How a Man After God’s Own Heart Leads: Lessons from King David

Bible Book of psalms title page

Leadership these days is tougher than ever it seems. Times are hard and organizations are stressed. Employees are stretched and budgets are tight. Loyalty is rare and everything is changing a rocket pace.

One job of a successful leader is to encourage those who look to him or her for leadership. Leaders are to “rally the troops” so to speak and keep people moving forward. This becomes especially more difficult during stressful times in an organization, but even more important.

I’ve studied and written a great deal about King David — before and after he was appointed king — because he appears to have been a great leader in his time. Perfect? Well, of course not, but he was a “man after God’s own heart.” God used him to lead His people during some difficult times.

One great example of motivating a team during crisis comes from the writings of David in Psalm 3. At the time of this writing, it is believed that David was hiding out from his own son Absalom. His encouragement kept his troops focused and gave them strength they needed in desperate times.

If you don’t know the story, you can read the full context in 2 Samuel Chapters 11-19. In short, David’s sin (I told you he wasn’t perfect) led to a family turmoil, which led to David’s son attempting to take over the kingdom. David fled for his safety, but an army went with him. In spite of being outnumbered, David kept his troops encouraged and they eventually returned to power.

If you are a leader struggling to gain victory or you feel overwhelmed in your current situation, this story may motivate you. (It does me.)

Let’s walk through Psalm 3 in The Message Version:

Verse 1-2 God! Look! Enemies past counting! Enemies sprouting like mushrooms, Mobs of them all around me, roaring their mockery: “Hah! No help for him from God!”

There will be times in any leadership position where the odds seem to be against you. In those times a leader may feel there are more negative voices than positive voices — both outside and even inside the organization. (Remember, what you feel is not always reality, but it’s you’re perceived reality at the time.)

Verse 3-4 But you, God, shield me on all sides; You ground my feet, you lift my head high; With all my might I shout up to God, His answers thunder from the holy mountain.

The leader, regardless of the naysayers, must remember the vision and the resolve of his role within the organization. In this case, of course, David wasn’t unrealistic. He knew the situation was gruesome, but he also knew he had a testimony with God and that God had placed a special calling on his life. Great leaders know their calling.

Verse 5-6 I stretch myself out. I sleep. Then I’m up again—rested, tall and steady, Fearless before the enemy mobs Coming at me from all sides.

David took action. An important action under the circumstance. He went to sleep, placing everything in God’s hands. It was as if he said, “God, when I get up — it’s all you again!” Leaders must know their limits, their strengths and be willing to rely on help from others. Christian leaders ultimately rely on the power of God.

Verse 7 Up, God! My God, help me! Slap their faces, First this cheek, then the other, Your fist hard in their teeth!

David woke up with a passion that exploded inside of him. He had a new resolve. He had experienced a revival in his heart. He was ready to move forward with God’s plan. I can almost imagine those around David thinking, “What got into him last night?” Great leaders, in spite of their challenges, have a contagious enthusiasm about moving the vision of the organization forward. A team will rally around a leader with conviction. You may need to take a break, get re-energized, and come at the plan again with renewed fervor. That’s what good leaders do.

Verse 8 Real help comes from God. Your blessing clothes your people!

David assumed his rightful place as a leader and began to invest in others. As David looked to God for his strength, his people could look to him to lead them. Now, ultimately, in the days of grace, each of us respond and are accountable to God directly, but God uses leaders to instill vision and values, and encourage others to move forward, even during dark days.

Fellow leader, are you in a tough situation right now?

Maybe you lead a church, a business, a non-profit or even a family, but if what or who you lead has fallen on hard times, follow the example of David.

Lead your team to victory!

With God on your side, who can be against you?

A Potential Problem With a Servant’s Heart

Teenagers Serving A Meal To A Man

I was talking to the Executive Director of a homeless ministry recently. Everyday they feed hundreds of meals. Every night the ministry boards dozens of men and women. They clothe people. They help prepare people for job interviews. It’s an amazing ministry, doing great work.

