Wise and Courageous Leadership
The Ephesian city clerk was wise. He was a real leader. In the midst of an unjust riot against two Christians, Gaius and Aristarchus, the clerk took a bold stand. There is no indication this man was a follower of Christ, so I take it that his intercession was the result of God’s special grace, while his wisdom and leadership was the fruit of common grace. As John Maxwell says, “leadership is influence,” and this man certainly had it.
First, he connected with the “Men of Ephesus” by recalling for them the ego-stroking perspective that the entire world knew Ephesus was the “guardian of the temple of the great Artemis…” At this point he reminded them that the whole world knew of their important position, as well as the respect such a position held. Then, he cleverly inserted a “therefore” to indicate that such an honored position in the
world required decorum and order. This unnamed man saw the injustice against the two Christians and was not going to allow it.
He told the mob these men had committed no crime or wrong doing at all. Message to crowd: Refined and respected citizens of Ephesus ought not behave like uncouth and uncivilized barbarians. Moreover, his rhetoric seemed to suggest that because they were so refined and civil, they could rightfully address any legitimate grievances with the local legal authorities. He told them if they continued in such unrest, they themselves would be the transgressors of civility and the law. Chalk one up for the city clerk.
After making his case he dismissed the crowd. And Acts 20:1 gives evidence that he must have succeeded in his efforts. The text reads, “When the uproar ended…” It is gratifying to see God’s common grace alive and well in the lives of unbelievers, even more so in the lives of unbelieving leaders. I wonder how many Christian leaders placed in a similar situation would have handled it as well.
There are many lessons to be learned from this historical snapshot of an anonymous Ephesian city clerk, but I want to highlight one in particular.
It’s worth noting the clerk didn’t bend and bow to the mob’s desires in an effort to gain favor with them. That’s sometimes my personal failing. The idea of putting a finger to the wind to see which direction it is blowing is all too tempting to those of us who loathe confrontation. But that’s not leadership, it’s cowardice. It’s the fear of man, not the fear of God. There is no character or integrity in such weakness. The city clerk chose to do what was right, even in the face of possible opposition.
How many times has a Christian pastor backed down from a position (even a God-ordained one) because of pressure from the mob? To be sure, no one ought to die on every single hill that comes along, but there are some principles (convictions and/or values) that should be tenaciously held to – ones that should yield no quarter.
My children don’t always know what’s good for them. They would be content to eat nothing but junk food for the next five years. But that would be harmful to them. I’ve been entrusted to shepherd them, and shepherd them I must. Sometimes, adults aren’t much farther down the road than children, especially when the mob mentality is at work.
God-appointed leaders must exercise wisdom and courage in such situations. For though it is often true that, “all of us are smarter than one of us,” and that many counselors may surely provide good advice, that is not always the case, as the episode in Ephesus reveals. The city clerk was able to make the distinction (wisdom) and acted on what he knew was right and best (leadership).
Whether you are the shepherd of a family, business, classroom, or church, pray for God to give you the same character and willingness to exercise godly leadership as God gave to that anonymous city clerk.
In what areas of your life are you a leader? How do you usually handle confrontation? Read Acts 19:35-41. Besides the points made in this devotion, what are some other lessons you learn about leadership from this text? How can the lesson(s) you learned in this text help you exercise leadership in the areas God has entrusted to your care? As a follower of Christ, what else can you do to help you lead that the unbelieving clerk could not do?
Grace and Truth,
1 Thessalonians 4:3a – It is God’s will that you should be sanctified…
Not What You Were Thinking… Yet
Today’s devotion will no doubt disappoint you if you came to it with the hope and expectation of learning how to decide what job to take, whom to marry, or where to move. That’s often what we really mean when we say we want to know God’s will for our lives, isn’t it? I am no different.
But quite often those desires turn to despair when it is discovered that God doesn’t tell us in Paul’s letter to the Romans or the Gospel of Matthew that you should indeed take that job, marry that person, or move to that place. And because it doesn’t give us the specifics we want, we sometimes end up frustrated over the apparent “inaccessibility” of knowing God’s will for our lives.
My usual counsel to such troubled souls is to encourage them by letting them know God’s will can be found on virtually every page of the Bible. God is not trying to hide his will from them or playing some sort of shell game with his children. Today’s text gives us an example of what I’m talking about. Paul teaches us in our verse:
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified.
