Everyone should be seeking to lead others to the point where they bring glory to God by the way they think and feel and act. But there are some people to whom the risen and reigning Christ has given qualities of personality that tend to make them more able leaders than others. Not all of these qualities are distinctively Christian, but when the Holy Spirit fills a person’s life each of these qualities is harnessed and transformed for God’s purposes.

1. RESTLESS

Spiritual leaders have a holy discontentment with the status quo. Non-leaders have inertia that causes them to settle in and makes them very hard to move off of dead center. Leaders have a hankering to change, to move, to reach out, to grow, and to take a group or an institution to new dimensions of ministry. They have the spirit of Paul, who said in Philippians 3:13, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Leaders are always very goal-oriented people.

God’s history of redemption is not finished. The church is shot through with imperfections, lost sheep are still not in the fold, needs of every sort in the world are unmet, sin infects the saints. It is unthinkable that we should be content with things the way they are in a fallen world and an imperfect church. Therefore, God has been pleased to put a holy restlessness into some of his people, and those people will very likely be the leaders.

2. OPTIMISTIC

Spiritual leaders are optimistic not because man is good but because God is in control. The leader must not let his discontentment become disconsolation. When he sees the imperfection of the church, he must say with the writer of Hebrews, “Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation” (Hebrews 6:9). The foundation of his life is Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,  for those who are called according to his  purpose.” He reasons with Paul that, “He who did not spare his own son, but gave him  up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). Without this confidence based upon the goodness of God manifested in Jesus Christ,  the leader’s perseverance would falter and the people would not be inspired. Without  optimism, restlessness becomes despair.

3. INTENSE

The great quality I want in my associates is one of intensity. Romans 12:8 says that if your gift is leadership do it “with zeal.” Romans 12:11 says, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit.” When the disciples remembered the way Jesus had behaved in relation to the temple of God, they characterized it with words from the Old Testament like this, “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:17). The leader follows the advice of Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.”

When Jonathan Edwards was a young man, he wrote a list of about 70 resolutions. The one that has inspired me the most goes like this: “To live with all my might while I live.” Count Zinzendorf of the Moravians said, “I have one passion. It is He and He alone.” Jesus warns us in Revelation 3:16 that he does not have any taste for people who are lukewarm: “So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

Spiritual leaders must go out alone somewhere and ponder what unutterable and stupendous things they know about God. If their life is one extended yawn, they are simply blind. Leaders must give evidence that the things of the Spirit are intensely real. They cannot do that unless they are intense themselves.

4. SELF-CONTROLLED

By self-controlled I do not mean prim and proper, but rather master of our drives. If we are to lead others toward God, we cannot be led ourselves toward the world. According to Galatians 5:23, self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. It is not mere willpower. It is appropriating the power of God to get mastery over our emotions and our appetites that could lead us astray or cause us to occupy our time with fruitless endeavors. In 1 Corinthians 6:12 Paul says, “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything.”

The Christian leader must ruthlessly examine his life to see whether he is the least enslaved by television, Internet, social media, food, alcohol, coffee, soda, sports, computer games, shopping, romance novels, pornography, masturbation, or people-pleasing. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:25, “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” And he says in Galatians 5:24, “Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passion and desires.” Spiritual leaders ruthlessly track down bad habits and break them by the power of the Spirit. They hear and follow Romans 8:13, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.” Spiritual leaders long to be free from everything that hinders their fullest delight in God and service of others.