Leadership Lifter – Principles of Leadership: Meditation and Relaxation

May 29, 2010

by Rick Warren

For the past few months we have been looking at Principles of Leadership from Jesus. This month, I will wrap up our discussion with the principles of Meditation and Relaxation.

Meditation

Meditation is listening to God. Listening to God continually and throughout your day. Make listening to God a habit of your life.

The Bible tells us in Mark 1:35, “Very early in the morning while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place where He prayed (NIV).” We think prayer is talking to God. But that’s only half-right. Prayer is conversation. And in a conversation you both talk and listen. What if you had a conversation with a friend and you did all the talking and they never talked back? Or they did all the talking and you never talked back? That wouldn’t be called a conversation. That’s a monologue.

You hear about people who pray thirty minutes a day. You think, “How do they do that? I run out of stuff to say after ten seconds. What do I say?” How about this? Talk to God for ten minutes then sit still and be quiet for the next twenty. Some of you are frightened by silence. Perhaps you have never sat still for twenty minutes in total silence. In our world, it is a rare moment when we do not have radio or television playing, even it is in only background noise. How many of us listen to music on our computers while we work? Silence is rare. When we fill our world with noise we can’t hear what God wants to say.

We use the excuse of busyness. We just don’t have the time to get alone and sit in silence. I think we would all agree, though, Jesus was pretty busy. No matter how busy He was, He always took the time for solitary meditation. That verse from Mark tells us Jesus went to a solitary place to pray. If you are a leader, you will have people surrounding you, always wanting something from you. That is the definition of leadership. You can’t lead without being around people. But you also need time away from people. I find that the bigger Saddleback gets, the more I love solitude. The truth is you need both. You need time with people and you need time alone. Alone with God.

Luke 5:15-16 tells us, “Now news about Jesus spread even more and crowds came to hear Him and to be healed. But Jesus often slipped away to be alone so that He could pray (NCV).” Jesus was in the habit of slipping away from the crowds to pray alone with God. If Jesus felt the need to get alone and listen to God, don’t you think that you need to? You need quiet times to reflect, to renew to recharge. Pascal said, “All of man’s problems come from his inability to sit still.” That’s true. Psalm 46 God says “Be still and know that I am God.” You can’t know God unless you be still.

If you are always moving and you are always busy and you are always listening to something, you are making it more difficult for God to speak to you. Noise can be a source of stress. Look for ways to quiet the noise in your life and listen to God. You need time to just get alone and be quiet and listen to God.

Many, many times, several times a week I will pray a three-word prayer. It’s often in the middle of the day. I’ll just stop, pause, and say this: “Lord, what’s next?” Three words. That’s all I pray. Then I just stop and I listen. I listen to God and just be quiet. Sometimes an idea or inspiration will pop into my mind. Then I’ll go and act on it. Sometimes nothing happens. When nothing happens, I just go on with my planned schedule for that day. But I give God the opportunity to rearrange it. I ask, “Lord, what’s next?”

As a leader you want to ask, What’s next? What’s next for my family? What’s next for my business? God, what do You want to do next in our church? What do You want to do next with my small group? What do you want to next with the Small Group Ministry? What do You want to do next in this relationship that I’m in? You give God the opportunity to give you advice. And you provide the silence to listen and meditate on His answer.

I have never heard God speak verbally – out loud. He doesn’t need to. He goes directly to my mind. When the devil speaks to you, he puts an idea in your mind and we call it temptation. When God speaks to you, He puts an idea in your mind, and we call it inspiration. That’s what inspiration is, God speaking into your mind.

Colossians 2:7 says this “Plant your roots in Christ. Let Him be the foundation for your life. [And, by the way, the foundation for your leadership] Be strong in your faith just as you were taught (CEV)”. This is the foundation of good leadership. You can’t lead like Jesus until you know Jesus personally. You can’t know Jesus personally unless you spend time alone with Him.

The single greatest source of stress in your life is when you get disconnected from God. Anytime throughout my day when I get disconnected from God, there’s always a warning sign. It’s called stress. Stress is the warning light that at that moment in my life I’m disconnected from God. And I need to get reconnected. Stress is the sign that says “Hello! You’re out of contact with God at this moment. You’re not walking in the Spirit. You’re walking on thin ice. You’re not connected to the source.” When I get disconnected I get angry and cantankerous. I get irritable. It creates all kinds of problems like fear and worry and shame and guilt and loneliness and bitterness.

If you’ve never opened your life to Christ you need to do it today. That’s the starting point. We can’t help you become the leader that Jesus needs you to be if you don’t have Jesus in your life. So you say, “God, I don’t understand it all but today I want to open my life to You. I’m saying yes.” Let me tell you what a Christian is. A Christian is giving as much of myself as I understand, to as much of Jesus Christ as I understand, at this point in my life. That’s what it means to be a Christian. Giving as much of myself as I understand to as much of Jesus Christ as I understand at this point in my life.

Whether you’ve been a leader for 25 years or this is your first year in leadership, I invite you to follow me in this prayer. In your mind just say, “God, I want You to use me. I want to make a difference with My life. I want to influence others instead of being influenced. I want to become the leader that You want me to be. Help me to know who You made me to be, who I am. Help me to clarify what You want to accomplish with my life. Help me to focus on pleasing You and not worry about everybody else. I want my life to bring glory to You, Lord. Help me to work with our small groups, to build a team, to not try to do it all on my own. God, help me to focus on what’s important. Forgive me for the times I get distracted. Teach me to listen to You, continually through my day, to pause, to take a minute and just listen to You. I want You to be the foundation of my life. I want to plant my roots in You.”

To be an effective leader, you must not only give direction, but you must take direction – from God.

Relaxation

There’s one more very, very important principle of leadership we can learn from Jesus. It’s a fun one. It’s the principle of relaxation, which means take time to recharge.

Take time to recharge. Why? Because leadership is draining. Leadership is hard work. And leadership means you have to, in the long haul, take time to recharge.

Mark 6:31 says this “Crowds of people were coming and going so that they [that’s the disciples] did not even have time to eat [that’s pretty busy!] He said to them, ‘ Come away by yourselves and we’ll go to a lonely place to get some rest’” (NCV). Jesus looks at the disciples. They’d been ministering. They’re tired. He says, “Fellows, you deserve a break today!” He says, “I want to take you out.” I love the King James Version. It says, “Come ye apart for to rest.” If you don’t come apart to rest occasionally you’re going to come apart.

Rest and recreation are never wastes of time. They’re so important that God put them in the Big Ten. I’m talking about the Ten Commandments. The Fourth commandment says this: Every seventh day you take a day off. God wired the human being on a six-day cycle. He says I want you to work six days and on the seventh day you take a day off. He said this is so important He puts it right up there with Don’t murder anybody and Don’t commit adultery. You would never think of murdering anybody. You’d never think of committing adultery. But leaders violate the fourth commandment, and I do too, all the time. Because what you do is on your day off you end up catching up on work that needs to be done. That’s not rest. That’s work. God says every seventh day you take a day off. My day off is Monday. Monday night we do something fun. It is important, but I have to build it into my schedule or I won’t do it.

Jesus modeled this. Matthew 11:19 says, “But the Son of man goes around eating and drinking…” (CEV). The original Greek tells us the Pharisees were accusing Him saying that Jesus was a glutton and a wine bibber – a glutton and a drunk. The worst thing that the Pharisees could accuse Jesus of was that this guy was a party animal. Why? Because Jesus knew life was meant to be enjoyed, not just endured.

As a leader you will carry the load of your leadership. But that doesn’t mean you walk around all the time frowning. You are to enjoy life, not just endure it. Take time to recharge just like Jesus did. He served and He pulled back. He had times of rest.

Kay and I have learned this the hard way. If we don’t schedule time to recharge, we never will rest. There will always be something more urgent and more pressing. Have you discovered this to be true? If we both know that we are facing a particularly busy week, we might schedule a three-day get away after the busy week. But we have to schedule that ahead of time or something else will come up and steal that time.

Years ago I learned a little formula that is the key to lasting in leadership. It’s this: Divert Daily, Withdraw Weekly, Abandon Annually.

Divert Daily means every day you do something fun. I don’t care what it is. Just do something. Get a hobby. You want to paint, play the piano, sing, go shoot some hoops, work out, go work in your garden, or wrestle with your kids. Whatever relaxes you. Different things relax people differently. You need to have a little bit of fun every day in your life. Divert daily.

Withdraw Weekly. Take a day off every week to relax and restore. Turn off your phone and don’t check your email.

Abandon Annually. Go away once a year for an extended period of time like a week or two. Don’t give work a thought. Abandon yourself to the moments of rest and relaxation.

As you continue on your journey as a leader, look to Jesus for principles of leadership. Your ministry is not larger than His, or more demanding, or more time consuming. He meditated on direction from His father. He took time to rest and relax. If you want to be an effective leader, not just for today or this year, but for the long haul, you must do the same. As you lead, follow His lead.

Rick Warren is the author of internationally best-selling books such as The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church. He is also Founding Pastor of Saddleback Church.


Leadership Lifter: Leadership Principles of Collaboration and Concentration

May 5, 2010

By Rick Warren

This month, as we continue to look at the Principles of Leadership, we will examine the principles of Collaboration and Concentration.

Leadership is never by itself. It is always in a context of a team, of a small community, of a small group. To be a leader, you have to build a team. All great leaders are great team builders. In fact, if you don’t have a team, you’re not a leader. You’re a loner. The test of leadership is look over your shoulder. If nobody’s following you, guess what? I have a proverb that says this, “He who thinketh he leadeth and hath no one following him is only taking a walk.” The test of leadership is one thing. Is anybody following? Is anybody agreeing? You start with a team.

