Category Archives: leadership

Don’t Waste Your Time in the Prison (Continued)

JosephLast time, we said that being faithful in the small things is necessary if we are going to make the transition from the prison to the palace, as Joseph did (see Genesis 39:20 through 41:44). If we stay close to God’s heart and put Him first, He will give us a good inner sense of how to walk out faithfulness, no matter where we currently are.

Besides serving the jailer with excellence, what else did Joseph do to make his time in the prison worthwhile? Very likely, he kept in close personal communication with the Lord. I doubt if he could have served with integrity if he had not, and without that close relationship, being able to interpret dreams accurately for Pharaoh’s servants, and eventually Pharaoh himself,  would have been unlikely.

We have a hint of something else Joseph did while in prison, found in the story of the king’s butler and baker. Genesis 40:6, 7 tells us that Joseph, in serving these two men, noticed that they were sad. He asked them, Why do you look so sad today?”  That’s an odd question to be asking of prison inmates!  “They said to him, ‘We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it.’ And Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t interpretations belong to God? Please tell me the dreams’'” (v. 8).

Joseph didn’t just perform his designated duties. In the process, he cared about the people he came in contact with. I doubt if most prison workers would be concerned about whether the inmates under their jurisdiction were happy or sad! Joseph offered to listen to the dreams of these two men and to help them with the interpretations. The Bible doesn’t tell us, but if Joseph took the time to converse with and care about the butler and the baker, he might have done the same for the other prisoners as well. He probably knew all their stories  — why they were there and whether they had been justly or unjustly imprisoned.  Because of his own circumstances, he would have had compassion for them.  Suffering will either harden and embitter us, or it will build the heart of God in us.

Now, let’s imagine a little bit. Again, the Bible is silent on what I’m proposing, but as I was talking with the Lord about Joseph’s prison experience, I believe He gave me this insight:

Do you think when Joseph became the prime minister that he forgot about all the prisoners he had come to know? Remember, Joseph had been an innocent victim himself, and he had asked the butler to put in a good word for him when he was restored to Pharaoh’s good graces — but the butler forgot him. After a disappointing experience like that, do you think Joseph just ignored the plight of those who had been imprisoned with him? I doubt it. By this time, Joseph was walking in a level of character maturity that would not have permitted him to be so selfish. It is highly likely that Joseph used his influence with Pharaoh to get some of those other prisoners out of jail, too.

How can we apply these ideas while we are waiting for our own destiny fulfillment?  First of all, it is critical that we not waste our prison time. We can serve, and serve well, right where we are, even if it’s not the ideal situation. We can love while we’re there — encourage, comfort, and listen to others — while we’re waiting. It’s not just about poor us. We’ve got people to care for, which is an eternal work of great value in God’s eyes. In addition, all the faithfulness and giving of ourselves that we do during this time is training for our next level of Kingdom responsibility.

Secondly, when we move from the prison into better times, it’s important to bring others with us. We need to do what we can to lift them into their better place, too. The details of how that works out will be different for each of us, but here are a few ideas:

  1. Use what you have learned in the hard spots to help others through. That’s part of why you went through those difficulties in the first place. “And if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer: or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation” (2 Corinthians 1:6).
  2. Use what influence, insights, and experience you have to help others find their place of serving Jesus.
  3. Don’t sever relationship with people who have come to love you, just because you’ve moved upward or outward — especially when people express a desire to stay connected with you. Whether you realize it or not, some of them may be looking to you as a father or mother in the faith. Don’t abandon your spiritual sons and daughters. Apostle Paul stayed in communication with the churches and individuals whom he had mentored. He prayed for them, too.

May you persevere until you make it from your prison experience into your God-appointed place of service, and may you bear plenty of Kingdom fruit in your process of getting there.


Part 1


Don’t Waste Your Time in the Prison

JosephIf you’ve ever read the story of Joseph, found in Genesis 37 and 39-45, you know how wonderful it is — almost like a fairytale dream come true. An innocent young man is betrayed by his evil brothers, who sell him into slavery.  He eventually ends up about as low as he could go, in a dungeon. And then, overnight, he is catapulted to be prime minister of a world super-power nation.

We so love those rags-to-riches stories, don’t we? How many preachers and teachers have expounded on Joseph’s happy ending, telling us all, “Hang on! Your destiny appointment is on the horizon. You are coming out of that prison, just like Joseph!” I’ve written a few devotionals on that theme myself. We need Joseph’s story to give us hope, to inspire us to press on.

But here’s what we don’t often talk about: how you live in the prison has a lot to do with whether you ever get out. If we don’t tell the whole story, we are not really helping each other.

In Luke 16:10, 12, Jesus commented, “He who is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much, and he who is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. … If you have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who will give you that which is your own?” Jesus was talking about money, but it’s an across-the-board principle: be faithful in the little things, because if you are not, God and man will see no point in entrusting you with bigger things. We learn to handle much responsibility by practicing with the little stuff.

