Failure Qualifies For Leadership

If you have ever failed… or feel like a failure… this post is for you.

Let’s say you’re looking for someone to lead an international movement.  You need them to be THE catalyst to transcend cultures, races, political, and socio-economic situations.  The last person you would choose would be a hot-headed loose cannon who constantly made brash statements and then retract them.  You wouldn’t pick a person who was disloyal and impulsive along with a propensity toward racism.  You wouldn’t want a person who would abandon the cause when the going got tough.  They can’t drop the baton when you hand it to them.  That is exactly the person Jesus chose as the leader of His eternal movement called The Church.

The man Jesus chose had been a failure.  He was a loose cannon.  He spoke, then thought afterward.  He wasn’t a paragon of loyalty.  He was a quitter.  His name was Peter… the Apostle.  (Note: This is a follow up from a previous post… CLICK HERE)

It was after Peter regularly acted like a bull in a china shop he was selected to lead the Church in the 1st Century.  It was after Peter failed by denying Christ three times and cursing Him publicly that Jesus chose Him to guide the Early Church in its infancy.  Peter was the one Jesus picked to deliver the first message (At Pentecost) that set in motion the movement that today is called Christianity.

It was BECAUSE OF Peter’s failure that Jesus chose him!

Who else would know better what being a failure and then restored was like?  Who better would be compassionate and merciful to those who needed it most?  Who else understood redemption after a colossal mistake?  Who else was qualified because of being humbled?  Peter was the illogical choice to men… AND the right man for the job… according to Jesus.

While non of us would choose a failure to be a leader, that is consistent with God’s economy.  The first shall be last… the greatest must be your servant… to find your life you must lose it… to be great you must be the least… and the best leaders are those who have failed.

Have you failed… at something… anything… a lot of things?  That doesn’t mean God won’t use you for something important and significant for His glory!  In fact, it is because of those failures that God worked in to prepare you for His ultimate plan for your life.  After all… “If God is for you, who can be against you?”  The Christian’s life is not defined by either successes or failures.  It is defined by the fact that they are in Christ.  Everything else is secondary… including “failure.”

When Failure Is Success

The way you define success will impact significantly your self-worth.

William Carey preached and served in India for 7 years before he saw God convert anyone.  Noah preached 120 years without a single convert Isaiah was called by God to preach and was told the people would not listen to him.  Ezekiel was sent to speak God’s Word to people who were obstinate and would not listen.  Paul was run out of towns regularly… beaten… opposed… stoned… and whipped for his preaching.  There were even towns where Jesus didn’t have “success.”

Most Baptist churches would fire a preacher if no one joined for 3 years… much less 7.  Most preachers would quit if they didn’t have ANY converts for 10 years… much less 120.  I’m not sure any minister (Or those who observed him) would deem him a success if everywhere he went he was opposed, vilified, and maligned.  Then… if a preacher constantly get run off from churches wouldn’t we all doubt him… his call… his doctrine and theology?!

Was William Carey a failure?  What about Noah?  Isaiah?  Ezekiel or Paul?  None of them failed in God’s eyes regardless of what people who observed them thought.  And of course we know Jesus wasn’t a failure!

God does not bless every person He calls with worldly “success.”  God does not bestow upon all those who follow Him with observable blessings.  There are some in His army that are called to “fail” in the world’s eyes.

The world deems being a servant… being last… losing their life… being the least as “failing.”  Yet Christians who read their Bible know that those are the VERY THINGS that God declares makes those who follow Christ a success!

There are people who serve their entire life on earth without any recognition… without any visible success… without any accolades.  But that does not mean they are a failure.

Success in the Christian life is defied by three words: Obedience To God.

If you are obedient to God… you are a success… in HIS EYES.  To all who are obedient, one day GOD will say… “Well done good and faithful servant!”