That’s why we’re always stressing small groups at Saddleback Church. You cannot be a leader if you don’t have a team. You cannot be a leader if you’re not in a small group. We are better together because none of us sees the whole picture. We need each other. We compensate for each other’s weaknesses. Teams are far more effective than any individual.

Again, Jesus was the model. He never did any of His ministry by Himself. He was always in the context of a small group. Mark 3 “He [Jesus] appointed twelve [the disciples] designating the as apostles that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach (NIV).” So Jesus gathered a small group of friends. And He enlisted other people to serve the cause with Him.

Why did He choose twelve? Why didn’t He choose fifty? Why didn’t He choose a hundred? Why didn’t He choose five hundred?

Because Jesus knew if you get more than twelve people in a small group somebody stops talking and somebody stops listening. The bigger the group gets the more it tends to get dominated by those who talk the most. That’s why in small groups, small really is better. Six people is a good number in a small group. Eight is a good number. If you get more than twelve people you might consider splitting so that more people can participate and can be active. Jesus said, I’m going to have twelve. Everything He did in ministry He did it with a team. Paul did the same thing. The Apostle Paul traveled with seven different people. In fact, in Acts it tells us their names. These are guys who traveled with Paul. It was his small group.

When I travel I never go anywhere by myself. I haven’t since we started the church, basically, in the early years. I take my team with me. We’re more effective. We’re better together.

I learned this from Billy Graham. Billy Graham has had the same five or six people serving with him for 62 years. That’s a model. When you’ve been together that long there’s no ego any more. There’s no politicking. You can read each other’s minds. You’re very comfortable. It’s like an old shoe. You’re more effective with a team.

One of my favorite things to do as pastor at Saddleback is to stand out on the patio after the service. I love to talk to people. People come up and they get ideas. “Rick! I’ve got this great idea for a ministry.” I love to hear that because I love the creativity God puts in our people. We have over two hundred ministries at Saddleback that minister out in the community. Almost every one of them was started by people out on the patio that said, “I’ve got an idea.” They weren’t started by me or our staff. They were started by people who said, “Why don’t we do this?”

That’s what Kay and I did when we started Saddleback. I had a little card that I put in my desk. It said this: “Great people are ready to help me at the right time, people I don’t even know yet. God, I promise I will never give up because You will bring just the right people at just the right time into my life and I will marvel how You arranged it so wonderfully.” I have seen Him do that over and over and over again for 25 years.

If God gives you a dream, gives you a vision, and that idea is really from God, He’s going to bring other people with the same idea together with you. If nobody agrees on your idea, guess what? It’s not from God. If it’s from God, other people will want to be a part of it.

We hold an annual retreat for men. One year our guest speaker was Stu Webber, a wonderful guy, who is a pastor up in Oregon. Stu was also a Green Beret. He said this: Every soldier needs a battle buddy. And every pilot needs a wingman. He told this story about the head of Delta Force. They asked him “What kind of person would you like as a battle buddy?” He said “Somebody who’s strong enough to carry me off the field when I get hurt.”

Do you have anybody like that in your life? Do you have anybody who’s strong enough to carry you off the field when you get hurt? Life is a battle. You are going to be hurt – emotionally, maybe physically. Do you have one person in your life whose strong enough spiritually to drag you off the field and nurse you back to health when you’re going through the tough times. More importantly, are you that kind of person to anybody else? Is there anybody who can depend on you?

That’s why we tell everybody that you need not only a small group but you need a growth partner. You need a spiritual friend. It’s probably somebody in your small group. But you can’t call everybody in your small group every week and talk to them. But you could call one person and you could check up on each other and encourage each other in your leadership. Even Jesus needed human companions and He was perfect.

Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before He was going to be crucified. It was a time of agony because He was thinking and praying about what was going to happen the next day. He is in emotional anguish. He is a tortured soul. He’s thinking about not only all the pain and suffering and torture He’s going to go through but the emotional pain of carrying every sin ever committed in the world on His life. Think about this. Jesus said, “I’m going to take every rape that was ever committed, every molestation that was ever committed, every murder, every jealousy, every rejection, every disloyalty. I’m going to take every sin – past, present and future – on My life and take all that guilt on Myself.” I can’t imagine how that would feel. And neither can you. That’s why we sing, “I’ll never know how much it costs to see my sin upon that cross.” It wasn’t just the physical pain. It was the emotional pain, taking all the sin of the world on Himself so I wouldn’t have to take my sin and pay for it. He paid for my sin so I could be free, so you could be free, so we could go to heaven. That’s the good news. All my sins, even the ones I haven’t committed yet, have been paid for. And your’s too. You must accept that free gift of God’s grace.

In that moment when Jesus was agonizing what did He need? He needed friends. He needed a team. He needed companions. He needed Peter, James, and John. He takes them in and He says this, “Then He said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.’” He said I feel like I’m dying inside. I’m so depressed. I’m grieving so much. I feel like I’m dying inside. Then He says, “Stay here and keep watch with Me.’” Even Jesus needed a small group in His grief.

The fifth leadership principle we learn from the life of Jesus is the principle of Concentration.

That’s the decision to focus on what’s important. Life is filled with things distractions. Our cell phones are constant distractions. Now we not only get calls on them, our email can distract us too.

There are other types of distractions. There are a lot of good things to do in life. You can get so distracted in doing many good things you don’t have any time for the one important thing. If Satan can’t mess up your life by getting you to do wrong things, then his Plan B is to mess up your life by trying to get you to do too many good things. If all of your time is absorbed in doing good things, you will not be able to lead in the great way that God planned for you.

Jesus, again, is our model. He was a master of concentration. He focused His life like a laser. He refused to be distracted. Luke 9:51 tells us, “As the time grew near for His return to heaven, He moved steadily onward toward Jerusalem with an iron will” (LB). He was heading toward Jerusalem to die on the cross for us, to be resurrected for us. He did it with an iron will. He was persistent. He was determined. He was focused. He would not let anything distract Him from the one thing that was important.

The truth is you have incredible spiritual potential. But that spiritual potential is not going to be realized in any of our lives until we break through this barrier – the barrier of deciding what’s really important. What’s the one thing that’s really important? When you concentrate on the things that are the most important, God will do things in your life that you could never imagine.

Some guys were talking to Jesus one day. He was saying the one thing, the important thing is I want you to follow Me. They said, Oh, yes, that is important. But first we want to go do this. First we need to go over here and do this. Here’s what Jesus had to say to them. Luke 9:62, “Anyone who lets himself be distracted from the work I plan for him is not fit for the kingdom of God” (LB). Whoa! Jesus was pretty serious about the subject of distraction.

Jesus had some friends, Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. Every once in a while He would drop by their house for dinner. You’ve got to realize that when Jesus dropped by for dinner He brought twelve hungry men with Him. Jesus dropped by for dinner and Martha gets pretty distracted. There are so many things to do that she gets distracted and worried and anxious about all those things. A lot of us suffer from what I would call the Martha syndrome. We get so caught up in the many things we have to do that we lose sight of the one thing that is most important, the reason you’re doing the many things in the first place. Jesus.

It happens to all of us. Jesus knows. Jesus understands. Look at what He had to say to Martha. It can be encouragement to you if you get so caught up in doing the many things that you’ve lost sight of the one thing. Martha was distracted so Jesus said, “You’re worried and bothered about so many things. But only a few things are necessary. Really only one” (Luke 10:40 NAS). So focus that. Focus on the one thing that is necessary.

Join me next month as I look at the last two principles of leadership, Meditation and Relaxation.

Rick Warren is the Founding Pastor of Saddleback Church and author of many internationally best-selling books, including The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church.


Leadership Lifter: Biblical Leadership Principles

March 24, 2010

by Rick Warren

Last month we began looking at the biblical principles of leadership. We looked at the principle of identification. This month we will continue our journey by looking at two more: Clarification and Motivation.

2. Clarification. Know what I want to accomplish. I must know what I want to accomplish. I must clarify what God has called me to do in life.

This is so important because the direction of your life is your choice. If you don’t like the direction your life is headed right now, change it. Nobody’s holding a gun to your head. Nobody’s making you a victim. Nobody’s forcing you to go a certain way. If you don’t like the direction you’re headed right now, change it. 

Leaders know not only who they are, they know where they’re headed. They know what God has called them to do. They know what they want to accomplish. When you clarify your goal in life, your purpose in life, then you are set free from the tyranny of the urgent. You know as well as I do that what’s urgent and what’s important are often two different things. A lot of things that are urgent won’t even matter a week from today. But what’s important is going to matter forever and ever and ever. So we have to distinguish this.

Jesus knew exactly what He was called to do. He knew what He wanted to accomplish. He was a straightforward leader. And He established clear-cut goals. Again, from His own words in John 8:14b Jesus says, “I know where I came from and I know where I’m going.”

Do you ever get to the end of the day and wonder whether you accomplished anything? There’s a big difference between activity and productivity. You can be busy but just spinning in circles. Beware of the busyness that binds up your life and results in activity without productivity.

The thing that turns activity into productivity is purpose! When you have a purpose in what you’re doing you are able to be more strategic.

Jesus was not only straightforward, He was a strategic leader. In Matthew 10:16b He tells his disciples, “Be shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves.” Honestly, that doesn’t even sound like something Jesus would say. He’s telling you to be shrewd. Shrewd as serpents and harmless as doves. He’s talking to His own people, to believers, to you. What does He mean here? He’s saying, “I want you to be strategic.” Some of us think that shrewdness, that wouldn’t be something that’s Christlike. Yes, it is. He says, You should have a strategy for your life. He says, I want you to be innocent as doves. I want you to be pure. Your motives are clear. You’re not manipulating anybody. But you need to be strategic with your life because you’ve only got one life and this is preparation for eternity. Be strategic in how you use your time.

