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Facts of the Matter

A weekly letter of encouragement and challenge to business and professional men and women

Archive for August, 2008

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Thus far in our series on Seven Key Elements of Leadership, we have discussed vision and integrity. In ensuring issues we will cover courage, a hunger for innovation, and a willingness to take risks, and influence. Todays Facts focuses on perseverance:

PERSEVERENCE perhaps is best illustrated by a clip from Ludwing van Beethovens life.  After one of his performances, several people were offering him their congratulations, when one woman commented, "I wish God had bestowed me with such genius." "It isn’t genius, madam, nor is it magic." Beethoven replied. "All you have to do is practice on your piano eight hours a day for 40 years."

Thomas Carlyle reminds us that, "The block of granite which was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak becomes a stepping-stone in the pathway of the strong."

And listen to Ayn Rand, Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reachThe world you desired can be won. It exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours. 

In the biblical sense, perseverance has to do with maintaining our Christian faith through the trying times of life, primarily in the context of persecution and temptation. We are to faithfully endure and remain steadfast in the face of opposition, attack and discouragement. 1 The primary source of power for endurance is prayer: Then Jesus told his disciples that they should always pray and not give up.  (Lk. 18:1) (See Psa. 55:16; Lk. 11:5-8; Rom. 12:12; Eph. 6:18; Phil. 4:6, 7; Col. 4:12) 

Paul was a model of perseverance: We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to ustrial and torture, mockery and murderPeople are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly…in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we’re beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating…I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.  (2 Cor. 4:8b-10a; 6:4b, 5 Msg; 2 Tim 4:7,8 NIV)

Winston Churchills life epitomized perseverance.  Born of aristocratic parents who gave him scant attention and no love, at age 8 he was shipped off to a private school which he hated. Throughout his childhood he was sickly, bullied, accident-prone, and poor at his studies. His adult life was characterized by meteoric success, interspersed with colossal failures. Shortly before World War II, Churchill endured ridicule and censorship as he stood alone among Britains leaders in warning of the gathering storm – Hitlers increasing threat in Europe.  When Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia (1939), public opinion shifted, and Churchill again was elevated to power to lead his Country to victory against withering odds.

This extraordinarily diligent man, who would not give in to many bitter trials that would have forced most of us to surrender to a cruel and unrelenting fate, who had fought, been beaten, and risen again so many times to take his place among the great democratic leaders of world history, would, bythe unyielding courage of his example and convictions, lead his country through the most dangerous experience of its long history. 2 In a speech given to his old alma mater during the dark war years he said, Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never in nothing great or small, large or petty never give in, except to conviction of honor and good sense. And due in great part to the courage he inspired in others, neither would his country. 2

QUESTION:  So, my fellow pilgrim, hows it going in the endurance/perseverance department? Whatever your challenge; whatever your trial, the Scriptures remind us, Don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.  (Gal. 6:9 NLT). (See Rom 2:7; 2 Tim. 2:3; Jms. 1:25; 2 Pet. 1:10; Rev. 2:10, 25-28; 3:5; 21:7)

1 The Holman Bible Dictionary ; 

2 Character is Destiny John McCain, Random House, NY, 2005, pages 61 69 (excerpts)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

In last weeks Facts we discussed vision as one of The Seven Key Elements of Leadership. In the following weeks we will continue our series by considering perseverance, courage, a hunger for innovation, a willingness to take risks, and influence.

INTEGRITY is about character. Character encompasses more than beliefs and opinions. It denotes the core values and commitments that define a person and ultimately shape the persons life. We live out of our character regardless of the stated beliefs, opinions or values that we proclaim. Character flows from the soul of the person. Integrity refers to the consistency of character that matches words and actions, vision and choices, values and behaviors. It is life lived with consistency. Character refers to those internal core values that shape all that a person does.