This is where it is entirely possible to miss out on the promises God has given us. There are a whole lot of people who never come into what they were born for — not because God wasn’t faithful, but because they weren’t. So many people with big dreams (which were genuinely implanted in them by God) are looking for the “someday” when, overnight, they will be shot from God’s cannon into a magnificent destiny.  They’ve even had those dreams confirmed multiple times through prophetic words from other people.

But they are forgetting a key point in the story: Joseph served with excellence in the middle of his prison. Yes, Genesis 39:21-23 tells us that God was with Joseph and gave him favor there, but if Joseph hadn’t used that favor to do his job well, how long do you think the keeper of the prison would have left him in charge?

There are people who have huge destiny promises from God, but they can’t be counted on for the simplest things, like being on time — or showing up at all, for that matter. You can’t depend on them to unlock the church door if the regular opener is out of town! For those with basic faithfulness issues, the happy, getting-out-of-prison ending to the tale may never come. Or if it does, those who gave them the promotion may sincerely regret the decision.

So, what did Joseph do, while he was in prison? First of all, he followed directions. That’s a good starting place. But I think he probably went beyond that. He no doubt kept his eyes open for what needed to happen so things could run smoothly. He served the prison keeper with excellence.  It was the same thing he had done previously as Potiphar’s servant. Both Potiphar and the chief jailer came to the place where they knew Joseph wouldn’t drop the ball. He could be counted on. He had their best interests in mind.

Why? I don’t believe personal ambition was the whole story. Joseph was a God-pleaser more than a man-pleaser. That thread runs throughout his biography. And if we want to excel so that we can come out of our prison into our destiny, caring about what God wants more than what we want is a necessary component for our future success. Cherishing God’s heart first and foremost takes us a long way toward walking out the day-to-day faithfulness which is required in order to move onward in His plans for us.

Serving the keeper of the prison with excellence wasn’t all that Joseph did while in that place. I’ve got a few more ideas to share with you next time, which I hope will excite you as much as they did me.

Part 2

Let’s Talk Christian Leadership

I’ve been thinking a lot about Christian leadership lately — what it is and what it is not.  It’s a good idea for anyone who has a leadership role to think it through from time to time, just to make sure we’re still living it out the way Jesus intends us to — because it is easy to slip from the model He set for us.

Jesus knew that the Kingdom leadership concept is foreign to our soulish nature, and that’s why He gave instruction about it:

“You know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.  But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you, let him be your minister, and whoever would be chief among you, let him be your servant.”
Matthew 20:25-27

So, leaders are to serve those whom they lead, exhibiting humility, not being heavy-handed, honoring the ones who follow them.  They are to encourage, care for, and inspire those for whom they have been given responsibility.

Genuine Christlike leadership does not involve bullying, tyrannizing, intimidating, manipulating, and expecting others to bow down to us.  You wouldn’t think I would have to say that, but unfortunately, leaders in the Church do those things sometimes.  Such behaviors are easy to fall into, but they wound people and cause them to bitterly leave  church fellowships behind.

Leaders in the Body of Christ must continually remember the concept of sonship for all believers.  What do I mean by that?  Simply this: every Christian is a son of God, with all having equal value in the Father’s eyes, all having equal covenant and inheritance privileges through Christ.  Revelation 5:10 says  that Jesus, the Lamb of God, “has made us [all] kings and priests unto our God, and we shall [all] reign on the earth.”  We are all royalty, and there is no caste system in God’s family — no Level Two sons with the right to lord it over the Level Ones.  We must never forget that.

Heavy-handed leadership is often rooted in insecurity about one’s ability to lead.  It may involve fear that the leadership position will be taken away, resulting in clutching and striving to retain control.

The antidote is to understand our position in Christ — that we are God’s beloved, and that He will always give us (and help us retain) what is best for us.  Developing trust in Him, and learning to depend on His abilities flowing through us, will help us overcome fears and insecurities about having our ministry position snatched away from us.  We will become the Kingdom leaders that Jesus meant for us to be.

Weighing in on Wisconsin

Wisconsin CapitolI live in Wisconsin.  Yes, that Wisconsin — the one that is so much in the news, with demonstrations and emotions running high, people sleeping for weeks in the capitol building, and governmental functions at a near standstill, while we’re all watching to see where things will go next.

What I have to say is written mostly for those who are living in personal relationship with Jesus.  That said, those who are not Christian believers are certainly welcome to read on, but Jesus’ Church is the audience for which I generally write.

I’ve watched and listened while many of my Christian friends — including teachers, governmental leaders, both union and non-union workers, grandmothers, and students — have come down hard on one side or the other in the debate.  Sometimes I’ve been surprised at which side they’ve come down on.  Sometimes I’ve been surprised at how hard they came down on each other.

I would generally call myself politically conservative, but not always.  You see, conservative perspectives are sometimes in line with the Bible — but sometimes they are less than Christlike (that goes for both liberal and conservative viewpoints, by the way).   “Conservative” is not a synonym for Christian.   And my concern, above all else, is what Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father, “Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” 

My desire for Wisconsin is that the Kingdom of Heaven would manifest here.  I’ve been praying for this for a very long time, and I know the day is coming — a day when the people of God will live as Jesus said we are to live — filled with supernatural power to do the works that Jesus did, effectively receiving answers to prayer, healing the sick, producing God-given solutions to people’s problems, the world around us seeing a loving Christianity so attractive that they are irresistibly drawn to embrace Jesus for themselves.