Jesus had His clear purpose. He knew not only who He was but what was He trying to do with His life. He was a purpose driven leader. Luke 4:43 tells us, “I must proclaim the good news about the kingdom of God…for I was sent for this purpose.” Notice He says I have a purpose and I must fulfill it. He doesn’t say he should or might or could, He says he must. And God has a purpose for your life and if you don’t fulfill it, you have wasted your life. Because you weren’t put on earth to live for your ideas. You were put on earth to live for God’s purpose. You need to not only know who you are and what you want to be but where you’re headed.

You know what the first recorded words of Jesus were? He was twelve years old and when He said, “I must be about My Father’s business.” That’s the first public statement of Jesus. In other words, even then He already knew what He wanted to accomplish with His life. And at the end of His life on the cross He said, “It is finished.”

Friends, those are the bookends of a successful life. I know what God wants me to do with my life and I did it.

3. Motivation. Motivation, the third principle of biblical leadership is knowing who you are trying to please.

You can’t please everybody. Have you figured that out yet?

The other day I was talking to Kay about this. I said, “Leadership is the art of managing disappointment.” That’s what it is. It’s the art of managing disappointment. I am acutely aware as a leader that I am constantly disappointing a lot of people because I can’t please everybody. Every time I say yes to one appointment I’m saying no to a dozen others. Every time I say yes to one phone call I’m saying no to a dozen others. Every time I say yes to one project I’m saying no to other projects. You cannot please everybody, because everybody has different expectations of you. If you are going to be a leader you are going to have to ask God to give you a tough skin and a tender heart.

How did Jesus handle this? He lived for an audience of One. The only person he tired to please was God the Father. In John 5:30b Jesus tells us, “I seek not to please myself, but him who sent me.”it says this, “I only try to please the One who sent Me.” Every one of us needs to learn the same lesson. If you are going to be an effective and great leader then you have to learn to not care about so many different opinions. Care about God’s opinion and focus on that. Life is a marathon and when you are running the race there are people in the stands who will both cheer you and jeer you. If you pay attention to either one you’re going to get sidetracked. You are going to stumble and you are going to lose the race. Don’t listen to the criticisms or the compliments. Just focus on what God has called you to do.

If you are going to be in ministry, and especially if you are in a very public ministry, you will have more than your share of criticism. I was talking to Billy Graham one time and asked, “What do I do with all this criticism?” He said, “Rick, if you wrestle with a pig, both of you are going to get muddy. But only one of you is going to like it.”

One of the big myths that keeps you from being effective – you as a leader – is this: I have to be liked by everybody in order to be happy. That is a myth, friends. You don’t. You don’t have to be liked by everybody in order to be happy. The fact is God already loves you unconditionally. He will never love you any more or any less than He does right now.

Some of you are still trying to get the approval of somebody who has never given it to you. From your dad. Or from your mom. Or from a husband or from a wife. You’re living to get the approval of somebody. The truth is, if you haven’t got their approval by now you’re probably not ever going to get it. It doesn’t say anything about you. It says a lot about them. It’s their problem. It’s their hang-up. You’re not going to get it because of who they are and not because of who you are. The hurt’s in their heart.

But here’s the good news. You don’t need their approval to be happy. Just live for an audience of One. God loves you and God has a purpose and a plan for your life. Learn to please Him.

Here’s my question: who are you depending on for your happiness? “If my husband would just change then I could really be happy… If my girlfriend… If my boyfriend… If my wife would just change then I’d really be happy … If I just had a different boss then I’d be happy… If I could get married then I could be happy.” No, you won’t! That’s the truth. The fact is you are a sinner and you marry a sinner and there’s no way you’re going to have a perfect relationship with two sinners getting married. You’re going to have problems in marriage just like you have problems in the single life.

What is the ultimate motivation in life? It’s the motive that Jesus modeled for us, the only perfect leader. In John 17:4 He says this “I have brought You [talking to God, the Father] glory on earth by completing the work You gave Me to do(NIV).” I accomplished what You put me on earth to do and I brought You glory. That is the ultimate motivation in life. Living for the glory of God. That is the highest motive.

You have to settle this issue of motivation because leading is hard work and if you don’t know why you do it, you’ll give up. When you figure out the why in your life God will show you how.

Join me next month as this discussion continues.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church and author of The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church.


Leadership Lifters: Biblical Principles of Leadership

February 25, 2010

by Rick Warren

We’re going to begin a new series this month on the Principles of Leadership. For the next few months I am going to be writing about how you can learn to lead like Jesus by looking at examples from His life.

I speak to various groups of leaders throughout the year. These groups include pastors, corporate CEOs, and political leaders. All of these leaders have the same thing in common: they want to know how to be better leaders. Fortunately for us, Jesus has provided the perfect role model.

Leadership is one of the key essentials in helping us become all that God wants us to become. In fact, the Bible tells us in Proverbs 11:14a, Without wise leadership, a nation falls. That’s true of every single area of life. Without wise leadership a family is in trouble. Without wise leadership a business is in trouble. Without wise leadership a community is in trouble. Without wise leadership a church is in trouble. Without wise leadership the world is in trouble. Everything rises or falls on leadership.

We have three big leadership problems in our culture and in our world today.

  • We have lost the difference between a celebrity and a leader. They are not the same. Celebrities are simply famous. Leaders get things done. We’ve got far too many celebrities and not enough leaders. Would you agree with that? We don’t need any more celebrities in our world who are famous just for being famous. We need leaders who get things done.
  • There is a real shortage of godly, good leadership around the world. That’s why in the PEACE plan the E stands for Equip servant leaders. Because it’s one of the five global giants facing our world today. There aren’t enough good leaders in the world.
  • We have the wrong kind of leaders in many areas today. The wrong kind of leaders in the media. The wrong kind of leaders in government. The wrong kind of leaders in sports, in entertainment, in business, in education. In so many areas.

You may realize you are a leader in your area of ministry, but you are also a leader in other areas of your life, whether you realize it or not. Leadership is one word: influence. Any time you influence someone you are a leader. So the question is not whether you are a leader or not. The question is, are you a good and godly leader or are you a poor leader? Every time you interact with anybody, you influence them. The Bible says if you are a believer, God expects you to lead others for good and for God. If you are a follower of Jesus, He wants you to be a leader of others. For good and for God and for His glory.

So we are going to spend the next few months looking at how to improve your leadership skills not only in your ministry, but in your home, with your friends, in your small group, and in your community. God says I want you to lead others for good. I want you to influence them rather than them influencing you.

There are no perfect leaders in the world. I am not a perfect leader. You are not a perfect leader. Nobody is. The only perfect leader is Jesus Christ. But at least you are making the effort and I am making the effort.

This month we will look at the first of seven leadership principles from the life of Jesus Christ.

1.  The first principle of leadership that God wants to build into your life is the principle of identification.  I must know who I am.

That is the foundation of leadership.  I must know who I am.  This is the starting point of leadership.  Warren Bennis the USC professor who’s written a couple dozen books on leadership calls this self-awareness.  All good and great leaders know their strengths and their weaknesses.  They accept their strengths and they admit their weaknesses.  You have some great strengths.  You also have some great weaknesses.  So do I.  We’re all a bundle of both.  Leadership is not ignoring one in favor of the other.  It’s being honest about both.  Good leaders don’t try to be something they are not.  They are self-aware.  They know who they are.

Jesus had no doubt about His identity.  As we look at these Seven Principles of Leadership over the next few months, we are going to take statements directly from the words of Jesus Christ.  Here’s the first thing that Jesus says.  He knew exactly who He was.  He says this in various verses, “I am the light of the world.  I am the Son of God.  I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life.  I am the bread of life.” I just listed a few.  The fact is in the gospels eighteen times Jesus defines Himself He says I am… and then He tells us who He is.  He didn’t let other people define Him.  He defined Himself.  He said, I am this and I am this and I am this.  He knew exactly who He was.

If you are going to be a leader you have to start with this foundational issue of knowing who you are.  Leaders do not look to other people for validation.

Jesus said, “I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me (John 8:18, NIV).” What in the world did He mean by that?  I testify on My own behalf.  He’s saying this: I don’t depend on other people’s opinions to tell Me who I am.  I know who I am.  I know exactly who I am.  I know My own story and I tell it.

If you don’t know what God has made you to be then you are going to fall into three very common traps.

  • You will allow other people to manipulate you with their expectations.  In other words, you will allow other people to mold you into the image they want you to be instead of what God meant for you to be. If you don’t decide who you are, other people will.  God has a plan for your life but so does everybody else.  Have you figured that out?  If you don’t decide yourself other people will decide it for you.  Your boss will decide it for you.  Your parents will decide it for you.  Your spouse, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, some teacher.  Other people will try to pressure you into a mold of their expectations.
  • You will live a phony life.  When you don’t know who you are you act one way at home and another way at church. You don’t really know who you are.  As a result you end up living a lie.
  • Your stress level will rise.  Stress happens when you don’t know what you were made to be. When you are trying to please everyone else, your energy is drained from going so many directions at once.  There are many good things you could do. The key is choosing and doing the best.

There are two more things that will limit your leadership and will weaken your identity:

Comparing.  God says over and over again in scripture there’s nobody else like you in the world.  God didn’t make you to be anybody else.  When you get to heaven God isn’t going to say, “Why weren’t you more like so and so?”  No.  He’s going to say, “Why weren’t you more like you?  I made you to be you and you weren’t meant to be anybody else.  Why we are you comparing?  You’re not one in a million.  You’re one in six billion.  There’s never been anybody before, after, or right now just like you.”  Even twins are different.  Don’t ever compare yourself.  Don’t compare your salary.  Don’t compare your appearance, or cars, or clothes, or kids.  Don’t compare your husbands or your wives.  Don’t compare your degrees.  God wants you to be you.

Whenever you start comparing yourself to anybody else two things happen.  One is you’ll always find somebody who is doing a better job than you and you get discouraged.  Two, you’ll always find somebody that you’re doing better job than and you get full of pride and ego.

