The greatest crisis in America, your home, your work, our world, and your own personal life is a leadership crisis. As we continue our series, “This is the Life,” Todd Wagner finishes his two part series starts on leadership, its importance, and why a great leader does what he knows to be right regardless of what others are telling him.
Leadership: Part 2
Righteousness: Part 2
Righteousness: Part 1
Leadership is everything. As leadership goes, so goes everyone and everything else. As we continue our series, "This is the Life". Todd Wagner finishes the second of two weeks teaching on leadership.
Good morning! How are we doing, friends? It is awesome to be together. We are in a series called This Is the Life, and we are going to open our Bibles together. Turn with me to Psalm 113. This Is the Life is a series we've been doing as we study the book of Proverbs. Proverbs is a book on wisdom and what it means to live a wise life. If you live a wise life, it will be better for you and better for others who are near you.
What we're doing is showing you that the life you wanted, the life God wants for you is a life of blessing. He's not looking to rip you off; he's looking to set you free. He's looking for you to be a blessing to others. Last week, I talked about the fact that no matter where you've been or what you've done, who you can be is a leader…a blessing to others, a blessing to yourself, and glory to God. That's an amazing truth, that we have a God who rescues us and sets us free.
Every single one of us is a leader. I mentioned some weeks before that God's glory is his goodness, and when others see goodness in us, it increases God's glory. There are two kinds of people in the world, I said. Quoting Oscar Wilde, there are people who bring blessing wherever they go and other people who bring blessing whenever they go. You want to be the kind of person who brings blessing wherever you go.
You want to bring blessing to your family. You want to be the person that your wife says, if you're a man, "Oh man, I love it when my husband is here. I'm proud that that's my husband." You want to be the kind of woman that children say, "This is my mom," that husbands say, "I'm so grateful to be here." Martin Luther said a woman ought to treat her husband in such a way that he hates to leave and a man ought to treat his wife in such a way she rejoices when he returns home.
You want to be the kind of friend that people say, "Man, if I had more friends like you, my life would be better." You want to be a blessing. You want your life to be like, "I don't know what has been going on, but you're here, so it just got better." That's the life you want. That's the life God wants for you, and it's the wise life. It's the good life. It's the life that God himself exhibits. It's why we sing of him.
So, we're studying leadership for the second week in a row, because leaders, biblical leaders, leaders like Jesus, leaders like God wants us to be, cause the nation to rejoice. Let me just remind you, every single one of you is a leader. That little two-foot-square part of the world you live in… Every time you're in a room, you're either creating a deficit and doubt and dreariness and discouragement or you're bringing life.
In your home you're a leader. I don't care what role you're in. Even as a child, you can bring grace into a home where there's amazing dysfunction, and God intends it to go well for you. A foolish son is a grief to his mother, the Scripture says, and you don't want to be a source of grief. You don't want to add grief to your own life. You want to lead yourself in a way that leads to blessing.
I'm here to tell you again today that God wants to call you back into relationship with him, and when you're back in relationship with him, you're going to stop doing what seemed right to you, which led to death, and you're going to no longer lean on your own understanding, but in all your ways you're going to acknowledge him, and it's going to make your paths straight, and others are going to say, "This is a good thing that you're here and present. We love your two square feet when it moves into our home, our community, when you lead our nation." So here we go.
Look at Psalm 113. Psalm 113 describes what people do when they meet a great leader, and it describes who a great leader is and what he accomplishes. So let's take a look at it. "Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the **** Lord ****…" That praise the Lord is just the Hebrew word hallelujah. When we sing "Hallelujah," we're speaking Hebrew. It means "Praise the Lord" or "I will praise you." And what kind of God would you praise? People who serve and know this kind of leader.
"Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forever. From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised." Why? It tells you why right here in verse 4: because the Lord is sovereign. "The Lord is high above all nations; His glory is above the heavens." It's everywhere. I love verse 5. "Who is like the Lord our God…"
That's what you want to be. You want to be that kind of person… "Who is like my dad? Who is like my wife? Who is like this leader? He's the best there is." Don't you want that? Don't you want people to speak that way of you? Like, "Oh man! All right!" Not like, "All right! He's gone!" That's not what you want. God wants to set us up for that. This is the life God wants for us. He's going to conform us into his image.
"Who is like the Lord our God…who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth?" This is almost a Christmas psalm. This is an amazing thing that God has come into our darkness and brought us to great light. This is our God, that though he exists in the form of God and in his sovereignty there is nothing but goodness and unity and peace, he leaves the glory of heaven and enters into a world where there is destruction and darkness and death, and even though he has all sovereign power, he lays it aside to identify with you and me, that he might rescue us from the ash heap and make us co-heirs with his own Son.
The Christmas story is so radically insane we dare believe it, but when you believe… If I told you a story… There's a God who, in order to establish his glory and show his grace and mercy, gave those who rebelled against him sovereignty over the world, and he placed in that world people made in his image, and he showed himself as good and glorious in that world to a group of people and showed to everybody who existed his kindness and his goodness.
