Today I want to challenge you to think and live beyond servant leadership. While these notions may seem prideful, professionally out of context, or even impossible, there is one simple (but not easy) way to do it: receive.
Pride has been, and is, a reality for every single living person in history. Let’s take a look at two examples of how pride gets in the way of receiving no matter how many may be served through actions based on good intentions.
The servant leaders of the Jewish church in Jesus’ time were outright condemned by Him even though they administered the law, facilitated culture, and cared for people.
You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds. -Matthew 23:27-28 MSG
Sadly, what lay beyond the servant leadership of religious leaders of the day was a cesspool of pride that Jesus characterizes as being spiritually dead. The hearts of the Pharisees were so full of religious pride that they could not receive (could not even hear) the Truth.
Yet, even those who testified of Christ, those in His early church, struggled with pride. There is a deadly example that comes to mind in the account of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. This couple sold their land for the purpose of donating the profits to the church. But, their offering, their act of service was contaminated with pride (a self-preserving lie). As a result, the couple instantly fell to their deaths.
Their story is juxtaposed with the story of Barnabas (the “Son of Encouragement”) who also sold his land and gave the profits to the church leaders. Yet Barnabas was able to receive as freely as he gave, and in so doing, was “united in heart and mind” with the believers living interdependently in the early church (Acts 4:32-37).
Are there areas in your life where your work, acts of service, or generosity is part of a checklist, obligation, or a means to an end? If so, ask God to show you what He wants you to receive in the circumstances so that your servant leadership purified and become faith-infused (an encouragement to those united in spirit).
Many Christian-owned/run organizations (including Alliances, Business, and Churches) are operating based on a servant leadership model. In last week’s blog, The Example of Christ, we looked at how to go beyond servant leadership organizationally. Now, let’s consider what receiving has to do with us as professionals at every level.
In Matthew 19 a wealthy young man approached Jesus and inquired about how to live forever. In their exchange, it was made clear that he was a categorically good person who lived morally. Yet, when it came down to it, to receive the eternal life the young man sought, he was unwilling.
Jesus answered him, “If you wish to be perfect [that is, have the spiritual maturity that accompanies godly character with no moral or ethical deficiencies], go and sell what you have and give [the money] to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me [becoming My disciple, believing and trusting in Me and walking the same path of life that I walk].” But when the young man heard this, he left grieving and distressed, for he owned much property and had many possessions [which he treasured more than his relationship with God]. -Matthew 19:21-22 AMP
In the case of the young man, he had wealth and status but did not recognize that in the Kingdom, giving was the path to receiving what was most important, eternal life.
In your professional life, God wants to give you the fullness of all He intended. In fact, He wants you to receive all things! Yet, like we saw in the two cases of pride, there is only so much space within a person. Often times, to receive the good thing God intends (the new job, the promotion, the company growth, or the right personnel), something has to be released.
In almost every case, what has to be released is a belief. For the Pharisees to receive, they had to change their mind about God’s identity. For Ananias and Sapphira to receive, they had to change their mind about God’s people. For the rich young ruler, he had to change his mind about God’s plan.
If there is an area in your professional life that you have been waiting for fulfillment, ask God if you need to change your mind about His identity, His people, or His plan. Then, prepare yourself to receive whatever He may say.
Plainly, it may seem impossible to live beyond servant leadership. Even Jesus’ disciples felt like it was impossible. Take a look at their reaction when they overheard Jesus’ conversation with the wealthy young man:
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” -Matthew 19:25-26
Let’s look at the examples of Abraham and Peter to see how they went beyond servant leadership, and received.
Then [God] brought [Abram] outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. -Genesis 15:5-6
Abram received God’s promise. In receiving he believed. At his belief, God did the humanly impossible and ascribed righteousness to Abram.
In Peter’s case, he believed in Jesus.
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. -Matthew 16:16-17 NLT
Yet, time, even seasons passed between Peter’s revelation of Jesus as the Son of God and the day he was called to truly receive.
“No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.” -John 13:8 NLT
God is the only one who knows what’s motivating our servant leadership, what’s behind our strategic plans and annual reports, and what’s in our hearts and minds. Let’s continue to walk with Him and let Him show us how to receive.
Clearly, it is not easy to receive. It is not easy to believe. In fact, we naturally resist receiving. Most of us struggle to receive a compliment without blushing, avoiding eye contact, or qualifying the compliment. Nonetheless, the impossible design of Christianity is God’s front-line strategic plan. Receiving MUST occur for the fullness of God’s plan to be fulfilled. The good news is, receiving is our choice and in the Kingdom of faith, receiving is believing.
I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. -John 14:12 NLT