My wife and I were talking recently over the jobs I’ve had in the past and we made the observation that in nearly every job, I’ve been given a title or position that has nothing to do with what I actually do. Sometimes, the title is usually something that is much more important sounding than the actual duties performed. Sometimes the leader gave a title or position that they believed would entice me to commit to them. Some gave a position or title to give the illusion of authority even though there was no real power in order to minimize or control my influence. As I talk to others, I find that my experience is not uncommon.
We see this attention for titles in nearly every area of life. Take the office – the change from secretary to administrative assistant in order to give higher importance. Take the airline industry – the change from stewardess to flight attendant in order to give prominence. Even the church – the change from Youth Pastor to Lead Pastor or Senior Pastor. In fact, I’ve actually watched people change as their title has changed. As their title grows in importance… some change in how they deal with people. They move away from working relationally and move towards working authoritatively. Instead of conversations and collaboration… they give orders. They move from personal to impersonal. Management experts say that a common mistake leaders make is that they confuse power with force and leadership with dominance. They see themselves as a good leader because they can dominate or win in the situation.
What I find interesting is that while there is so much focus on titles, there is very little focus on what people actually do – which is the point of the New Testament. In 1 Timothy 3:1, Paul writes to the young pastor struggling with building a new church community….
This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work…
We see the word position and immediately think – title. But the word Paul uses does not describe a title, but a function. In other words, the New Testament view of office or position is equal to what a person actually does and not the sense of importance that comes with a title. This view is based on giftedness and anointing and not power and popularity.
I often reflect on Saul and David. Saul was the people’s choice. He looked like a king. He was tall and good looking. It was a good business decision. But he lacked the character of a king. You know the story… when it came time to crown him he was hiding. Contrast that to David. He lived in obscurity. Out of the public eye. He was short and ruddy. Next to Saul, he didn’t look like a king. He was a working man. Even when his own dad tried to keep him in obscurity, God stepped in and brought him to the front of the line.
Today men are quick to appoint leaders, ordain men to ministry or prone to elevate men based on a sensual approach rather than a spiritual approach. Who has the popular vote? Who is attractive and well liked? Versus… who is God’s hand upon? Who is gifted and anointed by God for the job? We will often select people and then try to build a ministry around them, instead of selecting people through whom God is already working. I’ve been guilty of elevating a person simply because they had the look I was after only to find out they didn’t have the skill.
So how do we respond to these kinds of situations? How do we respond when we’re given a title that doesn’t match our responsibility? How do we respond when we’re given a position without the power or authority to do the job? How do we respond when we’re given the corner office merely as a tactic to control or isolate us from being too much of an influence or to diminish our effectiveness? This is what I’ve learned.
First… Pray. Pray for wisdom. Pray for direction and guidance. Pray for the direction and guidance that you’re not getting. Pray that God will bring to light the hidden agendas that you don’t see. Pray that God will protect you from harm. Pray for God’s kingdom to be extended and His name glorified regardless of your circumstances. Pray for the perspective of heaven. The power of God is released through prayer.
Second… Obey. As God begins to reveal things to you, obey what He commands you to do. Remember that leadership is not a title, it’s a function. If God is calling you to lead, then lead with the gifts and anointing He has given you. Even if your gifts aren’t recognized, if it’s truly anointed by God it will be found. David didn’t seek anything, God sought Him out. You are not forgotten. Remember that at the end of the day, there is only one voice that will matter – it’s the voice of Him who says, well done good and faithful servant.
Third… Be faithful to what God gives you. How does God give to you? Through leadership. Through revelation. Through choices. Through circumstances. However it comes, be faithful to take care of what He gives. Pay attention to the your portion of the land. Remember David’s mighty men? One of them was famous for defending a small plot of land. The others were more like Arnold types. One killed a ton of people with a jaw bone. The other was mighty in battle. This guy defended a plot of land. How nice. Imagine the locker room talk. What’s the point? You might look at someone else’s role and think – I want to be Arnold!!! But being Arnold doesn’t make you mighty. What makes you mighty is when you are faithful to what God has given to you.