He said, "All you have to do to maintain the goodness is trust in me, but there are others who don't think you should trust in me, and I'm going to give them authority over this earth, and you can listen to them. I'm still sovereign, but I'm going to let them be the Prince of this world. Just don't trust him. He's a liar. This is all you need to know: that I'm good and he's not."
Those people who God gave perfection and beauty to trusted the Liar, so that beautiful world they were in, instead of being a garden we would describe as Edenic, all of a sudden became covered with thorn and thistle. Instead of there being love and harmony and oneness, there became war and disunity and oppression.
God is still beautiful and glorious in heaven. What will he do? Will he bring judgment, not just to the Deceiver and the Liar but to those who were deceived and lied to? No. He uses his glory and his power, because he's a kind and righteous leader, to enter into the ash heap and offer a way out, a rescue.
That's the Christmas story, and if it's true, you're like, "Who is like the Lord our God?" That's why we sing of him continually: because we know of his kindness. Look at what it says. "Who is like the Lord our God…who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth?" What he does is he moves into that earth. "He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap…"
What it's saying there is there are people who are prospering, if you will, and there are people who don't have all the prospering of good fortune, so they have to be down at the city dump where people throw away their stuff and burn it, and before it gets too consumed in the fire they're digging through the ash heap to see if there's some trash they can eat or some treasure they could take that would maybe better their situation.
God goes and takes those at the ash heap, and it says he's the kind of God who raises them up and makes them sit with the princes of his people. Who's like that? Who's the one who takes a despairing woman who wants the joy of motherhood and has a barren womb and then gives her a house and makes her a joyful mother? Praise the Lord! This is what God does in his grace.
By the way, let me insert this here. This psalm, some people say, is the song that bridges the song of Hannah and the Song of Mary, the Magnificat. What does that mean? Well, Hannah was a barren woman who had unwanted childlessness, yet God, in the midst of that, broke in and in his kindness changed her situation. She didn't understand why all of those years of barrenness were there, but God used that to produce in her devotion and a confidence in him that he was good, whether there was a child there or not.
She said, "If you give me the chance to give birth to and shape to a human, I will do everything I can to have that human know you." God did that for Hannah, and because she was committed to exalting God in her motherhood, Samuel became the first prophet, the first judge, the first deliverer of Israel. God used the barrenness and the waiting for Hannah's good and the people's good.
Then a little bit later, there's a song by Mary. Mary had a baby she didn't want, but God was good even in giving Mary a baby she was like, "This is going to be a problem. See, Joseph and I are dating. We're betrothed. We're not 'Netflix and chilling' just yet. How am I going to explain this at the company Christmas party or the family gathering? I don't want this baby," but God was up to good. God is always up to good, whether you're waiting or whether he's giving something you don't want. He's always up to good. Praise the Lord!
What God gave us was his Son. What God gave us was provision so he could rescue us from the ash heap of sin and make us co-heirs with Christ. What kind of God is this? This is not a moral rule book that tells you how you can have entrance into God. This is not a leadership manual. This is an autobiography of the greatest leader who has existed in all of eternity.
It tells the story of how God is working in the context of history, and in the middle of that story is me by the ash heap of sin, trying to scour through there to find something that might give me life, and he says, "Todd, do you know what will give you life? It's me. Just follow me and trust in me." Praise the Lord.
Here's what's amazing. I said last week that our world is always looking for good leaders, always looking for humble leaders who will use their power to bless others and not to maintain self-comfort. That's why we love our God. Who is like that, who though he is a king becomes poor, that through his poverty I might become rich? It makes us sing songs.
It's amazing that God in his kindness has an entire season where most of the earth has us hearing the story of Christmas told again and again and again. While we're working through the ash heap of a sales bin, there are songs over us saying there was a holy night not long ago where a weary world could rejoice because God humbled himself and came, and if you'll just listen to him, you'll find real joy. God is singing this song over us and around us, and there are a few of us who believed it.
God says, "If you'll become more like me, then more of the world will rejoice, because in your little two-foot circle of influence, you'll start to bring my blessing to them. You'll use your power and your gifts I have given you that are in a world that is not as it should be, but you're filled with hope because you know I'm going to redeem it one day. You'll use your little two feet of influence to bring life to your family, to bring life to your place of work, to bring life to the oppressed." That's what God does with us.
I said the world is always looking for a great leader, which means the world should always be looking for the Christian, if you'll just follow and be conformed into the image of the one who has rescued you. This is Ezekiel 22:30. I said it last week. God says, "I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land…but I found no one." So what did God do? He became that man. Great leaders step up.
There's a story of a commanding officer who knew it was strategic to take a hill, and he said to one of his subordinates, "We have to go and take that hill," and his subordinate said, "Do you know how much blood it's going to require to take that hill?" The commanding officer said, "Yes, I do." The subordinate looked at that commanding officer and said, "Are you willing for it to be your blood?"
That's why George Patton was so beloved by his men: because he was the first into the theater of war and he was the last man out. God is like that. He searched. He didn't find one. He became one. Then what he does is he says, "Will you be like me? Will you take the provision of my being there for you in judgment so you can be delivered, and then will you be there for others?" I don't care who you are or where you've been or what you've done; what you can be is that man or that woman. This is the life. May God increase Christians on this earth who are like this.
