A periodic leadership reflection based upon Philemon 9…
Don’t default to commanding, threatening or “strong-arming” team members (and subordinates)… As a Christian, for love’s sake, appeal to them instead.
The verse that prompted this reflection? Paul writing to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus: “Though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you.”
I heard of a scenario that involved a “mean trick” a wife is alleged to have pulled on her husband one day… He came home as usual after a busy day at the office, walked in the house and called her name… No response! He called again… No response! He walked through the house… she was nowhere to be found! Panic!!! He grabbed his cell phone and feverishly dialed her number… and he heard it ring nearby within a closet! His wife stepped out and with a sheepish grin on her face and a twinkle in her eye, and declared, “I just wanted to see how much you missed me!”
Thought of that story just a little bit as I read the passage today in Hosea…
In Hosea 5:15 God declared through His prophet, “I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me!” Imagine it… A “withdrawn God” motivated by redemptive concern and love for His straying and sinful people – desirous to see “if they missed Him!”
Is it possible that sometimes our feelings of God’s absence are designed to draw us nearer and cause us to return to “our first love” (Check out Revelation 2:4)? He withdraws the near sense of His presence to see “how much we miss Him!”
But then the prophet articulates God redemptive offer of renewed nearness to a straying and sinful people in Hosea 6:1-3! … “Come, let us return to the Lord; for He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live before Him. Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; His going out is sure as the dawn; He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”
Listen, if the Lord’s sweet presence doesn’t seem as precious and potent as it once did; perhaps it is a signal that some “spiritual drift” has occurred in your life. Perhaps it is a call for you to press in and “return to the Lord!” The pattern is clear in this passage… when the Lord’s presence seems “withdrawn” and He seems distant, REMEMBER!REPENT (turn around from the direction you’re going)! AND RETURN!
I want to always be conscious of His sweet and powerful presence in my life, don’t you? After all, He is called “Immanuel – which is interpreted ‘God with us!’” isn’t He? (Matthew 1:23)
I knew a guy… (I’ll leave him nameless to protect his reputation)… A real “skunk” of a person (“stinker” sounds too mild for his behavior)… Hyper assertive, conniving, sensual, dishonest, self-occupied (and I could go on)… You know someone like this too?
And then he met Jesus – heard the gospel, believed it, and turned his life over to the Lord! He immediately changed (especially his attitudes – he desired to change! He wanted to please God!). He had some challenges – he gave into some temptations – He stumbled and fell a few times; but he hung with God’s people, wanted to live for God, and persisted with patience… never gave up or gave in!
And today? His life is a great testimony of what God’s love, grace and power can do! Not the “self-made man by any means – but on the other hand a “case study” in what God’s power and presence can do in a life “sold out” to the Lord and committed to following Jesus!
Thought about my friend as I read Apostle Paul’s words to Pastor Titus today… In fact, I jotted these words in the margin of my journaling Bible… “OH, THE TRANSFORMED LIFE! NOT SELF-TRANSFORMED – BUT ENGAGED! THE TRANSFORMATION – NOT EARNED, BUT THE OUTWORKING OF GOD’S GRACE IN A WILLING LIFE!”
Oh… and the passage that prompted that reflection?
“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people…” (The picture of a life changed by God’s grace!)
Then a description of what these believers once were… “For we ourselves were once foolish disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.”
But then a life-changing encounter with Christ… “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not by works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life…”
And then an exhortation to personal, daily engagement – depending on God’s grace… “The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things: Those who have believed in God should be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for God’s people!” (Scripture taken from Titus 3:1-8)
Sure am glad that my friend found Jesus and followed Him! Sure and glad I did too!