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.

Full Of Gratitude And Prayer

I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly. (Ephesians 1:16)

Paul didn’t pray just a one-and-done prayer, but every time he thought of his friends he was grateful and prayerful. 

The mark of a godly leader is one who is grateful and prayerful of those around him.

What a prayer Paul prayed! He didn’t want his friends just barely eking out an existence, but he desired for their lives to experience explosive growth and joy! 

He prayed for them to experience…

  • … the full weight of God’s glory
  • … the vast knowledge of God’s revelation wisdom 
  • … an ever-increasing understanding of just who God is
  • … an enlightened mind to grasp God’s nature
  • … an unshakable hope in God
  • … the immeasurable richness of an intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ
  • … God’s power working both in them and through them 
  • … the rock-solid security they have in Jesus
  • … their inestimable value they were to God
  • … their indispensable place in the Body of Christ 

I like the way Eugene Peterson captures this prayer in The Message:

That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing Him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is He is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life He has for His followers, oh, the utter extravagance of His work in us who trust Him—endless energy, boundless strength!

Spiritual leaders should be working for and praying for the ever-growing maturity of those under their care. When they see that growth, they should burst out into grateful prayer. And if they don’t see the growth they anticipated, they should pray in faith believing that maturity will soon be visible. 

Let me say it again: The mark of a godly leader is one who is grateful and prayerful of those around him.

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

The Church Needs To Foster Community

“Amid the confusion of Christians mistreating people with gender dysphoria to prop up their sense of self-righteousness, and progressives mistreating them to advance their agenda of autonomy, those with real identity struggles are forgotten. Christ alone understands who we are through and through. And because of that each one of us in our fractured states needs to come to Him. …

“The need of the hour is for biblically faithful compassion. The church needs to open its doors and Christians need to open their hearts so that those struggling to find resolution to their dysphoria—and those who are struggling to find clarity amidst other confusions—can find community and, ultimately, their true identity in Christ. In Christ, they can be understood. …

“God’s original intent is for harmony between one’s soul and one’s body. This is why Christians, of all people, should be compassionately concerned with helping people find mind-body congruence. For the Christian, the mind and the body are both important and were meant to work harmoniously. … This biblical perspective defends our integrity as whole human beings in contradistinction to the secular effort to reduce us to our chemistry and jettison any idea that we have an immaterial mind or soul. …

“That is why the invitation of Christ has come in this order: recognition, repentance, redemption, regeneration. When we recognize our need for the Savior (because of our sins in general, not because of our dysphoria), repentance happens and then we are redeemed. But that redemption works itself out in our lives over time. It is the Holy Spirit who lives and works in us to conform us to Jesus’ likeness. It is not an overnight process, which means the church must do a better job of helping that process along. The church needs to foster community.” —Abdu Murray

Serving By Praying

Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons (Philippians 1:1). 

In just his opening line, Paul lists three types of servant-leaders: bondservants, bishops, deacons. 

The servant-leaders are all called to put the needs of the saints ahead of their own needs. They all serve so the saints can shine! And as the saints shine, they attract others to Jesus Christ. 

Jesus is our example of the Ultimate Servant (Philippians 2:5-8), and we are called to follow His example (John 13:12-17). 

One thing that clearly kept Paul, Timothy, and the other servant-leaders in Philippi in this servant’s posture was prayer. Even the physical posture of kneeling in prayer is a posture of a servant who is actively serving. 

  • Paul prayed for the Philippians frequently—In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy (1:4). 
  • He prayed for them to grow in love and knowledge—I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding (1:9). 
  • Paul was grateful for the prayers of the saints—I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance (1:19). 
  • And he closed his letter with a call for them to continue to pray about everything—Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done (4:6). 

Here are four powerful lessons for all Christians to live out…

(1) Leaders need to pray for the saints, and leaders need the saints to pray for them. 

(2) Leaders need to be prayerful to keep their posture right as servants. 

(3) Saints need to be prayerful for their leaders so that their leaders can continue to serve them in God-honoring ways. 

(4) We all serve best when we are diligent to keep our prayer life vibrant and healthy. 