But everything isn’t great.

The leader is tired, the budget is stretched, and the volunteer base is thin. Everyone is worn out emotionally and physically.

What’s the real problem? The real challenge? 

It was easy to diagnose as an outsider.

The leader is too busy serving to ever lead.

She never has time to recruit volunteers, let alone train them. She never has time to do board development. She never has time to fundraise. She never has time to cast the vision. She never has time to plan and dream. She never has time to invest in anything that lasts bigger than today.

And, she never has time to take care of herself. Ever.

All things she verbally recognizes she needs to do.

It’s the real problem. It’s the real challenge to the ministry.

And, if she’s not careful…and I hate to be the one to say this to such a wonderful ministry — eventually, it has the potential to tremendously cripple the ministry. In fact, the future of the ministry, in my professional organizational leadership opinion, is in jeopardy now. And, she is personally a time bomb waiting to explode in burnout.

And, she is one example. But, she is not unique. I’ve seen it many times. I see it among my pastor friends.

Show me a constantly over-worked leader. Show me continually stressed volunteers. Show me a thin budget. Show me a ministry with more demands than the resources or people to meet them…

And, I’ll show you a ministry that is headed for certain trouble unless something is addressed.

It reminds me of the hardest thing I’ve seen for ministers to do who love doing ministry — people with a servant’s heart.

If he or she has a heart to serve others. If he or she loves helping people — connecting with people — ministering to people…

The hardest thing to do…

Is to step back and see the bigger picture.

They have a hard time stopping ministry long enough to explore longer-term issues. They have a hard time doing, what seems to be at the time, unproductive work. People need to be fed. People are hurting. That’s why the ministry exists, right?

And, I get that. I’ve lived that. I even applaud the heart. It’s that heart that possibly prompted them into the ministry. It’s a great heart.

The problem is that it isn’t sustainable long-term. Even Jesus “slipped away” from the crowds. Even Elijah needed to be strengthened.

My advice:

Be willing to stop feeding one so you can feed dozens more in months to come.

Spend time developing the board. Spend time recruiting more volunteers. Spend time raising more funds. Spend time casting the vision to the community. Spend time caring for yourself. Spend time relaxing at the feet of Jesus.

It will seem you’re neglecting the ministry for a time, but in the big picture, you’ll be building a better and stronger ministry. And, you’ll be a healthier leader.

What do you need to stop doing now so you can see even more done later? 

How a Man After God’s Own Heart Responds to Naysayers

charge

Those who seek my life lay their snares;

those who seek my hurt speak of ruin

and meditate treachery all day long.

But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear,

like a mute man who does not open his mouth.

I have become like a man who does not hear,

and in whose mouth are no rebukes.

But for you, O Lord, do I wait;

it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.

Psalm 38:12-15

Contrary to some leader’s advice, I listen to critics. I understand we have to lead with those who believe in the vision, but I always feel I can learn from everyone — even those who disagree with me. I allow those I’m supposed to lead to cast objections to my plans and open myself up for correction — and yes, sometimes it hurts.

King David seemed to lead this way. We see several instances in his life where he was open to correction and criticism. He allowed those he was leading to speak into the situation and challenge his plan in 1 Samuel 23. Totally rare in those days. In 2 Samuel 16, David appears to take being cursed by another man, a man named Shimei, like a man — like a man after God’s own heart. Kings in those days — especially with the power of David — didn’t have to allow others to correct them — especially not with such violent accusations.

As a leader, David did not shelter himself from criticism or correction.

But, there’s a reality in leadership we can’t ignore. David, a “man after God’s own heart”, must have understood it.

Leader, you will never make everyone happy.

Some of us will try. Some of us take it personal when everyone isn’t happy with us. Some of us dislike conflict more than others.

But, the truth is, some people will always disagree with the decisions you make, because they disagree with you. They can’t buy into your vision, because they haven’t bought into you as the leader. That’s natural. It’s normal. It was even true for Christ in His leadership.