Either way you’re dead in the water.  It pulls you out of the game.  You’re benched.  You’re sidelined.  Pride and discouragement keep you from being what God meant for you to be.  So you have to start by saying, “I’m not going to compare.  I’m going to figure out my identity and know who God made me to be.”

Copying. God does not want clones.  If you don’t be you the world gets hurt because nobody else can be you.  God says I don’t want copies and I don’t want clones.  We all start off as originals but a lot of us end up as carbon copies of other people.  We do this even in our spiritual life.  You become a believer and you’re talking to God and all of a sudden you hear somebody pray one day and you go, “I really like that phrase that they use in their prayer.  I’m going to add that to my repertoire.” The best way to pray is the way you pray.  If you’re not an eloquent person, God doesn’t expect your prayers to be eloquent.  It may be “Hi, God.  It’s me.”  That’s good enough for God.  God does not care about fancy words.  God cares about your heart.

If you’re going to be a leader that influences others, and God wants you to be that, you must first become comfortable with who you are.  Don’t try to be anybody else.  Don’t copy or compare.  Accept your unique strengths. And you admit your weaknesses, which are also unique to you.

That is the first principle of leading like Jesus. Join me next month as I continue to look at these biblical Principles of Leadership.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church and the author of many best-selling books, including The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church.


Leadership Lifter: How to Keep Your Profession From Becoming an Obsession

January 28, 2010

by Rick Warren

The Bible honors hard work. But it condemns workaholism as foolishness. Oddly enough, those in ministry are often among the worst of workaholics. Proverbs 23:4 tells us, Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint (NIV). Be smart. Be wise. Don’t wear yourself out at your work.

Below is a quiz to determine if you are a workaholic or not.

1. Are you always in a hurry?
2. Does your “To Do” list have more in it than you can accomplish in a single day?
3. Does doing nothing drive you up a wall?
4. Do you find it difficult to say “No” to opportunities?
5. Do you feel guilty when you relax?
6. Do you frequently find it difficult to turn your mind off at night when you go to bed?
7. Do people around you tell you, you ought to slow down?
8. Do you procrastinate about taking vacations?
9. Do you have to get sick to slow down?
10. Do you ever take business related reading material into the bathroom?

If you answered “yes” to five or more of these questions, you are probably a workaholic!

WHY DO PEOPLE BECOME “WORKAHOLICS”? There are many different reasons. Let me suggest three to you.

1. Insecurity

We often have an inner voice telling us, “You’re a nobody. Prove yourself.” It won’t let you rest. You must constantly be doing something to prove your worth. You want to be worthwhile and accepted and significant. You’re always working to prove your value. When you do accomplish something, your little voice says, “That’s good but it’s not good enough.” So you’ve got to work more.

2. Worry

Psalm 55:2b tells us, My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught (NIV). Your thoughts can be a constant source of stress and if allowed to run wild, it will prevent you from getting any rest. You tell yourself that you cannot afford to take any time off. The fear of failure and worry overwhelms you and you continue working and become even more stressed out.

3. Greed

Ecclesiastes 4:4 tells us, Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind (NLT). Keeping up with the Jones’ is impossible. Just about the time you catch up with them, they refinance. If you are trying to outdo your neighbors, it is not a matter of need. It’s a matter of greed. You get so busy making a living, you forget to make a life.

Recent statistics by the U.S. Department of Labor said that 25% of the people in America would prefer longer hours if they were paid more. We are working more and relaxing less. Life in the fast lane. What is the cure? God’s Word gives us five cures for fighting destructive workaholic behavior. They spell out the acronym: R-E-L‑ A-X.

R EALIZE MY WORTH

You need to accept what God says about you. You matter to God. No one is insignificant in God’s eyes. You are somebody. 1 John 3:1a tells us, See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! (NLT). You are one of His children. You are significant. You are important. When you fully grasp this, it will make all the difference in your life. All of a sudden you stop having to prove yourself.

Key question – What are you trying to prove?

E NJOY WHAT I ALREADY HAVE

If I’m going to learn to relax I must learn to enjoy what I already have. This is contentment. Sometimes we are so busy getting more we can’t enjoy what we already have. In Saddleback Valley we have beautiful houses and nobody’s home because they are all out working in order to buy a bigger and newer home. Just about the time you get something paid for, you immediately go back to work to afford the next model up. You don’t enjoy it.

Ecclesiastes 3:13, And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from Go (NLT). It’s a gift. Enjoy what you have when you have it.

Learn to be content because you didn’t bring anything into the world and you’re not going to take anything out. You never see a hearse with a U-Haul attached to it.

Key question – How much is enough?

L IMIT YOUR LABOR

You need to make time for other things in life besides your ministry. This is a conscious act of the will. It is a decision that you make. Put it down on paper. Schedule it. Decide how many hours a week you are going to work. Set a schedule and stick with it. You might even ask your wife or husband or a friend to hold you accountable to the schedule.

Exodus 20:9-10a is explicit in its instruction to take a day of rest. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work… (NIV). That is the fourth commandment. God said every seven days you need to take a day off. If you’re not taking a day off every week, you are breaking one of the Ten Commandments. It is as simple as that.

Workaholics will say, “I feel so guilty when I take a day off.” Jesus didn’t feel guilty, and He had a lot more to do that you do. Look at what Jesus said in Mark 6:31, Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. Jesus and His disciples rested.

Psalm 127:2 instructs us, It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones. Our best requires rest. You’re not very good if you’re not taking any time off. If you don’t take time off, your body will make time off! A person who never takes time off ends up in the hospital and makes up for it anyway. Your body says, “I will get rest!”

Psalm 23 tells us how God makes us lie down in green pastures. Has God ever had to make you lie down because you wouldn’t on your own? He had to make you lie down so your body could restore itself.

You need to schedule three things in your life if you want to be a good Christian: Rest, Recreation, Relationships. Those are the three things that workaholics tend to ignore. For a workaholic, nothing is as difficult as doing nothing and resting.

If you are a workaholic, when you choose recreation, choose recreation that is relaxing to you. Do not choose recreation that is competitive. The last thing you need to do is compete when you are trying to relax.

You also need to schedule time for relationships. You need to get close to those you love. You need to have a date with your spouse once a week. Kay and I have a date every Saturday night after the service. That’s our date night.

Key question: How often do you really relax?

A DJUST MY VALUES

If you’re going to relax, you must have a change in your thinking. This is so important. Workaholics think differently. They have different values. You must begin to ask yourself, “What is really important?” Not what is important to the world, or to your neighbors, but what is most important to you. Look at your values because your life is driven by your values.

Jesus asked what I consider the two most penetrating questions in the New Testament in Mark 8:36 & 37. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? I’d like to put that on a banner on the freeway! What does it profit a man if he becomes the leader of a huge ministry, and yet loses his family due to neglect or his health due to overwork?

In verse 37 Jesus asks, What can a man give in exchange for his soul? What are you giving in exchange for your soul? You have 168 hours a week. What are you exchanging it for? Something. You are giving your life for something. Is it worth it?

Solomon had everything that most of us spend our lives trying to get. Power, prestige, possessions, and pleasure. Look at his evaluation of this in Ecclesiastes 2:10-11, I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure, My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. That’s what I call a midlife crisis. Are there other things in your life besides work that are of equal importance or of greater importance? Are you balancing your personal life and professional life? Are the people in your life suffering from your workaholism?

Key question – Is it worth it?

E X PECT GOD’S CARE

Expect Him to care for you. Matthew 6:31-32 deals with this issue, So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. God knows what your needs are. Expect God’s care.

We work so hard, thinking, “If I just get a big enough nest egg then I will have financial security.’” No matter how much money you make in your life, you will never have complete security because it can be taken from you in an instant in many ways that you have no control over. The economy could collapse, earthquakes, devastation… your health, before you even get a chance to spend it. Security must be placed in something that cannot be taken from you. Don’t put it in a bank account. You should save. The Bible says to save. But your ultimate security must be in something that cannot be taken from you and there’s only one thing that cannot be taken from you. That is your relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s security.

When you have that kind of attitude, notice the benefit. Proverbs 14:30 (Living Bible) is one of my life verses. A relaxed attitude lengthens a man’s life. If you want to live longer, relax.

Key question – Am I really trusting God?

If you are caught up in a frantic pursuit of trying to make your ministry a success, are you really “trying” more than you are trusting? Are you trusting God in your life?

When you think about it, resistance to rest is a mark of immaturity. Kids hate to go to bed. I remember taking my kids to Disneyland when they were little and they would be absolutely exhausted at the end of the day. But when we got home they still argued about going to bed. You know you have to force them into bed or they’re going to be worthless the next day. You find yourself saying to immature children, “Just trust me. You’ll feel better. You’ll feel better if you get some rest.”

I think God wants to say that to a lot of us. “Just trust me. You’ll feel better. You’ll feel a whole lot better if you just trust Me and get some rest.” The fact is, some of you are running on empty. You are emotionally drained. You are out of gas. You have worked so hard that you don’t know how to stop working. You don’t know how to get off the treadmill. If you were silent for a moment, what would happen? All of those feelings would rise to the surface that you’re afraid of. Those feelings are scary because traditionally workaholics are more comfortable with facts than feelings. You’re running scared. You’re hiding in your ministry. It’s become a real problem. You’re dead tired but you can’t stop working.

Does Jesus Christ have anything to say to you? You bet He does. Matthew 11:28-29, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and overburdened, and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke and learn from me and you will find rest for your souls.” God says, I want to give you rest. You’re overburdened, you’re stressed out, you don’t know how to quit working. He says, Come to Me and I’ll teach you how to rest.

