Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Week in Review

Complaining turns an 11 day trip into 40 years

The LORD replied, "I have forgiven them, as you asked. Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times- not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: "How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites. So tell them, 'As surely as I live, declares the LORD, I will do to you the very things I heard you say: In this desert your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. But you—your bodies will fall in this desert. Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the desert. For forty years—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land—you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.' I, the LORD, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this desert; here they will die." – Numbers 14:20-35

Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the LORD said to Joshua, "See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in." – Joshua 6:1-5

These two scriptures show us the difference between what happens to ungrateful, complaining people and those that are grateful and obey God. In the first scripture, the children of Israel were complaining about everything. Do you get tired of people that never have anything positive to say about anything? What do you think God must feel when we refuse to be grateful for all the many blessed things he does for our lives? Because of their complaining, which in fact leads to having an ungrateful heart, which leads to a disobedient heart, God tells them that they will never enter the promise land. Their complaining and ungrateful spirit led them to be disobedient, which made them lose the things God had for them. So for 40 years they have to wonder until all those 20 years and older die off. The trip to the promise land would have taken only 11 days, yet because of their complaining they took 40 years to make an 11 day trip. The number 40 represents cleansing or perfecting.

Think of other times when we see 40. It rained 40 days and nights to cleanse the earth of the disobedient people, Jesus fasted for 40 days before he began his work here on earth. If we go back briefly in the life of the Israelites we find out that they were slaves in Egypt after Joseph had died and the new pharaoh did not know about Joseph’s record. So the people cried out to God to hear about their problems. And he did. He chooses Moses to deliver the people from bondage. They are happy about that right? No they complained that Moses messed things up because their task got harder before they were delivered. Well they were finally delivered and set free to leave Egypt, they are happy right? Wrong they complained that Moses had brought them out to the desert to die. God provided food for them and surely they were grateful for that right, wrong again. They complained that they needed meat, so God gave them meat, and we can all say it together, they complained about that. They complained when they were in bondage and they complained when they were free. They complain, they complained and they complained some more. They complained so much that they missed out on the blessing that God had for them. What’s the message for us today? Have you asked God to do something for you? You cried out and asked him to help you in some situation. Maybe to help you get to school and he did, but now you are complaining because you don’t like the arrangements, or the food, or some such thing. Have you asked God for a job and he gave it to you, but instead of being grateful, you complained that the pay isn’t good enough, or that you don’t like the people.

Let us learn today from the lives of the Israelites. If you don’t want to be on the outside looking at the blessings that God has for you, let’s learn to be grateful for everything. Yes, even when things seem to be going wrong, let’s be thankful if only for the fact things are not worse. The key message for us today is to understand that grumbling and complaining sets you up to miss the blessings that God has for you. The main reason, because you do not take the time to be thankful for what you already have. The Israelites were so focused on what they didn’t have, that they forget the miracles they were right in the midst of. The plagues that fell upon Egypt because of them, the parting of the Red sea, the pillar of fire and the cloud that guided them daily. They forgot all about the wonderful things God was doing for them right then and they become self-focused and only saw what they did not have. Let us not be like the people and forget to take inventory of what God does for us every single moment of the day. When we grumble and are unappreciative of the great things that God does for us, we often will find ourselves in a place of disobedience. This will cause you to find yourselves going around and around in circles never getting to the place that God wants for you because you have become a complainer and a grumbler. Why take a 40 year trip and never reach what God has for you, when you can be obedient and find yourself making the trip much faster and then receiving the reward.

Do you want to take the11 day route or the 40 year one, and miss your destination? If we are seeking God to do something wonderful in our lives, then we need to start this day, and at this moment being grateful to what God has and is doing for us. When we make that decision to place ourselves on the right path of making our journey into the place that God promised for us, we can see the realization of that come to be in our lives. Instead of being in an endless routine of going around and around with nothing to show afterwards, go in the path God has that will cause walls to fall down for you so that you can go in and enter your land. God has a place just for you and me, but we have to follow God’s direction to get there.

In the second scripture about Joshua, God tells them to walk around Jericho for 7 days and then the wall will fall down and they can go in and conquer the land. You might remember from the scripture from the book of Numbers that God said he would only allow two people to be able to go in and receive of the land he had promised. Those two people were Caleb and Joshua was the other. Joshua not only was able to go into the Promised Land, he was now the new leader of Israel for Moses too did not go into the new land. If you take the time to read the entire book of Joshua you will find some very interesting points. When Joshua was obedient and listened to God, the people were blessed and victorious, when Joshua did not consult God, they had problems. Joshua is faced with how to go into the city of Jericho and take what God has promised to the people.

