“What’s in it for me?”
This was my 9 -year-old daughter’s response to my prompting her to get ready to go to the grocery store the other day. My eyes got big and I said, “You’ll have food to eat this week.” I wondered, “Where on earth did she get that?”
I’m going to blame it on the movie “Annie” which she’s watched a lot this summer. Mrs. Hannigan says it to Mr. Stack’s assistant at one point in the movie. But, really, American’s seem to have this attitude engrained in their DNA. We do pretty much everything based on what we expect to get out of the situation. The truth is that sometimes, in God’s economy, the only thing you get out of the situation this side of heaven may be knowing you did right in the sight of the Lord.
Some of you know that the ladies have been reading the book “Anything” by Jennie Allen. We talked a lot about what keeps us from praying, “God, I’ll do anything you ask of me.” I think sometimes it’s because we want to know the answer to the “what’s in it for me” question. Our book posed us this question this week: “What if the true motive of my life and heart were to make God known for a few years on this earth?” Instead of thinking life is short; how can I make sure I enjoy every last second? We should think life is short; how can I make an eternal difference with the life God has given me?
I’m still right in the middle of my “anything” story. Oh how I wish I was on the other side to tell you how it all played out for me. But since I’m in the middle and things still seem chaotic and the situations playing out around me don’t make complete sense to me, I have no idea “what’s in it for me”. All I can do is live according to God’s word knowing that if the only thing I can say at the end of it all is, “I did what was right in the eyes of the Lord”, then it was worth it.
Another quote from our book this week says, “We don’t follow God just because he is God, just because he is boss. We follow God because he builds beautiful stories, even if they are not easy.”
Music is a great way to share the cries of our heart with God. These lyrics are my cry today:
Oh, O’Lord O’Lord You hear my cry
Your love is lifting me above all the lies
No matter what I face this I know in time
You’ll take all that is wrong and make it right
You’ll take all that is wrong and make it right
Rev. 21:4-5 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away. Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write because these words are faithful and true.”
“Love God and do as you please.” – St. Augustine
At first it sounds like a license to sin.
“As long as I love God, I can do whatever I want and God won’t mind! It’s stress-free Christianity!”
St. Augustine understood something tremendously important. If you say you love someone then act in a way that hurts them, it is not love. If you truly love someone you will want to honor and lift them up. When a wife genuinely loves her husband, she will speak well of him to others, encourage him, lift him up and do things that bring him joy. Similarly, a person who loves God will want to lift Him up, obey, and honor Him.
Sometimes it can be hard to view our own obedience as love but as a parent I have had days when I felt like no one listened to me. I repeated myself, I yelled, I wrestled screaming children into their clothes or car seats. I did not feel loved. These have often been followed by days of cooperation, kids taking the initiative and doing things to help, requests followed by “ok mom!”, and so on.
So. Much. Love.
…and they don’t even realize it, because they are little!
Jesus emphasizes obedience as a form of love in John 14:15 when he says, “If you love me, you will obey my command”. John writes about it as well in 1 John 5:3 when he says, “This is love for God; that you obey His commands” and Samuel in 1 Samuel 15:22 writes, “To obey is even better than sacrifice.”
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.
My kids were listening to an Adventure in Odyssey yesterday in which the Barclay family was trying to determine God’s will on whether or not they should move to Washington DC. Our family has orders to move this September so it resonated a bit. We don’t actually have a choice in our move, but it makes me think of where God would like our focus to be.
Are we praying daily for His desires to become our desires?
Is our love of God being reflected in each of our choices?
Are we being obedient in our attitudes?
Would the person who can tell I love my husband also be able to tell I love God?
Today I read a thought provoking article by Gary Hamel, an American management expert, author and speaker. Mr. Hamel wrote an article for Harvard Business Review that deserves to be read by any Christ follower. Actually, Gary was translating the Pope’s message to the leaders of the Roman Curia, the administrative bodies of the Catholic church. Gary’s translation is directed towards the corporate world.
I encourage you to direct the message below to your every day walk as a Christian. What a difference the American Christians could make in our world, if we could all hold ourselves to these high standards!