From the beginning of the outbreak of unrest in Wisconsin, I have been cautious about impulsively praying into the situation without first receiving the Lord’s counsel.  I have been asking Him, “What is Your perspective?  What do You want to do in our state?  What is going on behind the scenes in the spiritual realm?”  I don’t fully understand the answers to those questions yet, but I do know that God is in control, and that He is paving the way for His plans to unfold in our state.  He is shaking what can be shaken, so that His eternal, unshakable purposes will manifest in the natural world around us.

God has great purpose for Wisconsin.  We have the potential to be a forerunner for how the entire nation goes — for good or bad — governmentally, educationally, economically, and spiritually.  That is why it is so important to find God’s perspective and pray for our state from His vantage point, rather than from our emotions, opinions, or what would seem to fall in line with our personal advantage.  As we listen to Him, He will give each one of us specific insights for how we must personally pray.  Even if those insights seem to be small, if they are important enough for God to speak about, they are significant details in the larger picture.

I keep thinking of the Bible story in Joshua 5:13-15.  Joshua enters the land of Canaan and encounters a warrior-like spiritual being.  He asks, “Are you for us, or are you on the side of our enemies?”  The man answers, “Neither.  I come as the Captain of the Lord’s army.”  Joshua’s ensuing action was the response that I believe Wisconsin Christians must have at this time.  He humbled himself and asked, “What do You have to say to Your servant?”

It is a good thing to be responsible citizens of our state and of our nation, to understand the issues and to actively participate for the sake of justice and right causes.  It is an even better thing to always keep in mind as we do so, that we are citizens of a higher kingdom, with higher purposes.  We must first bear loyalty to a greater King and kingdom than the kingdoms of this earth.

We need to pay attention to the challenge that Moses gave to God’s people in Exodus 32:26: ” Who is on the Lord’s side?”  It is an important question which we must solidly answer in our hearts.

Understanding Honor (Part 8) — The Lord’s Reward

We said in the beginning of this series that genuine honor can only come from God.  We also talked about the path to honor, which is honoring others before ourselves – God first, and then other people.

Humility is another prerequisite for receiving honor: “The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility” (Proverbs 15:33).  But, as we said last time, humility is not putting ourselves down.  Humility is lining ourselves up with what God says and depending on Him to care for us, fulfill our destiny in His timing, and bring whatever vindication, recognition, and approbation are needed, as He sees fit.  Humility is a place of rest in Him.

The devil’s lie to mankind has always been that God is trying to keep us from having good things, including honor.  The story of Balaam and Balak in Numbers 22-24 is a prime example.  King Balak tried to flatter Balaam, a prophet who was also involved in sorcery, into cursing Israel for him.  The rewards dangled in front of Balaam were money, recognition, and power.

Balaam blessed Israel, rather than cursing them, although not out of a pure heart of obedience toward God.  And Balak responded with anger: “Therefore now flee to your place: I thought to promote you to great honor; but, look, the LORD has held you back from honor” (Numbers 24:11).  Nothing could have been further from the truth.  Had Balaam yielded himself in pure devotion to the Lord, God would have seen to his honor.  But Balaam believed what the king was accusing God of – because it was what he was already convinced of in his deceived heart.  The result?  Balaam devised a plan to destroy Israel, whom he knew were the beloved of God, and he was killed in battle while siding with Israel’s enemies (Numbers 31:16; Numbers 31:8).

We are all apt to make the same mistake that Balaam made – attempting to seize honor for ourselves by manipulation or by receiving the flatteries of men.  And the root of conniving to get honor for ourselves is believing that God does not want to give us good things.  Sometimes the opportunities that arise for temporary or premature honor are pretty tempting.  But if we care most of all about what God thinks of us and if we understand that He truly loves to honor His own, we will keep out of the trap. 

How can you believe, who receive honor from each other, and do not seek the honor that comes only from God? John 5:44 

If any man serves me, let him follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. The man who serves me is the man whom my Father will honor.John 12:26 

By understanding the destiny purpose that God has for us, as well as who we are in Christ Jesus, we can function confidently in the position He has given us.  Sure, this requires stepping into that place little by little, as God releases us into it.  Coming into our destiny takes a great deal of patience and dependence on the Lord.  We have to let Him lead in the timing, or we are likely to make a mess by stepping ahead of Him.  (Moving ahead of God is often where we get into striving for honor.)

In conclusion, seek the honor of God above all else.  If you strive for the honor of men, it will always elude you.  But as you rest in the honor of God, the honor of men will overtake you without you ever knowing how.

Previous: Understanding Honor (Part 7) — Honoring Ourselves


All-Surpassing Peace in a Shaking World, by Lee Ann Rubsam