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(Part 61)


February 8, 2014

Today’s readings:
1 Kings 3:4-13
Psalm 119:9-14
Mark 6:30-34

God appoints leaders over His people. These are His servant leaders. Following are the key ingredients of an effective servant leader.

First and foremost, one must not be self-referential. The Lord was pleased with Solomon. In full support of the king He had designated, God had said to Solomon: “Whatever you ask I shall give you.” (1 Kgs 3:5b). When Solomon had asked what he wanted, God was pleased and said, “you did not ask for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies” (1 Kgs 3:11a). Many leaders unfortunately are self-referential. Rather, a servant should be self-denying and self-emptying.

A leader might justify all the things he asks God for. Lord, give me long life so I can serve you longer. Lord, give me riches so I can contribute more for your work. Lord, subdue my enemies so there will be no opposition to my serving you. While these kind of prayers, if said with purity of heart, are not necessarily wrong, they point to a flawed and potentially dangerous posture of being self-referential. Lord, do this for me. Lord, this is what is good for me. We should leave these things to God. In fact, we should know that if the opposite of these happen, we could still be blessed, or blessed even more. Knowing life is short can give us the added impetus and urgency to focus more on serving God. Having no riches strips us of pride and self-dependency, and keeps us on our knees begging God for His provision. Having enemies assaulting us keeps us humble, alert, enduring, persevering, focused, and totally dependent on God’s grace, protection and empowerment.

Second, knowing that we are called to do God’s work, we must be humbled and awed at this privilege, and know that on our own we cannot succeed. We need the help of the One who called us. “Now, Lord, my God, you have made me, your servant, king ....; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act” (1 Kgs 3:7). How indeed can we really tap on to the mind and heart of God? How truly can we have the right discernment in what God wants us to do? Many times we actually are the obstacles to God accomplishing His purposes!

Realizing this truth, we ask for the grace to understand the heart and mind of God. “Give your servant, therefore, a listening heart to judge your people and to distinguish between good and evil. For who is able to give judgment for this vast people of yours?” (1 Kgs 3:9). The flock we serve is not ours but God’s. So we serve not according to our own wisdom but according to God’s. What does God want for His people? We come to God often in prayer to listen. Speak, Lord, your servant is listening. We ask “for discernment to know what is right” (1 Kgs 3:11b). Aside from prayer, we need to study, learn and live out God’s words, commandments, statutes, judgments (Ps 119:9,10,12,13).

When we are no longer self-referential, when we humbly truly desire to know God’s mind and heart, then God provides what we need. “I give you a heart so wise and discerning” (1 Kgs 3:12a). But of course. God calls His servant leaders in order to do His work, so He will provide what is needed. His servant leaders stand in His place, so He wants them to be able to think like He does.

And when we delight the heart of God, then He pours out His bountiful blessings. We often get bonuses. “In addition, I give you what you have not asked for: I give you such riches and glory that among kings there will be no one like you all your days.” (1 Kgs 3:13). God is never outdone in generosity! We will have the treasure of God’s promises in our heart (Ps 119:11a). Our riches will be God’s testimonies that give us joy (Ps 119:14). We will have the glory of being truly instruments of a glorious God.

Servant leaders who are no longer self-referential and who hold God’s people in their heart (as God does) will always be focused on God and on His people. They will pray often and fervently. They will spend time with Jesus. Jesus “said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’ So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.” (Mk 6:31a,32). And they will sacrificially give of themselves, unmindful of personal needs but always of the needs of others. “People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat.” (Mk 6:31b). They pray and they work. Both are important, and we are not to do one without the other.

True servant leaders are crucial for God’s work. Are you one of them?

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