I am a lover of anticipation. I enjoy the days leading up to a vacation almost as much as the vacation itself. My mind and attention would rather walk the streets of tomorrow’s possibilities than trudge the steep paths of today’s realities. As a result, I must rely on the joys and satisfactions in life coming more from how things will be or should be than from how they actually are.
Are you at all like me? In leadership we can call this being ‘visionary’. We see ahead to where we want to go and we are calling our organizations into that new reality. This is an important characteristic of a leader.
There are, however, dangers in this. Paul admonishes the church in Thessalonica to,
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ~1 Thessalonians 5:16-19.
If we are seeking to lead a steward leaders, then this verse from Thessalonians is a powerful reminder of a key biblical truth – we cannot steward tomorrow. My tendency to focus on what lies ahead too often gets me caught up in the game I call the ‘if-only’ and ‘when-then’ game. See if you are a fellow game player. It goes like this.
If only we ______ , then we could _______. Fill in the blanks for yourself. If only we had more money, then we could… If only our board would step up to the plate then we could… If only we could hire the right person then we could… When we as leaders get caught up in living for what could be we miss the opportunity to be effective steward leaders of what is.
The other part of the game is similar but even more debilitating. When we _______, then we will _______. Again you can fill in the blanks. When we get that big grant, then we will really be able to… When we raise enough funds, then we can … When Tom finally retires, then we will be free to…. When we are leaders who live for a ‘when-then’ future we will tend to de-value the present. We will be tempted to put things on hold until the ‘when’ happens. Leaders can put their entire ministry into near paralysis waiting for what is still ‘out there’ to be secured.
As steward leaders we reject these games as distractions and take today seriously. Today is all we have been given and God expects us to invest it wisely and lavishly in kingdom work.
The verse from Thessalonians tells us to rejoice always. That means today, this minute, right in the middle of the reality of this moment. We must watch for the deceptive attitude that says, ‘When such and such happens, then I will rejoice.’ The verse also tells us to give thanks in all circumstances. ‘All’ means the very circumstances we are in today. It is the present situation cut loose from the ‘what ifs.’ It forces us to consider that the work of today, the situations we find ourselves in and the challenges we face are worthy of our thanksgiving to God. Finally, it tells us to pray continually. Again this is a reminder that we need God’s guidance moment-by-moment, for His presence and leading for us in this day.
Have you missed opportunities to steward the work God gave you each day by giving in to the distraction of ‘if only’ and ‘when-then’ thinking? We can hide behind the guise that we are being ‘visionary’, but in truth we are just escaping from the battle God calls us into each new morning.
My friends, God has given us all we need to be faithful stewards today. He has fulfilled His promises to us completely in this day and all He asks is that we acknowledge His provision through a leadership style replete with rejoicing, thanksgiving and prayer. Just as we are warned not to borrow the sorrow from tomorrow, so we must remember neither can we steward an ‘if-only’ and ‘when-then’ approach to leadership.
Today, right now, our lives and ministries are ripe with opportunities. Let us refuse to let the enemy steal them while we wait for a tomorrow that will never live up to its billing. Instead, proclaim with David, ‘this is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.’ Psalm 118:24
R. Scott Rodin, Ph.D. has been in not-for-profit leadership and consulting for twenty-five years. He has served as counsel to over 100 organizations across the country and in Canada and Great Britain including colleges, seminaries, schools, churches, para-church ministries and other not-for-profit organizations. Visit his blog at Kingdom Life Publishing.
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