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Food for the Soul

Food for the Soul, devotionals to help you in your busy life, written by NEWIM board members and staff. 

Humble Confidence

Kim Johnson

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” 

—Romans 12:3 (NIV)

We live in a culture where more and more people are becoming extremely egotistic. Self-seeking and vain, they promote themselves in every way possible. God’s Word speaks often about this issue. For instance, we are warned to beware of selfish ambition (Philippians 2:3), encouraged not to be proud (Romans 12:16) and instructed to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). So it is no wonder we as leaders are reluctant to acknowledge our strengths while often over-emphasizing our weaknesses. Although it may seem we win brownie points for meekness, ignoring our abilities can cause us to feel insecure and steal our confidence to the point that we fail in our duty as leaders.

True humility does not mean discounting our talents. It means having a clear understanding of exactly where we stand with God, totally depending upon Him yet remaining highly valuable to Him in ministry. True leaders do not seek the spotlight out of pride, nor should they hide in a corner out of fear. Instead, authentic leaders pursue being firmly rooted in the place where God has put them—even if it is at the top.

There is a time and place to acknowledge our weaknesses and we must always confess our sins. On the other hand, if we are to be fully functioning, productive participants in God’s ministry we must absolutely recognize our gifts, unconditionally appreciate our strengths and categorically build on the abilities God has given us. There is a balance between humility and confidence.

To say you are good at something is not a declaration of arrogance. Self-acceptance is not pride but instead is comparatively the “sober judgment” urged in Romans that allows us to see ourselves as God sees us—His workmanship. He created us, redeemed us, called us and gifted us. We are not to apologize for our talents but use them for His purpose as He has called us to do.

Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.

                                                            —Leo Buscaglia

Counsel for the Counselor

Kim Johnson

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. 
                —Proverbs 15:22

As a leader, we know our Lord is always our first resource when it comes to wise counsel. Seeking His direction through prayer and reading His Word is the most important part of our role.  However, His Word also tells us there is wisdom in connecting with other Christ followers and by God’s design we are never to live our lives independently. Thus, every leader needs to build a council, an inner circle, of women that will add value to the ministry she leads. 

Members of your inner circle will be your biggest cheerleaders, your closet confidantes, your greatest influence and the best at keeping you accountable. You are not creating a clique, so choosing wisely is imperative. Look for characteristics like faith, integrity, intelligence, complementary giftedness, wisdom, loyalty and a shared vision. Surrounding yourself with people like this will help you continue to grow and sharpen your leadership skills. 

Leading a ministry presents challenges that are not easy and we don’t have to do it alone. Seeking wise counsel is a sign of maturity and humility, not a sign of weakness. Pursuing input from others will enable you to make better decisions and make sure your ministry continues to glorify the Lord. 

The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” 
—Proverbs 12:15

Rightful Responsibility

Kim Johnson

"When Moses' father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he asked, 'What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening?'"

                                                                         —Exodus 18:14 (NLT)

When it comes to serving the Lord, many Christians are passionate in their pursuit to advance His Kingdom. Often this passion to please can cause these crusaders to take on responsibilities God never intended them to have. For leaders, this can be an even bigger problem. We love God and we love the people under our leadership, so when we see needs to be met, our first response is to do what we can to meet them. Sometimes however, those good intentions can cause more harm than good and the bigger challenge becomes determining what God does NOT want us to do.

An excellent example of this dilemma is found in Exodus 18. Moses had become painfully aware that the Israelites needed someone to help them settle disputes. After years of living as slaves and being controlled by masters, they had no idea how to live together as people of God, so Moses naturally assumed it was his job as their leader to meet this need. Suddenly Moses experienced long lines of frustrated people lining up to have him hear their case. Day after day he carried the weight of his nation’s problems on his shoulders alone. Since he was their leader it must be his job.

Then one day Moses’ father-in-law witnessed what was happening and immediately questioned the wisdom of Moses’ actions. It was clear Moses had taken on more than he could handle. At the very least it was a disservice to his people since the issues could be heard and resolved more quickly if he had help. Not only that, perhaps there was someone else God wanted to use in this capacity. By going it alone, Moses was robbing that person of an opportunity to serve.

