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A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech, winks with his eyes, signals with his feet, points with his finger, with perverted heart devises evil, continually sowing discord; therefore calamity will come upon him suddenly; in a moment he will be broken beyond healing. There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. [Proverbs 6:12-19]
Nobody wants to be known as someone with bad character, yet this is the state many of us find ourselves in, if only for the lack of a little focus and intentionality. Such a state brings calamity, demotion and in reality means people don’t want to hang around us.
Good character is not our default position.
Good character comes through purposeful design.
Think about it. We are inherently selfish. We give most of our attention to ourselves. We want to make sure we have what we want, not just what we need. We will bump people out of the way to make a way. We expect as much as possible for as little as possible. We praise and curse with the same mouth. The list of our character flaws is probably endless.
I have learned this lesson by getting it right and getting it wrong. Through awkward conversations and times of confrontation by people who care for me. I have discovered that to lead well in life is to be watchful and protective of the right kind of character. And such watchfulness takes concentration and effort. Start by avoiding the list of those things which don’t look good from Gods point of view…
Quick to do wrong things.
False witness towards others.
Then remember how Jesus took the standard higher on many of these in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, 6 & 7. Let’s be honest, we all have our weaknesses, those unredeemed aspects of our personality which we can use to quickly blame our words and actions on.
Instead let’s be those who are different. Living by design. Who lead well. Are above reproach. Live a life worthy of the calling to which you are called. Honour God in all things. Watch. Be alert. Sin and temptation are always at the door. Stay focused on Jesus. Keep your eyes on Him. Don’t allow yourself to drift. Hold fast your confession of faith. Do not be afraid. Repent quickly.
My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason; like Sheol let us swallow them alive, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse”– my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths [Proverbs 1:10-15]
Life is a challenge. I would go as far to say that life is one long test. Things go well, things don’t go so well. Good days and other days.
I have made big mistakes which have had little or no impact on me, while other smaller, daft ones, have had the potential to cause major consequences. You just don’t know sometimes.
The challenge then becomes about protect yourself. To protect your future. To protect the God-given future. It doesn’t mean doing nothing and taking no risks. Verses like these in Proverbs have helped me to create some non-negotiables for how I travel, make decisions and walk with God through life.
Do not consent. Stay strong. Learn to say NO. There are some things which I should just not agree to.
Be alert to ambush. Keep an eye out for what’s going on around you. Call them boundaries, guardrails, whatever. Put them in place, they will keep you from getting caught out.
Stay away from the place of danger. Don’t go to those places where temptation may be too strong. It’s too easy to justify our behaviour sometimes but ultimately it only hurts us.
The crowd is not always right. This may be the message of the world but we are not meant to just go with the way of the world. It doesn’t matter everyone else is doing it or even that society says it’s ok. Do what is right because it is the right thing to do.
Hold back when appropriate. Take a moment. Look. Really look. Fools do rush in. It can be difficult but learn to wait for Gods lead.
All with the power of the Holy Spirit helping you too. This is the adventure of leading well in life. Go for it!
Would you add anything else to the list of non-negotiables?
It could be argued that we live in a world driven by the need to succeed and to do so at any cost (sometimes). The danger comes for us in building church when such a culture begins to influence our attitude towards what we are doing.
We may become more task focused and less people focused.
We may become all about ‘what’ and forget the ‘why’ behind all we are doing.
We may become overly critical of the small stuff losing sight of the bigger picture.
Such behaviours can change the culture from one faith to one of fear, especially one where people become fearful of not attaining to the right level of success and therefore they withdraw from what it is God is calling them to do.
Failure is important when it comes to building church for the following reasons:
We learn what works and what doesn’t work. It’s pretty obvious but it means we can then make any necessary changes.
We are actually trying something new or different. The easiest way to not fail is to not do anything new or different.
Shows us as inclusive not exclusive. If the drive for excellence makes people feel like they can only be part of the church by getting everything right every time, we have by default created a very exclusive culture.
Helps encourage creative thinking. Once we know the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ the ‘how’ can be imagined in so many different ways. Especially when we know failing at the idea isn’t the end.