Iran To Execute Christian Pastor

These excerpts are from Fox News… (Click HERE)

An Iranian pastor who has refused to recant his  Christian faith faces execution as early as Wednesday after his sentence was  upheld by an Iranian court.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who maintains he has never  been a Muslim as an adult, has Islamic ancestry and therefore must recant his  faith in Jesus Christ, the 11th branch of Iran’s Gilan Provincial Court ruled.  Iran’s Supreme  Court had ordered the trial court to determine whether Nadarkhani had been a  Muslim prior to converting to Christianity.

The judges, according to the American Center for Law & Justice, demanded that Nadarkhani, 34, recant his Christian faith before  submission of evidence. Though the judgment runs against current Iranian and  international laws and is not codified in Iranian penal code, the judge stated  that the court must uphold the decision of the 27th Branch of the Supreme Court  in Qom.

When asked to repent, Nadarkhani stated: “Repent  means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my  faith in Christ?”

“To the religion of your ancestors, Islam,” the  judge replied, according to the American Center for Law & Justice.

“I cannot,” Nadarkhani said. (Emphasis mine, RE)

Nadarkhani is the latest Christian cleric to be  imprisoned in Iran for his religious beliefs. According to Elam Ministries, a  United Kingdom-based organization that serves Christian churches in Iran, there  was a significant increase in the number of Christians arrested solely for  practicing their faith between June 2010 and January. A total of 202 arrests  occurred during that six-month period, including 33 people who remained in  prison as of January, Elam reported.

God bless, strengthen, and guide Youcef.  Needless to say, Youcef Nadarkani and his family need our prayers.  Americans… be thankful we live when and where we do (At least for the moment).

 

 

Why Forgive?

I am re-reading a book by Johann Christoph Arnold titled,Why Forgive?”  I’m doing so after Bob Stone presented four sessions to HBC about our hurt and the way the Gospel overcomes them.  Below are some of the thoughts from Mr. Arnold’s book… (Free e-book download HERE).

Forgiving does not mean forgetting or condoning wrong… It does mean a conscious decision to stop hating, because hating can never help.  (Pages 4-5)

Whether or not people are judged on this earth or by a court of law means little… the last word rests with God (Page 9).

(Regarding forgiveness) Everything seems hard until you learn it.  Then it is easy.  The cruelest prison of all is an unforgiving mind and spirit (Page 14).

The strongest motivation for forgiving is always the (truth) that I myself have been forgiven (Page 17).

If there is to be peace, there has to be forgiveness (Page 27).

Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night devoid of stars.  Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.  (Page 28)

Whoever is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power of love.  (Page 29)

The forgiving act must always be initiated by the person who has been wronged, the victim of some great hurt, the recipient of some tortuous injustice, the absorber of some terrible act of oppression.  The wrongdoer may request forgiveness… but only the injured neighbor, the loving father back home, can really pour out the warm waters of forgiveness.  (Pages 29-30)

There are gems of wisdom throughout the book (Thus I just gave a few from the first 30 pages).  My guess is that some reading this need to forgive someone.  After all… one of the hallmarks of Christianity is forgiveness… of others… of our enemies… of those who have wronged us.  In closing, consider what is written in Ephesians 4:32…

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

We Need Trauma, Not Drama

News Flash: For Christians, trauma is a good thing!  Including those traumatic events that drive us to the edge of despair!  Consider the Scripture…

2 Corinthians 1:8 We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

Read those verses again.  Paul and his companions experienced some kind of trauma.  It was so severe they thought they were going to die.  Their emotional state got to the point of giving up.  But they didn’t die.  The trauma abated.  They were delivered.  And God had a reason for both the presence of the trauma AND delivering them from it.  Re-read the sentence in red…

When trauma enters a genuine Christian’s life, their automatic response is to flee to God… to pray to God… to rely on God… to trust God for the outcome regardless of what it may be.  They do not shake their fist at Him.  They do not sit in judgment of Him.  Instead they seek understanding FROM Him of their situation, circumstances, and what He would have them to learn.