Willingness to serve the Lord whenever possible is a natural response as leaders. Yet that desire cannot supersede the discernment of knowing God’s will for our involvement in a certain area of ministry. Even if a need remains unmet, we cannot automatically assume it is our responsibility to step in. As difficult as it is to wait on the Lord’s timing, we must, or we run the risk of hindering His will for the situation, for someone else and even for ourselves. As we seek to identify God’s will in our lives, it is just as important to recognize what His will is not. The wisdom is knowing the difference. 

             To walk out of His will is to walk into nowhere.     

                                                                                    —C. S. Lewis

The Power of Weakness

Kim Johnson

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

—2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

“I do it!” exclaimed my granddaughter as I tried to help her take the top off of her juice bottle. I was, of course, trying to avoid the disaster that was certainly going to occur since she was not yet proficient at this particular task. But in her 2 year-old mind, she was quite capable of doing most things herself. Naturally, this episode ended with tears and a change of clothes.

As I thought about her complete confidence in her abilities, I felt the Spirit nudging me—almost as if He were saying. “Sound familiar?” It is easy for me to rely on my own strength, resources and knowledge. As a leader I have plenty of experience. So I tend to divide my issues into two categories. There are the problems I know without a shadow of a doubt require God’s help and those I think I am perfectly fine to handle on my own. 

We see a great example of this same strategy in the life of the Apostle Paul. He was tenacious with an exceptionally strong will. Courageously he faced angry mobs as he traveled proclaiming the gospel of Christ. Yet in most cases he was relying on his own strength, not God’s. Then in 2 Corinthians 12:7, we find Paul was afflicted with a thorn in the flesh. Paul was absolutely able, but God wanted to exercise His power through Paul. We are never told exactly what plagued Paul, but the Lord used this affliction to humble him and it required complete reliance on God’s power instead of his own. Only in Paul’s weakness was the Lord able to show His strength through Paul’s life.

Feeling strong in a particular area of life is not necessarily a good thing. While we need to have confidence, it is easy to cross the line from depending on God to relying on our own ability. That is when our strength can actually hinder our influence and leadership. No matter what we do, we must always make sure our trust is in the strength of the Lord. Only then can God’s best work be accomplished by His power through our weakness.

 I lift my eyes up unto the mountains, Where does my help come from?My help comes from You, Maker of Heaven, Creator of the earth.O how I need You Lord, You are my only hope; You are my only prayer.So I will wait for You to come and rescue me, To come and give me life.       

                                                                                        —Lyrics by Brian Doerksen

Listening Ears

Luann Budd

 "For since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualitiesHis eternal power and divine naturehave been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that men are without excuse." Romans 1

Maltbie Babcock, like many of us, would find that when he had had his fill of the problems and pettiness of ministry, he'd need a break. He'd walk past the church office and say to his assistant, "I'm going to be about my Father's world." His church was situated on a hill overlooking a valley, so he'd go outback to listen to the Lord.  

*   *   *

One January a storm came down from Alaska and cut across the San Francisco Bay making the morning bitterly cold, at least by California's standards. So I walked quickly, trying to hide inside the protection of my coat. I usually enjoy my early morning walks across campus, but this morning I was too cold.

There is a tree along my route, a favorite tree, easily a hundred feet tall and over a century old. As I walk to my office, the sidewalk turns so that I walk toward this tree for several minutes. Each morning as I approach my gnarled old friend, it speaks to me of its Maker. This morning, I was shocked to see that my tree had been disrobed, not one leaf was left on its silvery branches, yet still it stood, as always, though strangely bare and frosty. I reflected that Jesus, too, had been disrobed of His majesty, yet He continued to stand immovable against evil's bitter blast. Abandoned. Shamed. He disrobed Himself of omnipotence and glory and chose to hang on that other tree for me. I felt the chill of the wind and wondered what it would be like to stay outside all day, exposed. Jesus stayed six hours, exposed.

Lord, may we, too, stand immovableeven if stripped bear and beaten, even if bitterly cold and betrayed, even if clamored after and successful. We want to be like you, immovable, obedient, unshaken by storms or praise.

Pastor Babcock died at the age of 42, but before he died he wrote the words to a favorite hymn about how the Lord spoke to him on that hill behind his church. "This is my Father's worldThe birds their carols raiseThe morning light, the lily whiteDeclare their Maker's praise. This is my Father's world: He shines in all that's fair; In the rustling grass I hear Him pass, He speaks to me everywhere." As we go about our full days, whether stressed by the ministry or perplexed by the world, may we hear His voice and listen as He speak to us, everywhere.