A life lived with integrity is one in which all aspects of a person are fully integrated; it is a holistic life. In mathematics an integer is a whole number that cannot be divided into parts which are themselves whole numbers. Integrity is like that. It is that coherence of character that presents a single face to the world: What you see is what you get. 1

In the Old Testament, a Hebrew word for integrity is tom which denotes simplicity, soundness and completeness.  The Psalmist cried out, Declare me innocent, O Lord, for I have acted with integrity; I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. (Psa. 26:1) (See Job 27:4-6; 40:1-40; Psa. 15:1-5; 17:3; 24:3-5; 25:21; 26:1-3;101:2; Pro. 20:7; Ezek. 18:7-9)

The New Testament concept of integrity is that of singleness of mind and heart: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see GodThe eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!…But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. (Matt. 5:8; 6:22,23; Jms. 1:6-8) (See 2 Cor. 8:21; Tim. 1:5; Tit. 2:7)

Bobby Jones (1902 – 1971) was a lawyer and amateur golfer. He was also the first to achieve the Grand Slam – winning in a single year the four major tournaments.  From 1923 through 1930 he won 13 championships in those four annual tournaments. His record was unmatched until 1973, when it was finally broken by Jack Nicklaus. In a national championship, he drove his ball into the woods, and accidentally nudged it. Although no one saw him move the ball, he penalized himself one stroke, which caused him to lose the game by that margin. When praised for his integrity, he said, "You might as well praise a man for not robbing a bank."

Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) was a Christian theologian and Augustinian monk whose teachings inspired the Protestant Reformation. In 1517, Luther changed the course of human history when he nailed his 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg, Germany, accusing the Church of heresy. Many people cite this act as the primary starting point of the Protestant Reformation.  Luther’s views were condemned as heretical by Pope Leo III. Consequently he was summoned to appear before the religious authorities to either renounce or reaffirm his beliefs, to which he replied, "Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen."

Today we live in a society where the Judeo-Christian ethical foundations that have sustained our country since its beginning, are being lost and are being replaced with a humanistic amorality, [and] a self-centered, pragmatic indifference 2 

QUESTION: Living as you do in such a culture, as a follower of Christ are you willing to stand alone if necessary, and without compromise, for truth and integrity, whatever the cost?

1 The Complete Book of Everyday Christianity by Robert Banks and Paul Stevens, 1997, Inter Varsity Press

2 Carroll Archie – Professor of Management, Terry College of Business, University of Georgia

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Seven Key Elements of Leadership will be discussed in the following issues of the Facts: Vision, integrity, perseverance, courage, a hunger for innovation, a willingness to take risks, and influence.

VISION involves the force or power of imagination. The ability to perceive and anticipate something that is not actually visible. A visionary is a person who has a compelling dream or purpose beyond himself, that motivates and engages others toward its fulfillment. 

When I think of Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx, I am reminded of George Bernard Shaws challenge, Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.  Smith serves as a marvelous example of a man with a vision who engaged others in bringing that vision to fruition. Smith virtually invented an entire industry, transformed other sectors as diverse as manufacturing, retail and transportation and heightened expectations of globalization. FedEx now employs 240,000 people in 215 countries, including Afghanistan and Iraq. The company handles $1 billion worth of Postal Service shipments per year, making its one-time competitor the company’s single largest customer.

Vision in the Scriptures has to do with a special revelation that was received from God that has one of two purposes: First, to provide immediate direction (see Gen. 12:1-3; 19:15; Num. 22:22-40; Act. 12:7). Second, to develop the kingdom of God by revealing the moral and spiritual deficiencies of the people of God, with a view toward restoration. The vision of many of the prophets (Amos, Daniel, etc) is representative of this aspect of revelation.

Nehemiah, in the Old Testament, had a vision for rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and engaged others in fulfilling his vision. Then I said to them, You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace. I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me. They replied, Let us start rebuilding. So they began this good work.  (Neh. 2:17, 18)

Hudson Taylor (18521905), the founder of China Inland Mission was a great visionary, proving to be one of the most profound pioneering spiritual forces in China, in going with the Gospel of Christ to regions where none had ventured before. Scores of young adults joined Taylor in blazing the Gospel across China at great personal sacrifice under extreme circumstances. Missions experts view the spread of the Gospel in China as the most dramatic expansion of the Gospel in the history of Christendom.

