Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 11 October 21:
1 Peter 5:2 – Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
Countless books have been written on leadership – too many to number. Amazon offers around 60,000 books with the word “leadership” in the title, and it has been estimated that about four new books specifically on leadership are published each day. However, all you really need to know about the principles of leadership is contained in the Bible – “The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:11-13)
1 Peter 5 is an amazing chapter on leadership from which countless books could be written, but why muddy the waters of God’s pure word? “Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet?” (Ezekiel 34:18, 19) Hoping not to muddy the waters, here are a few thoughts from today’s readings that came to mind –
“Shepherd the flock of God that is among you….” Someone once said, “If you can’t stand the smell of sheep, don’t be a shepherd.” Leadership is a sacrificial commitment to take care of those who are less capable, less understanding, less disciplined, less committed, etc. Leadership then, requires great patience since, by definition, those you lead will continually fail to meet your personal standard – if they were at your level, they wouldn’t need you to lead. Shepherds are not to be harsh and overly domineering but rather are to be humble, gentle and understanding. When we become impatient and harsh with those we lead, it is because we have lost perspective of our own sheep-ness and of our own reliance on the grace of our Good Shepherd.
“…the flock that is among you….” The work of the shepherd isn’t glamorous or spectacular as the shepherd (pastor, minister, parent, employer, teacher, small group leader) cares for the small flock, usually a small group of ordinary people, God has placed around him or her. These shepherds aren’t orchestrating big movements, events, or advertising campaigns, just discipling a small group of people to follow Jesus. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is our model for leadership. Many around Jesus wanted him to lead a big movement, but Jesus focused on training up his small group of disciples, the flock among him, so they could be fully equipped, multiply, and spread the Gospel throughout the world. This style of humble, servant leadership is often beneath those who want to be prominent leaders, but humility and selflessness are essential qualities for true leadership.
“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5) Sometimes it seems like everyone wants to be the leader. Pridefully, many people seek greater leadership for personal recognition or gain, but this is not shepherding. Leading sheep isn’t glamorous work, and it isn’t for the prideful. In fact, the greatest leaders are usually unrecognized because they are quietly but powerfully investing in the lives of people who others might view as insignificant. Ironically though, only those with the heart to lead in small places are worthy to lead in big places. A. W. Tozer observed, “‘If you are too big for a little place, you are too little for a big place.’ It is an odd rule of the kingdom of God that when we try to get big, we always get smaller by the moment. God is jealous of His glory and will not allow anyone to share it with Him. The effort to appear great will bring the displeasure of God upon us and effectively prevent us from achieving the greatness after which we pant. Humility pleases God wherever it is found, and the humble person will have God for his or her friend and helper always. Only the humble are completely sane, for they are the only ones who see clearly their own size and limitations. Egotists see things out of focus. To themselves they are large and God is correspondingly small, and that is a kind of moral insanity.”
- Matthew 20:26-28 — But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
- Proverbs 12:9 — Better to be lowly and have a servant than to play the great man and lack bread.
- Matthew 11:29 — Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
- Romans 12:16 — Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.
- James 1:9 — Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation….
1 Peter 5:6, 7 – “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
The humility required by God of a leader includes not only a heart which “count[s] others more significant than [oneself],” and looks out for “the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4),” but which also isn’t anxious because the leader trusts in God to provide rather than the leader’s own abilities – “It isn’t about you, and it doesn’t depend on you.” Few people recognize that anxiety is a pride problem. How can the Bible say that anxiety comes from pride? Pride leads a person to believe that they control their circumstances, that their fate depends on their own abilities. Anxiety is the realization they are not really in control, that their abilities are not enough, and their hope in self is futile. The anxious person is a prideful sheep that has wandered away from the Good Shepherd and is starting to realize that they have no idea where they are and that they are defenseless against the wolves of life. The wandering, defenseless sheep isn’t the one you want to follow. The answer to anxiety is humbly returning to the Good Shepherd and resting in His guidance and protection. The job of the humble sheep is to trust, obey, and follow closely as the Shepherd leads to green pastures. (see Psalm 23) The one who is closely following the Good Shepherd isn’t worried and is the one you want to follow.
“Peter had walked with the risen Christ, and he had personally experienced the love that Jesus had for His followers. He knew that Christ was in control, capable of handling every trial, and that He wanted to do so as an expression of His love. Casting our cares is a choice. It means consciously handing over our anxiety to Christ and allowing Him to carry the weight of our problems. At times this is the most difficult part of trusting God! We don’t like turning over the responsibility for our problems. We have been taught that self-reliance is good and praiseworthy. We may even enjoy worrying. Yet if we are to be freed from the burden of our concerns, we must choose to cast them into the strong hands of our Father. Peter does not distinguish between little cares and big cares. God does not differentiate between problems we should handle on our own and God-sized needs. He asks us to turn them all over to Him. One of our greatest errors is to assume we can deal with something ourselves, only to discover that we really can’t. God sees you as His frail child [or lamb], burdened with a load that surpasses your strength. He stands prepared to take your load and to carry it for you. Will you let Him?” (Henry T. Blackaby)
Today’s readings say we must shepherd by being an example, by following the example and direction of the Good Shepherd, Jesus. We must lead those constantly wandering sheep as Jesus leads us in our constant wandering. And we must shepherd our flock along the right path. Someone once said, “Leaders know the way and show the way.” Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” and Jesus led people, not to temporal success or moral, political, or social victories but to Himself. (see John 17 and Romans 8:29). If you are not leading your flock to Jesus, you are not being a good shepherd, a true leader.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 11 October 21: Shepherd, lead others, by humbly following the Good Shepherd and His example and by leading others to Jesus, showing them how to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33)