The currency of leadership, the thing that lets you be a leader is trust. If you don't have trust, you can't lead. People always buy into a leader before they buy into an idea. God is saying, "This is my story. Here I am. Look at me. Read in the context of history. Look at my patience. Look at my longsuffering. Look at what I've done. Look at Christmas. Look at the cross. Do you trust me?"
There are four different forms of authority. There's positional authority. That's the one everybody aspires to. Certainly God has positional authority. Positional authority, though, is something that is appointed and given. God always has been God, so it was appointed to him to be God. He is God. He's the uncaused cause. Always has been, always will be. That's who God reveals himself to be.
It's interesting how many of us want to be sovereign over something. Young leaders are always aspiring to have positional authority, but really, it's the weakest of all authorities. A lot of people, even, who acknowledge God just don't like him because they don't believe and trust him. They don't know him. They've made him out to be something other than the God who has revealed himself in Psalm 113 and in the whole Bible on both sides of it.
We do young leaders a real disservice and set them up for failure when we encourage them to envision, if you will, what they can do or focus on what they can accomplish without having them focus on who they must be. Let me just say this to young leaders: Focus on who you are before you focus on what you can do. When your competency is greater than your character, you're a danger to yourself and to others.
Positional authority is the weakest form of authority. There's also what I would say is personal authority. Personal authority comes through performance. You have authority because people go, "Hey, I like what you do." I said the currency of leadership is trust, and the fastest way to build trust is through competence, but the fastest way to lose trust is through character.
It's why I tell young leaders all the time, "When you're talking about your competency, focus on your strengths. When you're talking about your character, focus on your weaknesses, because that will increase trust." The better you are at something the more people trust you. The better person/man/woman/wife/date/student you are, the more people trust you. "That man will do what he says he's going to do, and he doesn't do it for him. I trust him."
It's why I can encourage you with this. You don't need positional authority. You don't even need to be, at this particular moment, the greatest performer. There are other forms of trust that are very valuable. There's moral authority and there's relational authority. Moral authority is won through character, like I said. "I trust them. They're faithful. They'll do what I ask them to do." That moral authority will make you a leader. You'll be promoted by somebody who knows you'll do the right thing and what you're asked to do. You're not a fool.
Relational authority is what is won through love. By the way, this is what's so great about our God. He has positional authority. He certainly is competent, but here's what's amazing: he is good, and he loves us. It's why we say, "Praise the name of the Lord from the rising of the sun to the setting." What God wants to do is the exact same thing with you. I'll say it again. It doesn't matter where you start from. If you run to God, you will become a leader. If you are conformed to wisdom, you will become a leader.
Proverbs 17:2 says, "A servant who acts wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully…" You might not have been born into any great privilege, but if you are born into a right understanding of God and you begin to learn his ways, it doesn't matter where you start from. If you run to God, you will become a leader. I want to remind you, you are a leader; you'll just become the right kind of leader, the kind of one that people say, "Praise God this friend, this man, this date, this wife, this woman, this coach, this teacher is here."
There's a statement I read a long time ago, and I've seen it again and again: "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Here's what I want to let you know: Power is not necessarily corrupt. Power is amoral. What you do with your power, what you do with your presence, is what's going to make it a blessing or not. What you do with your life, and if you can lead yourself, you're either going to be a blessing to yourself or a curse to yourself.
You're going to be a blessing to others or you're going to be a curse to others. You're going to be the person who brings blessing wherever they go or whenever they go. Power is an opportunity. Your presence is an opportunity, and an opportunity is always optimized when it is infused with wisdom. So, do you want to be a blessing? Get in the Book and get the Book in you. The goal is not to have you journey through the Bible; the goal is to have the Bible journey through and impact you.
Not a moral book, not a leadership manual; it's an autobiography. When you see who God is and you take his provision to be reconciled to him, you can learn his ways. The Spirit of truth will indwell in you, and you will be a blessing. Power is an opportunity. Your life is an opportunity. What kind of life are you going to have? You need to know this. God is going to hold us all accountable…every single one of us…with what we do with our lives.
The first thing we have to do is acknowledge, "Lord, I can't perform well enough to pass the test of perfection, so I'm going to need grace. I'm going to need to take the fact that you humbled yourself from heaven to identify with my sin and rescued me from the ash heap of my own sin and the judgment I deserved and have, by your grace, placed me as a co-heir with Jesus through nothing I have done, so let me now use the opportunity of my life that has come to my senses to do everything I can to be like you so I can bring more blessing to others."
Here's what it says in Proverbs 16:10: "A divine decision is in the lips of the king…" Let me say it to you this way: A divine decision is in the next words you speak to your family. A divine decision is in the next words you share with your friends on Friday night. A divine decision is going to be yours this afternoon, and God says, "Use it well, O king. Be a blessed leader. Don't err in your judgment about what you should say. Are you going to use the power of words to bring curses or blessings, to build up or to tear down?"
