Leadership Gleaning #3 (A): Leaders are Learners: A personal reflection

The what, who and where of what I am learning this summer.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. -Joshua 1:9

At this year’s Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit[1], Willow founder and Senior Pastor Bill Hybels built his opening talk on this exhortation from God to Joshua as he set out on a journey into the unknown. This passage has meant much to me in my own leadership journey and so to hear Hybels bring it to us in a fresh way was like a jump start to my heart and spirit. He challenged leaders to not “abort their visions before they ever get them started and to not allow fear to hold us back from stepping out in faith and courage to bring a vision to life.

As this message was wringing in my ears, I was also learning about what it means to truly rest in the God from gifted expository bible teacher, Kay Arthur.

Be still and know that He is God  -Psalm 46:10.

It is only when I cease striving[2] that I can depend fully on God and lean into His sovereign grace and mercy. My planning and pressing hard may very well be insufficient to the task and every outcome is not my responsibility.

These two things seem incongruous—how can we both be courageous AND cease to strive?? This just does not make sense….until you dig just a bit further into the story of Joshua. Each step that Joshua led the Israelites on in the journey across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land was preceded by a command from God. When Joshua followed in obedience, God made a way and never left his side. He brought them into the Holy Land. He commanded them to march around the walls of Jericho, Joshua did and the walls fell. Each battle and challenge the people faced, Joshua listened, obeyed and God made a way. It is noteworthy that these were not always executed well and the people were not always obedient (remember Achan ). But repentance[3] followed and God did not leave Joshua and did not forsake him.

So we must be courageous, but we must recognize that we cannot be apart from God. We must cease striving and rest in the One who makes all things possible. Don’t confuse courage with busyness and activity, we can do an awful lot of stuff that is not courageous at all but fills our days. Courage comes only from utter dependence and obedient focus.

This is the tension that truly great leaders live in.

Be strong and courageous AND Be still and know that I am God

So go, pursue your vision with courage and passion, but do it with deep dependence on God. It will be HARD – that is a guarantee. But then God never gives a leader an easy assignment.

[3] Repentance comes from the Greek word Metanoia- which, roughly translated, means to gain a ‘bigger mind’ or a new and bigger perspective
Photo credit: Dollar Photo Club