I have given expression to my greatest leadership challenge before–leading myself, and it is a dynamic that I continue to want to steward well. With that in mind, consider these thoughts rooted in a recent reading of John the Baptist’s simple words in John 3:30, where he declares, “He (that is, Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease.” When I read this statement I find myself wrestling with these important questions: Could this be said of me? and How serious am I about this?
With those questions in mind a small handful of needs arise to which I must give attention. They aid me with the aspiration of leading myself well–decreasing so Jesus increases. Here they are:
First, I must deny myself daily. Luke 9:23 finds Jesus telling his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Through the power of the Spirit of God I must deny myself my fleshly appetites and propensities toward raw selfishness. Surrender to the the Lord is necessary–daily.
Secondly, I must declare my identity and purpose in Christ. John 1:12 finds the Apostle John declaring that in Christ we are children of God. Later, John quotes Jesus as saying we disciples are friends of Jesus (John 15:15). I must commit to believing the truth about who I am in Christ Jesus, and dismissing the lies that the world, my flesh, and the devil wish to reinforce in my life each and every day. Perhaps this is why the Apostle Paul spoke of the helmet of salvation as part of the armor of God (cp. Ephesians 6:17)–that implement which is to safeguard our minds, our thinking, regarding so great a salvation as we have in Christ.
Thirdly, I must decry my sin. And I do sin, each and every day. May I–may we–never be in the position of dismissing or minimizing our sin. First John 1:8 tells us that if “we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” I do not wish to be morbid or thoughtless about the grace of a holy God, but I also must have a heart willing to be “wretched and mourn and weep,” wherein my “laughter be turned to mourning” and my “joy to gloom” (James 4:9). I must decry my sin. Then may I rest in the promise of 1 John 1:9.
Fourthly, I must determine to love well. And when we talk about loving well we absolutely must see it as love for both God and neighbor, as we see confirmed in Matthew 22:34-40. This can look like keeping short accounts, being intentional, having a gentle posture (something generally looked down upon in today’s culture–something seen, unfortunately, as weakness), being courageous, being truthful, stewarding my money and time in an other-centered manner, and so forth. It also means loving the so-called “other” that my inherent position in society deems as unworthy. Loving well is a key part of leading myself well.
Next, I must decide to Sabbath. I need rest. So do you. We must create the space in our lives where true rest for our minds, bodies, and souls can happen. I so appreciate that the Apostle Paul, in his final days, as articulated in 2 Timothy 4, when he could have written about no end of rich theological concerns, simply asked for a friend, his coat, and his reading material (see 2 Timothy 4:9-13). There is something profoundly intimate and quiet about that–something restful. I must ensure such is a regular rhythm for my own soul.
Lastly, I must depend on God’s promises and power. Any of the items just mentioned will only be pursued in the strength of the One who loves me best. I cannot possibly cultivate these things apart from the power of God. Neither can you. We have a Lord and Savior who has perfectly accomplished all of these things, and through the work of His Spirit in our lives we can find success as well. The invitation in the Word of God is to “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).
My single greatest leadership challenge is leading myself. Nothing else comes close. These nuggets of holy wisdom help me to steward that well. Perhaps they will help you, too.