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(Part 106)


April 11, 2016
Today’s psalm: Psalm 119:23-30

Prayer and the Bible are crucial to the life of a Christian, and especially crucial to the life and work of a servant leader. Prayer, that is, deep heartfelt prayer, is still a challenge to many servant leaders. But an even greater challenge to most servant leaders is regularly reading (daily and several times a day), meditating on, studying and applying God’s word to one’s life. I will already tell you, if you do not become steeped in God’s word in the Bible, you cannot become the servant leader God intends you to become.

Principles of servant leadership, and ways to handle challenges of ministry, are all over the Bible, both in the Old and the New Testaments. Today we look at some challenges to servant leaders, and how they can be overcome, with principles from the Psalms, specifically, in today’s short reading.

Following are some common challenges faced by servant leaders.

First, the authentic servant leader will always (yes, always) face some opposition from other leaders, including one’s subordinates. There will be times when “princes meet and talk against me” (v.23a). The authentic servant leader speaks prophetically and teaches the hard teachings of Jesus, as he desires people to grow in holiness and zeal for the Kingdom. Many leaders prefer to do otherwise--to just be comfortable, to follow their own agenda, to think they are better than the leader (they might be, but that is not the point), to just have a nice Country Club atmosphere, to not give so much of themselves or their resources, to not be challenged to grow in perfection, and so on. To justify their preferred stances, they have to speak against their leader (behind his back of course), and try to convince others how the leader is wrong.

Second, there will be times of sadness and discouragement. “My soul clings to the dust” (v.25a). Servant leadership is very hard work. There will be failures, feelings of inadequacy, opposition from brethren, and so on. In addition, there are all the bad things that happen in one’s life including challenges in the family.

Third, there might even be feelings of depression due to great challenges and failures. “My soul is depressed” (v.28a). Aside from the normal day-to-day challenges, there are the really serious things that happen from time to time. It might be the failure of a big project, the loss of brethren one is caring for, the frustration of not getting the desired cooperation from others, or something seriously wrong that happens to one’s loved ones, like illness or financial loss.

Fourth, there will be challenges in discerning God’s will, especially with the lies of the enemy. It is not easy to discern God’s will for the life and direction of the community or group of brethren one leads. What is the authentic vision and mission? What is the fullness of the God-given charism? In what ways can these be lived out? In addition, there is the evil one always trying to foul up one’s mind. He lies, he leads astray, at times coming as an angel of light. The servant leader needs to be constantly praying: “Lead me from the way of deceit” (v.29a).

Fifth, there will be temptations to veer away from God’s authentic call, due to many reasons, such as convenience or pride. God’s way is exceedingly hard. The demands on servant leadership is extremely difficult. How indeed can weak sinful flesh do the very divine work of God? Some leaders then tone things down, or take the easier route, or lessen the pace, or diminish the vision. The work is very hard and even humanly impossible, but servant leaders need to just decide to be faithful to God’s call, to be loyal to the Master. “The way of loyalty I have chosen” (v.30a). We after all are just servants and instruments.

How do servant leaders overcome all the above challenges? We make use of everything God has given us. We pray, we study, we undergo formation, we look to those wiser than us, we participate in the life of the community and the Church, we frequent the Eucharist, plus many more. But one very important and indispensable thing we need to do is to take hold of the Bible and make the very word of God a part of our day-to-day life. “Your servant meditates on your statutes.” (v.23b).

In what ways does the Bible help us? Here are seven ways.

First, the Bible teaches us God’s ways. God Himself teaches and counsels us. “They are my counselors.” (v.24b). God’s words show us the way we are to go, according to His will and plan for us. “Make me understand the way of your precepts” (v.27a).

Second, the Bible give us the answers to our questions and solutions to our problems. “I disclosed my ways and you answered me; teach me your statutes.” (v.26). Our primary source of divine wisdom is the Bible.

Third, the Bible shows us the truth, especially against the lies of the evil one. “Lead me from the way of deceit; favor me with your law.” (v.29). There is much deception in the world, including in Christian ministry. Many Christians go astray, because they do not know the truth. But God has already revealed His ways. It is there in the Bible.

Fourth, the Bible is the book of life, the authentic life that God intends for us to live. “Give me life in accord with your word.” (v.25b). Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. In turn, the Bible is God’s written word telling us about what is right and just and true. The Bible allows us to meet Jesus and live his life, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Fifth, the Bible encourages us, especially as we face difficult situations. “I will ponder your wondrous deeds.” (v.27b). The Bible tells us stories of the great heroes of faith, all of whom faced great trials. In the Bible we see how God worked in their lives to help them overcome. It is the same God who cares for us and helps us in life.

Sixth, the Bible edifies us and lifts up our spirit. “Lift me up according to your word.” (v.28b). The Bible gives us so many important passages that uplift us, brighten our day, help us to keep moving forward, assure us of God’s love and mercy, give us hope for the future.

Seventh, the Bible brings great joy and delight to the soul. Learning about what God has said and written is simply delightful. “Your testimonies are my delight” (v.24a). In the Bible we encounter the God who loves us eternally, who has the greatest and most wonderful plan for our lives, who is always there for us. We meet the Father who sent His very own Son to suffer and die for us. We encounter the Holy Spirit who is our companion and helper. If we know God Himself is there for us, what then can we be afraid of. There will only be goodness all the days of our lives.

The Bible, the very word of God in written form, is indispensable to the life and work of a servant leader. May every servant leader be able to say, “I have kept your judgments.” (v.30b).

* * *

(1) The Liturgical Bible Study is an important tool God has given us to get everyone, including ourselves, to read the Bible. For servant leaders, they of course have to go beyond just reading to applying God’s word to their day-to-day lives.
(2) If you regularly read and think about my From the Servant General articles, these are all Bible-based. So aside from learning the teaching on a particular topic, you will be encountering many Bible verses throughout your lifetime. The Bible verse and the application will then be there for you.

* * *

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