God says in verse 11 of the same chapter, "A just balance and scales belong to the Lord ; all the weights of the bag are[the measure]." Then verse 12 says, "So make sure you use them well. It's an abomination for somebody to pervert those just scales and to commit wicked acts, because a throne, the life you want, is established on righteousness." That's just true.
Let me give you another psalm. God is going to let you know something. He gives you the chance to be a leader, but he's going to hold you accountable for how you lead. God in his sovereignty made you somebody's date. God in his sovereignty made you somebody's friend. God in his sovereignty made you somebody's dad. He appointed it in his sovereignty. What you do with it is going to lead to life or blessing for others and for you.
Your life is a privilege, and where there is great privilege there is great responsibility. God knows people will hate him because you're their leader and their dad or will learn to love him. What you need to know today, if you've had godless leadership over you… I've spoken in some parts of the world where there have been scars on people, missing limbs on people because they've been underneath godless leadership.
Some of you have scars because you've been underneath godless daddies. Some of you have scars because you had a godless husband or wife who made a covenant to love and serve you and did anything but that. They got power over you and then exploited it, and you know the pain. God is not asleep. Watch this. Psalm 75.
"We give thanks to you, O God, we give thanks, for your name is always near on our lips, and men talk about your wondrous works. They know who you are. We've heard the story. We've watched your outworking in history." God says, "When I select an appointed time, it's I who judge with equity. The earth and all who dwell in it melt. It is I who set up pillars." In other words, this world stands, your life stands based on God.
The word selah in Scripture always means just sit there and think about that. God is sovereign. He has numbered your days. You're going to give an account, and when he shakes the pillars of your sustenance, you'll be gone, and then you're going to stand before him, and there's going to be accounting, because you were either what he wanted you to be: a blessing, or you spurned his will and were a self-willed oppressor to yourself (and he loves you) and then to others or you took his grace and learned his ways.
Look at this. "I told the boastful, 'Don't boast.'" "Do you know why you're a dad? Not because you seduced a woman but because I let you be. Do you know why you're a leader of that company? Not because you're smarter than somebody else; I let you be. I gave you the right to make wealth. Do you know why you're good-looking? Do you know why you have that talent? Not so you can become more famous and comfortable but so you could be a blessing, and you didn't use it that way, so don't you boast."
"To the wicked I said, 'Don't lift up your horn.'" What does that mean? It's not like a musical instrument. It's like, "You're a 10-point buck, and don't you walk around… Do you know why you have 10 points? Because I gave you 10 points. Do you know why you're bigger than the rest of the bucks? Because I made you bigger than the rest of the bucks. Don't you go around telling everybody else, 'Get out of here. I'm going to do what I want with the does, and I will gore you if you mess with me.'"
That's what a horn is. It's a symbol of power and leadership. He says, "Don't you lift up your horn for your selfish purposes." He says, "Don't speak with insolent pride. For not from the east or from the west, not from your own doing, not from the desert comes exaltation, but God is the Judge; he puts down one and lifts up another." Every power and position and privilege you have is a gift from God, and you're a steward of it.
"By the way, are you a popular kid? Are you good-looking? Did you grow early enough, men, to have athletic prowess in high school? You had nothing to do with when I turned your pituitary gland on. You had nothing to do with your speed. You had nothing to do with your beauty. Do you love your popularity? Do you exploit that for good or do you just love and serve others?"
I can remember, my little girl Ally was such a beautiful little girl. I mean, she was beautiful. People would stop me and go, "Oh my gosh!" She had these big blue eyes and beautiful hair. They would literally just come up and go, "That is the most beautiful little girl I've ever seen," and I would train her to go… "First of all, Ally, look them in the eye and thank them."
Don't have this false humility. "We don't think she's that pretty. Actually, we're working on it. We got her a mirror and a Barbie makeup kit. Just wait a few months. She'll really be good-looking." When somebody gives you a compliment, it's not humble to go, "No, man, no." Do you know what you should do when somebody gives you a compliment? You look them in the eye and go, "Thank you." But when it's with something as deceitful as beauty, what you should do is look them in the eye and say, "I have nothing to do with my height, nothing to do with my speed."
What I told Ally to do… She would look, even as a little girl, and she would just say, "Thank you, but I'm praying that the most beautiful part of me will be my heart." I want to tell you something. She was a beautiful little girl, but she went through the awkward years just like everybody. I go, "Okay, Ally, for these next few years, don't look in the mirror, because the most beautiful part of you matters. It's your heart."
How many of us just go, "The most impressive part of me is my athletic prowess, my health"? No, man. The glory of young men, immature men, men who don't know what they're doing is their strength, but the glory of old men is their gray hair, which means they've been around long enough to know what matters. Bodies deteriorate. Persons and leaders develop. You can become more beautiful even in your weakness. God says, "Don't boast in what I've given you. Use it for my good. I'm the Judge."
Verse 8: "For a cup is in the hand of the Lord , and the wine foams; it is well mixed, and He pours out of this; surely all the wicked of the earth must drain and drink down its dregs." "There's going to be a time that my judgment comes, and you're going to be judged." Verses 9-10 say,"But as for me, I will declare it forever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob. And all the horns of the wicked He will cut off, but the horns of the righteous will be lifted up."