I know because I’m a reformed workaholic. I know from personal experience what it will do to your life. At the end of the first year of founding Saddleback Church, I physically collapsed – mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. I was burned out. I had been working 18-20 hour days starting the church. I loved it. It was so much fun. Eventually, though, I just collapsed. I took an entire month off and took my family out to Phoenix to where my in-laws lived and dropped them off. I spent some time walking in that desert atmosphere. I kept saying to myself, “What is it that’s driving me? What makes me work until I just collapse? Who am I trying to impress? What am I trying to prove?”

It took me a while, and a great deal of contemplation, but when I realized that God really loved me, accepted me, and I was successful in His eyes, regardless of what I did, it was like a mountain off my back. I suddenly remembered the verse in the Bible where Jesus said, “I will build my church.”

I said, “Ok, Jesus, You build the church. It’s Your church. You’re the pastor.” I mentally resigned from the church. “Jesus Christ, You sit in the pastor’s chair. You’re it.”

God said, “Rick, you work on building people. And I’ll build the church.”

I said, “God, You’ve got a deal!”

It was a terrible experience but it was also the most relaxing experience in my life. When I realized that my value as a person had absolutely nothing to do with Saddleback Church, whether it gets bigger or smaller or whatever happens, whether He leaves me here the rest of my life or I resign tomorrow, it doesn’t matter. My life value is not built on work God has called me to. My life value consists in my relationship with Christ. What a revelation that was in my life! I am not a driven person any more. I used to be. I am very much at peace with myself regardless of the direction of my ministry.

Some of you need to ask those closest to you a very important question: Am I a workaholic?

And you need to be prepared for the answer. Work can become an addiction. It’s a fix. It’s a narcotic. You’ve got to have it to stay high and you’re so afraid if you don’t get it, you’re going to feel bad. So you cannot slow down. Like any addiction, you can become so addicted that you ignore your family, you ignore your spiritual development, you even ignore your health.

The Bible says you already matter to God. You don’t have to prove yourself to anybody and you don’t need anybody’s approval. Relax.

Would you pray this in your heart? “Jesus Christ, help me to realize that I already am somebody significant in Your eyes, that You love me, that You approve of me, that I don’t have to prove it or perform to earn it. Help me to relax and trust You with every area of my life. Help me to realize how much You love me. Teach me how to relax. Help me to feel loved by You. I give You all my life — the past, the present and the future.”

Amen.

Rick Warren is the Founding Pastor of Saddleback Church and the author of The Purpose Driven Life.


Leadership Lifter: The Temptations of Leadership

December 10, 2009

by Rick Warren

This is the third and final installment of The Temptations of Leadership. The first temptation we looked at, Pain and Pleasure, measures your maturity. The second temptation, Popularity and Praise, measures your integrity. This temptation, Prosperity and Possessions, measures your priorities.

Matthew 6:24 tells us, You cannot serve both God and money. He didn’t say you should not. He said, you cannot. You cannot worship God and worship money at the same time. You cannot have God as the number one goal of your life and making money as the number one goal of your life at the same time.

Let’s look at the third test in the Bible. Again, the devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you bow down and worship me” Matthew 4:8-9. The devil is talking about possessions – things. Jesus responded by saying, “Away from me Satan: For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only’” Matthew 4:10.

If you will remember, in all three temptations, Jesus answers Satan by quoting scripture. Why is He doing that? He’s modeling for us how to resist temptation. You don’t resist temptation with your own opinions. You resist it by knowing what the Bible says and reminding yourself of that.

Notice, Jesus had these verses memorized. He didn’t pull out His pocket Old Testament and say, “I know somewhere over here in the Bible it says do this instead of this.” No. He knew exactly where it was. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not, but when you are tempted there is rarely a Bible in your hand. You don’t usually carry a Bible to the movie theater or to work or to the game. No. When you are tempted, your Bible is often at home, looking very nice on a shelf. That won’t help you. This is the sword of God. It’s what you fight with. You need to have it memorized.

Let me say this as clear as I can say it. If you’re serious, serious about God’s purpose for your life, the most important thing you can do to defeat temptation is memorize some verses out of the Bible. If you get tempted regularly by anger you need to memorize some verses on anger. If you get tempted regularly by being impatient or shooting off your mouth, then you need to memorize some verses on watching what you say. If you get regularly tempted by lust or jealousy or greed or pride or whatever, you need to memorize some verses on that temptation. The devil is not afraid of your opinion. But he does fear the word of God because it is the truth. Memorizing scripture gives you strength.

People often say they are not good at memorizing Bible verses. But the truth is, you memorize whatever is important to you. I know people who say, “I can’t memorize anything!” But they know every sport statistic for the last three years in the NFL. They can tell you exactly how far it is to the next putting green on that fairway. They can tell you the stock quotes. They can tell you recipes from memory. They can tell you phone numbers. Or they can tell you all kinds of gossip that they’ve memorized. You memorize what’s important to you. If the Bible is important to you, you need to memorize it.

This temptation that Jesus faced is the same kind of temptation that you will face. Satan wants you to compromise your purpose and mission in life. That is exactly what the prosperity and possessions test is. It’s a temptation to compromise your purpose and mission.

Jesus was sent to earth not to be wealthy but to save the world. You were put on this planet not to just acquire a bunch of things but to make the difference with your life. Satan tried to tempt Jesus with all the possessions of the world. That is exactly what this temptation is. It is a temptation to sellout to materialism. It is about the lure of money and wealth.

Do you know anybody who has done that? I do. Do you know anybody who has sold out their family in order to make more money? I do. Do you know anybody who has sold out their own health in order to make more money? I do. Do you know anybody who has sold out their eternity in heaven in order to make more money? I do.

This is the heart of the temptation. Do you value wealth on earth more than eternal reward in heaven? You’ve got to decide.

Jesus was crystal clear about this and in Matthew 16:26a He said this, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world yet forfeits his soul.” You are not put on earth just to get bunch of things that you’re going to leave behind the moment you die. You are going to spend far more time in eternity than on earth. You need to be storing up treasure in heaven. How do you do that?

What is the antidote to the Possessions and Prosperity test? There’s only one answer to it. Generosity. Generosity is the antidote to the third temptation. Every time you are generous you break the grip of money in your life. Whenever you help the homeless, give your tithe at church, or support some charity, you are practicing generosity and you are breaking the grip of materialism in your life. Materialism is all about getting all you can. It is about being scared of not having enough. It is about wanting to have more than the guy next door. It is about using all of your gifts and resources for yourself. The Bible tells us in 1 Timothy 6:18-19, Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others (NLT). Money is meant to be used not loved. You use money. You love people. You love God. If you use money you are going to love people. But if you love money you are going to use people to make even more money.

Let me give you some bad news and some good news. The bad news is you are never going to outgrow temptation. I hate to tell you that. But you are going to face it the rest of your life. Luke 4:13 tells us, When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left Him until the next opportunity came. Don’t you wish Luke had omitted that last part? Don’t you wish you could go through the temptation test one time and then be a leader the rest of your life and it’d be easy? You will be tempted the rest of your life. As a leader, you are even more susceptible to temptation. In fact, the stronger you grow in the Lord the more Satan hates you. He wants to fight you. He is going to try to get you down.

But don’t be intimidated. Don’t ever be intimidated by temptation. It’s not a sin to be tempted. Jesus was tempted. He didn’t sin. It’s not a sin to be tempted. It’s sin to give in to temptation.

Realize that temptation is always an opportunity to grow spiritually. We always think temptation is an opportunity to do bad. But it’s also an opportunity to do good. If I am tempted to be unfaithful, when I choose faithfulness, guess what? I’ve just grown! So temptation can always be used as a stepping stone for growth rather than a stumbling block into sin.

Here’s the good news. Every time you pass the test you get more power. Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit (Luke 14a). Notice when the temptation began He was led by the Spirit into the temptation. When He comes out He’s not led. He’s in the power of the Spirit.

What’s that power for? Just so you can feel good? No, the power is for you to be a leader. The power is for you to influence others. The power is for you to help others. Strength is for service, not for personal status.

After Jesus overcomes the temptation He starts His public leadership. He is announcing to the whole world, this is My purpose on earth. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor’ (Luke 4:16-19). Standing strong, Jesus is telling the world nothing will stand in His way of fulfilling His purpose on earth.

Here are the three questions I have to ask you.

1. Will you make God the primary concern of your life and trust Him to meet all of your needs?

2. Will you dedicate your God-given abilities to serve God and others rather than using them to serve yourself?

3. Will you value eternal rewards in heaven more than money here on earth?

The choice is yours.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church and author of the Purpose Driven Life

All verses are from the NIV unless otherwise noted.


Leadership Lifter: The Temptations of Leadership

November 21, 2009

by Rick Warren

The Popularity and Praise Test

The Popularity and Praise Test reveals your integrity. What is integrity? Integrity is when your behavior matches your beliefs. When you have integrity, who you are in public is who you are in private. Your public and personal identities are integrated. They are consistent. If you are going to be a leader that people can follow and trust, you have to be consistent. You have to have credibility, which comes from integrity.

There are very few things that reveal integrity more than success. Success puts you in the spotlight and people can see you warts and all. We know a lot more about our leaders than we know about our neighbors because they are in the spotlight. It’s often easier to handle failure than it is to handle success.

When people succeed, it sometimes changes them. Not always for the better. In fact, I’ve seen it destroy a lot of people. They can’t handle it. You know about movie stars and sports stars and people who get instant fame. They go off the deep end and all of a sudden they’re addicted to drugs or alcohol. They can’t handle the pressure of popularity and praise. They don’t have the maturity and they don’t have the integrity in order to handle this second test.

Let’s look at the Popularity and Praise Test in the life of Christ.

The Bible describes a time when Satan takes Jesus to Jerusalem and sets Him on the highest point of the temple, which was probably the tallest building in the city. He taunts Christ and tells Him to throw Himself from the temple. Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order the angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’” Christ goes back to the Bible and tells Satan, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’” Matt 4:7b (NLT).

