This article provides a general overview of the principles and guidelines I have found helpful in my many years in ministry. Remember, Satan is an expert at attacking our mind (2 Cor. 10:5). Keeping the right perspective, and focusing on the right things, will serve you well as you strive to live for Him
God will help you to do what He calls you to do. No matter what it is, if God is prompting or leading you to do it, then He will help you accomplish it. Success is not dependent on our abilities, resources or plans—the father of success is our heavenly Father (James 1:17; Zech. 4:6).
The best thing you can do is pray. Jesus prayed constantly. He did this because it was helpful, and to present an example of how we should live (John 13:15). The Apostle Paul encouraged believers to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). A wise pastor said, “The more we need, the more we need to pray.” Through prayer, you will find peace, gain insight, and will strengthen your relationship with God. Remember, God does not require eloquence; just share from your heart. Balance your thank yous with your requests. Ask for guidance, pray for others, and pray that God will help you be all He wants you to be. For additional information on prayer, please access this I Am A Watchman article here: https://iamawatchman.com/how-to-pray-10-principles-of-a-powerful-prayer-life/
The requisite for serving God is not, be the best, but, be willing. God looks at the heart. The question is, do you have a heart that yearns to live for Him? Be encouraged by this: God delights in using the unlikely to accomplish the incredible. That is why, at least in part, God chose a young David to defeat Goliath, the elderly Abraham to become Father of a nation, Amos the tender of sycamore trees to become a great prophet, and Peter the fisherman to become an Apostle and leader in the New Testament Church. When you are a part of spiritual work, the logic of the world does not always apply. Does God choose the best? Sometimes. But often He chooses to use the small, broken, wayward, and humble so the world can see His glory through us.
Measure success correctly. When you are involved in spiritual work, the logic of the world does not always apply. In the world, one tends to measure success by what they can see—profit margins, numerical growth, tangible assets, etc. In the spirit, the opposite is true. In the world, your degree of success is determined by how much you reap. In the faith, success is determined by how well you plant. In fact, you may never reap or see the fruit of your labor. Noah preached while he worked on the ark—no one believed. Jeremiah the prophet preached, and no one listened. There were times when thousands cheered Jesus, but in the end, there were few faithful followers at the cross, and less than 120 believers shortly after the resurrection. But Jesus was a success, and so were the others I mentioned, not because they accumulated fame and fortune, but they were faithful. Being faithful is the primary determinate for success. If you are committed to do what God calls you to do, no matter what it is (big or small, public or private), you are a success in His eyes.
Live for an audience of One. Many leaders are tempted to either try to please everyone or like a dictator, live only to please themselves. Neither approach is the mark of good Christian leadership. Certainly, a selfish, me-focused approach is not God-honoring. And though you may be naturally gifted, trained to lead, and like a General feel comfortable barking orders, that is not the best approach either. Trying to please everyone may seem like the loving approach, but the leader who tries to please all will soon find it impossible and will be prone to discouragement. The answer then is to live for an audience of One—not self, but God. You can’t please everyone, so don’t expect to or try. You should not live to please yourself because Christ desires we have a profound love for others (Mark 12:30-31). The answer is to strive to live for God. Discern what He wants you to do and do that. Live to please Him, and you will have His blessing, and inner peace.
If you are a believer, you’re wearing a target, and that’s OK. It has long been this way, but now especially so. Satan hates those who love God and is on a mission to discourage and destroy (1 Peter 5:8, Luke 22:31). When you became a Christian, the enemy put a target on your back. Satan and his minions will seek to tempt, trick, and trap you. But remember, victory is promised and God stands with you (Heb. 13:5b; Psalm 28:7). As a pastor, I have seen good Christians become very discouraged when difficulties came their way—some even turned their back on God and gave up trying to live for Him. What a victory for the enemy.
Friend, challenges are coming. There will be setbacks. You will suffer loss. But try to think of your spiritual walk like a football game. The coach (Jesus) has called you to be on His team (2 Tim. 1:9), to suit-up (Eph. 6:10-18), go out on the field and play in the big game (Matt. 28:18-20). It is an honor. And when you are on the football field and the game is in play and you have the ball, the opposing team is going to try to tackle you. They will chase you, grab you, push you, and throw you to the ground. That’s how the game is played. And in football, when one is tackled, they do not immediately call foul, or cry to the coach, or ask to be taken out of the game. No, the hit is expected, and so is perseverance. Know that the ball is in play and the enemy is on the field. He will play dirty. Expect the hit. Pray that God will provide courage and the ability to perform well.
Though you can accomplish the impossible (in Christ), you are not invincible. Over the years, there have been well-intentioned individuals who put themselves in danger or denied themselves (or worse, their children) medical attention claiming that God would protect them. This approach often yields terrible and devastating results. Yes, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stood in the fire and were kept safe—but that is because they were doing what God had led them to do. It is wrong to think of God as our Genie—a magical Being at our beck and call who lives to serve as our protector. God protects but does not exist to save us from every foolish choice. In Luke 4 records how Satan tempted Jesus by urging Him to throw Himself off the pinnacle of the Temple. Though Jesus knew Scripture promised that angels would protect Him, He refused to throw Himself down saying, “It is not right to put the Lord God to the test” (Luke 4:12). Have faith. Be bold. Attempt great things, but do not put God to the test. Do not step in front of His leading, or outside of His will, for it is there you will find the fullness of His blessing.