There's going to be a day when God deals with unrighteous leaders. Here's why I'm doing this message: Today is the day for unrighteous leaders to deal with their own unrighteousness. Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day of mercy. Today is the day I'm telling you it's not too late to turn it around, to come to the God of grace. Start and look at your family and say, "Will you forgive me? I've not led with wisdom. I want to become a student of this God who loves men like me. Will you forgive me?"
Don't tell them you're going to change; just change. Here's the beauty of Psalm 75. God is the Judge, and he's coming, and he's going to oppress the wicked, he's going to eradicate the wicked, and he's going to exalt the righteous. This is why we sing. We know that right now we're in a world that is not as it should be, but we still sing, sing, sing. Why? We sing, "Joy to the world" because the Lord is coming.
Do you know this? We're going to end all of our services today with the song "Joy to the World." "Joy to the World" was not a song written for the first Christmas. We always sing it looking back at the first Christmas. "Joy to the World" was written by Isaac Watts about the second Christmas, the second coming of the Savior. He came (Psalm 113) as a humble servant to give his life and use his riches to pay the debt for those impoverished by sin. He went to a cross for them.
God raised him from the dead so that he might declare to the world with glory, "This is my Son in whom I'm well pleased. This is what leaders do. They don't come to be served but to serve and to give their life as a ransom for many. Many of you will learn of the kindness of God, and you'll sing, 'Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Who is this?' and you'll want to be like him, and you'll be a blessing, but you'll still be here on earth, and the world won't love you, just like it didn't love him, but you'll keep telling people of his kindness and his coming."
There's going to be a day when he's going to come again. This is "Joy to the World." We're going to sing the song. Listen to this. "Joy to the world! Let the world receive her King." The rightful and good King is coming, and all heaven and nature will sing, because the nature, the world we're in, is not the world God intended. Do you want to know why there are earthquakes and floods? Because it's a fallen world. Do you want to know why there are leaders who are abusive? It's a fallen world.
But there's going to be a day when fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains all repeat the sounding joy. Every one of them is going to be a source of the glory of God. And what's going to happen? This is the second Christmas. "No more let sins and sorrows grow." Let me ask you a question. Since Jesus came at Christmas, have sins and sorrows grown? That's because Isaac Watts wasn't talking about the first Christmas. Sins and sorrows kept growing. Hitler came. Mussolini came. Your abusive dad came.
What he's saying, in a sense, is don't add to that by your own sinfulness, and don't create your own sorrow, but really, that whole song is about when Jesus, the King of Kings, comes again. When Psalm 75:9-10 happens, it's going to be amazing. There will be no more sin, no more sorrow. There are going to be no more thorns that infest the ground. He comes to make blessings flow. As far as the curse is found, it'll be gone.
What Jesus wants you and me to do right now is to be like him and to bring blessing and not curse. How are you doing with your two feet of sovereignty? When you show up, is it better? Do people go, "Dad is home. Kindness is here. Strength and dignity are Mom's clothing. Security is here"? See, here's the thing about godless leaders. Godless leaders think because God hasn't judged them that there is no God to judge, and they don't understand.
In Psalm 50:16, God addresses the wicked. To the wicked God says, "What right do you have to tell me about your statutes and your laws, that you can do what you want to do because you're king? You don't make laws; I do. I'm going to give you some sovereignty, but if you make abusive laws and do abusive things and you make your own covenants with people… You don't have the ability to make covenants. You only want to put yourself under mine."
When you get to verse 21, this is what he says to them: "All these things you've done. You've added sin and sorrow to the world, and because I didn't judge it immediately, you thought I was just like you. You thought I was okay with sin. You thought I was okay with infidelity. You thought I was okay with pornography and child abuse. You thought I was okay with abandonment, but you're wrong. I'm not like you. So I am going to reprove you and rebuke you to your face."
Ecclesiastes 8:11, to wicked leaders. Just listen to me, because I'm trying to make a case, wicked leaders: Repent. Stop it. Forsake your sin and find compassion. This is the life. It's the life of learning the way of the great and glorious King and being conformed to his image. Ecclesiastes 8:11 says, "Because the sentence against an evil deed [wicked rulers] is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil."
"I did that. I got away with it. I guess it's okay to do it again." This is Psalm 50:21, where he says, "You thought I was just like you because I didn't do something about it. Mark my word: I see it. I'm going to do something about it. Those who wonder where I am need to know I'm coming, and there's going to be joy to the world."
"When are you coming?"
"Behold, I'm coming quickly," he says, "and my reward is with me, and I will recompense men according to their deeds. I will judge the wicked, and I will exalt the righteous." See, when we know that, we say, "Father, teach me more of your ways." All right. One last warning. I'm going to give you truth to strengthen you as a leader, but one last warning.
Here's the warning: horrible leaders have their day. They have their moment, but they will get their day. If you're bringing sorrow to your own life and sorrow to others… Hurt people hurt people, and if you just keep doing hurtful things to yourself and bringing sorrow through your own sin to yourself and others, there's judgment coming.
