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Relationship between Priorities and Balance in the Life of a Leader
Throughout the history of Christianity many spiritual leaders arose to be guiding light for their generation. They showed us the right relationship between the priorities and the balanced life of any Christian. One of them is D.L. Moody, an American evangelist from the second haft of the 19th c., who came from a rural background, trained in Boston and flourished in Chicago, switching from business into full-time ministry. Seen from his background, Moody at first did not have the finest qualities or education to be an evangelist, but God constantly uses people like him, who apply simplistic methods to speak to the crowds and to motivate people in their faith.
The first important factor in the faith walk of D. L. Moody was to surrender completely to the will of God, so that God could use him completely. Moody came “to realize God can use any Christian to accomplish His work. And when Christians surrender unreservedly to Him, He is free to work unreservedly through them.” Moody was convinced that the work of God can be accomplished by any believer in their everyday sphere of life among the people they to live. One does not have to be an ordained minister in order to serve the Lord, quite on the contrary – one has to be aware of where God wants to use one to contribute to His calling. This makes Moody such a popular preacher – he used to focus on the sense of personal commitment of any average Christian should maintain.
There are many references in the Bible about the importance to submit to God’s will. For example, Jesus underlines that: “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35), (NIV). In other verses the apostles tell us that: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality” (1 Thess. 4:3), (NIV). The apostles encourage us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18), (NIV). “For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people” (1 Peter 2:15), (NIV). “For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:17), (NIV).
Spiritual life is not easy and it cannot be simulated with a few futile efforts. Just as we cannot learn to play one or two songs on an instrument perfectly, without investing time to learn how to play that instrument in general – in the same way we cannot achieve any spiritual victories without learning about the foundation of faith. There are some spiritual practices that we need to activate, in order to make our life in the Lord work.
“Spiritual formation is about a life oriented to God in Christ by the Spirit.  [It] is not, ultimately, about us at all, but about God.” In our walk with God we are, essentially in need of one important thing – the Holy Spirit of God. Then our reliance on God makes us utterly dependent on His grace, since we know that God Himself has brought us into this state, so that we can be in connection with Him forever. By working though the Holy Spirit in us, God makes sure the image of Jesus Christ is imprinted in us – we are formed in the person of Christ. It is very important that the image of Christ is indeed revealed to this world, because the Bible says we live in the last times.
There are two reasons for becoming a vessel of the Holy Spirit: 1) People need to see Christ and to have the opportunity to be redeemed, because “the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers and they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4), (NIV). 2) In this world there is a constant battle for souls – whom to worship and to glorify. When we testify for Jesus, His image shines through us. Apostle John says in Revelation: “I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Rev. 20:4), (NIV).
Finally, it is good to admit before God in our prayer time our human weaknesses and to ask for strength. This is something we can learn from D. Bonhoeffer in his life ordeals to keep his consciousness clean in front of God. When we acknowledge that we are weak in Christ, then God’s mercy and grace flow through us. Sometimes, God’s will is so impressed on our hearts that we need to obey, even though we know that this can mean risking our lives or losing the comfort that security offers us. However, this brings our life into a different dimension and gives us a new meaning in the security of the unending love of Christ.
Bonhoeffer says: “Only when we ourselves live and speak entirely from the mercy of Christ and no longer at all out of our own particular knowledge and experience, then we will not be sanctimonious.” There is a certain parallel between the life of Bonhoeffer, who decides to return to Nazi occupied Germany to fulfill his calling to be with the Christians there, and the life of Apostle Paul, who by the end of his life returns to Judea, although he is warned by brothers and by the Holy Spirit that this might cost him His life.
This kind of life might seem completely out of balance for the ordinary people, who do not risk their lives to fulfill the calling of God and who are busy with their everyday activities. Yet, there is an extraordinary peace about such drastic decisions, because after all the leaders that take them are looking for one thing in the long run – to reunite with Christ in heaven, as they are promised. The Apostle says: “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10), (NIV). This is because of Christ, who “once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:9), (NIV). Just as the person, who submits to the will of God, appears small and limited, in the same way, by contrast – God appears without limits, all knowing and all compassionate.
SWOT Analysis to Aspect of My Life as a Leader
There are a few aspects in my life that interconnect in what I consider one calling – to minister to the unsaved – a community of ‘traditional Christians’ that have not heard of the original message of Christ and have not experienced rebirth in Christ, or what He calls “being born again.” My mission is to point them to Christ through my life example and also through my active service at Church. I feel I have been pointed by Christ to minister through founding a publishing house and publishing Christian books that I translate into my native language to distribute to libraries and bookstores.
The strength of my ministry is that I have earlier in my life obeyed Christ and have moved to live abroad to study literature. During my difficult years abroad I was on my own, had to train and to support myself by working, which was not easy, but it made me completely dependent on Christ and His provision. I have lived through many seasons with Christ alone and seen how He has led me though many circumstances to show me what is the real calling on my life and what are the real problems behind the ones I see for a certain group of people – what are their failures and lacks. God has also showed me that there is something to be done, because this specific nation likes reading new books, so if they are supplied with the right books, they will believe in the right way.
