By Laurel Strasshofer
It’s the question that has stayed with me since I recently heard a snippet from a speech given by inspirational American conductor, Benjamin Zander in which he states:
“The conductor of an orchestra doesn’t make a sound…He depends for his power on his ability to make other people powerful…I realized my job was to awaken possibility in other people.” He continued, “If the eyes are shining, you know you are doing it…” 1
A few months ago, I was getting dinner for my grandchildren. I was tired and admittedly distracted and a little less-than-patient as I was focusing on “getting it done” (a flaw I will battle forever, I think). My grandson was excitedly prattling on about something when I reacted to him in harshness. I don’t remember his words. I don’t remember my words. I only remember how instantaneously his bright, joy-filled eyes were cast down and how he appeared almost shamed. It broke my heart to know I was responsible for that, and I have not forgotten how his eyes and spirit changed because of my voice.
In that moment, I remembered one of Zander’s challenges from that speech, “If the eyes are not shining, you’ve got to ask a question… ‘Who am I being that my children’s eyes are not shining?’” Ugh… I also thought of Proverbs 15:4: “A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit.” Double ugh!
But I am a slow learner. Apparently.
It was not too long ago in a staff meeting one of my own team members shared her “low” for the week had been that she felt she “failed two times” a few days earlier. She was attempting to make light of it, but it was easy to see she was still impacted by what had happened, most likely by my own part in how I handled the situation. I was glad for her honesty, and at the same time, her words genuinely pricked and grieved me. Many things could have contributed to her demeanor, and in my weakness I would have preferred to leave the blame there. Still, I knew in my heart that as her leader I was largely responsible for the state of her spirit at that moment, and I needed to work to mend it. I had to consider the possibility of my own role in the situation.
Isn’t it true? So often we will naturally lean into blaming those we lead – whether our children, our coworkers, or our ministry team members – for their low demeanor, lack of passion or mediocre performance. While we as individuals do have responsibility for our own attitudes and actions, I don’t believe the latter was necessarily Jesus’ focus when he spoke on things pertaining to what makes a great leader. He always made the shepherd responsible for the tender care of the sheep. He always emphasized humility in leadership. He always focused on the intentional pursuit of the lost one. He also basically said, “If you don’t like what you are seeing in those you lead, uh… check the mirror.”
Seriously. Check it:
“And He also spoke a parable to them: ‘A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit? A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.’” (Luke 6:39&40 NASB)
Is it possible that he meant the one who follows will reflect what he has seen demonstrated by the one he looks to for leadership? Or, that a student will only rise to the spiritual, professional and emotional heights that the leader allows or takes them? I believe he meant ALL of that, and then some.
I do believe as Christ-followers we are responsible to raise those we lead to new heights – to help them fulfill their potential. And, so when someone in my sphere of influence is cast down, I am compelled to ask myself what kind of leader I am being.
Actually, Benjamin Zander said best what I genuinely desire. Toward the end of his speech, he stated how he measures “success” in leadership. He said,
“For me, it’s very simple. It is not about wealth or fame or power, it’s about how many shining eyes I have around me.”
What a measure of success as we lead in the varied roles in which we are privileged to be serving!
Paul actually brings it home in his letter to the Philippians:
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although He existed in the for of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. (Phil 2:3-7 NASB; emphasis mine)
In reading this, I am convicted that making those I lead 100% responsible for their passion, motivation and sense of security is not an attitude of humility or regarding them as more important than myself. It is one of pride and lacking in mercy – especially in light of all Christ has done and continues to do for me daily as I learn to walk with Him. I must become more introspective and humble myself to be willing to see what is in their eyes as a potential reflection of how they are being led. I must be brave enough to ask:
Focal Passage: Romans 8:18-29
Romans 8:30b “…, and those whom he called he also justified,….”
All of God’s children were sweetly drawn to His grace by His will in His foreknowledge or “fore-love.” He brought us to Him by His choosing. Once this was accomplished and so that He might fulfill His own justice, He justified us. He literally declared His children whom He brought to Himself to be righteous, fulfilling His righteous requirement of perfection. That means that in God’s court of law where eternity with Him requires righteousness, He stood you and me before Him and, despite our sin and unrighteousness, declared us righteous. Many have defined “justified” as “just as if I’d never sinned.” That would be wonderful enough on its own, but the truer, more accurate definition is that God declares it to be “just as if I’d always obeyed.” And from where does this perfect righteousness come? It is our Lord’s, Jesus Christ’s. God imputes on us the perfect, sinless righteousness of His Son who gave His life so that we might receive what we could not earn. A more amazing love we cannot imagine.