The 15 Diseases of Leadership, According to Pope Francis
By Gary Hamel
The leadership team is called constantly to improve and to grow in rapport and wisdom, in order to carry out fully its mission. And yet, like any body, like any human body, it is also exposed to diseases, malfunctioning, infirmity. Here I would like to mention some of these “[leadership] diseases.” They are diseases and temptations which can dangerously weaken the effectiveness of any organization.
- The disease of thinking we are immortal, immune, or downright indispensable, [and therefore] neglecting the need for regular check-ups. A leadership team which is not self-critical, which does not keep up with things, which does not seek to be more fit, is a sick body. A simple visit to the cemetery might help us see the names of many people who thought they were immortal, immune, and indispensable! It is the disease of those who turn into lords and masters, who think of themselves as above others and not at their service. It is the pathology of power and comes from a superiority complex, from a narcissism which passionately gazes at its own image and does not see the face of others, especially the weakest and those most in need. The antidote to this plague is humility; to say heartily, “I am merely a servant. I have only done what was my duty.”
- Another disease is excessive busyness. It is found in those who immerse themselves in work and inevitably neglect to “rest a while.” Neglecting needed rest leads to stress and agitation. A time of rest, for those who have completed their work, is necessary, obligatory and should be taken seriously: by spending time with one’s family and respecting holidays as moments for recharging.
- Then there is the disease of mental and [emotional] “petrification.” It is found in leaders who have a heart of stone, the “stiff-necked;” in those who in the course of time lose their interior serenity, alertness and daring, and hide under a pile of papers, turning into paper pushers and not men and women of compassion. It is dangerous to lose the human sensitivity that enables us to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice! Because as time goes on, our hearts grow hard and become incapable of loving all those around us. Being a humane leader means having the sentiments of humility and unselfishness, of detachment and generosity.
- The disease of excessive planning and of functionalism. When a leader plans everything down to the last detail and believes that with perfect planning things will fall into place, he or she becomes an accountant or an office manager. Things need to be prepared well, but without ever falling into the temptation of trying to eliminate spontaneity and serendipity, which is always more flexible than any human planning. We contract this disease because it is easy and comfortable to settle in our own sedentary and unchanging ways.
- The disease of poor coordination. Once leaders lose a sense of community among themselves, the body loses its harmonious functioning and its equilibrium; it then becomes an orchestra that produces noise: its members do not work together and lose the spirit of camaraderie and teamwork. When the foot says to the arm: ‘I don’t need you,’ or the hand says to the head, ‘I’m in charge,’ they create discomfort and parochialism.
- There is also a sort of “leadership Alzheimer’s disease.” It consists in losing the memory of those who nurtured, mentored and supported us in our own journeys. We see this in those who have lost the memory of their encounters with the great leaders who inspired them; in those who are completely caught up in the present moment, in their passions, whims and obsessions; in those who build walls and routines around themselves, and thus become more and more the slaves of idols carved by their own hands.
- The disease of rivalry and vainglory. When appearances, our perks, and our titles become the primary object in life, we forget our fundamental duty as leaders—to “do nothing from selfishness or conceit but in humility count others better than ourselves.” [As leaders, we must] look not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of others.
- The disease of existential schizophrenia. This is the disease of those who live a double life, the fruit of that hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and of a progressive emotional emptiness which no [accomplishment or] title can fill. It is a disease which often strikes those who are no longer directly in touch with customers and “ordinary” employees, and restrict themselves to bureaucratic matters, thus losing contact with reality, with concrete people.
- The disease of gossiping, grumbling, and back-biting. This is a grave illness which begins simply, perhaps even in small talk, and takes over a person, making him become a “sower of weeds” and in many cases, a cold-blooded killer of the good name of colleagues. It is the disease of cowardly persons who lack the courage to speak out directly, but instead speak behind other people’s backs. Let us be on our guard against the terrorism of gossip!
- The disease of idolizing superiors. This is the disease of those who court their superiors in the hope of gaining their favor. They are victims of careerism and opportunism; they honor persons [rather than the larger mission of the organization]. They think only of what they can get and not of what they should give; small-minded persons, unhappy and inspired only by their own lethal selfishness. Superiors themselves can be affected by this disease, when they try to obtain the submission, loyalty and psychological dependency of their subordinates, but the end result is unhealthy complicity.
