Servant Leadership Part 12:
I have been talking about Servant Leadership in my many sermons from this pulpit before. However, I keep wondering if we still consider Servant leadership as some thing abstract, some thing utopian, unreal, not practicable? Or is there a reason for us to adapt Servant leadership in our day to day lives?
Let us look at our lives and the lives of people around us. We can categorise the lives into three simple categories.
Life of Survival: We just go on with the daily chores and move along. We do what is necessary to barely stay alive. Do things because we have to. We are not passionate about anything we do. We don’t utilize our talents. We don’t even want to know what talents we have. We are living out our days, hoping that no crisis or opportunities arise,
Life of Success: We live for success, financial success, power, fame, (or notoriety). People who live a life of success tend to use everyone around them for personal goals. This person might be terrified at the thought of death, or the idea of being alone. Despite putting on a façade of happiness, these people are always in angst and fear. You might have heard this story. There was a poor man who had just enough money to support himself and his family. He spent his days enjoying modest pleasures and helping others. He came into contact with an extremely rich man who was immersed in his business, worked 18 hours a day, and was a slave to success in everything he did. The Poor man commented to the wealthy man. “ I am richer than you are”. “How can you say so? “. Asked the rich man. “Well” the poor man said, I seem to have as much money as I want, but you don’t seem to have that.” You see a person who leads a life of success is dominated by things around him/her. Yet the Bible advises us “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
Life of Significance: Here we have discovered our passions and gifts and are able to combine these two to bring meaning to individual and community life. We use our position, our lives to add true value to the world around us and to the lives of others. We have come to know that the Gift of Life matters, and that human beings are instruments of God’s bidding. We believe that God has “equipped us for His purposes” (1 Cor 12:4-7)
Leo Tolstoy said : “ Life is a place of service. Joy can be real only if people look upon their life as service”. If we have to live a life of Significance, it is possible only through putting Servant Leadership into daily practice. Once again it does not matter, what is our role in life. It does not matter where we “work”. I was having a discussion with the Haggai Director yesterday, and his companion asked Leslie “Do you work?”. You generally know the answer. The answer from a home maker, a person who does not work in a corporate world, or outside the home, will generally be that “ No, I do not work”. Think about it. Many of us men get into this habit of saying “ No my wife does not work” isn’t it? Is it really true? Is housework not “work”? So my point is this, it does not matter where you “work” at home or in an office, we can still choose a life of significance to live, and there by glorify God.
Each one of us spend 80000 to 100000 hours of our lives at work. But is it some thing that we do within weekends, because we have to? Because we have to earn a living? That is a survival life attitude. Or are we Chasing illusory success at work? That is a Life o=f Success attitude. Or is it because we believe truly that God has placed in that situation to live a fulfilling a life marked with purpose and passion? God intended that we engage in our work as a gift and a vocation, as a profound opportunity to participate, in what we do for a living and in God’s creation. Work in meant to give meaning to our lives, improve the world in which we live, and provide a daily opportunity to be witnesses to Christ.
And we have defined leadership as influence. This has been clarified many times in my previous sermons. As a Christian, each one of us is called to influence the life of others. When we lead a life of significance, we become agents of influence and thus leaders by our definition. You see , Leadership, like life, is a journey, not a destination. So Servant leadership is a journey that we have to go through everyday of our lives, wherever God has placed us.
In my previous sermons, I have tried to look at the various aspects of Servant leadership and how we can apply it to our everyday life. Today I want to look at one aspect called Foresight. Foresight is a characteristic that enables Servant-Leaders to understand lessons from the past, the realities of the present, and the likely consequence of a decision in the future. It is deeply rooted in the intuitive mind. So why is Foresight important? It is essential to move beyond the status quo. It is essential to move beyond the present and now. It is essential to move out of the “survival” mentality, that we spoke about earlier. Foresight is important in helping others attain a larger vision or purpose than they otherwise might be able to attain for themselves. Having foresight enables us to really move from a “survival” life to a life of significance. Lack of foresight on the other hand makes people so full of themselves that their egos get into their vision of future, and they move into the Life of Success that we spoke about previously.