I want you to first see that Satan can quote scripture. Satan refers to the angels protecting you, a reference to Psalm 91:11-12. But he misquotes it. He twists it. He takes it out of context.

You need to understand the difference between faith and presumption. When God tells you to do something difficult that doesn’t make sense to you, but you do it anyway, that is faith. When you think up some goofy idea on your own, go out and do it, and then expect God to bail you out that’s called presumption. Understand the difference?

So what’s going on here in this temptation?

First, it’s the temptation to presume on God’s grace. To hold God hostage and say, “God, if I do this You’ve got to protect me.” No, He doesn’t. God is not your personal genie.

It’s also a temptation to draw attention to yourself. This is a real big temptation to leaders. We often try to draw attention to ourselves and think it’s about us instead of about God. It’s a temptation to impress, a temptation to show off.

The devil comes to Jesus and says, We know You’re God. So how about this? I’m going to take You up on the tallest building of the city. You jump off and on Your way down, the angels will catch You. It’ll be spectacular. Then everybody will know that You’re God and they’ll give You glory and honor. It’ll be a real show. This will be spectacular. There will be a lot of applause.

What’s wrong with that? Was it wrong for Jesus to receive glory? No. Was it wrong for Him to get the applause and the praise of men? No. In fact, the Bible says the whole universe was created for the glory of God. One day we’re all going to spend time bringing glory and praise to God. Every knee will bow and confess that Jesus is the Lord and everybody is going to eventually praise Him. But Satan’s plan wasn’t God’s plan. It was the wrong way and the wrong time.

God’s plan was that Jesus Christ would come to earth and get glory by dying on a cross, not jumping off a building. One of them is to show off. The other is to sacrifice. One of them is spectacular. The other is sacrificial. Jesus did not come to earth to show off, to do little miracles – walk on Herod’s pool or something like that. No. He came to sacrifice.

This is the difference between leaders or heroes and celebrities. We live in a celebrity culture. Celebrities are famous for doing something spectacular. They make a movie, do a popular television show, or break a sports record. They do something spectacular. Heroes are people who are praised because they did something sacrificial for somebody else’s benefit.

I hate to tell you this but there’s not a single sports star who’s a hero. Or a single movie star who is a hero. They are celebrities. They do it for their own benefit. They do it because they love the game. They do it because they get paid to do it. They do it due to personal motivation. Perhaps that is fame, wealth, or just enjoyment. They’re certainly not doing it to help anybody. It’s just for personal, selfish gain. Celebrities are not heroes. Heroes are people we honor because they gave their lives to do something for somebody else. They did something unselfish and sacrificial.

Here’s the heart of this temptation. Will you use your abilities to serve God and others or to gain prominence and approval for yourself?

Temptation is always a short cut. It’s often a short cut to a legitimate goal. To have a need met. But the ends do not justify the means. It may be the right goal but it’s not the right way or it’s not the right time.

You have certain abilities. You have certain opportunities and you live in a free country. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do something. True leaders know this. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. There are a lot of things that I can do. But as a leader I don’t do them. Why? Not because they’re necessarily wrong, but because they’re just not necessary. I want my life to count. As a leader people expect you to hold a higher standard.

Whether you realize it or not, you influence the people in your life. That’s what leadership is. Leadership is influence. When you influence people you either influence them for good or for bad. It is your choice.

Praise is the test of character. Proverbs 21:21 tells us, Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised (NLT).

So what is the antidote to the popularity and praise test? How do you keep it from going to your head? There are only two antidotes.

The first one is found in Galatians 5:25-26 (TLB). Let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Then we won’t need to look for honors and popularity. Listen to God! That’s the first antidote. Listen to God’s voice instead of listening to popular opinion. Popular opinion is often wrong. Follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of your life, and you won’t need to look for praise and popularity. You won’t need it.

The second antidote is to practice humility. 1 Peter 5:6 tells us, So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor(NLT). God says I will bring you to a position of prominence if you humble yourself before Me in the right way. Notice it says, humble yourself. That’s something you choose to do. You humble yourself.

What is humility? Humility is not denying your strengths. It’s being honest about your weaknesses. You are a bundle of strengths and weaknesses. Humility is being honest about both. Another word for humility is dependence. You say, “God, I am dependent upon You. I can’t lead this family without You. I can’t lead this Small Group Ministry without You. I can’t lead my friends without You. I am dependent on You.”

By the way, let me give you a little tip. I don’t know if you’ve ever prayed to God on your knees but I highly recommend it. I’m not talking about praying on your knees in church. I’m not even talking about praying on your knees with your family or your small group where other people see you. Pray by yourself on your knees. Find a time, get alone with God, and get on your knees and pray. Tell God what’s on your heart. Getting on your knees is a position of reverence. It’s a sign of humility. It’s a demonstration of dependence. Leaders always find their strength on their knees.

Abraham Lincoln wrote this: “I have been driven many times to my knees in prayer by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”

Let me give you a little tip, a little secret. When you’re on your knees it is impossible to fall. “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall Proverbs 16:18 (NIV). But when you are on your knees it is impossible to fall. So try it. This week. Get on your knees and pray.

Join me next month for the final installation of this three part series on the temptations of leadership: the Prosperity and Possessions Test.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church and the author of The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church.


Leadership Lifter: The Temptations of Leadership

October 13, 2009

by Rick WarrenMPj04331700000[1]

The Pain and Pleasure Test

God never asks you to do anything that He doesn’t give you the ability and the power to do. The same is true of leadership. God doesn’t ask you to be a leader unless He gives you the abilities to lead, the opportunities to lead, the resources to lead and the people to lead. He won’t ask you to be a leader without giving you the gifts of leadership. That’s what those things are – opportunities, abilities, resources, and people. 

That’s the upside of leadership. God gives you those gifts to do it. 

The downside is Satan always tries to pervert anything that God gives you. Satan has never created anything original in his life. All he can do is pervert the gifts that God gives us. God gave us sex – Satan tries to pervert it. God gave us marriage – Satan tries to pervert it. God gave us the ability to make money – Satan tries to pervert it. God gave us all the things we have in life; every good gift came from God. Satan tries to abuse and misuse whatever God gives us.

God will give you these gifts, these abilities, to lead other people and influence others. But Satan will try to tempt you to use them for selfish purposes.

Of course the papers are full of stories right now of very talented people using their abilities for the wrong reasons and in selfish ways.

For the next three issues, we are going to look at the Temptations of Leadership. We are going to start by looking at Matthew 4:1:“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.(all verses quoted NIV unless otherwise noted”. What happened before the “then”? We need to look at the previous verses to understand the context of these temptations. The Bible says this in Matthew 3:16-4:1 “As soon as Jesus was baptized He went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon Him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is My Son whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.’ Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.”

This is very important. Notice the timing of temptation. After every mountaintop there’s a valley. After every spiritual high there’s a spiritual low. This is going to happen in your life. You can count on it. After a time of success with God you’re going to have a time of tempting with the devil.

And actually this is right after a spiritual experience. He’s had this momentous baptism. It’s Jesus’ coming out party. It says, “After He came up out of the water…” He was baptized and the heavens open up. The Holy Spirit comes down like a dove. A voice from heaven. This is pretty spectacular stuff. What an affirmation! Jesus has to feel good. “This is My Son,” God says.

What happens? Right after that He goes into a desert experience, lonely, by Himself, to be tempted by the devil. That’s going to happen in your life. The temptation often comes after an affirmation. 

But it also comes right before you begin leadership. As it did in this example before Jesus began His leadership. The first thing He does after the temptation is He starts His ministry. He starts serving. He starts leading. God is going to call you to lead, and then you will be tested.

There are three basic temptations. You’re going to fight all three of them the rest of your life. The first one tests your maturity, the second one tests your integrity, and the third one tests your priorities.

The first temptation of leadership, and the one that we are going to deal with this month, is what I call the Pain and Pleasure Test.

If you’re going to be a leader you’re going to have your pain and pleasure tested. This reveals your maturity. Why? Let me give you a definition of maturity. Maturity is the ability to endure pain and to delay pleasure. That’s the mark of maturity. Emotional maturity is the ability to endure pain and to delay pleasure. In other words you do the hard stuff before you get to do the easy stuff. Immature people just want to do the easy stuff. They have no patience. They’re impatient. They’re impulsive. They don’t know how to wait, how to delay gratification. They’ve got to have it now. They’re impatient and impulsive.

The best example of this is a baby. A baby doesn’t know how to wait. A baby cries instantly. It’s frustrated. It’s unhappy. It is thwarted. It’s not having its needs met. It doesn’t know how to endure pain and it doesn’t know how to delay pleasure. It’s immature. That’s why one of the goals of parenting is to teach your kinds the difference between “no” and “not yet.”

We live in a very immature culture today. We want everything and we want it all now. We don’t know how to delay gratification. Why should I have to wait until marriage to have sex? Why should I have to wait to buy something when I can just use my credit card? Why should I deny myself any pleasure if I can have it now? That is immaturity.

CB067611Let’s look at this temptation in Matthew 4:2-4. Jesus has just been fasting for forty days. He’s tired. He’s hungry. He’s lonely. At that moment, Satan comes to him and tempts Jesus by telling his to turn stones into loaves of bread to eat. Jesus resists this temptation and tells Satan that man needs more than bread for life, that he needs to feed on the Word of God.

What’s going on here in this temptation? Was it wrong for Jesus to be hungry? No. Was it wrong for Him to want something to eat? No. Did He have the ability to turn stones into bread? Yes. So what’s the big deal?

There are two major problems.

First, He’s being tempted to use His abilities for selfish reasons. God didn’t give Jesus the power to perform miracles so that He could serve Himself and be comfortable.