Joshua had a visitation from God, which simply means God spoke to Joshua on how to conquer the city. He told Joshua to walk around the city walls and for seven days they did that. On the last day, the seventh day they were to walk around the city seven times. Seven is a number that stands for completion. They were told to walk around seven days, then seven times on the seventy day and they also had seven priest. Seven was also the number of years that someone would be released from their debt; it was a year of jubilee. Another example of seven in the Bible is that the earth was completed and the Lord rested on the seventh day when his work was completed. At the final time they were to blow the trumpets, and shout with a loud voice and the walls would fall down. We do not know what they shouted, but whatever the actual words were, their shout was a “victory shout”. It was a shout of praise. Did you know that just as a spirit of complaining causes you to miss your victory that a shout of praise brings down the walls that stand against you going in and possession the land God has for you? I find the contrast between these two scriptures interesting. One we have people circling a land for 40 years to know they will never go in and possess it. The other we have people circling a wall (that seemed like a mountain to overcome) for seven days to possess the promises of God. 40 years of circling was needed to purify the people of their complaining spirit, and seven was needed to complete the process, to set them free to obtain their promise. So what is the lesson for us today? If we are going to be victorious in our lives, we have to be willing to do some things.

First we have to be willing to follow God’s instructions even if it seems unusual. How strange must it have been for the people to keep walking around a wall and simply expecting it to fall down? Yet they did not complain like their forefathers. Secondly, we have to follow those instructions with God leading the way and worshipping him through it all. The ark was always in the midst of the people, but because of their complaining, they forgot about the power of God. Joshua and the people trusted God’s power as they followed his instruction without crumbling and complaining. Which leads to the third way we have success in our lives, we have to be grateful. We have to be grateful for what God is doing and will do in our lives. And if you find yourself “circling” a wall or a mountain, don’t complain. In fact use it as an opportunity to learn. I bet when those Israelites finished going around that wall they knew every weak spot, every place where the mortar was missing and probably that big wall began to look less scary and insurmountable because they had examined it so closely. So today, let us be grateful no matter what we find ourselves facing. Let’s pray today for God to help us to be thankful and in doing so, we appreciate his leading and we commit to following with praise so our walls can come falling down and allowing us entrance into the areas God has for us. If you don’t want to miss what God has for you, then follow as Joshua did. They followed as God gave and because of it, the walls came falling down.

The Week in Review

Servant Leadership – Purpose for Today, Impact for Tomorrow (part 3)
Written by Minister Jewel D. Williams
Written December 2009

Characteristics of a Servant Leader

After examination of what the Bible contributes to the understanding of servant leadership, it logically leads to the next step, which is to ask how does the biblical example of servant leadership present itself today in the leadership of an organization?

Woolfe mentioned that there are cynics that believe the “Golden Rules” have no place in business. In fact Woolfe writes, “They argue that the real ‘Golden Rules’ of business are ‘Them that has the gold makes the rules,’ and ‘Do unto others before they can do unto you.’”[1] He further affirms that a number of modern business leaders have found that without compassion and kindness to their employees, customers and suppliers, that short-term results do not last for the long-term. The workplace becomes a mechanistic environment where the employees become discouraged, performance lags, many “retire on the job” or become bitter and others go looking for a more human environment (Woolfe 2002, 50).

One can ascertain from Woolfe’s writing that while there are some that are not comfortable looking at leadership from the “servant leader” perspective, the results are undeniable when these Christ-like characteristics are lived out in the life of the leader. Where then does the leader start in developing a servant leadership style? Caruso and Salovey posit, “Developing others forces leaders to ask, ‘Who does a leader serve?’ Does the leader serve him- or herself first, or the needs of his or her team, shareholders and customers?”[2]

James M. George, one of the contributing writers to John MacArthur’s book, Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically writers about the character of a leader. “The Bible says much about what a leader is to be than it does about what he is to do…if he does not meet qualifications of biblical morality, he is unfit to be a leader in God’s church.”[3] George argues that the minister is far more important than what he is able to do. In the long run it is more about who one is, more so that what one can do (MacArthur 2005, 90).

