Staying humble

Daily Readings: Numbers 27-28, Proverbs 8, 1 Corinthians 4

Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless.  We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment. I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children.

1 Corinthians 4:8-14

There are some letters from Paul back to churches that he planted where you need to look a tad deeper to discern exactly what was happening in that particular church at that particular time. The Book of 1 Corinthians is not one of those books! It is clear throughout Paul’s first letter back to the church at Corinth that a large number of church leaders have become quite pleased with themselves and the successes they have been having and that this arrogance is beginning to cause divisions within the church.

I have heard it said that you judge a person less by how they handle failure and more by how they handle success. I have seen this to be true over and over again.

This is such a critical thing to remember as marketplace missionaries. It is easy, during periods of abundance, to feel like God is smiling down on us and that our walk being in line with his will in our lives is the source of all of these blessings. That is close enough to accurate to feel biblically sound, but far enough away to be extremely dangerous.

It is true that all of our blessings come from God. This is undeniable and a fundamental truth that is so important to remember as a Christian. Anything that we have here on earth is a blessing that we should show constant thanks for.

However, when we begin to say, “Look at how closely I am walking with Jesus! No wonder things are going well! God is blessing me because of what a faithful follower I have been!” pride can very quickly set in. We begin to feel like these blessings are something that we have earned and are entitled to “because of our amazing faith”.

It is pretty easy to see this happening in the church Paul planted in Corinth.

Paul has some pretty sharp words for them and challenges them to think twice before embracing this logic.

I have many friends and family members that are working diligently as overseas missionaries in incredibly difficult locations to minister to. They have far fewer luxuries, face constant threat, and from the outside looking in it would appear that they have far fewer worldly blessings than we have. In some of these regions of the world it takes years to break through to even a handful of people. If, in the meantime, things are going relatively well over here on our side of the Atlantic in terms of income and we have also seen numerous people coming to Christ, does that mean we must be walking more closely with Jesus and that is the source of our blessing? Does that mean that we are doing a better job and preaching a truer version of the gospel message that is breaking through in a more powerful way?

Arrogance is a dangerous poison to allow into the lifeblood of a church. Once we begin to view a specific pastor, church leader, author, speaker, etc. as the key to why the church is thriving, we take the focus off of Christ. We take the focus off of the gospel.

The best leaders within the Christian community operate with humility. They understand that they are simply vessels for God to utilize and not the authors of the message itself. A key distinction.

Many sin issues we struggle with, as Christians, are far easier to diagnose than pride. It is much easier to know if you are struggling with jealousy, lust, anger, etc. Pride is sneaky. Pride disguises itself well. Pride is one of the most useful weapons the enemy has to take well meaning, actively engaged Christians off course.

Paul offers us the same warning that he offered to the church at Corinth.

As marketplace missionaries, especially when things appear to be going well, it is a warning worth listening to!

Thought to ponder

When have I recently fallen into an attitude that might have resembled the attitude of self-righteousness seen in the Corinthians? When this occurs, how can I refocus on Christ and giving him the glory?

We all need a Jethro

Daily Readings: Exodus 17-18, Proverbs 5, Matthew 24

The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law, Jethro, saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”

Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.”

Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”

-Exodus 18:13-23 

I frequently need a Jethro in my life. I need someone that pulls me aside and tells me, “What you are doing is not good. You cannot do everything by yourself. I know you are doing it to try to help others, but you aren’t truly serving them if you just end up burning out yourself.”

I think most leaders could use the message of Jethro from time to time.

Not only are Jethro’s words wise in regards to maintaining our own energy level as leaders, but learning to delegate also has the amazing consequence of empowering those we lead as well! Most people would like more responsibility than they currently are given. I have found this fact to be true repeatedly in business, coaching, ministry, and family life. People want to do more. They want to grow and develop and serve the organization well. In many cases, those people may even be better equipped to do that task more effectively and efficiently as well!

There have also been many times in my life where I have felt called to be the Jethro or a judge in this story. I see a leader simply doing too much and know that it is a need I could easily fill or that someone else I know who be glad to help out with. It is something I know could probably be done even more efficiently than the leader because of the background, knowledge, and previous training that I possess or the person I have in mind.

Every Moses needs a Jethro and an army of judges willing to step up for the sake of the organization.

In some areas of your life right now, you might be Moses and need to learn how to delegate and trust others. In another area God may be calling you to be a Jethro for someone else to show them how their currently operating and the long term unintended negative consequences of these actions. Elsewhere, it may be good for you to step up as a judge to lighten the load for the leader within your organization and to serve the organization as a whole with your skills and abilities.

It takes all three.

Thought to ponder

Are there areas in my life, whether at work, at home, in ministry, or elsewhere, where I am Moses and need to delegate more? Is there someone in my life that needs a Jethro, where I could talk to him or her about letting other people step up? Is there somewhere that I currently feel called to step up as a judge to help my organization, ministry, team, or family operate more effectively?

As always, thank you for reading! Your comments are a great source of encouragement! If you feel like someone else may benefit from this post, please feel free to share it!

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