The same is true with you. God has given you abilities and talents. But God didn’t give them to you for your benefit. God wired the universe in such a way that we need each other. My talents and my abilities are for your benefit, not for me to have big ego about or to serve myself. And your talents and abilities are not for you. They are to serve other people.

1 Peter 4:10 tells us,“God has given each of you a gift from His great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another (NLT).” Why does the Bible tell us to use our gift well? Because God knew that we would be tempted by Satan to use it selfishly. Satan doesn’t just tempt you in your weaknesses, he tempts you in your strengths as well. The devil doesn’t mind you being good at things as long as you just don’t do it for God. You don’t even have to do it for the devil. He just says do it for yourself; to make yourself famous, to make yourself rich, to make yourself important, to make yourself comfortable.

Have you ever been tempted to turn stones into bread? No. Why? Because you don’t have that ability. But you’ve got some other abilities that the devil’s tried to use. For instance, if you’re really good at speaking, then he’s going to tempt you to dominate other people with your words. If you’re really persuasive, he’s going to tempt you to manipulate and use other people with your persuasiveness. If you are intelligent, he’s going to tempt you to look down on people who are not. If you are good at athletics, he’s going to tempt you to use your athletic ability to boost your ego. He says I don’t mind you using your talents, but don’t waste them on God, use them for yourself.

Not only was this a temptation for Jesus to use his abilities for selfish purposes, it was also a temptation toward self-reliance. Here’s the first test: when you are empty, hurting, or confused, will you trust God to meet your needs or will you rush to satisfy them your way?

Satan comes to Jesus and says, Jesus, You’re hungry. You need some food. You haven’t eaten for forty days. But God’s not going to take care of you. God’s not going to bring food to you. You’ve got to do this yourself. You’ve got to take matters into your own hands. It’s up to you. Satan says to Jesus, “As the Bible says, ‘God helps those who help themselves.’” Friends! The Bible doesn’t say that. Ben Franklin said that. And he was wrong. God doesn’t help those who help themselves. God helps those who trust Him. 

I wonder what stones you’ve been trying to turn into bread in your life. You’ve got some unmet needs. You’ve got some unmet sexual needs. You’ve got some unmet financial needs. You’ve got some unmet relational needs and emotional needs. You’ve got some unmet needs in your career or your education, your job. Where are you trying to turn stones to bread and meet your own needs your way rather than God’s? 

Jeremiah 2:13 says this, “My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” In a poor country, a cistern is a hole dug in the ground that they fill up with rainwater. It’s not a well. It’s just a hole in the ground to hold water and it gets all dank and putrid and it’s not fresh water at all. God says, I’m the source of living water, all the water you could want. But instead of accepting that, you turn your back on Me and go over here and dig a hole in the ground and drink stagnate water. 

Some of you are in the dark right now. You’re confused. You have needs in your life that are unmet. Maybe you have lost your job and you don’t see how you will ever find one. Maybe you are wondering how you are going to get out of debt. How will you ever fix your marriage? You are confused and weary. You may be thinking that God has forgotten about you. In your darkness, you can be sure that Satan will come to tempt you to turn some stones into bread.

The Bible says, “Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on God Isaiah 50:10b).” When you are tempted to turn stones into bread and take matters in your hands, the answer is as simple as two words: trust God.

Matthew 6:32b tells us, “…your heavenly Father already knows all your needs”. God knows your emotional needs, your financial needs, your sexual needs, your physical needs, and your health needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need” Matthew 6:33 (NLT). Here’s the challenge. God says, If you will make Me number one in your life and you will make My kingdom, My purposes for your life the number one concern of your life, I guarantee I will meet all your needs.

Trust God. Use your gifts and abilities to serve Him and others. As a leader, you are a huge target, but you also have God’s protection on your side. Don’t forget that. And when things get tough, and the world seems dark and cold, let His promises wrap around you to warm and light your way.

 Join meRick Warren next month when I discuss the temptation of popularity and praise.

 

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church and the author of the best-selling The Purpose Driven Life.


Leadership Lifter: Recovering From Emotional Burnout

September 18, 2009

by Rick WarrenRick Warren

Last month we looked at how we can experience emotional burnout through focusing on our feelings rather than facts, comparing ourselves to others, assuming blame for the actions of others, and exaggerating the negative. This month, we are going to look at four things that we can do to counteract emotional burnout. 

The thing I like about the Bible is that it doesn’t just give us the causes of our problems in life, but it gives us the cures. God helped Elijah do four things that are just as applicable to our lives 2000 years later.  If you are on the verge of burnout, depressed, you’ve got the blahs, and you are tempted to be like Elijah and run away from that job, or that relationship, or that problem you’re facing, then you need to do these four things. 

1.  REST YOUR BODY  1 Kings 19:5-8 

Relax.  Take care of your physical needs.  That is the first thing you need to do when you are suffering from emotional burned out.  “Then Elijah lay down under the tree and he fell asleep.  All at once after a while the angel touched him and said, `Get up and eat’  And he looked around and by his head there was a cake of bread baked and hot coals and a jar of water and he ate it and drank it and he lay down again.  Then the angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, `Get up and eat for the journey is too much for you.’  So he got up and ate and drank again.  And strengthened by that food he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mount of God.”  

It’s interesting to me that when Elijah started having a pity party and started contemplating suicide and started saying, “God, I just want to die!” that God did not scold Elijah.  He did not give him a sermon (which would have only added to his guilt). God’s remedy, step one, was simply eat, sleep, eat, sleep. Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is go to bed.  It is amazing how a good night’s rest will do wonders for your attitude.  Weariness and fatigue promote depression. Do not neglect resting your body and mind. 

2.  RELEASE YOUR FRUSTRATIONS. 

Pray about it.  Tell it to God.  Get it off your chest.  Complain to the Lord.  Confess it to God.  Spill your guts.  Share your problems with God.  

God said to Elijah in verse 9, “What’s bugging you?  What are you bothered about?”  Elijah let him have it.  “Then he went into a cave and spent the night and the word of the Lord came to him, `What are you doing here Elijah?’  Elijah replied, `I’ve been very zealous for the Lord … “  He’s telling God how he feels.  

The thing I like about this is that God let him complain until he was out of words.  God did not interrupt him.  God did not criticize him.  God is not shocked when you complain, when you say, “God, I think my job stinks!”  God is listening.  “God, I don’t like the fact that I’ve had poor health.”  The Psalms are full of David’s complaints.  I used to read these Psalms where David was mad at his enemies and wonder how that got in the Bible.  It was pretty vicious at times.  “Knock their teeth out, God!  Bash their babies against the wall.”  That doesn’t sound too spiritual, but it was exactly the kind of spiritual catharsis that David needed. 

3.  REFOCUS ON GOD 

Get your eyes off the problem and get a fresh awareness of what God wants to do in your life.  I like what God did.  He took Elijah outside.  “Come outside the cave, Elijah.  I’ve got something I want you to see.”  And God put on a production.  It was unbelievable.  Verse eleven tells us, “God said, `Go out and stand in the mountain in the presence of the Lord for I’m about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord.  But the Lord was not in the wind.  And after the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.  And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.”  God put on one fantastic light show.  There’s thunder, lightning, earthquakes, and rocks are splitting apart.  It was amazing, but God was not in all of those big things.  God spoke to him in a whisper.  

Isn’t that typical?  God rarely speaks to us in the dramatic ways – all of a sudden feel the Lord’s presence and get a word from God.  No, most of the time God speaks to us is in the quiet times. He comes when we are sitting still, praying, or reading the Bible. He might come to us as we are sitting out by a quiet lake and just being quiet and give us an idea or an inspiration.  God reminded Elijah that he was right there, that He hadn’t gone away, that He was there beside him, and He said, “Just be quiet.  Realize I’m here with you.” He is with you, too. 

4.  RECOMMIT YOUR LIFE 

Recommit your life to God’s purpose.  Let God give you a new direction, a new purpose, a new job, a new career if need be, a new ministry.  Verse 15 tells us, “Then the Lord said to Elijah, `Go back the way you came.’”  He said, get back to work Elijah, go to this city and anoint this man to be the king.  He gave him a project, a job.  

The quickest way to defeat your depression is to get involved in the needs of other people.  Immerse yourself in your ministry.  As you give yourself away, God gives to you and you become a channel.  You stop sitting around in self pity, contemplating your navel, saying, “Poor me!” and you begin to say, “How can I help others?”  The happiest people in the world are those who help other people.  Let God guide you in your ministry, and refresh your commitment. 

Perhaps you are struggling with depression.  Maybe you didn’t feel like getting out of bed this morning.  Maybe you are having a hard time making decisions.  You just don’t know what to do.  You feel like everybody’s against you and it seems like the world is falling apart.  Maybe you feel trapped in a job or trapped in a relationship. You are constantly tired.  You have no energy.  Maybe you feel like running away like Elijah did.  You want to split, forget it all.  

Well, my friend, I have good news for you.  Jesus Christ says there is hope.  

A number of years ago I went through a dramatic period of depression in my life — major depression.  I was too proud to kill myself and I said, “Lord, You just kill me.”  That would be the nice, easy way out.  I can identify with Elijah.  Maybe you have felt that way. Maybe you feel that way now. Please, don’t despair. This is not a permanent condition. There is a way out.  You don’t have to stay depressed.  God can help you through it if you’ll take these steps.  You’re not alone.  God loves you and is right there beside you, even when you feel alone. 

Ask Jesus Christ to give you a new purpose in life. Ask Him to recharge your heart. What you need is a reason greater than yourself which will draw you out of yourself and your depression. If your ministry is a burden, not a blessing, then you are not in tune with Jesus and the life He has planned for you. He says, “My yoke is easy, my burden is light.” 

