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(Part 31)


February 4, 2012

Today’s readings:
1 Kings 3:4-13
Mark 6:30-34

As leaders we are servants. Though we have authority we are not autocratic. Though people look up to us, we look not to ourselves. Though we are entitled to prerogatives, we ask “not for a long life for (ourself), nor for riches, nor for the life of (our) enemies” (1 Kgs 3:11b).

As God chooses us to do His very work, God looks for leaders who “(behave) faithfully toward (Him), with justice and an upright heart” (1 Kgs 3:6b). Servant leaders are to be faithful to God’s ways and commands, are to be just in their dealings (giving to each one what is their due), and are to be people of purity and righteousness.

In order to become such leaders, we need to know certain realities.

First, we serve in the place of God over His people. Solomon said, “I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen” (1 Kgs 3:8a). The people we serve are God’s people. They are God’s flock. We are called to stand in His place in caring for His people. It is an awesome responsibility. God entrusts to our care the well-being of His people. Thus we need to take on His mind and heart, and we need to be faithful in doing our task.

Second, as a consequence of the first, we need to be humbled. Solomon said, O Lord, my God, you have made me, your servant, king to succeed my father David; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act.” (1 Kgs 3:7). As servant leaders, God makes us “king” over His people, to “succeed” Him. How could we ever “take the place” of God? How could we ever accomplish divine work? How do we know at all how to act? “For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?” (1 Kgs 3:9b). And so we acknowledge our nothingness. And we look to Him.

Third, as a consequence of the second, we must know that if God calls, then He provides. Then He anoints. Then He gives us the gifts we need. We just need to ask. “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” (1 Kgs 3:5b). When we empty ourselves, God fills us. When we makes ourselves low, God raises us. When we acknowledge that we are nothing, God makes something of us. When we ask, we receive.

Fourth, as a consequence of the third, we must know that God delights in being able to empower, use and bless us. That is His purpose after all. When we simply place ourselves as an empty and humble instrument before Him, we pours out the fullness of His grace and blessing. When we delight Him with our response, then God goes all out to delight us in turn, beyond our wildest expectations. “In addition, I give you what you have not asked for, such riches and glory that among kings there is not your like.” (1 Kgs 3:13).

How are we able to serve faithfully, justly and uprightly?

First, we need the very wisdom of God. If we do God’s work, then we need to tap on, in our own limited way, to His mind and heart. For that we need the gift of wisdom. Among the sanctifying gifts, wisdom is the first and the second is understanding (Is 11:2). Among the charismatic gifts, wisdom is also the first and knowledge is the second (1 Cor 12:8). Before anything else, we need to be tuned in to God. It is so easy to just go on our own human ways, founded on our human experience, looking to human expectations. But God’s ways are not our ways. And so like Solomon we pray, “Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.” (1 Kgs 3:9a).

Second, with the wisdom of God, we are able to see what the work is all about. It is about the very spiritual well-being of God’s people. It is about their very souls. It is about the dominion of the enemy in a darkened world, and the loss of direction of God’s people. We need to take on the very heart of Jesus. “When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” (Mk 6:34). Our hearts need to be moved when we see the many who are in darkness and sin, lost and without direction. We are called to be shepherds after God’s own flock. We are called to teach people about the ways of God.

Third, as we see the vast crowds that need to be pastored, we as servant leaders must be willing to expend ourselves in helping them. There is much work to be done, and there are few workers. We sacrifice our personal well-being. As the need arises, we act like Jesus and the Twelve. “People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat.” (Mk 6:31b). Self-sacrifice after all is the very way of Jesus.

Now Jesus however is not a cruel taskmaster. Yes, he drives his servant leaders hard, as he drove himself hard. And he knows this is for the good not only of the people to be served, but of those leaders who do the serving. But Jesus is also a wonderful friend who looks to our personal well-being, as we look to the well-being of others.

Thus we must have our times of rest. It is not good if we drive ourselves to the ground with exhaustion or even getting sick. Then it is the work that suffers. We must respond often enough to Jesus’ call, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” (Mk 6:31a).

As we rest, away from the hustle and bustle of the work, we must never neglect prayer. Without daily prayer, we lose touch with the One who sends us. Without prayer, we are pretty much on our own, relying on our own human wisdom and power. We need to follow “the apostles (who) gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught.” (Mk 6:30). In prayer we continue to seek God’s mind and heart. We speak about our blessings and pains, our joys and sorrows, our successes and seeming defeats. We look to God’s consolation. We look to His instructions.

Finally, have some fun time together, setting aside the serious work. Have fellowship. Be refreshed. Enjoy the reports of your fellow servant leaders as to what they have done and taught. Grow in being a team. “So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.” (Mk 6:32).

Ahhhh. Blue waters and white sand in a deserted cove.

Refreshed, reinvigorated, refocused. Then back to the grind. Oh what a wonderful life!

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