How Not to Lead in the Kingdom of God, Part 3: My Confession

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.”

Luke 22:25

In yesterday’s reflection, we looked at how Gentile rulers sought to be known as “benefactors.” They did their good deeds publicly and with great fanfare in order to be praised among the people. We saw that Jesus teaches us that kingdom leadership involves a different kind of motivation. We who lead should not do so to enhance our own glory and reputation.

Now comes my confession. I am doing this, not to draw attention to myself, but because I have found that when we share our weaknesses and failures with others, we not only find new strength, but also we encourage others who struggle as we do. So I will share with you how the teaching of Jesus challenges me in my own leadership.

I wrestle all the time with my desire to be well thought of by people. This isn’t entirely wrong, of course. But there are many times when I find that I am motivated by a desire to be recognized as a “benefactor” of sorts. When I am a guest preacher, for example, I work hard to prepare a sermon that is true, God-honoring, and edifying to the congregation for whom I will preach. Yet, as I’m sitting in the worship service prior to my sermon, I can feel myself yearning for the approval of the congregation. I want them to like my sermon. I want them to like me. This is fairly normal, I think. But there are times when I realize that I am wanting to be liked even more than wanting people to hear God’s word in a transforming way. So I inevitably spend several minutes prior to guest preaching confessing my mixed motives and asking God to purify my heart. By the time I get to the pulpit, the Holy Spirit has usually helps me focus on what matters most and Who matters most.

I’ve often wondered why I am so prone to need the approval of people. I wonder if it has to do with the fact that my dad had a very difficult time expressing his approval of me. He never once told me in words that he was proud of me. To this day, I can feel sad about that, even though I know he was proud of me. I wonder if my inner being hopes that the approval of the crowd will satisfy my longing for my Dad’s approval.

As I mentioned above, part of what gives me freedom from being dominated by a need for human praise is confessing my motives to the Lord. With confession comes cleansing and healing. But, as I grow in my faith, I also find that the love and affirmation of my Heavenly Father satisfies my soul in a way that is transformational. The more I experience God’s love for me, the more I seek to honor him first and foremost in all I do, the more I am set free from the need to please others in order to build up my own sense of well-being.

If you don’t struggle with what I’ve described here, thanks be to God. But if you do struggle with an inordinate desire for human approval, perhaps my confession will be an encouragement to you. I believe that, by God’s grace, all of us can come to the point where glorifying God is the primary passion of our lives and leadership.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you ever find yourself yearning for human approval in a way that is not quite right? What do you do in those times? How has your experience of God helped you to love and serve him? How have you felt God’s affirmation in your life?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, to you I make my confession. You know how many times I want human approval more than anything else, even more than your approval. I wish it weren’t so, Lord. But I cannot lie to you. So I confess, once again, how much I want people to like me and affirm me and think well of me. I confess that sometimes this motivates me more than it should. At other times, my desire to be affirmed keeps me from doing that which I know you have called me to do. Forgive me, Lord.

May my passion for you grow. May I seek to serve and honor you above all else. Even as you help me to be attentive to the needs of people in order to serve them well, may I be free from the governing desire to have them like me. Instead, may I truly seek first your kingdom and righteousness, your glory and honor.

All praise be to you, O God, for your healing, transforming, renewing work in my life. Amen.