Sunday, January 17, 2010

Five New Year's Resolutions for any Christian Leader

By Rick Warren

One of the most misunderstood Beatitudes of Jesus may be one of the most important for you to master in 2010: “Happy are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

Let’s be honest. It sounds ludicrous. You’d think to inherit the earth you’d have to climb over everyone else first. But we’ve lost the true meaning of meekness. Meek doesn’t mean weak. Jesus and Moses were described as meek, and they certainly were anything but weak. Meekness really means strength under control. The Greek word referred to a wild horse tamed or medicine that could tame a fever.

Strength under control is an important characteristic of any Christian leader. A leader who can’t control his or her strength can’t lead others to do likewise.

Here are five ways to keep your strength under control in 2010.

1. When someone serves you, be understanding not demanding.
Philippians 2:4-5 (GNB) says, “Don’t just think about your own affairs, but be interested in others too, and in what they are doing. Your attitude should be the same as Jesus Christ’s.”

We’re interacting with people who serve us all the time. Waitresses, secretaries, clerks, bank tellers, and fast-food servers, for example. One of the best marks of a Christian leader is that he treats those people with dignity and respect. Are you understanding or demanding? Do you demand to see the manager every time your order is wrong? Or do you respond with grace?

Good leaders aren’t measured by how others serve them, but by how they serve others. It’s easy to respond to those who serve you with demands and a critical spirit. We’re called to do the opposite. Forgiveness should be quick. Respect should be the rule.

2. When somebody disappoints you, be gentle and not judgmental.
Paul tells us in Romans 14:1 (GNB), “Welcome those who are weak in faith, but do not argue with them about their personal opinions.” Happiness comes when you can accept people as they are. They shouldn’t have to reach a certain standard to be loved.

Pastor, how do you react when someone messes up in life? Are you the first to level judgment and criticism? Here’s the sad part. Many of us are secretly happy when others blow it because it makes us look like the super spiritual giant. But meekness means you are gentle and not judgmental when people disappoint you.

What angered Jesus more than anything else were self-righteous religious people who were always judging others.

3. When someone disagrees with you, be tender without surrender.
As a pastor, you’ve probably realized by now that you can't please everybody in life. Just about the time you get Crowd A satisfied, Crowd B gets upset. One minute you’re the hero; the next minute you’re the zero. We must be tender without surrender. One of the most important tests of spiritual maturity is how you handle people who disagree with you, contradict you, and irritate you. You have three alternatives:
(1) You can retreat in fear. (2) You can attack in anger. (3) You can respond in love.

Meekness doesn’t mean compromising your convictions. Don’t be passive and always let other people have their way. That’s not meekness; it’s weakness. You also don’t need to react in anger. Don’t explode when someone disagrees with you.

The third option is always the best. The Bible says in 2 Timothy 2:24-25 (NLT) that meekness is a qualification for spiritual leadership: “The Lord’s servants must not quarrel...They should gently teach those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will believe the truth.” Pastor, how are you doing in this area? Are you quarrelsome? We are to gently instruct our people and hope that God will give them a change of heart.

4. When someone corrects you, be teachable rather than unreachable.
Meekness is a teachable spirit. Many of us who spend our lives teaching others struggle to be teachable ourselves. That’s sad. Christian leaders who are meek don’t pretend to know it all. They know they don’t have to.

James 1:19 (GNB) says, “Everyone must be quick to listen, but slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Pastor, everyone means you too.

When someone from your congregation makes a constructive suggestion to you, how do you handle it? Do you get uptight and defensive? Meek people don’t have all the answers. In fact, you should be very wary of people who think they have all the answers.

Meek leaders are also open to new ideas. They’re willing to change when they learn something new.

5. When somebody hurts you, be an actor not a reactor.
You will be hurt in ministry. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when. How you respond to being hurt will make a monumental difference in your ministry. Romans 12:21 (GNB) says, “Do not let evil defeat you; instead, conquer evil with good."We must respond to hurts with love, not retaliation.

To retaliate is to react. But to respond with forgiveness, even when the other person hasn’t asked for it, is to take the initiative.

When someone says, “You make me mad!” they are admitting that the other person has the power to control their emotions. That’s a position of weakness – not meekness. The moment that you start seeking revenge, you give up control of your life. Jesus said the meek person knows how to let it go.

What did Jesus mean when he promised, “Happy are the people who can control their reactions, for they will inherit the earth”? You’ll be in control of your situation because you’re not being controlled by it. If you are a meek person, you are no longer a victim. You control your choices.

Victor Frankl, the famous psychiatrist who went through Auchwitz said, “They took my clothes, my wife, my kids, my wedding ring. I stood naked before the SS and I realized they can take everything in my life but they cannot take my freedom to choose how I will respond to them.”

That’s real freedom. What more could you want in 2010?

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