Fourth… believe what people do and not what they say. This is one of the most profound lessons I’ve ever learned from a friend – Ken Blue. Someone may say… I want you to be in this position and then give it to another. Lower your expectations and believe what they do. Could it be that they are stringing you along? Yes. No. Maybe. Could it be a they will eventually keep their word? Possibly. But regardless of what they do or don’t do – you still need to be obedient to what God has given you to do.
I’ve discovered that in my own life, usually men will promise me things simply out of insecurity or politics. Maybe they are afraid that I’ll move on or they’re afraid of how it will make them look if I leave. Sometimes they are actually men of their word. It really isn’t important to me. Neither does it affect what I do or how I serve the Lord because I can’t allow myself to make decisions based on what I’m told or what I see men doing. Ultimately my life is in God’s hands and I need to be led by the Spirit and not anxious about a position or promise. To be absolutely blunt – there is nothing that happens to me that is outside of His all encompassing will. My life is His and HIs alone. This allows me to negotiate the tension between what men promise and what they deliver without becoming bitter or surprised when things turn unexpectedly. This is the nature of living in humility and truth.
Fifth… keep your focus on God. I love the Psalms and David’s response. Saul was focused on David. He was jealous of David. He complained about David. He was strategic towards David. David addressed God. How long O Lord will I have to endure this? When will you deliver me? Vindicate me O Lord!!! He realized that his life was not his own, that his life belonged to God. That meant that whatever happened wasn’t because someone lied or someone was being evil, but God was revealing His will. Sometimes, we pray for God to reveal Himself and then we don’t like the way He chooses to do it. As difficult as it is… cry out to God, and don’t focus your aggression on a person. We need to keep ourselves in a position to be able to minister and build a bridge of forgiveness. The person you’re at odds with may someday be your partner in ministry. In the very least, we will all be in heaven together.
Sixth… live in the eternal present, not in the past and not in the future. People like to live in the past or the future. Living in the past causes bitterness. We relive the pain, the agony, the disappointment and allow the seeds of bitterness to grow in our hearts until we’re filled with cynicism, anger, despair, despondency. We allow our hurt feelings to control us and paralyze us and ultimately rob us from seeing what God is doing in us.
Living in the future causes anxiety. We worry about what could happen or what should happen. It causes us to make decision based out of fear and insecurity. It causes us to covet things that God hasn’t given to us. We start to attack others because we believe they’re getting what we should have. It leads to anger when we don’t see our plans coming to pass. It turns relationships into commodities that we use in order to get ahead.
Living in the present allows us to enjoy each moment enveloped by the Presence of God. The gifts of the Spirit flow in the present tense. God’s name is I AM. Not I WAS or I WILL BE. He lives in the eternal present. He is fully engaged in every moment as if it was the only moment that existed because in reality – IT IS. When we live in the eternal present we have focus, we have energy, we don’t become burnt out because we’re focused on the moment that is right in front of us. Fully obedient, fully reliant upon God’s provision and power, fully available to be used in whatever capacity God chooses.
Finally… learn to say Amen and Alleluia. Amen to the will of God and Alleluia when His will is revealed. When God says… So it shall be, let us respond with so let it be. When God says… My will is final, let us respond with Praise the Lord for His Word is true and faithful. This is the heart of a true worshipper. Amen and Alleluia to whatever happens in our lives. The devil is called the Prince and power of the air. He works in the realm of circumstances. He has the power to change circumstances, he can destroy the body, but he cannot destroy the soul. When we get to the point where we can say Amen and Alleluia – we become bomb proof to the tactics of the devil. He can’t touch us. He can change our circumstances – but if He does we say Amen and Alleluia knowing that God will deliver us either in this life or the life to come. His will always prevails.
If you commit to a life of prayer, obedience, faithfulness and truthfulness… if you commit to living a life free from blaming others… if you commit to living a life in the eternal present and learn to accept and give thanks for God’s will in your life – it will mean change will happen in your life.
It means that you will need to let go of bitterness, anger, blame shifting, ambition, and coveting… it means that you will need to take responsibility for all of your life and that you will have to let go of the past and hold lightly the future… it means that you will need to live out of a place of belief and faith to such a degree that your life will become a fragrant offering of worship… you may even need to learn how to sing. But it also means that you will need to leave behind your impoverished life and step into the glorious plan that God has prepared for you. A plan that goes beyond what you could ever think, ask or imagine.