We should be open to input of others — even negative input. We should build collaboration as much as possible. We should do all we can to bring people along. We should make sure what we are doing is honorable.

But, at some point we move forward. And turn a deaf ear to the naysayers.

Because — in the end, David was leading for an audience of one. That’s how a man (or woman) after God’s own heart leads.

Thank you David for that gentle reminder.

We need it. Often.

20 Life-Changing Acts of Courage

courage

One single act of courage can change a life…often many lives.

No doubt, if you live a “normal” life there will be decisions you have to make that take courage. You will often have to walk by faith, be willing to risk everything, and trust God for the results, which often seem slow to arrive.

Sometimes doing the right thing is not the easiest thing to do. Most of the time, it takes courage to follow your heart, conviction, or God’s calling on your life.

But, when we act with courage into the places where God leads, it always brings greater rewards than we could imagine.

I reflected recently on some random examples that I have seen people make over the last few years…some of them from within my own family…that took courage, but the results were huge. At the time, some of them may or may not have seemed to be that “big of a deal”…and some of them were obvious risks, but in the process of completing them, the courage required can be equally huge.

20 Random Life-Changing Acts of Courage

  1. Leaving the job you hate (or love) so you can start the dream you’ve hidden.
  2. Taking the first step towards your God-given dream when everyone else is saying it can’t be done.
  3. Confronting the unspoken conflicts in a marriage.
  4. Offering forgiveness even when undeserved.
  5. Trusting God with money you don’t have.
  6. Beginning a Christian ministry in a predominately Muslim country.
  7. Letting go of the employee who is holding back the team, yet refuses to improve.
  8. Attempting again something you’ve failed at so many times.
  9. Planting a church…or trying to change an existing one.
  10. Ending the friendship that always drags you down.
  11. Trusting one more time the one who has hurt you so much.
  12. Moving the family for a new “opportunity” when the outcome is unclear.
  13. Speaking truth in love when it’s politically unpopular.
  14. Releasing the right to get even, even at the expense of your pride.
  15. Surrendering your will to God’s will.
  16. Putting other’s agenda ahead of your own.
  17. Standing up for someone everyone else is rejecting.
  18. Reaching out to a stranger, because you felt “led” to do so.
  19. Admit your struggle, sin, or failure to someone…even though you are afraid of the consequences.
  20. Ask for help even though you’re embarrassed to do so.

As I stated, those are random examples and your examples will be different from mine. Granted, some of these “appear” harder than others…requiring more courage. I never know when I write a post like this which chord I will strike and with whom. I have learned, however, that context makes life relative. Your act of courage can be “equal” to mine if God is calling you to an unknown reality. Moving forward into uncertainty requires a courage you don’t always have initially. Choosing whether or not to move forward and mustering the needed courage, is often what separates the ones who achieve great things from those who remain disappointed with their progress in life.

Here’s a voice of encouragement to you today…if you know you need to move forward…but you are afraid…I understand. I’m praying you’ll find the courage to trust God with the outcome and do what you know to do next.

What is something you have had to do that took a great deal of courage?

What Is Your Jesus New Year Resolution?

image

One of my closest friends and I hosted a Christian radio talk show for 17 years. He was out of town one morning for Christmas break and I had to do the show alone. As I was preparing that morning, I read Mark 5.

The story of the woman subject to bleeding has stuck with me for several weeks and let to a New Year’s resolution I have been mindful of ever since. It became my “Jesus resolution”.

To save you time looking up the story, I have pasted it here:

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

(Mark 5:24-34 NIV)

The story prompted a thought that I shared that morning on the radio.

What am I going to do with Jesus in the New Year?

Here’s what came to me from this story.

Seek Jesus more passionately.

Once this woman heard of Jesus she began to track Him. She became a “Jesus groupie” of sorts. She knew Jesus was her only hope.

That’s the way I want to pursue Him in the New Year.

Cling to Jesus more tightly.