From and For
“Sanctified” is a biblical word which simply means, “to be set apart.” But what does that mean? Set apart from what? Set apart for what? Well first, it means to be set apart from something – specifically, from the world, the flesh, and the devil. It means the fallen, rebellious, autonomous, sinful, patterns of living and idolatry we once practiced are to be repented of, put off, died to, and left behind.
“Sanctified” also means that we are set apart for God. In Christ, God has made us his own. He is now molding us into the image of his dear Son. Thus, he calls us to love, trust, obey, and walk with him daily, that we might becoming increasingly like him. The Apostle Peter, in his first epistle quotes Leviticus and reminds us that God says to us, “Be holy, as I am holy.” Just a few verses from today’s text, in 1 Thessalonians 4:7, Paul declares, “…God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.”
When we hear and receive Christ’s redeeming call and are born anew by the power of his Spirit, we immediately (though imperfectly) begin the process of becoming what God says we already are. God, in a manner of speaking, says to us:
You are holy. Now go and be holy. Go and be who you already are.
To die to yourself, pick up your cross, and follow Christ is what it means to live a sanctified life, one that jettisons the old, fallen self, and instead, puts on Christ as of first importance. It’s a life that immediately seeks his righteousness.
This is God’s will for you. The better you know God, and the more you know of God – his person, work, ways, and word – and the more you pursue them daily and whole-heartedly in your life, the more likely you will be able to discern his particular will for your life – that job to take, that person to marry, that place to move.
Seek first God and his righteousness, and the answers to those other questions will be revealed to you in time (Matt. 6:33).
What do you think most people mean when they say they want to know God’s will for their lives? Is that what you usually mean? How can knowing God’s revealed will for your life, (i.e., that we are called to be sanctified, etc.), help you to better know and understand his particular will for your life? In light of this devotional and the verses of Scripture shared, what advice would you give a friend or family member based on what you have learned?
Grace and Truth,
Hit with a Blunt Object
Have you ever met a person who believed they were given the spiritual gift of bludgeoning people over the head with their “honesty?” Are you such a person?
Such people are only tuned in to what they “think” their intention is, which is, they’re “just being honest.” They wield their “honesty” like a “Get out of jail free card” to say what they want, when and how they want to say it. They seem to think they can be as offensive as they want, as long as they follow their remarks with, “Hey, I’m just being honest.” Or, put another way, "I'm just keeping it real." Upon invoking this magical incantation, in their mind, they should be absolved from all they've just said, regardless of how hurtful or insulting it may have been.
Three Helpful Questions
Perhaps you have heard the following questions before, but I wanted to share them because I have found them quite helpful. These are questions I ask myself before I decide to share my own unsolicited “honesty” with others.
1.) Is it true? Obviously, if you’re going to pass on your thoughts to someone else, you should be communicating the truth. Whether it’s objective truth or even the truth of your opinion, it should be true. The ninth question and answer of The Heidelberg Catechism puts it this way:
Question: What is required in the ninth commandment?
Answer: I must not give false testimony against anyone, twist no one’s words, not gossip or slander, nor condemn or join in condemning anyone rashly and unheard. Rather, I must avoid all lying and deceit as the devil’s own works, under penalty of God’s heavy wrath. In court and everywhere else, I must love the truth, speak and confess it honestly, and do what I can to defend and promote my neighbor’s honor and reputation.
While this is certainly helpful for us in thinking through our communication with others, this ought not be all there is to it. There’s more for us to consider.
2.) Is it kind? Are your remarks bearing the fruit of Christian kindness? Are they words that will be a blessing and encouragement to the other person? Even if hard words must be spoken, we can still say them in such a way that it will be clear to the person to whom we’re speaking that we have their best interest at heart and not our personal agenda.
3.) Is it necessary? Does the person you are “being honest” with need to know you don’t like what they’re wearing, or how they’re raising their children, or how they decorate their house for Christmas? We may desperately want to share our opinions on all those questions and more, but that’s not the same thing as their needing to know it.
As a Christian, truth and honesty should be paramount, but not for the sake of building ourselves up, but for the sake of the other person. If God is not glorified in the transaction of honesty and truth, and if the purpose of the exchange is not the genuine benefit of the other person, then we’re not doing much more than sharing our opinions for the sake of lifting up ourselves.
Do you struggle with the desire to share your opinion with others (“just being honest), regardless of how it makes the other person feel? What do you think the real cause of such a practice is? Which of the three questions is most convicting to you? Why? What other questions would be helpful to you in deciding whether or not you need to be pass along your opinion to another person?
Grace and Truth,
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