Practicing And Preaching In Difficult Times

…the things which happen to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel (Philippians 1:12).

About 4-5 years before Paul wrote this, he wrote to the church in Rome: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). 

Paul said, “All things” were being used in God’s plan for his life.

If I was one of those Philippian Christians I might respond, “Even in imprisonment?! C’mon, Paul, your liberty has been taken away and you can’t travel and preach anymore—can God use even that??” 

Paul would give me an emphatic “Yes! 

A mark of a godly leader is one who practices what he preaches.

Paul said even his imprisonment was being used by God…

  • … the palace guards heard the gospel  
  • … others became bolder in their Christian testimony
  • … more people began preaching the good news about Jesus (see Philippians 1:13, 14, 18)

It’s still true today: God has a plan for your life, which He will work out even in the most difficult trials. 

How powerful it is when a leader continues to practice what he preaches even in the toughest of circumstances!

This is part 40 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Am I The Genuine Article?

Examine and test and evaluate your own selves to see whether you are holding to your faith and showing the proper fruits of it. Test and prove yourselves… (2 Corinthians 13:5). 

The root word for discern in the New Testament Greek is dokimazō. This word means to examine something—scrutinize it closely—to see if it is genuine. We’re instructed to take a close, scrutinizing look at…

  • …our beliefs about God (Romans 1:28)
  • …our understanding of God’s will for our lives (Romans 12:2)
  • …our relationship with God and others (1 Corinthians 11:28) 
  • …our faith (2 Corinthians 13:5)
  • …our motives (2 Thessalonians 2:4)
  • …the teaching we are listening to (1 John 4:1) 

In his book Romans: God’s Glory, Donald Grey Barnhouse discussed the root word for discern (the Greek word dokimos). He said, 

“In the ancient world there was no banking system as we know it today, and no paper money. All money was made from metal, heated until liquid, poured into moulds and allowed to cool. When the coins were cooled, it was necessary to smooth off the uneven edges. The coins were comparatively soft, and of course many people shaved them closely. In one century, more than eighty laws were passed in Athens to stop the practice of whittling down the coins then in circulation. But some money-changers were men of integrity, who would accept no counterfeit money; they were men of honour who put only genuine, full-weight money into circulation. Such men were called dokimos, and this word is used here for the Christian as he is to be seen by the world.” (emphasis mine)

This should be said of every Christian: “They are dokimos—men and women who are honorable and are the real deal. They don’t shave anything off; they don’t water anything down. They can be scrutinized closely and found to be the genuine article.” 

The Bible makes it clear that before the world can call us dokimos, the Holy Spirit first has to stamp that word on us. It’s only after we have allowed Him to scrutinize (and correct) our beliefs, relationships, faith, and motives that we can be labeled dokimos. When we are the real deal in His presence, the world cannot help but see the genuine article when they examine us. 

Let’s live this way! May both God and the watching world be able to call us dokimos! 

On Full Display

In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. (Matthew 5:16)

Jesus wants Christians to be leaders, to be pacesetting examples. That means that Christian leaders must be comfortable with others carefully watching their lives. 

A mark of a godly leader is one who is comfortable with public scrutiny.

“It is bad enough to be blind ourselves. It is a thousand times worse to be a blind guide.” —J.C. Ryle 

“Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.” —1 Peter 2:12 MSG 

Sermons must be practiced as well as preached…. If a man teach uprightly and walk crookedly, more will fall down in the night of his life than he built in the day of his doctrine.” —John Owen 

Be a walking, talking, living example of what you preach, in every silent moment of your life, known and unknown; bear the scrutiny of God, until you can prove that you are indeed an example of what He can do.” —Oswald Chambers 

“Behave yourselves wisely—living prudently and with discretion—in your relations with those of the outside world (the non-Christians)…” —Colossians 4:5 AMP

“We hear that some people in your group refuse to work [or are behaving irresponsibly; are living/walking in idleness/disorder]. They do nothing but busy themselves [meddle; interfere] in other people’s lives. We command those [such] people and beg [urge; encourage; exhort] them in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly [or settle down] and earn [eat] their own food.” —2 Thessalonians 3:11-12 EXB)

“We should make less excuses for the weaknesses of a Christian than for any other man. A Christian has God’s honor at stake. When a man is regenerated and bears the Name of Christ the Spirit of God will see to it that he is scrutinized by the world, and the more we are able to meet that scrutiny the healthier will we be as Christians.” —Oswald Chambers 

This is part 37 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

People Are Watching 👀

 “…they watched Him closely… (Luke 14:1). 

