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This is Part 2 of the series “Putting the Mask on First”
Part 1: Putting the Mask on First
Was Jesus an effective/successful leader? How do we know He was effective? While there might be many answers, I would suggest the primary indicator of Jesus’ success and effectiveness was His statement to the Father: “I brought You glory on earth by completing the work You gave Me to do” (John 17:4).
Did He face the same challenges, struggles, and temptations as we do in seeking to be an effective and successful leader? According to numerous scriptures, clearly, as Jesus human incarnate, He did (Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:13; John 13:2; Heb. 2:18; 4:15). Too often, I think we romanticize Jesus’ time on earth as though He were God playing at being a human being, but not really experiencing the challenges of being human.
We have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God; let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. Jesus was sorely tempted just as we are (Matt 4:1-11; Luke 4:13; John 13:2; Heb. 2:18).
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)
As a human, Jesus faced the same, if not worse, challenges and problems of leading and building a team of the rag-tag group of 12. He succeeded in this “team” even though all deserted Him. They went on to “turn the world upside down.”
What was Jesus’ “secret” to His effectiveness and success despite the enormous challenges He faced?
As we examine His life as recorded in the Gospels, we can see a consistent pattern of behavior that suggests clear principles and practices He followed, making the difference in success and failure. If we follow these, they can also make the difference for us.
Of course, we’ll have difficulties. So did Jesus. That is why we should adhere closely to what Jesus did, and how He related to our Father. That is what will keep us from burning out and getting stressed out.
In an earlier article, Putting Your Mask on First, I shared some Scriptures that show these patterns. Let’s look at them again.
Consider these eight examples from Luke that show a consistent pattern of behavior that enabled Jesus to be effective:
- Prayer, fasting in the desert brought strength to resist Satan (Luke 4:1-2,13).
- At daybreak, He went out to a solitary place to determine where to go next (Luke 4:42-44).
- But He often withdrew to lonely places to determine what to say no to (Luke 5:15-16).
- He went out to the hills to pray, all night, to select the 12 disciples (Luke 6:12).
- Once He was praying in private to seek direction for what to do next (Luke 9:18).
- He went up to the mountain to pray with Peter, James, and John – to prepare them for what was coming (Luke 9:28).
- He was praying in a certain place. They asked Him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1-2).
- Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives to prepare for the ultimate sacrifice (Luke 22:39-40).
The pattern is clear: Wherever He was, whatever the schedule and demands, Jesus found a way to get alone with God to have a place of solitude, to isolate Himself – to focus on being with God. I want to suggest three key lessons – principles for leadership effectiveness we learn from this practice and Jesus’ example.
We must have quality, concentrated time with God. The rigor and practice of the spiritual disciplines of solitude, fasting and reflection to hear from God is not optional. It’s not a nice “to do” add-on, nor a 15-minute devotion that ends up being a litany of requests, or reading the Word to help us prepare to minister to others.
As Henry Blackaby noted, Jesus’ secret to effectiveness was not His ability to cast vision or articulate a plan or strategy, nor was it His ability to manage and develop people – though He did all that perfectly. He was effective because of His relationship with the Father. Staying close to the Father is the key, and the example we must follow.
First and foremost, let’s be careful that we don’t by-pass relationship with God to get on with the activity, and start worshiping at the altar of what we do for Him. Jesus was very careful to point out that what He did was through the authority God gave Him. He also worked at maintaining that close relationship with His Father.
If Jesus needed regular concentrated times of solitude – quiet, alone-time – to get direction from God to determine His priorities, who in the world do we think we are to believe that we don’t? Preserving and even being jealous of that alone-time with God is what keeps life on an even keel even when violent storms rock our boat.
This alone-time preserves our dependence upon God. Does it mean we should not develop a strategy and plan? Of course not, but it does mean that we must be as rigorous in the exercise and use of spiritual diciplines and discernment as part of our strategy and planning processes as we are in the process and work of planning, prayer, and biblical reflection. This means more than a simple, five-minute devotional, then getting on with the “real” work. Jesus worked at making time to be alone with the Father. Oftentimes, He would get up early in the morning or even stay up all night.
Consider this: Do you have a time and space for being alone with your Father – concentrated time in solitude? Just to listen, not just study about Him? To be with Him in intimate relationship, not just do more for Him?
