by Dr. Bill Lighty
The most difficult person you will ever have to lead is yourself. A person who is a package of impressive strengths mingles with equally great insecurities, wounds, and inconsistencies, all wrapped as best as we know how to project the best possible public face. We are fully aware of the concealed brokenness inside the box, and that brokenness, if not restored, will be our undoing. (We can all give examples of those who have fallen)
So how can we protect ourselves from this kind of ending?
Three Key Factors
1. My lowest point of Character is my highest point of Capacity.
My leadership, especially spiritual leadership, cannot grow beyond my weakest point of character.
Picture an old antique wooden water bucket made from vertical boards (staves) fashioned together into a cylinder. If those boards were all different, the shortest board would logically dictate the limits of water the bucket could contain. If fifteen boards were 12 inches long and one board was 6 inches long, the defining limit would be what? Our weakest character point always determines our capacity.
Consider the Example of Peter
Think of Peter’s most tragic moments: In the public denial of Christ in Matthew 26:73-74, we see this uncharacteristically spineless scene which seems to be an aberration to the typically macho persona of Peter. Were there any hints to anticipate this breakdown?
In Matthew 16:21 Jesus explains the necessity of His upcoming crucifixion and resurrection. This is not what His followers wanted to hear. In Matthew 16:22 Peter responds to Jesus and takes him aside and basically challenges Jesus to fight like a man.
“They will never over power us.”
In Peter’s words Jesus perceived a significant character flaw. Jesus did not need Peter’s protection. Jesus simply explained the “why” and the “what” of His Father’s plan. Jesus was not trying to escape the plan but rather it was something He must fulfill.
In Matthew 16:23, Jesus corrects his friend. Peter was going to use fleshly power, which was Peter’s character pattern, which needed to be corrected.
Fast Forward to the Upper Room
Jesus had just called out Judas as a traitor and then Jesus foretells His death and resurrection.
In Matthew 26:30 they go to Gethsemane to face an appointment of emotional, physical, and spiritual abandonment. Ironically the lesson Peter needed most to learn was being fleshed out in front of his unseeing eyes. Jesus’ strength was not found in His physical frame but in His complete surrender to the Father.
In Matthew 26:31-32 Jesus says you will all fall away. Peter is no quitter. (See Matt. 26:33) Maybe Judas, and some of the others, but not me. Jesus needed to know the depths of Peter’s devotion. Peter must have thought, “How could Jesus get this so wrong.”
In Matthew 26:34 we have the prophetic pronouncement. This reliance on physical strength versus spiritual strength was Peter’s most limiting character deficiency. Peter’s last known words to Jesus before His crucifixion are found in Matthew 26:35, “Even if I have to die with You I will never deny You!”
Jesus had great plans for Peter. He handpicked him from the crowds to be His own Disciple, one whom He would send as an apostle of good news. Then there was the Denial of Jesus. Yet Peter’s lowest point of character was his highest point of capacity. As long as Peter saw himself as his source of strength, there was not Kingdom future for him. The low point of Peter’s character had been laid open and exposed to the bone. There was no strength Peter could point to.
Ultimately Peter is restored at a sea side breakfast in John 21:15-19
Peter had nothing left. He simply had to trust Christ. Jesus reinstates Peter with his Kingdom assignment and reminded Peter, “Follow Me.” Trust is a simple Key to Kingdom character. Only by knowing my challenges and struggles am I able to truly trust Jesus.
2. The Way I Do One Thing Is The Way I Do Everything.
A common sentiment in contemporary thought is a compartmentalized approach to character. A leader badly misbehaves and his supporters sing in unison that a leader’s private life has nothing to do with his job performance. (All we have to do is look at many of our national leaders)
Private lives and public functioning are entirely unrelated.
For the Christ Follower this thought is totally absurd. If I lie to my wife, I will lie to anyone. If I hold back from God the finances that are correctly His, I will steal from anyone. I must guard against rationalizing disobedience. The way I do one thing is the way I do everything.
For Peter his private issue of self-reliance became a spiritually damaging point of character. We must come face-to-face with this reality.
Granted we all walk with a limp. We are flawed human beings.
But we must walk with humility and realize that in our weakness God’s strength can be found.
In Luke 16:10 we are reminded that when we are faithful with little then we will be entrusted with much. It is the little things, perhaps mundane activities, that demonstrate character. Character is not developed in the big events or challenges but rather character is revealed. Character is developed in the day to day disciplines, challenges, interruptions of life.
The way I do one thing, simple things, seemingless insignificant tasks, to “the least of these”, reveals who I am.
Past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior. This is not the only indicator but we all tend to default to what has worked in the past. Developing new disciplines and habits are challenges we must face and only when we are self-aware will be have the insight to engage the need for change and growth. Today’s problems are yesterday’s solutions. We cannot tackle today’s challenges with yesterday’s methods and strategies. This is true corporately but also true personally. I must choose to change and embrace a new normal/reality.
3. Personal Transformation Only Flows From Intimate Transparency.
The fact that my lowest point of character is my highest point of capacity should drive us to a place of analysis and deep introspection. Knowing that the way I do one thing is the way I do everything should eliminate any semblance of self-reliance and move us to desperate dependence. How does this Intimate Transparency happen?
There has been such a focus and emphasis on the “personal relationship with God” element that we have lost the Biblical Community that is required. In the American contemporary understanding of the Body of Christ, it is left to the individual Christ-Follower to get his house in order through sheer intrinsic motivation. There is no place for accountability and support because there is no place for self-revelation. We are all on our own. So we in the Church experience about the same level of social dysfunction as those outside the Body of Christ.
We need to ask, ”How does a Christ-Follower break away from this culture of isolationism and experience something more transformative?” The Humility of Biblical Community becomes the key. It requires transparency.
James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful.” This requires humility and self-awareness.
I Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you in due time.” If Peter can get this there is hope for us. God’s call is to go deeper in community and to honestly admit sins of character in an environment of support and accountability which then results in authentic Transformation.
How do we accomplish this? Here are a few suggestions:
- Make it Personal. Connect with others. Choose to be vulnerable and transparent with some close associates. Make this a spiritual discipline.
- Model it Publicly. Share what God is doing. Communicate the values you have received from biblical community with others.
- Mark a Path. Introduce this concept to your church. Engage the strategy to integrate biblical community in the normal rhythms of your church.
Imagine the transformation power a church will have in its city because it is composed of a members who are personally experiencing intimate transparency and transformation. People in the community will want what we have.