Set boundaries—God first, family second and ministry third. Church leaders are vulnerable to burn-out because of the emotional, spiritual, and physical demands of ministry. Yes, a good leader will be available to respond to crises 24/7, but a good leader will also know how to discern what situations require immediate attention, what work can wait, and what can be delegated. Over the years, too many ministers have neglected their health, and their families, in the pursuit of ‘doing God’s work.’ It is not pleasing to God, or honorable, to neglect family or marriage vows due to non-priority acts of Christian service. Honor God. Keep the Lord first in your life, and don’t let good but non-priority work supersede the commitments to your family God wants you to keep. Remember, God first, family second and service third.
Most will not listen. Most will not want to hear what you have to say about God, Jesus, the coming Tribulation or the judgment—no matter how eloquent your presentation. Remember, Christ-followers are to gauge success differently than the world does. I challenge you to measure success not by how many listen, but by how faithful you are to share God’s message. Consider this: Ezekiel was one of the great prophets of the Old Testament. Early in his ministry, God told him, “You will speak my words to them [my people] whether they listen or not, for they are a stiff-necked and rebellious people…” (Ezek.2:5). Lest Ezekiel somehow miss the message, God repeated the directive two verses later (2:7). Your calling is to communicate God’s message. Do you best, be bold but speak in truth and love, and trust that God will take care of the rest.
Be transparent. No one is perfect. It’s OK to strive to be, but don’t pretend to be. When you falter, be quick to acknowledge it humbly, and as appropriate, ask for forgiveness. Don’t give up. You’re on a learning curve. Expect a few missteps. Know that God’s love for you is sure. He does not love some imaginary version of you—He loves you. No masks are required. Be real. Be transparent. Share with others how they can pray for you, what you are learning, and your struggles. Christ-followers are made to be at their best when they learn together, share together, grow together, and work together. Being transparent will help you garner trust and good-will, better your witness, and be a better leader.
Be accountable. Bottom line—there is a direct correlation between limited accountability and maximum vulnerability to sin. Many, many greats have fallen into the trap of thinking that they do not need an accountability structure, and spectacular were their falls. Satan is smarter than we are, and he knows how to prey on our vulnerabilities. It is foolish to give him more than he struggles to take. Accountability partners serve as a hedge of protection against Satan’s efforts to discourage and destroy. Lines of accountability are not binding, they are a safety net, and a God-honoring structure that good leaders embrace.
Speak the truth but speak it in love. There is power in love. I was surprised to learn that the leading descriptors of the Messiah in the Gospels are love and compassion. The individuals He ministered to saw it in His eyes, in His countenance, and in His actions. Jesus communicated a strong message, but many listened because He spoke in love. Speak the truth, but be gentle, wise, encouraging, and lead with love. Most quickly dismiss the message of those who come across as condescending or judgmental. Those who use truth as a club will not be effective at communicating God’s message (which is a message of love). Criticism is not a spiritual gift, nor is it an admirable quality. An effective communicator will lead with humility and speak with love as they share the truth of God.
Correct in private, compliment in public. Scripture notes that our every word should be useful for edification (Eph. 4:29). That means, our words should motivate others toward improvement. It’s tempting to want to vent frustration or win your point. But a wise believer will remember that the goal is not to win the point, it is to win the person. Complimenting in public builds good-will and strengthens the foundation of relationships so they can better weather the tough times. Correcting in private guards against the enemy being able to use embarrassment or pride to inflame a situation. Remember, the strength of your relationships is a testimony for the Lord. In John 17 Jesus prayed, “Father, I pray that they [His followers] will be one…so that the world may believe that God sent the Son.” The quality of your relationships correlates with the strength of your witness. Amazing but true.
When there’s a wrong, seek to make it right. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus spoke of the importance of being a peacemaker. Everyone appreciates peace—but God did not commend those who want peace, He commended those who do what needs to be done to facilitate peace. In general, that means, as you can, you are called to initiate the forgiveness/restoration process (even if you are not at fault). For the sake of your witness and the cause of Christ, you are to call the meeting, seek restoration, forgive first, speak first, hug first, as appropriate apologize first, etc. Those who hold on to the hurts of the past are likely to get stuck there and miss experiencing any joy in the present. Learn from the past but don’t get stuck there. Be a peacemaker. When you lead in the process of healing and restoration, your life is pleasing to God.
Always seek to know more. Paul commended the Church at Berea (Acts 17:21) because the people studied the Scriptures daily. The Apostle Paul spoke of running the good race (not, he ran a good race some years ago, but that his race/journey was ongoing). Believers are called to grow in the faith (1 Cor. 13), and to begin a spiritual walk—not to strike some kind of spiritual pose or stand. Learn and don’t stop learning. Serve and don’t stop serving. “Pray without ceasing.” Know that there is always more to learn and more to do. Ask God for the strength and the hunger to mature in Christ in a way that is pleasing to Him.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
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