God is kind to you, not wishing for you to perish but for you to come to repentance, so he leaves Christians here in a world filled with thorns and says, "Listen. I'm going to ask you to live humbly in the midst of the brokenness, where you're hated for righteousness and for the truth you share, because someone might listen and might get sick and tired of the wickedness in their own life and might turn to me.
So I want your story, Todd, to be like mine. You don't have righteousness of your own, but you can have my righteousness. Just be a little part of heaven on earth, Todd. And this community of other people who have come to know me we'll call my church, my people, the called-out ones, the ones who are called out of creating sin and sorrow who now are going to be light and salt and righteousness, who sing because they know what's coming. This is just a vapor, just a little blip, a moment of trial, and I'm going to use you for good. There's going to be a day I'm going to reward you. I'm coming quickly."
This is just truth. Proverbs 12:7: "The wicked are overthrown and are no more…" It's coming. "…but the house of the righteous will stand." Proverbs 14:11: "The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish." I've tried to tell you guys so many times. Because in my own little world I have repented of my wickedness, by and large… I still make mistakes. I'm not glorified yet, but I pursue God's glory, and because of that, the tent of this man is flourishing. This is the life.
Proverbs 14:19. It's coming. "The evil will bow down before the good, and the wicked at the gates of the righteous." Proverbs 15:25: "The Lord will tear down the house of the proud, but He will establish the boundary of the widow." Can I just say this to you? One of the things that's true is some of you guys are under godless leaders, and you go, "I want to get them." God says, "I'll tell you what. Don't get them."
He says, "Just forgive them. Pray for them. Don't respond to hate with hate. You don't change darkness by adding more darkness to it; you bring light and love." But it's not because God turns a blind eye to it. Remember what Psalm 50:21 says? "I will state the case in order before their eyes."
In Romans, chapter 12, God says, "The reason I don't want you to judge other people, wicked rulers, is because I will do a better job of it. Vengeance is mine." Is there anything you can do better than God, including respond to injustice? So he's not saying, "Don't judge wicked people." He's just saying, "Let me do it. You bring grace and kindness to wicked people."
Now let me just say this. I'm talking there to the individual Christian. One of the big hermeneutic mistakes people make is they take what God says to the individual and say that's what government should do, or they take what God wants governments to do and the individual does it. What do I mean by that? God gave government as his authority on earth, and the purpose of government is to punish evildoers and praise those who do right.
Governments should punish. Governments should prosecute. Governments should, at times, kill people. You shouldn't. You should do what Jesus did and say, "Father, forgive them; they don't know what they're doing." Let God be the one who has vengeance. Sometimes he says he doesn't give government the sword for anything. There are times that nations should go to war against other nations, not because their oil supply is challenged but because they are oppressing people and righteousness needs to move in on that genocide.
As for you, trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. God knows all about your abusive daddy. You should speak out against it as appropriate. You shouldn't put up with it if you're a wife, but you pray for them, you love them, you seek to call them to repentance. Government should prosecute that abuser.
You don't live there peacefully in the home with abuse, but let God be the Judge. Let them see in you a better way. All right. That's kind of heavy. Goodness is coming. Here's something I want you to know. Let me just give you some encouragement. Do you want to be a leader? Then you cannot be somebody who is consistently overwhelmed by criticism.
I'll start with this: Wise leaders listen, but they're not led by voices. Proverbs 18:2 says, "A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind." Proverbs 18:13 says, "He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him." Wise leaders listen, but they're not run ultimately by a bunch of fools.
If you go to Gallup.com, you go to a Gallup poll, the Gallup website says, "Leaders lead differently when they know what Gallup knows." That is not true. We should hear what people think, but great leaders don't do what the people want; great leaders do what wisdom and righteousness would have them do. That's what great leaders do. They listen to people. They let them know they want to understand, but at the end of the day, they're the adult.
There was a very famous exchange that happened in 1787 when our founding fathers of America were walking out of that little room in Philadelphia and the deliberations of the constitutional convention. There was a woman, a Mrs. Powel from Philadelphia, who saw Benjamin Franklin walk out, and she asked Franklin, "What kind of government did you give us?" and immediately he responded. It was recorded by a writer there. We know it from history.
He says, "A democratic republic, if you care to keep it." What he meant by that is we are not a democracy. Do you know that? America is not a democracy. We are called a democratic republic. What that means is we vote for our leaders, and the kinds of leaders we vote for are not supposed to just follow the polls. We put in people with moral character who are strong enough to listen but to still do the right thing. Adults.
Listen, parents. You have to listen to your kids and understand their pain, but at the end of the day, you just go, "Sweetie, I understand you think if I don't give you Skittles for dinner and let you eat dessert first that the world is going to end, but it's not going to end, so I'm not going to take a poll of the children right now, because God gave you a wise leader."
"We don't want you as a leader!"
"That's okay. That's what children do, but God in his kindness has given me you, and God has given you me."
Benjamin Franklin was basically saying to this woman that only a virtuous people are capable of freedom, because when you start to invite puppets and folks who will follow polls, then the nation is going to become more corrupt and more violent, and they're going to have more need of masters, and that is not good. It's not good at all.