It did not matter to the woman that she was not supposed to be in the crowd. Her physical condition should have kept her away, but she was willing to risk everything to “touch His garment”. Cultural expectations couldn’t keep her from Jesus.

I want that kind of commitment to Christ in the New Year. Regardless of what is politically correct, just give me Jesus.

Claim Jesus more readily.

When Jesus turned to look for the person who had touched him, the woman came forward. She could have left. She had received what she wanted. She didn’t have to stick around for public attention, but she was willing to declare her faith publicly. In times of hardship or times of blessing, she followed Jesus to make Him known.

This next year, I don’t want to miss opportunities to tell others about the faith I have in Jesus Christ!

Experience Jesus more expectedly.

The woman was healed! Her faith was rewarded. She went from being an embarrassment to the crowd to the star of the day. Honoring Christ came with great rewards. He blesses those who place their complete faith in Him, to the point that we are still considering her experience with Christ today!

This year, I want to see Christ bigger than ever before. I expect to see Him magnified greatly, as I place my total trust and faith in Him and watch expectantly for His appearance in my life!

What are you going to do with Jesus in the New Year? What’s your Jesus resolution?

The Transition of a Founder: Handing off the Reigns

Meeting handshake

Starbucks Howard Schultz had to return to the helm at Starbucks. Apparently, according to numerous reports, he tried to leave, but came back to attempt to reverse the suffering the company experienced. Dell’s Michael returned to help steer Dell back to health. Steve Jobs once returned to Apple. Other companies, who have founder with lesser known names, have seen their founding fathers return to the helm of leadership. Companies like Sun Microsystems, Novell, and Vonage saw founders return. They all returned to help the company succeed again. In some of these cases things were never the same after the return, but my point is they were forced to return to the companies they founded.

I have a theory.

Companies today will face this dilemma more than companies founded in years past.

Could it be that because companies today begin with such an imprint of their founder in their DNA that it is becoming more difficult to pass the reigns of the top spot to another person? Study Starbucks and you have to study Howard Schultz. (He even wrote a book about it.) Look at Dell computers and you see Michael Dell all over the company philosophy. Even today, as he is trying to rebrand the company that holds his name with a newer identity, his personality appears to drive the process. Companies today are very much an impression of their founders. Google’s corporate “fun” environment apparently IS Larry Page. Every time I’ve heard Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, interviewed he describes the social network with a passion that only a founder could exhibit.

Companies are launching into their niche faster than ever before. The information age and technology allows for growth at a pace unknown in previous generations. Much of that growth is a direct reflection on the personality and passions of the founder who is seen in the public as the chief representative of the company. Social media fuels that even faster. I’m not sure building around a personality has been the case as extreme as it seems to be today.

As I view this phenomenon within corporate America, I can’t help but wonder if there are implications for churches as well.

Doesn’t Northpoint have the personality of Andy Stanley? Lifepoint certainly embodies the imprint of Craig Groeschel.

What will happen when these leaders attempt to retire? The answer to that question remains to be seen. I have no doubt these two mentioned are thinking about those issues, but are their lesser known counterparts? We certainly are planting lots of churches. And, that’s a good thing.

But, certainly also, we are planting many churches today that share their DNA with the founding pastor. The world of social media elevates the role of the founder in churches too. People follow leaders…personalities. We can agree Jesus is to be that personality…it is Him we are to follow…but even still, society tends to look for individual leadership to follow these days. Hopefully, those churches are preparing to be churches that will last for years to come.

This thought process encourages a few things churches (and organizations) may want to consider in their beginning years:

  • We must be thinking transition of the founder from the founding.
  • We must be careful not to elevate people or personalities over a vision.
  • Whenever possible, we may want to consider easing a leader out gradually, rather than allowing a fast exit of the founder.
  • We must make sure our visions are easily transferable, if we want the church (or organization) to exist long-term.

As with most posts, I don’t have all the answers. I’m, hopefully, just triggering thoughts.

What are yours?