The skeptics were always watching Jesus. As with our Master, so with us.

They wanted to find an inconsistency with which they could discount all that Jesus stood for. Thankfully, they found none! May the same be said of you and me.

May our lives and speech (or silence) never cause skeptics to discount the Gospel or—even worse—blaspheme God, nor may our lives cause a weak Christian to doubt or stumble.

This requires from us—

  • Self-awareness … I have to know my tendencies and avoid those things that cause offense.
  • Boldness … to speak the truth in love.
  • Knowledge of the Scripture … and its correct application.
  • God-confidence … so that we’re not intimidated by man’s disapproval.
  • Humility … to not seek things for our own benefit.
  • Charity … as we demonstrate our faith in loving action.
  • Focus … on eternity and on the greater treasure in Heaven.

Holy Spirit, empower us to live like our Master every day. “Adam’s likeness now efface, stamp Thine image in its place.” May people see and hear Jesus in us. No matter how closely they watch us, may they see no inconsistencies.

Teddy Roosevelt On Character

Theodore Roosevelt was well aware that talent alone wasn’t enough to sustain an individual, a family, or a nation. Talent and perseverance, he preached, must be supported by character. In a series of speeches bundled together in the book The Strenuous Life, TR had much to say about character development and integrity. You can check out my review of The Strenuous Life by clicking here. 

“It is a good thing to have a keen, fine intellectual development in a nation, to produce orators, artists, successful business men; but it is an infinitely greater thing to have those solid qualities which we group together under the name of character—sobriety, steadfastness, the sense of obligation toward one’s neighbor and one’s God, hard common sense, and, combined with it, the lift of generous enthusiasm toward whatever is right. These are the qualities which go to make up true national greatness.” 

“We do not need men of unsteady brilliancy or erratic power—unbalanced men. The men we need are the men of strong, earnest, solid character—the men who possess the homely virtues, and who to these virtues add rugged courage, rugged honesty, and high resolve.” 

“The men who with ax in the forests and pick in the mountains and plow on the prairies pushed to completion the dominion of our people over the American wilderness have given the definite shape to our nation. They have shown the qualities of daring, endurance, and far-sightedness, of eager desire for victory and stubborn refusal to accept defeat, which go to make up the essential manliness of the American character. Above all, they have recognized in practical form the fundamental law of success in American life—the law of worthy work, the law of high, resolute endeavor.” 

“After all has been said and done, the chief factor in any man’s success or failure must be his own character—that is, the sum of his common sense, his courage, his virile energy and capacity.” 

 “Bodily vigor is good, and vigor of intellect is even better, but far above both is character.” 

“In the long run, in the great battle of life, no brilliancy of intellect, no perfection of bodily development, will count when weighed in the balance against that assemblage of virtues, active and passive, of moral qualities, which we group together under the name of character…. Of course this does not mean that either intellect or bodily vigor can safely be neglected. On the contrary, it means that both should be developed, and that not the least of the benefits of developing both comes from the indirect effect which this development itself has upon the character.” 

“Character is shown in peace no less than in war. As the greatest fertility of invention, the greatest perfection of armament, will not make soldiers out of cowards, so no mental training and no bodily vigor will make a nation great if it lacks the fundamental principles of honesty and moral cleanliness.” 

“Alike for the nation and the individual, the one indispensable requisite is character—character that does and dares as well as endures, character that is active in the performance of virtue no less than firm in the refusal to do aught that is vicious or degraded.” 

Be sure to check out my review of Theodore Roosevelt’s Autobiography by clicking here, and read some additional quotes from TR here and here. 

12 Quotes From “The Strenuous Life”

Teddy Roosevelt believed firmly that a nation rose or fell as individuals exercised strong character or lived a slothful life. He not only preached it, he lived it! The Strenuous Life is a collect of TR’s speeches that emphasized what he called “the manly characters.” Check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“We do not admire the man of timid peace. We admire the man who embodies victorious effort; the man who never wrongs his neighbor, who is prompt to help a friend, but who has those virile qualities necessary to win in the stern strife of actual life.” 

“A man’s first duty is to his own home, but he is not thereby excused from doing his duty to the State; for if he fails in this second duty it is under the penalty of ceasing to be a freeman. In the same way, while a nation’s first duty is within its own borders, it is not thereby absolved from facing its duties in the world as a whole; and if it refuses to do so, it merely forfeits its right to struggle for a place among the peoples that shape the destiny of mankind.” 