God has made me aware that this problem and spiritual malfunction needs to be overcome in a specific way. I consider it essential that God is in the foundation of my ministry, since He is the one Who completes my faith. My strength is that I always want to put God first and obey Him in what needs to be done. I believe He is a God of compassion, wandering around in His efforts to gather the lost children of His faith. He is grieved for everyone who is led astray by false teachings like ‘new age’ or ‘esoteric’ promoting a number of their books on the market. People are hungry, but reading such books does no satisfy their spiritual thirst. Jesus says to the woman at the well that if she drinks from the water He will give her, she will never become thirsty.
When coming into ministry, even though one is born again and believing in Jesus, sometimes the person is not healed from previous wounds caused by verbal or physical abuse that has happened in the past. Often those wounds make the life of believers in ministers very difficult, since, after all, ministries are based on human relationships. If one person has been hurt, it is challenging to invade their emotional private sphere and to help them recover. Some of my weaknesses are not directly connected to my character, but to the atmosphere I grew up in. My mother has been hurt and emotionally wounded in her childhood and she brought a great deal of insecurities and vulnerabilities when she was raising me up. I consider this one of my weaknesses that could affect my ministry and commitments.
Often ministries fail because of strife within the community. Joyce Meyer, for example, in her preaching, refers to strife as the number one reason preventing the grace of God from taking our ministries to the next level to fulfill the calling on our lives. The Bible is clear that “where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work” (James 3:16), (KJV). The biggest challenge in working within an environment where there is potentially a lot of strife, rivalry and prejudices is to maintain peace. Lack of peace in the relationships of a minister is very dangerous for the ministry. If there is strife, then it means that the minister is overcome with selfish pride that needs to be addressed. Other deeply rooted reasons for harboring this weakness are nurturing bitterness in one’s heart or similar devastating emotions like “hatred, judgment and criticism, deception and lies, anger, rebellion, unrest, fear and negativity.” All these emotions can be poisonous for the ministry, and if not addressed on time by the person, who is involved in serving, this could cause more damage than producing good fruits.
A ministry is an opportunity for the leader to be accountable, not just for speaking the word of the Lord to a congregation, but also for imparting that word into the hearts of the people.” I think, leading a Christian publishing house offers exactly that opportunity. This kind of leadership requires a lot of love for Jesus, since Jesus would not give His authority to someone, who ultimately does not put Him first. Jesus asks His disciple Peter 3 times: “Do you love me?” before He releases a blessing over him: “Feed My sheep” (John 21:12-17).
This leadership role is a fruit of my love for Jesus, as He has tested me a number of times, if I would love Him. The ministry of Jesus is a ministry of love, since “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16), (KJV). A ministry is an opportunity to maintain intimacy with God, praying constantly and seeing God moving mountains when the circumstances are not so easy and when unpredictable challenges occur.
For example, Joyce Meyer tells us that when God called her to start a Bible teaching ministry, she was not ready yet immediately to enter the role God has ordained for her. It took time to build a new character that would be fit for the new role. So, when we are called, it usually takes time for us to mature to God’s idea infused in us. She describes it as “being spiritually pregnant with God’s divine idea.” First, when women are pregnant, they do not show any signs of pregnancy, but are still very excited that they will have children. The same happens with anyone (men and women) when they conceive the divine revelation for a ministry ordained by God. After all, we are God’s representative on this earth and He can work through us, testing us, building us, encouraging us and feeding us spiritually to be strong in the Holy Spirit. “A healthy walk in the Lord cannot be developed on a one-day-a-week mealit must be nurtured every hour of every day.” The truth is our Father in heaven rejoices when we walk into the destiny He has ordained for us and when we receive what we were meant in inherit initially, says Juanita Bynum.
The threads connected to a ministry are first of all of a spiritual character. The Bible warns us that there are going to be challenges along the way in the form of spiritual attacks or “temptations,” but it also provides a tool to be prepared to face such challenges or threads: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41), (KJV). The principle of the ‘enemy of our souls,’ who wanted to be with God, might be tempting us to manifest in our flesh as well. The enemy forgot that he was a created being supposed to submit to God’s authority. This kind of rebellious spirit can also infect leaders, who after having taken too many responsibilities, start thinking that they should be equal to church leaders that previously have pastored them. God warns us not to lose this sense of submitting to one another and to stay accountable by trusting others: “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5), (KJV).
The threads within a ministry come from our own hearts more often that from outside circumstances, because the enemy has only a certain amount of power to tests us – just as much as God allows it. Billy Graham says: “It isn’t a sin to be tempted, but it is a sin to give in to the temptation.” If we are tempted at the beginning of our ministries, this means we are walking into the footsteps of Jesus. When He started his ministry, He was led to the desert by the enemy to be tempted (Matthew 4:1). Jesus overcame this period of His life by turning to the Word of God and citing it into the face of the enemy, which He did on 3 crucial occasions and then saw the enemy leaving Him. The Bible says that there will be trials, but we have to remain without sin till the end (Hebrew 4:15). We still live in the flesh and our whole life is a testing to see, if we belong to heaven. God does not tempt us, but sometimes we give in to our own evil desires that cause us to stumble: “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (James 1:14), (KJV).