Interrupted But Not Discouraged

…I will…if the Lord permits… (1 Corinthians 16:5-7). 

Paul had a desire to visit certain cities to share the Gospel, so he made his plans. But he was careful to add, “if the Lord permits.” He knew from personal experience that God knows best the where and the when.

In fact, the first time Paul came to Macedonia, it was only after he had been blocked from his original plans—

They tried to go to certain regions of Asia, but they were prevented by the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:6).

They headed toward Bythinia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there (Acts 16:7).

While at Troas, Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia, so they concluded that God was calling them to preach there (Acts 16:9-10).

We must know that we know that God has green-lighted an opportunity for us. Where God opens opportunities, satan is sure to attack (1 Corinthians 16:9). We don’t want to then assume that the attack means that we are in the wrong place at the wrong time, or even in the right place at the wrong time.

Paul made his plans, but he also remained interruptible.

When God said, “Go!” Paul could endure any opposition because he was assured that God had called. And when God said, “No” Paul could rest peacefully because he was assured that God knew the best place at the best time.

The same principle is true for godly leaders today—

A mark of a godly leader is one who is interruptible without becoming discouraged.

This is part 39 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Don’t Go—Flow

“…My time has not come…” —Jesus (John 7).

Jesus never rushed. He was never late. He was never early. Nor did He ever remain silent when He should have spoken. Nor did He ever misspeak. 

His timing and His wording were always spot on.

This wasn’t just a “Jesus thing,” as He told His followers that we could flow in God’s timing just as He was doing. 

We don’t have to try to figure out our timing or our wording by external standards (v. 24). But when we are so immersed in the same Holy Spirit that directed Jesus, we simply flow in His living water to where we need to be, when we need to be there. Whether it’s time to speak or time for silence, the Holy Spirit can again flow our thoughts and words perfectly. 

Others won’t understand. 

They have their own agenda, and they will want me to be a part of their plans (vv. 3-5, 18, 32-36, 42, 52). I must listen to the unmistakable voice of the Spirit and squelch the voices of the crowd. 

A mark of a godly leader is one who flows with the Spirit of God.

Don’t go with the flow of culture or others’ agendas. Don’t try to figure out where you need to be or what you need to say. Simply flow in the Spirit. Then your timing and your wording will be just as spot-on as Jesus showed us. 

This is part 38 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Toot! Toot!

Do we begin again to commend ourselves?… (2 Corinthians 3:1)

Paul didn’t bring letters of reference to Corinth, nor did he ask the Corinthians to write any testimonials on his behalf.

A mark of a godly leader is one who doesn’t feel the need to toot his own horn.

 Paul’s focus was not on what he could get now, but on what would be his in eternity—

  • any “letters of recommendation” would be written on peoples hearts (v. 3)
  • any skills he had came through Jesus (vv. 4-6)
  • he had hope that God was keeping accurate records (vv. 7-11)
  • he had the freedom to speak boldly in love because he wasn’t trying to win man’s approval (vv. 12-13, 18)
  • he saw transformed lives as his real trophy (v. 18)
  • his ministry was through God’s mercy so he remained humbled and encouraged (4:1)
  • he didn’t feel the need to concoct a “marketing plan” nor leverage his pulpit for personal gain (v. 2)
  • he focused on glorifying God alone (vv. 3, 4, 6)
  • his sermons weren’t me-focused, but always others-focused as he became a bondservant to those to whom he ministered (v. 5)
  • he worked only for eternal rewards (vv. 7-12, 16-18)
  • he spoke only what he had already appropriated and faithfully applied to his own life (vv. 13-15)

Our prayer could be very similar to what Paul taught and probably prayed for himself—“May I lead by serving. May I not look for human praise—nor even be tempted to toot my own horn—but lead and minister only to hear applause from the nail-scarred hands of Jesus.” 

As R.T. Kendall reminds us—

“Every day we breathe in and out—in and out—thousands of times a day. There is a day fixed, that unless Jesus comes first, you and I will only breathe out. No amount of money, power, or prestige can alter the date that we each have with death. And at that moment the only thing that will matter is whether we have known Christ and served Him well—that our lives have made a difference. In short: that we are popular in heaven—and famous in hell.”

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

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