Reminds us how much we need to be asking God for some help. God doesn’t think like us. We may have the plan and the dreams but we have to allow God to ordain the steps. Without failing we often don’t learn.
What is the best thing you have learned when you have failed at something?
Why are we here? One of life’s great questions. For the Church the simple answer to the why would be about reaching people, making disciples and honouring our Saviour. All good. Yet each part of has its own unique contribution, something to celebrate and harness, the one thing which makes us distinctive.
As a leadership team we have been talking about this and here’s why it’s important for us to do so.
Simon Sinek in his book ‘Start with Why’ says that ‘people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it’. WHAT can change but WHY is simple. It’s the discipline to never veer from the cause.
It captures the heart. The vision, the cause, is the why. It can grab someone’s imagination as they begin to see what could be possible.
It’s bigger than what we do. Why isn’t what. What we do can almost be irrelevant when we understand why we are doing it. That kind of belief can help build great success.
It keeps us going when it gets tough. What we do can get boring, inconvenient or tiresome. On those cold, rainy days we can opt out of ‘what’. The why reminds about the difference we are making or the reason for what we are doing.
It encourages people to be creative. If the why is clear then people have a freedom to be creative with the what. Leaders shouldn’t have to come up with all the best ideas, instead, the ‘why’ creates an environment where great ideas can sprout from anywhere.
It brings what we do to life. When those within get the why, then people will see what we believe through what we are doing.
I have not always been great at explaining the why. I know that I still get it wrong. I can argue it’s not my role as I’m not the lead man, but that’s a cop out. If I lead people then I have to be concerned about the why. If I am part of the organisation then understanding the why is my responsibility. If it’s not clear, I should ask.
Telling people what to do isn’t difficult. To articulate the why though, requires time, thought and care. That’s a whole lot of effort. It doesn’t always come easy. I have to give more than a ‘just because’, or point to my position.
It has to be important because the why is inspiring, it stirs up passion and people are more willing to give their time, talent and treasure to a really good, strong, clear why.
What is the kind of ‘why’ you would be willing to be part of?
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge [Proverbs 1:7a NIV]
Start with God – the first step in learning is bowing down to God [Proverbs 1:7a The Message]
Anything we do has a start.
Anything we want to do has to have a start.
To get fit. To lose weight. To learn a new language. To become better qualified. Whatever it is for us, the only way it happens is by making a start.
A good start makes all the difference.
To lead well in life we have to start somewhere. As a Christian I can place my focus on any number of good practices ~ reading my Bible, praying every day, listening for Gods voice, connecting with others, enjoying some time in worship.
To lead well in life we have to start at the right somewhere.
Know our place. Know our position. Know our purpose.
This verse is a simple reminder to me that to lead well in life is to start with God.
To know my place is to remember that I am not God, and that He is. It is to honour Him and to ‘bow down’ before Him. It is to be humble before God.
To know my position is to walk with God, to be led by the Holy Spirit, listening out for His voice and being continually in conversation with Him about all life brings.
To know my purpose flows from these. As I honour God ad walk with Him, my purpose becomes clearer and my life naturally becomes about the things of God, not my own selfish ambitions.
Start well. Run well. Finish well.
Leading like this will cause others to follow.
Why not take a moment thanking God for who He is in your life? If necessary, make today a new start.
For three days this week I was at a Conference in Peterborough with some of the Xcel Leaders. The topic this time was mission and evangelism. In reality the topic of conversation is not important. Instead, it’s the principle of what we were doing which is more important.
If we want to lead well in life we have to be willing to give time to thinking things through. And to do so the following 3 step process we were encouraged to use may help.
1. REALITY: Whatever the focus of thinking, how are things right now? What’s working, not working? Be honest. One good thing to do is give yourself a score between 1-5 (where 5 = good).
2. POSSIBILITY: Take some time to think about all the possible ideas. What could you do? This provides a great opportunity to dream, create and innovate, alongside the seemingly obvious stuff too.
3. ACTION: From all the possibilities choose no more than 3 which you could work on. Attach milestones to each one, dates for accomplishment and metrics to measure success.
This process for helping our thinking process could be used for just about any issue. In the end it creates some focus for our energies which have the potential to bring about the much needed turnaround or transformation.
What do you think? How could you make this work for you?