My Future Leadership and the Next Year
This year is curial in my ministry and I need to mature in many areas of my personal life. Following the teachings of Joyce Meyer, Juanita Bynum and Billy Graham, I will briefly underline what I have learned from them in regard to the process of my personal growing as a leader. To begin with, we have to build a firm foundation in believing. God is a strong tower and we can always find refuge in Him, when we believe that He is that one who says He is. Jesus touches the eyes of the blind, “saying, According to your faith be it unto you” (Matt. 9:29), (KJV). When we read about the spiritual journey of other faith giants, we are encouraged to believe and to develop our qualities as leaders.
Not everyone, who is called to be a leader in a certain ministry is yet ready and has fully developed the fruits of the Spirit, as the Bible lists them: stability, faithfulness, patience, joy, love, kindness, gentleness and meekness. Sometimes it takes time. And before we have developed them, God will not allow us to be in charge of other believers, because we might hurt them in ways He does not want to see this happening. However, God is also aware that no one is perfect, not even one single person, and He makes sure the believers get to develop the qualities that would bring good fruits over the years. Joyce Meyer recommends that, if we feel a calling on our lives, we should develop them on purpose and should train to qualify for this leadership role in the Lord.
It is important in the process to find trustful and more experienced leaders, who will take over the role of our mentors and will assist us in every step of our growing – those are reliable Christians that will never give up on us when we need advice or when we show our weaknesses. Christians should hold each other accountable and should tolerate each other’s weaknesses in the process of growing
Finding the correct church is very important for us as well. Juanita Bynum tells that both trustworthy mentors and nurturing church environment were pivotal in her stepping into her leadership role. She says that the Holy Spirit already knew her potential as a leader; she also received a clear indication of what she was supposed to do. However, all this did not come to realization until she found the right church and the right spiritual leaders, who supported her and encouraged her to step into the destiny God has for her.
It is normal to go through a period of search for the right church and the right mentor. She calls that a ‘desert period’ of one’s life. She compares it to the Israelites walking out of Egypt and wandering through the desert. They knew what they were supposed to do – inherit a blessing and receive the fruits of the Father in a promised land they have never seen with their own eyes in the natural. Yet, they had to pass through this period, before arriving home and actually starting to operate in the blessing to gather all the fruits of their Heavenly Father. The same happens to us when we grow – sometimes we wander around searching for a fruitful soil (church family), where we will feel protected and cared for. At the moment I feel I am in the wilderness, that is why I will trust God to connect me to the right church and leaders. After so many years living abroad I have returned to serve in my native country.
When one feels at home and has the sense that one has already arrived, then one can unfold the God given talents to minister to others in an individual way. Any earlier attempt to fulfill our calling will be futile. We need to ask the Holy Spirit for a confirmation, maybe even for a second confirmation – a sign that will convince us that we have “arrived” – we have found the right church family. Then the real work of building up and growing begins. When we belong to Jesus, He has miraculous ways of bringing one to their spiritual family of mamas and daddies. The desire to serve at church is the sign that we have received the love and attention from our spiritual parents at church and we do not want to just sit around and be ‘bench warmers,’ but we want to express our gratitude through investing our time and efforts to be useful to other believers. The greatest wish of the heart for a Christian is the wish to “serve in His kingdom,” as God says in Mark 10:43-45 (KJV): “And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
What I will learn and apply from Billy Graham experience is the everyday commitment to communication with God. When we are in ministry, we still get focused on everyday routine and things that need to be done. We wait to read the Bible and pray, when we have more time, but we never have spare time by the end of the day. The Lord says in Ecclesiast that our days are numbered and we should take advantage of every day to make most of it. Of course, we will have daily tasks to tackle, but the most important advice I have taken from Billy Graham is to take time for God – to pray and to learn from His word.
He compares two types of disciples of Paul – one of them is called Demas – he has followed Paul in his journeys and suffered alongside him during his persecutions, living in self-denial. However, at some point Demas could not endure any longer the uncomfortable lifestyle of a follower of Christ and left his calling. Paul mentions him for the last time in 2 Timothy 4:10, saying that this man is too ‘in love with the world’ to continue living a life of faith. From that moment on this man is no longer useful for spreading the Gospel – he decides to life a life on his own, to enjoy the comforts of the world and leaves the task of serving to somebody else. While it is good to weight to what extend the world takes advantages of our skills, of our integrity and of our pure hearts, we still do not want to be enslaved in the worldly system that can ensnare us with busyness and constant lack of time for God. Billy Graham warns us that this lifestyle might cause our faith to grow cold and our priorities might need rearranging after some time. We should be like Timothy, “who travelled and worked with Paul. He faced the same temptations as Demas,” but he never gave up on his calling. Quite on the contrary – he was worthy of mentioning as one disciple who continued to stay on the course doing what was right; even though usually the stream of the world goes into the opposite direction than those who work for the Gospel. Nevertheless, this is what Jesus warned us: in this world we will face persecutions and hatred, and this is normal – it is only a sign that we are in the Lord, because the world first denied Him (John 16:33), (1 John 4:4).
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