- The disease of indifference to others. This is where each leader thinks only of himself or herself, and loses the sincerity and warmth of [genuine] human relationships. This can happen in many ways: When the most knowledgeable person does not put that knowledge at the service of less knowledgeable colleagues, when you learn something and then keep it to yourself rather than sharing it in a helpful way with others; when out of jealousy or deceit you take joy in seeing others fall instead of helping them up and encouraging them.
- The disease of a downcast face. You see this disease in those glum and dour persons who think that to be serious you have to put on a face of melancholy and severity, and treat others—especially those we consider our inferiors—with rigor, brusqueness and arrogance. In fact, a show of severity and sterile pessimism are frequently symptoms of fear and insecurity. A leader must make an effort to be courteous, serene, enthusiastic and joyful, a person who transmits joy everywhere he goes. A happy heart radiates an infectious joy: it is immediately evident! So a leader should never lose that joyful, humorous and even self-deprecating spirit which makes people amiable even in difficult situations. How beneficial is a good dose of humor! …
- The disease of hoarding. This occurs when a leader tries to fill an existential void in his or her heart by accumulating material goods, not out of need but only in order to feel secure. The fact is that we are not able to bring material goods with us when we leave this life, since “the winding sheet does not have pockets” and all our treasures will never be able to fill that void; instead, they will only make it deeper and more demanding. Accumulating goods only burdens and inexorably slows down the journey!
- The disease of closed circles, where belonging to a clique becomes more powerful than our shared identity. This disease too always begins with good intentions, but with the passing of time it enslaves its members and becomes a cancer which threatens the harmony of the organization and causes immense evil, especially to those we treat as outsiders. “Friendly fire” from our fellow soldiers, is the most insidious danger. It is the evil which strikes from within. As it says in the bible, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste.”
- Lastly: the disease of extravagance and self-exhibition. This happens when a leader turns his or her service into power, and uses that power for material gain, or to acquire even greater power. This is the disease of persons who insatiably try to accumulate power and to this end are ready to slander, defame and discredit others; who put themselves on display to show that they are more capable than others. This disease does great harm because it leads people to justify the use of any means whatsoever to attain their goal, often in the name of justice and transparency! Here I remember a leader who used to call journalists to tell and invent private and confidential matters involving his colleagues. The only thing he was concerned about was being able to see himself on the front page, since this made him feel powerful and glamorous, while causing great harm to others and to the organization.
Am I willing to let God do anything with my life?
Am I willing to surrender and hand everything over to God?
These are the questions I have been struggling with for the last few weeks. Questions that I thought I knew the answer to and was doing. But, God has an amazing way of showing me that I still put things before Him.
I started a great bible study by Jennie Allen, Anything; about a month ago thinking that it would be another typical women’s study. I would enjoy it and I was sure I would walk away learning something but, I had no idea that God would ask me to give what I was most fearful of losing.
The first thought that popped into my head was my perfect Sunday school answer, my relationship with Him. I would never want to walk through life without God. But, I kept having this pulling at my heart that there is something God needs me to deal with. Praying over it, He revealed to me that I am putting my husband and kids in line before God. I have a greater fear of losing them than anything else.
I have built up this fear in me over the years. Most people that know me would say, “well, of course you have this fear. Look at the things you have dealt with over the last 6 years.”
This is true. I have had a lot of trials thrown at me. Dealing with the lose of a parent, my husband having cancer, a child hurt, and a friend ending their own life are things that would put fear in anyone’s heart. And, the world that we live in would tell you that you are right to put your family first, your fears are justified, you should hold them close.
Without knowing it, I have not been giving my family over to God. I have been terrified of letting go of the control in fear that I might lose one of them.
God has stirred up a hornet’s nest in me. I don’t have this resolved yet, but I can say that God is helping me face this fear and give it to him. I’m praying daily for God to take this fear from me, to help me put nothing before Him and to show me my heart. (Is it for him?)
Since the day I gave my life to the Lord, I have not felt more free than I do now. God opened my eyes to this fear. I’m thankful everyday for the loving God that we have that he wants to continue to see us grow towards him.
So, my question for you is what is your biggest fear that is keeping you from letting God have control over your life?
What is holding you back from God doing anything in your life?
The safest place is to be loved and accepted by God of the universe because if God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31