James Lowell said, "Democracy gives every man the right to be his own oppressor." "I'm going to vote for people who do what I want." That will become a source of oppression to you. "We'll just keep printing money and give us all free things." That works until it doesn't work. It works until you speak Chinese. It just doesn't work anymore.
I'm just telling you that God doesn't want leaders who follow polls. Leaders change polls. Leaders speak with wisdom and with winsomeness and with strength, and if you get a nation that goes, "We don't want that kind of leader; we're going to vote in these kinds of leaders," then brace yourself. The Scripture says, "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people."
Here's the deal. The people who increasingly become godless… Let me just insert this here. One of the jobs of leaders is to replace themselves. We say it this way around here a lot: "Your successor determines your success." Part of what you should do is make disciples. That's what we're doing here. We're studying God's Word. We're trying to become more like him.
If there's godly leadership at this moment, our job is to go, "We have to raise up the next generation to understand why there's prosperity and why there's goodness, because of the morality and the ethic of learning the ways of our great and perfect God. When we mock God, it's not going to go well with us, so we have to produce in the next generation a heart for God." That's what he says. "When you sit down and when you rise up, when you go out and when you come in, teach them about me so they can learn more of me."
People say this to me sometimes: "Todd, aren't you worried if you raise up great leaders they're going to leave and go somewhere else?" I say to them, "Aren't you worried if you don't raise up good leaders that they're going to stay?" I don't want a bunch of people staying here who are a bunch of hellions. I want to raise up guys who are a blessing wherever they go, and sometimes they go. I want them to stay if God lets them stay, but that's what the blessing of a godly family does. They're fruitful and they multiply, and the kids go out and start other families.
Praise God we've had godly men leave here. Praise God that businesses have transferred some of you out who have learned what a biblical church is to go be a part of renewing the church somewhere else. I'm praying that there are godly leaders here at this church who will start churches all over this country. You'd better raise up great leaders. It's what makes you successful.
Here's the thing. It's not normal for people to learn the ways of God. What's normal for people is to mock God, and this is why you can't always listen to people. Great leaders listen, but they're not led by voices. Romans 1:28-32. This is the condition of man before they know God, and that's what every single person is. You're born into this world with a corrupt heart, and you have the power to let that corruption continue.
You also, when you hear the truth of God, have the power to repent and begin to walk with him. Romans 1:28. This is what's going on right now in our land. We have a group of people who don't see fit to acknowledge God any longer, and in a sense, when you don't acknowledge God, God gives you over to a depraved mind, a mind that's not enlightened, to do the things which are not prosperous, and they're filled with unrighteousness.
Listen to this list. "…wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent [prideful] , arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil…" Oh my gosh! Do you see that all around? "…disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know…" And every one of us knows that's not a good recipe to make a prosperous land.
"…and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death…" This is what it says. "…they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.""Will you be our leader? Will you further our fancy by telling us it's okay?" By the way, this is what addicts always do.
A leader whose kryptonite is criticism will not be a super leader. (See what I did there? I work for you people. I do.) A leader whose kryptonite is criticism will not be the leader God wants, a super, above-average, right kind of leader. You just need to know this. If you do what you're supposed to do, the world is not going to love you any more than it loved God when he did it.
This is Proverbs 27:3: "A stone is heavy and the sand weighty, but the provocation of a fool is heavier than both of them." If you want to carry a stone or a bag of sand up a hill, that's not easy. It's wearying. But do you know what else is weary? Fools who go, "You're a hater! You don't represent God. You're a bigot! You're intolerant! You're old-fashioned! You're out of step!"
The Dallas Morning News asked a group of leaders in the community and me to write about hope during this holiday season. I didn't know it, but they published mine today. I just tried to give them a little perspective about God. It's online, and it's in the print edition today, my little talking about hope in the midst of this season. Somebody read it who doesn't go to Watermark, and they go, "Gosh, Todd. I read your deal."
I got this email, and they said, "I heard you were at Watermark, so I did some more digging, and I looked at what you guys are about. Oh man! What you said in the deal was good, but you need to know, some of the things you're saying… It's not going to go well with you if you keep saying that, because there are a lot of people who don't want you to say the things you're saying. If you keep saying that, you're not going to be the influence you want, so I would stop saying it. In fact, I don't think you should have said it in the first place. In fact, I'm not sure you're the kind of leader we want in our community."
Someone goes, "Does it wear you out when that happens?" I'm like, "No." I'm just not surprised by it, and I'm not, frankly, influenced by it. I listen to their reasoning. I know what they want. At the end of the day, it can be a little weighty, a little heavy, but just the way I'm wired is… Let me say this. This happened recently in our neighborhood just a couple of weeks ago. I'd put the lights up, and it was like 12:30 at night. We had a bunch of people over.
I walked out at 12:30 at night. I left my door open and walked out just to look back at the house, and when I did, I looked up at the end of the block, and I saw some flashing lights, and then I saw this young man run out of the house across the street and run back in. Then he ran back out. He goes, "They're almost here!" I thought maybe the kid saw the lights and was like, "Dad, I'm going to go see what the problem is."
