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The Case For Humble Leaders

The story of Joseph in Genesis is a powerful study in leadership...and humility.

You know the account: his brothers had tormented him as a teenager and sold him to slave-traders. Though suffering several painful setbacks over many years, Joseph eventually became the number two guy in Egypt, the most powerful empire in the world. Later, during a severe famine, his brothers traveled to the palace begging for food…not realizing they were in the presence of their long-lost brother. After eventually recognizing him, they hugged and cried together and settled in Egypt with Joseph. But after a few years, their father—the patriarch Jacob—died. Joseph had missed a lifetime of relationship with the father he deeply loved; there was no way to ever restore that lost time. This could have been Joseph’s opportunity to scold his brothers, to punish them, to simply get even for the unrecoverable loss they caused him. And they were scared to death of retribution. But Joseph told them, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, to judge and punish you? As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil. He brought me to the high position I have today so I could save the lives of many people. No, don’t be afraid. Indeed, I myself will take care of you and your families.” And he spoke very kindly to them, reassuring them. (Genesis 50:19-21 New Living Translation) Healthy, humble leaders live with a sense of destiny, with the understanding that God—for reasons He alone knows—put them in their position. But it will definitely involve “character-shaping.” Many years ago I got stiffed in the Christian music business for a couple thousand dollars. For my family, that was like a gazillion dollars since we were living on nickels at that time. I went through the “forgiveness-routine” and thought I was done. But sometimes around others, when the subject turned to the music industry, I would laugh and make a sarcastic comment how I had gotten the shaft back in the day. After years of doing that, God broke through to me one day. I had given my typical cynical spiel when He suddenly spoke to my heart and said, That’s not forgiveness. I don’t care how funny your story is and how anonymous you keep it, you still haven’t forgiven them.” And, or course, He was right. What’s worse, the people involved in my story hadn’t meant anything evil against me; they were just struggling with their own stuff and I got caught up in it. Real forgiveness involved me never mentioning the story again…because trust in God assumed that He was ultimately in charge and my real provider. No one else. But I wondered then: how would I have responded to people who might have meant actual harm? Like any virtue, mercy begins with small wins. You don’t run a marathon overnight. You start with a jog around the block.

Question of the Day: Are you in a time of “character shaping”…and how are you responding?



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