Get some rest. Release your frustrations. If there’s something you feel guilty about and regret, ask Him to forgive you. Drop it. Let it go. Refocus on God. Tune in to Him. Pray, “Jesus Christ, help me to sense you, to believe you, to realize that you are here with me. Help me to feel your presence and your guidance.” Then recommit your life to His purposes. Commit yourself anew to him. Then take a deep breath, exhale all of that anxiety and tension, and move on. 

Rick Warren is the senior pastor of Saddleback Church and the best-selling author of many books, including The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life.


Leadership Lifter : Emotional Burnout

August 10, 2009

by Rick Warren

SUFFERING FROM EMOTIONAL BURNOUT?rick-pic

With today’s high pressure lifestyle it’s easy to run out of emotional energy and experience burnout.  This is not a new problem, or unique to you. It is a problem that is as old as mankind, and it is a warning light that something is out of balance in your life. 

Look at the example of Elijah found in 1 Kings 19:1-8.  Elijah was a great man of God.  He had just had a very high spiritual experience atop Mt. Carmel. Yet with every mountaintop there is inevitably a valley, a low.  When Elijah faced his low and became depressed, he ran off to the other side of the mountain and hid under a tree, then later hid in a cave and said, “God, I’m so depressed I want You to kill me.” 

What causes that kind of burnout?  How do you go from that kind of high to that kind of low? A number of things:

  1. Fear causes it.  Verse 3, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.”  Fear can cause burnout.
  2. Resentment can cause burnout.  In verse 4 he said, “I’m fed up.  Lord, I’ve had enough.  I don’t want any more.”
  3. Low self esteem.  He said, “I’m no better than my ancestors.”  He was comparing himself.  He said, “I’m no good.”
  4. Anger can cause burnout.  In verse 10 he complains to God. “God, I’ve been serving you yet none of these people want to follow your will.”
  5. Loneliness. 
  6. Worry.  “Now they’re trying to kill me too.” 

Elijah was an emotional disaster at this point in his life.  He had fear, resentment, low self esteem, anger, loneliness and worry.  Do you think that would cause depression?  I think so. 

How do people get themselves in such an emotional mess?  The answer is faulty thinking.  The Bible points out the problems associated with faulty thinking. Psalm 13:2 tells us, “ How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?”  The problem is, when we’re at an emotional low, we are more vulnerable to this type of thinking and we typically make four common mistakes.  

MISTAKE #1: WE FOCUS ON OUR FEELINGS RATHER THAN THE FACTS 

Verse 4 tells us, “… he prayed that he might die, `I’ve had enough, Lord!’” He said, “I’ve had enough, Lord.  I’m wasting my life.  I’m fed up.  It’s no use trying.  I’m going to give up.”  This is what I call emotional reasoning.  Emotional reasoning says, “If I feel it, it must be so.”  I feel like a failure, therefore I am a failure.  I don’t feel close to God, therefore I must not be close to God.  I feel like a lousy husband, therefore I am a lousy husband. The fact is, feelings are not always facts. 

MISTAKE #2: WE COMPARE OURSELVES TO OTHERS 

When we are emotionally drained, we start comparing ourselves. This is what Elijah did.  He said in verse 4b, “Take my life.  I am no better than my ancestors!”  He starts comparing himself to his family tree.  

The Bible warns against this over and over again.  It says, “Do not compare!”  When you start comparing yourself to other people you are setting yourself up for depression.  Everybody is different.  Everybody is unique.  Only you can be you.  If you don’t be you, who’s going to be you?  

When you get to heaven, God is not going to say, “How come you weren’t more like Billy Graham?” or “How come you weren’t more like Moses?” or “How come you weren’t more like….?”  

He’s going to say, “How come you weren’t more like you?”  That’s who He made you to be.  

We get emotionally burnt out because we start comparing ourselves to others.  When we compare ourselves, we compare our weaknesses with other people’s strengths.  We ignore the fact that they have weaknesses that we may be strong in.  We make comparisons that get us into all kinds of trouble. 

We try to motivate ourselves through criticism.  We compare ourselves and then say, “I should be able to read my Bible like that person” or “I should be a better Christian like that person” or “I should witness like that person”.  We get into trouble when we say, I should, I must, or I ought to. The moment you start using the word “should” in your vocabulary, you are guaranteeing procrastination.  It is human nature that we resist what is forced upon us.  

How do you get motivated to do those things you know are important in life?  You change the language from “should” to “want”.  Paul didn’t say, “I should be all things through Christ who strengthens me.  He said, “I can be all things through Christ who strengthens me.” That changes the motivation. The motivation must come from your heart, not from a comparison to others. 

We also tend to label.  We give ourselves harmful names. Instead of saying things like, “I made a mistake” we say, “I’m a failure.”  Instead of saying, “I tripped” we say, “I’m a klutz”. Instead of saying, “I overate” we say, “I’m a pig”.  We label ourselves. 

Labeling only reinforces negative characteristics.  If you were to say to me, “Rick, you are a lazy person.”  Then I’d say, “Yeah, just watch how lazy I can be!” I would tend to perform up (or down) to your expectation.  If I were to say to you, “You are always a late person.”  You’d say, “Yeah, just watch!  Watch how late I can be!”  Labeling only reinforces the negative. 

But if somebody says to you, “You could be a great Christian. You could be a great mother. You could be a dynamic father.” Then all of a sudden you get excited, and you begin to visualize the potential.  You begin to see yourself in a new light.  You start moving toward that positive focus.  

MISTAKE #3:  WE BLAME OURSELVES FOR THINGS THAT AREN’T OUR FAULT 

Elijah took blame onto his shoulders that did not belong there.  Verse 10 tells us, “I have been zealous for God…”  He’s been preaching and praying and doing all these dynamic things that a prophet is supposed to do but, “They have rejected your covenant and broken down your altars and put your prophets to death with a sword.”  

In his depression, Elijah blames himself for failing to convert the entire nation of Israel.  He takes this big load upon his shoulders and says, “It’s all my fault.  I’ve been working like crazy and yet nobody’s changed.”  He took it personally.  That’s a heavy responsibility. 

When you start trying to assume responsibility for other people you’re going to get depressed.  You can be responsible to someone without being responsible for someone.  When you take responsibility for someone, you are in essence taking it away from them, and there is a danger they will never learn to take responsibility for themselves.  

This is what Elijah did.  He said the whole world hasn’t converted, therefore it’s my fault.  You’re not responsible for other people’s response.  When I first became a Christian, every time I shared my faith with somebody — witnessed to them — and they didn’t accept Christ, I thought I had failed.  What did I do wrong?  They didn’t become a Christian?  Then I realized that in planting seeds, some of it’s going to fall on hard ground.  No matter how you plant it, some of it’s not going to sprout.  We blame ourselves for things that aren’t our fault. You can influence people but you cannot control them.  They have a free will.  

MISTAKE #4:  WE EXAGGERATE THE NEGATIVE

 We blow it out of proportion.  All of a sudden “everything’s going wrong!”  Elijah says in the last part of verse 10, “… I’m the only one left!  And now they’re trying to kill me, too, Lord.”  This guy is having one giant pity party.  He’s having a great time feeling sorry for himself.  “Everybody’s against me! Everybody hates me.  Nobody loves me.  I’m going to go eat worms!”  

The fact is there was only one person who was fighting him.  That was the queen — Jezebel.  She had gotten jealous of Elijah’s popularity and power in the nation.  So the queen of the nation sent him a messenger and said, “If you don’t get out of the country, I’m going to have you killed within a few hours.” Elijah ran across the desert, hid in a cave and had his pity party.  There was only one person against him.  Through the mask of his depression, though, he feels, “Everybody’s against me!”  

If he had really thought it out, if Elijah had not listened to his feelings but looked at the facts instead, he would have thought, “Jezebel sent a messenger to warn me that she was going to kill me.”  If Jezebel had really intended to kill him, she wouldn’t have sent a messenger to warn him.  She would have just sent a hit man.  Why warn him?  Just go knock him off!  

But Jezebel was clever enough to know that if she killed Elijah that would only make matters worse.  That would make him a martyr.  Pretty soon he’d be a hero in the nation and might even cause a revolt among the people.  On top of that, Jezebel worried about what God would do to her if she touched God’s man.  So instead, she just thought, “I won’t kill him.  I’ll just embarrass him.”  So she threatened him and let him run away.  And then he runs off to be remembered as a coward.  One minute he’s the hero and the next minute he’s a zero. 

Have you noticed when you are depressed everything seems to go wrong?  Not just the thing you are depressed about, but everything goes wrong.  It is like the guy who fell asleep. While he slept, someone rubbed limburger cheese on his mustache. When he woke up he started running around and sniffing, running around and sniffing.  People thought he was going crazy.  They said, “What’s the matter?”  He said, “The whole world stinks!”  

That’s the way it is with our attitudes.  Anytime you say the whole world stinks, check your own nose!  Check your own attitude.  The whole world does not stink.  There is a lot of good going on in the world.  But when we have a bad attitude, we get this pessimistic outlook that everything is going to the dogs.  

Elijah said, “I’m the only one,” and God said, “No, you’re not.  I have reserved 7000 in Israel who haven’t bowed their knees to Baal.  There are 7000 people in this nation that haven’t followed this false god, this idol.  They’re still true to Me.  They’re still faithful.  They’re living the right way.  You’re not the only one.  There’s 7000 people.”  

But that’s typical.  When your life becomes filled with fear, resentment, low self esteem, anger, loneliness, and worry, you are headed for burnout.  Then, if you focus on your feelings, and you compare yourself to others, and you accept responsibility for everybody else, and you exaggerate the negative, you’re only going to make matters worse.  

Next month we will look at how the Bible tells us to resist burnout and climb out of this hole of despair.

Rick Warren is the senior pastor of Saddleback Church and the best-selling author of many books, including The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life.


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