Then I saw them start to turn down the block, and this time the kid ran in and said, "They're coming! They're coming!" I go, "Oh man! They're coming there." So I just took off and ran into the house. A few minutes later, all chaos is breaking loose outside of our house on the street, and my wife sees it and walks out. She saw the front door was open. She walks out the front door into the front yard. She's looking around.
The kids come out and go, "What's going on? Where's Dad?" She goes, "I guarantee you, where the fire is." She wasn't even surprised. That's what leaders do. They just run to the chaos, and they're not surprised by chaos or by those who criticize them if you start to bring the help you need into the midst of the chaos, but if you don't like criticism, you will never be the leader God wants. Leadership is partly a commitment to being misunderstood.
Here's the opposite side of that: A leader who loves praise is not praiseworthy. This is Proverbs 27:21: "The crucible is for silver and the furnace for gold…" But do you want to test a man? Butter him up. Tell him how wonderful he is if he does this thing, and see if he'll keep doing it just because he loves the praise. This is what I was going to say a second ago. This is what addicts do. Addicts will always do one of these two things to control you, because they are committed to having a certain ability to keep doing what they're doing.
So they'll get in the fetal position and go, "Nobody loves me like you. Nobody understands. You're the only kind and good leader. You're the only one who lets me come and call myself this name, and I love God, but I still keep doing this thing. We want more leaders like you. Thank you for understanding me. Thank you for being the kindness of God. Oh, I'm so pained, and you're the only one who gets it," and they praise you.
Or they come over here and go, "I want to tell you something. You're a hater, and we're going to get guys like you. You're intolerant. You're a bigot. You're an offense. You don't love God. You don't even know what love is. Do you know what the love of God is? It's nothing like you, and you'd better stop if you want us to think you're good."
They will come at you with fangs or they will come at you in the fetal position. What they're doing is getting weak leaders to change, and when leaders change, the people suffer. When leaders go along with sin, people suffer, and those leaders will be judged. So, I know you're getting criticized or being buttered up that you're a gentler, kinder form of good, but there is no gentler, kinder form of good. Be good.
A leader who gives way to the wicked is the worst kind of wicked himself. This is what it says: "Like a bad tooth and an unsteady foot…" A tooth is to crunch and masticate in order to allow nourishment to come in. A steady foot is there to help you stand firm and not retreat. But when you have a bad tooth, you can't bring nourishment. When you have an unsteady foot, you can't stand firm. "…is confidence in a faithless man in time of trouble."
This is what it says in Proverbs 25:26: "Like a trampled spring and a polluted well [instead of being this thing that gives life] is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked." A wicked leader is a leader who gives way to the wicked, but the righteous stand firm. Act like men. So, our job, the life that you want… You may not get praised in the shortfall, but stand firm. Be on the alert. Act like godly leaders and men. Be strong.
Let everything you do be done in love. Truth sounds like hate to those who hate the truth, but you love God, and you do good. You lead. You don't be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you. You don't add to sin and sorrow; you embrace righteousness. Your life and your leadership is an opportunity. Don't let your opportunity be corrupted.
I'll give you one last point. Who you call your king determines what kingdom you will enjoy. If your kingdom is of this world, enjoy it, because it's just a vapor. That's what Proverbs 19:12 says. "The king's wrath is like the roaring of a lion…" Then it says after that, "…but his favor is like dew on the grass."
In other words, the little king of the earth who wants to… If you don't want the roar of the powers of this earth, then you'll back away and do whatever that king wants or if you want the prosperity of the kingdoms of this earth, then I'm going to tell you, it's going to pass like the dew on the grass.
But if you serve another King whose kingdom is from everlasting to everlasting, you may not be celebrated right now, but your job is not to look to be celebrated right now; your job is to live for true joy, when all of the nations bow and say, "That was the right King, and those were the right wise servants, and they led us toward him.
Their behavior was excellent among us, and they showed us goodness. They stood against increasing sorrow and sin, and they spoke up for the weak and the powerless. They confronted power with truth, and they confronted us in our flesh, and we hated them, but they were good. God, you should judge us, because we heard of your kindness. We saw your men. We saw your women. We had your church, and we tried to snuff it out."
There will be a day when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess and everybody will prove out by their worship of him and acknowledgment that they deserve judgment that he is King. Who your king is will determine where your kingdom is. Do you want to be celebrated in this world? Then go get you some and drink quickly. Or do you want to serve the God who is, who is coming, whose reward is with him, who will recompense men according to their deeds? Then serve him.
Father, I pray that we would bring joy to this world, that no longer would sin and sorrows grow in our hearts or thorns infest the ground of those who are under us, but let your blessing flow from us. Would you rule in our world with truth and grace, and would you let us prove what is good and acceptable and right and true, as we are not conformed to this world but are transformed by the renewing of our minds.
We know and we thank you, Lord, there's a day that's coming that we will sing, "Joy has come. Christmas is here again. Christ is among us. Let earth receive her King." May we be here to receive you as citizens who have been about it. Let us sing. Let us believe. Let us bring hope. Let us repent. Let us lead as you have led. In Jesus' name, amen.