Study/Meditation: Jesus said that we must be perfect as God in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48) How does God pardon us and still fulfill this requirement?
*Father, though I know I do not, nor will I ever, deserve Your boundless love, I praise You and thank You for it. Amen.
Focal Passage: Romans 8:18-29
Romans 8:30a “And those whom he predestined he also called,…”
God loved His children before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-6), and in this “fore-love,” He predestined them for His purposes. These purposes begin with His effectual call. God drew you to Him; He called you to be His own. You did not call yourself nor did you reason this call out on your own. God brought you to Him because He chose to bestow His manifest love on you before the world began. The writer C.S. Lewis describes his conversion by describing that he didn’t want to be called. He fought it at every turn. But God had chosen him long before his rebellious breath launched attacks on Christianity. Consequently, the Father also sweetly drew Lewis to Himself, bringing the writer into communion with the Spirit. We were drawn to the blessed bosom of Christ by Christ, Himself, and this all of His will and His work. How glorious is our Savior!
Study/Meditation: Why do you think the word “predestination” has gotten such bad press in the both the believing and non-believing communities? Why is this concept completely God-centered?
*Father, thank You for Your love that would call me to You, a sinner who is unworthy and unclean. You are awesome in all Your ways. Amen.
Focal Passage: Romans 8:18-30
Romans 8:30 “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
The progression of what God mercifully does for each of his children as Paul outlines it is astounding. He loved us before we were and predestined us for His purposes. From this choosing, He calls us sweetly to Him, and upon our answer, He declares us righteous based on the perfect life of Jesus. And then finally Paul tells us that in that justification, we will live in glory. Notice, however, that Paul speaks of our future glorification in the past tense. It is such a surety and promise that we can speak of it as if it already happened. We will live in eternity in glorified bodies, in glorified minds, and in the absolute glory of God’s eternal presence. What a marvelous Father we have to give us everything that we don’t deserve while loving us beyond comprehension.
Study/Meditation: Think on the progression of gifts that Paul outlines in Romans 8:30 given to every believer. How does this progression demonstrate the holy love of the Father?
*Father, thank You for loving me so completely and for giving me eternity. Help me to keep my eyes and my mind on my eternal home rather than this temporary one. Amen.
Focal Passage: Romans 8:18-29
Romans 8:29b-c “(For those whom he foreknew he also predestined) to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
What purpose did God set apart for His fore-loved children? He set them apart “to be conformed to the image of his Son.” In other words, God has purposed that we will be sanctified to be more like Christ—to love more the things that Jesus loves and hate more the things that Jesus hates. By this Paul certainly does not mean that we will share in Christ’s “god-ness,” but he does mean that we will become more and more like Him as we grow in His ways while on this earth. And then finally we will be glorified with Him, sharing in His inheritance for all eternity, and thereby manifestly displaying Christ’s true position as the Son of God. We may suffer and endure torment while we are aliens in this world, but the Maker of the universe has predestined us for glory unmatched by anything we can imagine. Let us set our minds on this eternal truth.
Study/Meditation: How does the life of the believer display being conformed into the image of Christ daily? How can you better do this?
*Father, though this life is temporary, help me remember how to manifest Your sanctification in me while I am here. Thank You for choosing me for this purpose. Amen.
Focal Passage: Romans 8:18-29
Romans 8:29a “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined…”
There is much to be said about verses 29 and 30, so we’ll take them a bit at a time so that we miss none of these great truths. Paul tells us something so astounding and earth shatteringly wonderful in the first part of verse 29 that it bears closer inspection and meditation. Paul tells us that God set His love on us before we ever were. He loved you before you existed, and in that He set you aside for His purposes. We see this in the wording used by the apostle in the phrase “whom he foreknew.” This word, “foreknew,” does not mean that God simply knew your name and address or knew you would choose Him so He set you aside. The suffix “knew” is the same Hebrew word used in Genesis when Moses wrote that Adam “knew” his wife and she conceived Cain. It means “love.” Paul is telling us that God “foreloved” us, or He loved us before we were, and then He purposed us in His kingdom. The Maker of heaven and earth loved you before you existed because He chose to do so, based only on Himself and His grace, never on you or your merit. How great and magnificent is this boundless and unmatched love!
Study/Meditation: Why is the meaning of the word “foreknew” so important to ascertain in this verse before meditation? How does this comfort you?
*Father, thank You for loving me based on Your grace and mercy and not on me. You are amazing. Amen.