Jesus needed regular, concentrated times with the Father. He urged His disciples to “enter your room and shut the door” (Matt. 6:6) when praying. He led by example by going off to be alone with the Father. He illustrates our deep need for regular concentrated times with our Abba Father. From this practice, we learn from Jesus – out of that time with His Father – that He determined His priorities and focus. To determine what to say yes to and what to say no to.
Let’s also recognize the critical importance of setting priorities for what to say yes to as well as what to say no to. We see that Jesus did not try to do everything. He knew what to say yes to and what to say no to. From His concentrated time with the Father, Jesus was able to stay focused on what the Father determined as successful and effective.
We must learn what to say yes to and what to say no to because what we say no to is just as important as what we say yes to. We have to first understand what Jesus illustrated.
Jesus could not do everything. That may sound strange. Jesus is divine; He is God. How could He not do everything? We must remember Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. He got sleepy, and tired, and He got hungry. His physical body was just like ours and thus He showed us how to function in these physical bodies by how He maintained His relationship with Abba Father, and how that relationship kept Him focused with His priorities in perfect order.
Face the fact that you cannot do everything – Jesus walked away from some very obvious needs. He said no. You should follow that lead. However, the only way you’ll have the wisdom to choose correctly is with those regular, concentrated times with Abba Father.
Make sure you pratice that pattern Jesus set. Make sure you draw away with Him and rest, have that quiet time with Him to hear His voice.
We see in the pattern of Jesus’ life that the more popular He became, the more demands were made on him. What else do we see? Do we observe that the harder He worked, the more He expanded and grew His organization to respond to every need, every opportunity and every request so that He could increase His market share, broaden His brand recognition? Of course not!
Luke Chapter 5 illustrates how the more popular He became, the more the crowds sought Him out. Yet the more demands on Him and His time, the more often He withdrew to spend time with God. In that time of solitude, He took His lead from God to determine what to say no to.
He was an extraordinary, successful, effective leader not because He tried to do everything, but because He knew what His focus was, and all His priorities were in order. He knew what to say no to. He knew what success looked like, and He also recognized the limitations of His physical body.
After a long day of teaching and answering questions from the scribes, Jesus went to Peter’s house where Peter’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever. Jesus healed her. Then when evening came, many brought to Him those who were demon possessed. Jesus cast out all the evil spirits and healed all who were sick. But the people would not go away, and they gave Him no peace and quiet. So He left them all on the beach and climbed into a boat, and His disciples followed Him. As they sailed across the lake, Jesus promptly fell soundly asleep. A tempest blew frightening the disciples, but Jesus was so tired He kept sleeping. (Matthew 8:24)
It may seem obvious to everyone that Jesus needed to rest and rejuvenate His body. Though the text doesn’t say He was too tired to stir out of His sleep when the boat was tossed about by the waves, yet the illustration is plain. The physical body has limitations.
Don’t miss the importance of not doing too many good things. Don’t allow too many good things to become the enemy of the best things. Don’t fall into Satan’s trap – what Center for Courage and Renewal founder Parker Palmer calls “the shadow of leadership.” That trap is the mindset: It is all dependent on me. If I don’t do it, it won’t …
Is it our ego and pride driving us? Jesus knew that the most important thing for Him to do was what His Father had sent Him to do, not everything else. This was His vision of what success looked like.
A famous businessman said: We believe in saying no to thousands of projects so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. This is not just “good business,” it is entirely biblical!
If God doesn’t build the house, the builders only build shacks. If God doesn’t guard the city, the night watchman might as well nap. It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone. Don’t you know He enjoys giving rest to those He loves? (Psalm 127:1-2 MSG)
One night while I was buried in email, my daughter came into my office and watched me type for a few minutes. Finally, she climbed into my lap and said, “Daddy, I’m more important than these emails!” She is correct.
I finally faced all the things that God was trying to impress upon me in that period of my life, and I was honest with myself; I had to conclude that I was driven by my own ego and pride. It really was not for the organization, but it was for what I was getting out of it all. I was self-deceived. My sense of identity and value was in the accomplishments in the job not in Christ Jesus. Remember Jesus said He brought glory to the Father. I was not doing that, I was bringing glory to myself.
I like to work – I thought I was successful because I was so driven. Here’s the core truth: The very thing that I based my perception of success upon was the very thing that threatened to destroy me. I could say no … but I wasn’t.
What is driving you to do everything – what keeps you from saying no?
What have you said no to lately?
Are you running on grandiosity? Pride? Ego?