Read again the sentence in red.  The reason God providentially allowed/placed the trauma in Paul and his companion’s life was to teach them something very important.  God MADE THEM (Meditate on that)… God MADE THEM rely on HIM rather than themselves.  God’s concern was more about faith than physical deliverance.  God’s concern was more about their sanctification than protecting them from immediate emotional fear.  In fact… God used traumatic fear to increase their faith!

God has a purpose for whatever trauma you encounter.  The reason He sovereignly and providentially places/allows it into your life is to draw you Himself.  As Larry Crabb said, “Every event of life is God calling us to a closer walk with Him.”  The result is then greater faith, trust, and reliance upon God rather than ourselves.  Therefore…

Trauma in a Christian’s life is ultimately a good thing!  Not because of the pain in and of its self, but because of what the result is in the hands of God… our sanctification and maturity in Christ.  THAT is why it is written in James 1:2-4…

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

A “Freezing” Baptism!

Barney McCormick came to Christ and upon his conversion he asked to be baptized in the Alabama River.  Oh… did I tell you it was December and the temperature was 42 degrees?  I suggested we use the baptistery that had heated water.  He said no.  I asked why and he told me that he lived beside the river (I assumed his house was there).  He told me he lived in a TENT beside the river!

Now I knew he was middle management where he worked and made a good living.  So I asked him why he lived in a tent?  He told me that if he lived in a house or apartment he wouldn’t be able to afford to pay his alimony and child support.  He wanted to be baptized in the river to remember the event every day.  BOOM.  At that point I was deeply impressed with his commitment to his family even though it was broken.  So we scheduled a baptism… in the Alabama River… for December 10th… when it was 42 degrees!  Thus the picture to the right.

He was in a T-shirt and jeans.  I had on long-handles… sweats… AND waders.  He was fine wading into the water… but when he went under it took his breath away.  You can tell how the cold water shocked him by looking at his face in the picture (Notice the waves are downstream as a result of the river flowing).  His joy in following Christ that day through baptism is an event I will never forget.

I haven’t seen Barney for many years… but I’ll never forget him.  He was a biker who lived a life for Christ from the day of his conversion.  Even though I haven’t talked to him, I’m confident that his faith has continued and grown (God willing).  Now one more thought…

Do you remember your baptism?  Has your conversion resulted in following Christ regardless of the consequences?  Do you have a fond memory of when you identified with Christ through baptism?  I hope so… regardless of where it took place it was a significant event in your Christian life history.

Hard Family Discussions

Recently Al Mohler wrote about the potential name change of the Southern Baptist Convention.  But this post isn’t about the discussion regarding changing the name of my beloved denomination.  Instead I want to focus on the last few things Dr. Mohler wrote that settled in my heart as very important… (Emphasis below is mine):

Family discussions are often difficult, but this is what healthy families do — they work through the challenges rather than run from them.

There are good arguments to be made on both sides of this question — so let’s make them. There are important questions to ask — so let’s ask them. There are emotional issues that pull at our hearts — so let’s talk about them. There are generations of the past to whom we owe so much and a generation of those now living we desperately want to reach — so let’s bridge them. There are legal and financial issues to consider — so let’s consider them. There are so many Southern Baptists from which we need to hear — so let’s listen to them.

Most importantly, there is a world desperately in need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ — so we must not allow this question to divert our energies from the Great Commission task.  It will not matter what we call ourselves if we lose sight of the one great cause that has brought us together.

What Dr. Mohler wrote is powerful… for more situations than considering changing the name of a convention.  It applies to literal family units that are struggling with hard decisions.  It applies to state conventions… local associations… and individual churches that have tough decisions to make.  Too many times people and groups become paralyzed when a decision needs to be made which results in no decision which is usually the worst decision.

Is there something in your family that needs to be addressed rather than ignored?  Is there a situation that you’ve been putting off that has the potential to greatly impact your loved ones that needs to be looked at seriously?  Can I suggest that a healthy family doesn’t run from those discussions… they embrace them to work through them for God’s glory.