Joseph M. Stowell in his book, Shepherding the Church: Effective Spiritual Leadership in a Changing Culture agrees with George’s stand about the character of the person in leadership. “…we who are called to spiritual leadership need to expect more of ourselves and hold ourselves accountable to scriptural standards rather than societal opinions. The biblical perspective on effectiveness in leadership consistently regards character as the essential prerequisite.”[4] Stowell encourages spiritual leaders (but this wisdom can be used by all leaders) to be more concerned with their character. Additionally he states, “This is a world where it’s not what you are as a person that counts, but it’s what title you hold, what floor your office is on, and what your business card looks like.”[5] Segil, Goldsmith and Belasco add additional insight when they state, “Getting things done is important for manger performance, but doesn’t doing mundane things need to be in balance with our private lives? As a leader, you also need to be able to be yourself.”[6] They concluded from their research that leaders are not different from what they do. In their research they found that successful leaders do things in harmony with who they feel they are. They reconcile private and work life. “This is not easy, but the ‘servant leader’ doesn’t use his or her ascribed status only to help people achieve, he or she also uses it to balance family life and business.”[7]

What has been discussed thus far? A servant leader does not hold to the standard that it is every man for himself as positioned by Woolfe. The Servant leader’s character is not one that only affects his work, but it also is part of his every day life. The character of a servant leader is bigger than what he does, it is also who he is as stated by Stowell and George. This leadership style has a moral application that can be seen throughout the pages of the Bible. The servant leader influences others by his character and this is true both in the church as well as in the work environment. If a leader is uncaring, her or she cannot expect to have employees that care. Stowell states it this way, “A critical shepherd will foster a critical flock.”[8]

What are the characteristics of a servant leader and how are they developed? Burke and Cooper pose that leadership development and character development are one and the same. Character can be developed leading to habits and behaviors that result in one being a servant leader (Burke and Cooper, 2006, 14). “Servant leaders make a commitment to be the best they can be…Servant leaders gain their influence over others through their authority not their power.”[9]

Spears submits a list of ten characteristics and how they appear in the life of the servant leader. Spears list was extracted from Greenleaf’s original writings. These characteristics are listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people and building community (Spears 2004, 8-9).

Listening. A servant leader listens intently to others. The servant leader seeks to identify the will of the group and helps clarify that will. Empathy. The servant leader strives to understand and empathize with others. People need to be accepted and a servant leader does that. Healing. One of the great strengths of the servant leader is the potential for healing one’s self as well as others. Servant leaders recognize they have the opportunity to help others reach wholeness. Awareness. General awareness, as well as self-awareness helps to strengthen the servant leader. Awareness also helps the leader understand issues involving ethics and value. Persuasion. A servant leader’s primary reliance is on persuasion rather than positional authority in making decision. He seeks to convince others rather than coerce compliance. Conceptualization. Servant leaders seek to nurture their ability to dream. The ability to look at a problem from a conceptualizing perspective means the leader must think beyond the day-to-day realities. Foresight. This characteristic allows the servant leader to understand the lessons from the past, the realities of the present and the likely consequences of a decision for the future. Stewardship. Servant leadership, like stewardship, assumes a commitment to serving the needs of others. It also uses openness and persuasion rather than control. Commitment to the growth of people. Servant leaders believe people have an intrinsic value beyond their tangible contributions to work. The servant leader recognizes the tremendous responsibility to do everything possible to nurture the growth of employees. Building community. Servant leaders realize that much has been lost in recent human history as a result of the shift from local communities to large institutions as the primary source where lives are shaped.

Manz remarks about the humility of the servant leader when he states, “No longer are they the king or queen of the hill, or do they dominate the spotlight…Being a humble servant is the path to greatness that Jesus points to.”[10] These few sources show an overarching theme that a servant leader is a one that seeks to serve others through a humbling of ones on self. After examination of the character of a servant leader, the next step is to examine the goals of a servant leader and that is what this writing now addresses (come back next week for the next installment, FUTURE GOALS OF A SERVANT LEADER).


[1] Woolfe, The Bible on Leadership: From Moses to Matthew: Management Lessons for Contemporary Leaders, 50.

[2] Caruso and Salovey, The Emotionally Intelligent Manger: How to Develop and Use the Four Key Emotional Skills of Leadership, 203.

[3] John MacArthur, Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2005), 90.

[4] Joseph M. Stowell, Shepherding the Church: Effective Spiritual Leadership in a Changing Culture (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 148.

[5] Ibid, 149.

[6] Segil, Goldsmith and Belasco, Partnering: The New Face of Leadership, 213.

[7] Ibid, 214.

[8] Stowell, Shepherding the Church: Effective Spiritual Leadership in a Changing Culture, 164.

[9] Burke and Cooper, Inspiring Leaders, 14.

[10] Manz, Leadership Wisdom of Jesus: Practical Lesson for Today, 119.