Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak…
I have learned the hard way that the best way to become an effective communicator is to become an effective and sincere listener. In ministry and life, I tend to want to hear someone out before telling my story or giving advice. We have all been around that person who seems to care less about what you have to say and is determined to tell his story or give his wisdom. I am learning that there are three things that will make me a more effective leader, parent, husband, and friend.
First, learn to listen to someone who is in need or in pain and be willing to simply empathize or sympathize with them. The bible says we should “weep with those who weep”(Romans 12:15), and, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”(Galatians 6:2). So I need to learn to listen and do my best to “feel” what my friend is feeling. I don’t necessarily need to give them life-changing counsel.
Second, I need to learn to share in the excitement, joy, or pain, of a person’s story. I need to become a listener in their story. Everyone has a “story”. Have you ever known someone for a period of time, feeling like you knew him or her pretty well, only to learn that there was a lot more to the person than you realize. I have often been guilty of knowing someone for years before I really learned that this person had a story to tell. So many people carry pain and baggage, but a listening and sincere ear is often the best way to minister to that person. My goal as a believer should be to move beyond acquaintance and toward genuine relationship.
Lastly, I am often guilty of failing to “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15). When someone is happy or excited because of something they have experienced or learned, I should share in the excitement. I don’t need to be a know-it-all. I need to be eager to learn through what others are experiencing.
These are principals that have been very helpful for me in being a better brother in Christ, but I still have so much to learn. I hope they will help you too.
I wanted to share the opening session of the SWO16 Winter Be Strong Men’s Conference, which happened last weekend. A couple hundred men from all over the U.S. were in attendance. From Northern Illinois to South Florida, men came together for fellowship, recreation, and discipleship. I hope this is encouraging and helpful. Give a listen, then pass along.
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him…”
The bible is full of imperatives which are commands and calls to action for the believer. A story from a good pastor-friend of mine drove this home recently.
This brother was preparing for an international trip one morning well before daylight, when suddenly there was a violent knock at his front door. Looking at his watch he saw that it didn’t yet register 5:30 am. He wondered who would be at his front door at this hour. In that moment of uneasiness, he also remembered that there had been a couple of recent break-ins in his neighborhood. With stealth, he made his way through the dimly lit hallway that led to his front door, and crossed to a nearby window that would give him an unnoticed point of view. From there, he looked out and saw a man with his face mostly covered by a hoodie, peering into the tiny window in the front door. The man held one hand behind his back and stood in a very offensive posture. Fearing the hidden hand held a weapon, my buddy went on the offensive (this proved to be true, as the man had a pistol). By recognizing the signs of a home invasion, my friend was able to stop the man in his tracks and send him fleeing. The police were called and the man was later arrested. What began as an attack that could have left my friend’s family hurt or killed, turned into a thwarted plan that left the armed burglar in jail, lucky to not have been shot. My friend’s vigilance saved lives. A tactical principal held true. Action beats reaction. Every time.
This story ended favorably because he not only read the warning signs, but he remained vigilant and steadfast. And he was armed. He knew the posture and signs and had armed himself in the defense of his family. But locks and guns only go so far. His MINDSET is what saved his family that morning.
I wish more men would take the spiritual defense of their own families more seriously. We have been called to holiness, and to fight for our wives, marriages, children, and our own godliness. This requires vigilance. I have to be aware of my own temptation and sin, my own weaknesses and tendencies, and my own knack for abandoning my walk with The Lord. As a father and shepherd, I am responsible for the safety of those in my home, in my care. Defending my family isn’t just a physical responsibility, it’s a spiritual one and an emotional one too. If I am vigilant in my pursuit of Christ and godliness for my own life, then I will more likely be in tune with the needs of my wife and kids.
When the enemy comes, I will take action and go on the offensive, rather than waiting until after he attacks and trying to react defensively.
Knowing the roaring lion and his tactics as Paul instructs in 2 Corinthians 2:11 is critical. Knowing The Lion of Judah and submitting to him daily will enable me to ROAR BACK. Besides, action always beats reaction. Arm yourself.
2 Corinthians 2:11
2 Corinthians 10:4-6
I want to be the kind of person that makes others better. Sometimes this comes about by setting an example. Paul told Timothy to “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity”. One of the simple things that I can do as an effective Christ follower is to set this type of an example. This will encourage others and create a positive atmosphere that will be contagious and productive.
If I am always complaining, or negative, or simply ungodly in my speech and attitude, I will create dead weight for those around me. I will become a downward force that is a burden. But if I will be focused on encouraging and working hard, refusing to complain or be negative, then I will help those around me be better too.
A man or woman of God should be dedicated to hard work and to making others better. This will reflect well on Christ, and will make the company, the office, the crew, the class or whatever other day-to-day group of people by which I am surrounded more positive and joyful.
For years, this statement I read by the CEO of a pretty impressive company has stood out to me. However, this rule isn’t one that I have followed in dealing with those under my leadership and care. In other words, I don’t ever fire someone for saying they can’t do something, but I do want to help them get over that attitude and become optimistic in every situation. For me, it has been a personal challenge that when I am faced with difficult situations or obstacles to not let my instinct to be “I can’t.” Whether in my personal, my professional, or in ministry life, I never want to have a defeatist’s attitude. I never want the first reaction I have toward a difficult challenge to be, “Oh I can’t do that,” and then go on to give all the reasons why it would never work. Instead, I want to begin by assuming I can do anything I am committed to and willing to work for. Sure, there are things I simply do not have the skill or resources to accomplish. But that should never be the conclusion with which I BEGIN a task. I should have to be shown and proven that I can’t do something before I think about saying “I can’t.” Then, if and when that proves true, I should have the humility to accept it.