“If we stand idly by, if we seek merely swollen, slothful ease and ignoble peace, if we shrink from the hard contests where men must win at hazard of their lives and at the risk of all they hold dear, then the bolder and stronger peoples will pass us by, and will win for themselves the domination of the world. Let us therefore boldly face the life of strife, resolute to do our duty well and manfully; resolute to uphold righteousness by deed and by word; resolute to be both honest and brave, to serve high ideals, yet to use practical methods. Above all, let us shrink from no strife, moral or physical, within or without the nation, provided we are certain that the strife is justified, for it is only through strife, through hard and dangerous endeavor, that we shall ultimately win the goal of true national greatness.” 

“Scant attention is paid to the weakling or the coward who babbles of peace; but due heed is given to the strong man with sword girt on thigh who preaches peace, not from ignoble motives, not from fear or distrust of his own powers, but from a deep sense of moral obligation.” 

“Strive manfully for righteousness, and strive so as to make your efforts for good count.” 

“We are in honor bound to put into practice what we preach; to remember that we are not to be excused if we do not; and that in the last resort no material prosperity, no business acumen, no intellectual development of any kind, can atone in the life of a nation for the lack of the fundamental qualities of courage, honesty, and common sense.” 

“If a man permits largeness of heart to degenerate into softness of head, he inevitably becomes a nuisance in any relation of life. If sympathy becomes distorted and morbid, it hampers instead of helping the effort toward social betterment.” 

“The quality of self-help is so splendid a quality that nothing can compensate for its loss; yet, like every virtue, it can be twisted into a fault, and it becomes a fault if carried to the point of cold-hearted arrogance, of inability to understand that now and then the strongest may be in need of aid, and that for this reason alone, if for no other, the strong should always be glad of the chance in turn to aid the weak.” 

“The Bible always inculcates the need of the positive no less than the negative virtues, although certain people who profess to teach Christianity are apt to dwell wholly on the negative. We are bidden not merely to be harmless as doves, but also as wise as serpents. It is very much easier to carry out the former part of the order than the latter; while, on the other hand, it is of much more importance for the good of mankind that our goodness should be accompanied by wisdom than that we should merely be harmless. If with the serpent wisdom we unite the serpent guile, terrible will be the damage we do; and if, with the best of intentions, we can only manage to deserve the epithet of ‘harmless,’ it is hardly worth while to have lived in the world at all.” 

“The boy who is going to make a great man, or is going to count in any way in after life, must make up his mind not merely to overcome a thousand obstacles, but to win in spite of a thousand repulses or defeats.” 

“Softness of heart is an admirable quality, but when it extends its area until it also becomes softness of head, its results are anything but admirable.” 

“A man is worthless unless he has in him a lofty devotion to an ideal, and he is worthless also unless he strives to realize this ideal by practical methods. He must promise, both to himself and to others, only what he can perform; but what really can be performed he must promise, and such promise he must at all hazards make good.” 

More quotes from TR are coming soon, so stay tuned! 

Saturday In The Proverbs—A Man Of Steeled Character (Proverbs 24)

[Each chapter in the Book of Proverbs contains thoughts that fit into a theme; they are not just random thoughts gathered together. In this “Saturday In The Proverbs” series, I will share a theme that I see in each chapter. But the cool thing about God’s Word is that you may see an entirely different theme. That’s great! If you do, I would love for you to share it in the comments below.]

If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small (Proverbs 24:10).

Character is forged like steel—with fire and hammering. 

There are blessings that will come in no other way than for a man or woman to let God forge steel-like character in them. 

A man of steeled character…

…doesn’t try to go along with those who cut corners (vv. 1-2, 15), but builds his foundation on godly wisdom and righteousness (vv. 3-4). 

…seeks counsel from other wise people (vv. 5-8). 

…stands strong in times of adversity (v. 10). 

…rescues those heading toward destruction (vv. 11-12). 

…knows the boundaries and the blessings of temperance (vv. 13-14). 

…isn’t kept down when he stumbles, and never rejoices when others stumble (vv. 16-18). 

…never frets because of evil people (vv. 19-22). 

…is fair, impartial, and just (vv. 23-26). 

…has an outstanding work ethic (v. 27), unlike the one lacking in character (vv. 30-34). 

…doesn’t slander others nor try to “get even” with someone who attacked him (vv. 28-29). 

Are you willing to let God forge steel-like character in you?

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