The story given in Exodus 18:1-24 is a good example of this foresight. Jethro could foresee the problems that Moses could face, if he continued to do what he was doing and thus was able to guide Moses in the correct way. The life of Abraham (Genesis Ch 12 to 23) is a demonstration of how God enabled him to see way beyond the past and present into the future. We also see the negative effects of not being able to see beyond the present in the life of Esau (Genesis 25:29-34; 32: 3-23 and 33: 1-20)
When Jesus sent out the 70 he fully expected them to return and report back to him about their efforts and journey (Luke 10). Time was spent telling them about where their priorities should be in ministry on the trip and how to minister. They were to take no money. They were to bless each home they entered with peace. They were to heal the sick and announce the arrival of the kingdom of God. They were even told what to do if they were not received. When the disciples returned they reported back to Jesus the great things they had done, "Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, ’Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.’ Jesus said to them, ’I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven." Jesus took their experiences and expanded on what had happened and what it truly meant. He affirmed their joy of success and than pointed to a greater meaning. He was glad with them that hurting people had been set free and restored, than he pointed to a higher ideal and said, "The fact that all this is happening is proof that salvation has come to the earth. Your own names are written in the book of life in heaven, but so are those who believed because of you." (Luke 10:1-24).
So how does one develop or “get” foresight? Well , in the Bible there are numerous stories about God giving visions to people in a supernatural way. Many prophets in the old testament times got visions that were mysterious and extremely complicated. In the new testament times, Apostles Peter, Paul and John were given visions, powerful enough to change the course of history. But does God still give supernatural visions? My answer is yes certainly. But that is for God to decide when and how he gives us supernatural vision. I am not qualified to talk about that or how to get to a stage where we can receive supernatural visions from God. I am going to talk about the most common way Foresight could be developed. This is through the exercising of the intuitive mind that God has given each one of us. Through the quickening of the imagination. As Christians, some of us might sneer at this thought. We might think that an encouraging an imaginative mind is like encouraging fancy, whimsy, and speculation. But hold on your thoughts for a moment. And ask this question. Is everything that we have been given by God? Is the power of imagination, an intuitive mind a gift from God? And if it is, is it not our duty to use that gift for His glorification?
But there is a need for caution here. We live in a fallen world. In a fallen world, the use of imagination is mostly and normally not for Godly purposes. The tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) was the result of evil people putting the gift of imagination to rebel against God. Their imagination, the gift of Foresight was not submitted to God, or surrendered to God, and that emboldened them to go further than they should. In the book of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 13:1-12), we see God’s anger against the false prophets who prophesy using their own imagination not guided by God. God tells them in Ezekiel 13:8, “Because of your false words and lying visions, I am against you, declares the Sovereign LORD”. Imagination and Foresight, like any other gift given by God, can be used or abused. Needless to say, Servant Leaders use the gift of Foresight to find out what He wants them to do. When Servant Leaders get a foresight guided by God, it will be accompanied by a stirring of soul and a deep conviction that this is more than daydreaming or wishful thinking, and our heart will rest in the solid assurance that the Almighty God is at work.
So the last question that I would like us to ponder over this morning is this, How does one know if the Foresight that we have is God given, or is in line with God’s purposes for us? John Maxwell, the editor of Maxwell Leadership Bible, gives us a six step process to ensure this. Let me go through the process quickly
1. Look within you: What do you feel?. Do you feel the presence of God? Do you feel that this is the work of the Almighty? Or, Do you feel an empty feeling and an over reliance on yourselves?
2. Look behind you: What have you learnt from the past experiences God has taken you through? What are the messages and signals that you have received from God, relevant to this foresight?
3. Look around you: What is happening to others? What message is God sending to you through the life and experiences of others around you?
4. Look ahead of you: What is the Big picture? Beyond the details of the foresight, what big picture do you see?
5. Look above you: What does God expect of you? Have you submitted the foresight to Him and have you waited upon his answer? Are you listening to Him?
6. Look beside you: What resources are available to you? What has God placed at your disposal? What talent has God revealed to you recently? Who has God connected you with recently? What opportunities has God put in front of you?
In John 13, John records the greatest and best demonstration of Servant leadership by none other than Jesus himself. When Jesus is about the wash the feet of Peter, he is baffled by it, but Jesus assures him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will know after this”. Many of us are like that. Some times when we get a foresight, we might not understand what this is about, but Jesus Promises that he will make all things clear to us in due course of time. Let us use the six step process to understand whether the foresight we have is really from God, and then put that into execution.
Let us lead a life of significance using the gift of Foresight given to us by God.
Jesus is asking each one of us to look ahead and see and seek what plans He has for each one of us . Let us pray!