We need to understand that God expects great things of us, and he expects us to work, and strive, and live life with a dogged determination to complete tasks and accomplish goals. Get the word “can’t” OUT of your vocabulary.
There is an old Jewish folk tale about the Chief of the Tribe of Judah at the time of the Exodus, a man named Nashon. As the story goes, when the people of Israel came to the edge of the Red Sea, they found themselves boxed in with the Egyptian Army closing fast. The whole nation freaked out and gave up all hope. They had the Sea before them, and an unbeatable army behind. As they stood paralyzed with fear, bold Nashon walked straight out into the water and when the water got to his nose, the sea parted. He was a bold and fearless man, and a man of great faith.
Now, we know that the biblical record of the parting of the Red Sea is much different. Exodus 14:21 says that the sea parted when Moses obediently lifted his staff, as The Lord had commanded him. God had told them that all they needed to do was be still and trust him, and he would fight for them (Exodus 14:14). He did, and the sea parted, and in the end all of the Egyptians went for a terminal swim. God did that.
But, the Nashon story is a cool thought. What if…? People love folk heroes. Robin Hood, King Arthur, and the embellished stories of American pioneers like Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett all give evidence that we love heroes, and if none are provided we will make up our own. The stories of war heroes Chris Kyle and Marcus Luttrell have turned into blockbuster successes because we love men who refuse to lose heart, refuse to despair—even in the face of the most adverse circumstances—and fight for victory. Bloody, sweaty, dirty, and exhausted, these men win the day.
One characteristic of Gospel Man is that he will always see opportunity in any circumstance—even when others see only despair. The Gospel dad who has bills stacking up and a wolf at the door won’t despair, but, rather, he will see the opportunity for his family to learn deeply of God’s faithfulness. The Gospel employee who is facing a layoff in the middle of company cutbacks will see the opportunity to show his coworkers in Who lies his true faith and joy. The Gospel kid, who faces the ugly horrors of her parent’s divorce, will rejoice in the pain, knowing that Jesus will NEVER leave her. The Gospel spouse knows that it is never too late for The Lord to miraculously save a marriage.
On the night that Jesus was betrayed and crucified, the disciples abandoned him. The Jewish leaders were gaining momentum, the Romans became involved, and the despair of it all overwhelmed Christ’s most faithful friends and disciples. However, it was in the despair of his Crucifixion that the miracle of the Resurrection occurred. Never has despair given way to opportunity like the Cross gave way to the grave, which gave way to the Risen Lord. In that morning of Resurrection, Christ conquered death, but he also brought us with him.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. —Romans 8:37.
In Christ we have conquered death and sin and that fact should give us a competitive edge in life. Christians should be opportunists and the most hyper-optimistic of all people.
When life gets tough, you can either stand there on the edge of the sea and shake and gnaw your fingernails as the enemy approaches, or you can walk into the water. But before the water is to your nose, God will show himself faithful, and THAT, will be your testimony to a despairing world.
In Mark 10, Jesus gives us the story of The Rich Young Ruler. This man is a very religious guy, and has been really good at going to church and doing religious things—but he feels empty. After realizing that neither status nor religious living would earn God’s favor and salvation, even the disciples are confused. They ask Jesus how in the world could anyone hope to be saved if successful religious people weren’t good enough. Jesus told ‘em it was impossible. There was no way man could be saved—at least, not in his own strength. But that is the beauty of Amazing Grace! Only GOD has the ability to save me, and I have nothing in my own power to overcome my inability to get myself saved! Wow, that was a mouthful.
Now, for those of us who are in Christ, we should feel invincible. I remember reading a quote from Stonewall Jackson, the great battlefield general of the 19th century. He was a devout man of God, who loved The Gospel and wanted to see men come to faith in Jesus. He was fearless in battle and was so confident in God’s sovereignty that he stood in the face of enemy fire like a statue. He said he felt as safe in battle as he did in bed. THAT is confidence in The Lord.
Adam Brown, a member of the elite Seal Team Six who was killed in action in 2010, once said he didn’t know how anyone could go to war that didn’t have faith in The Lord. Confidence in God’s providence enables men and women to move forward in the face of overwhelming adversity.
The Gospel-Man knows that there is no greater miracle than the miracle of the salvation of sinners. If God can radically redeem sinners, and if that salvation actually happens—and it does—then anything really is possible. My life is defined by the calling and blueprint God has for me. So, to borrow from a favorite modern hymn, “til he returns, or calls me home…” I am invincible. And regardless of how difficult the circumstances in life may be, God is never nervous or unsure of what he intends to do. The God who saves me, empowers me to live obediently, and the impossible becomes possible.
I want to live as one who really does believe that with God, all things really are possible.
Check out Part One.
This is an exciting time at SWO. We are ramping up for SWO16 and staff applications have started trickling in. We are already over eighty five percent booked for SWO16 summer camps! This is a record, as we typically don’t reach that number until January. God is moving in and through the ministry at SWO. I am so grateful for the team God has assembled here and for the way I am seeing these laborers come to work to serve students and leaders. I will be on the road preaching and teaching a good bit this winter (you can follow my schedule here), so I hope to see you at one of those events.
We are planning breakout session topics, media projects, facility improvements, and of course, NEW REC IDEAS! If you or someone you know would be interested in serving or maybe just looking for a great way to serve while being trained and discipled, staff applications are open until February. Please check it out. Let me know if you have questions or need some direction as you pray about joining the SWO team. We typically select about one hundred additional staff to join our year-round team of forty–and we’ve already had over 200 folks start the application this year. Go to the SWO website for more information here.
Hope to hear from you soon.