So, my fellow disciple, what is your vision? What impassions and captivates you to greatness for His Kingdom and His glory?  Do you have a vision that inspires sacrifice and compels you to do the humanly impossible for God, such as missionary pioneer William Careys challenge, Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.  If you do not possess such a compelling vision, why not?  My guess is that you are loosing altitude, and are in the process of spiritual decay. King Solomon reminds us that Where there is no vision, the people perish… (Pro. 29:18)  I would suggest that where you have no vision, you are perishing! Tell me, is there anything more deadening in life than visualizing nothing, and thus aiming at nothing? You know, just grinding through life, paralyzed by fear and mind-numbing spiritual dullness. Never climbing the mountain, dreaming great dreams, visualizing and accomplishing great exploits for the living God?

Teddy Roosevelt, that wild, exuberant overcoming former President of the United States once poignantly observed, "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

+The Holman Bible Dictionary

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

HUMILITY IN THE MARKETPLACE

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: Believe meunless you change your whole outlook and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  It is the man who can be as humble as this little child who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  (Matt. 18:1-4 NIV and Phillips Trans.)

Strutting, jockeying for position, nudging ahead of the other guy, one-upmanship, put downs, name dropping and self-promotion. Isnt that the name of the game in the asphalt jungle of commerce?  Its all about me. Im the main event. Everything emanates out from me. Orbits around me. Thats precisely what the disciples were concerned about: Who is the greatest? Each year Forbes Magazine informs us as to who are the richest people in America and around the world. Who heads the most successful companies. And we ogle and awe over them, as we envy their esteemed positions, power, and prestige.

Yet Jesus cautioned, Unless you change your whole outlook and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Only the person who has the humility of the child is a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. Personal ambition, personal prestige, personal publicity, [and] personal profit, are motives which can find no place in the life of the Christian. The Christian is the man who forgets self in his devotion to Jesus Christ and in his service of his fellow-men.1

A couple of days ago I played golf with a powerful businessman who, two years ago left the corporate world to head up a mens ministry in a local church.  Soon, after joining the staff, it became apparent that the senior pastor was deeply threatened by him.

In short order, Joe developed imaginative programs that wonderfully connected with the men in the church. Not particularly awe struck by the senior pastor, Joe, as was his custom in the business world, asked him tough questions about the churchs goals and objectives. This spiritual leader, it seems, had met his match and found it bone jarring.  So he is now maneuvering to get Joe off his staff.  Why? Because he intends to remain the greatest in his little kingdom.

Yesterday, I had coffee with a brilliant, and immensely gifted man who exhibits the childlike humility spoken of by Jesus. Gentle, others- centered, totally understated relative to his education and considerable experience and accomplishments, I had to push away his focus on me to ask him about his family, work, etc.

So tell me, why all the strutting and unending need to impress others?  Pride, pure and simple, which one theologian describes as that undue confidence in and attention to ones own skills, accomplishments, state, possessions, or position. 2  (Lk. 1:51; Rom. 1:30; 2 Tim. 3:2, 4; Jms. 4:16; I Jn. 2:16)  But couldnt all that strutting and posturing also be the product of an inner insecurity of not knowing who I am in Christ?  Because if I know I am a child of the King, bought with His blood, loved from all eternity, considered precious in his eyes, a joint-heir with Christ and bound for eternity, can I not relax, and in humility step back and let the screeching masses pass by in their mad scramble to get to the top of the pile? (See Jn. 1:12; I Pet. 2:18,19; Jer. 31:3; Isa. 43:4; Rom. 8:17; Jn. 5:24)

So let me ask you:

  • Do you willingly choose to associate with people less gifted than yourself?  With people of less experience, education, status and resources?  (Rms. 12:16)
  • Do you choose to defer to others in allowing them to take the spotlight, rather than yourself? (Rom. 12:10; Phil. 2:3,4)
  • Are you personally engaged in helping the weak, the poor, the marginalized, and the less attractive in your midst? (Psa. 41:1; Rom. 15:1,2)
  • Are you choosing to understate your image and curb your gluttonous inclinations? (Pro. 15:16; 16:8; 1 Thes. 4:11,12; Heb. 13:5; I Jn. 2:16)
  • If I took a random sampling from among your friends, associates and family members, would they describe you as a broken, others- centered servant?  Or as a status seeking, power grabbing, self-centered climber?  (I Tim. 6:6)

1 Barclay’s Daily Study Bible (NT)

2 Holman Bible Dictionary