When Leaders are Denied Riding Shotgun
This is an adaptation of a devotional I gave recently to a group of Canadian Baptist leaders from across our country in Montreal. I’ve tweaked it some to apply to a broader scope of us – leaders in ministry, businesses, schools, teams and families.
I am amazed that the God of the universe would ask us “What do you want me to do for you?”
If you look in Mark 10:35-52 Jesus asks it twice of two different groups of people and they have two very different responses. Andrew Glidden, my teammate, shared this insight with me over a month ago now and it has been stirring in me ever since.
Jesus asks James and John “What do you want me to do for you?” (v36) and their response is “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” (v37)
Jesus asks blind Bartimaeus “What do you want me to do for you?” (v51) and his response is “I want to see.”
It has got me thinking, when Jesus asks me “What do you want me to do for you?” is my response more like James and John or more like Bartimaeus.
Jesus responds to James and John’s request by saying:
“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
“We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” (v38-40)
Here is the amazing part:
Jesus just said that we can drink the cup He drinks and be baptized in the same way as Jesus.
Look at what we get to do!!!
We get to be servants of Jesus! To offer to others, His drink, His sacrifice….To be baptized into the family of God and offer others the same baptism because of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
I wonder if James and John caught that in His response or if they just heard the part about being denied shotgun.
I, we, can be so concerned with what we don’t get, we miss the opportunity right in front of us.
Are we missing what we get to do, the amazing opportunity before us, because we’re worried about what is out of control? There are lots of things out of our control but what amazing opportunities right before us, drinking the same cup, offering the same baptism as Jesus.
We’re worried about many other things.
James and John want to know, what position do they get? Will they get promoted? What about their future? What will the headline be? What will the tweet say?
When the other disciples become mad at James and John for what they were asking, Jesus redefines greatness, redefines LEADERSHIP for us:
“When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (v41-45)
Jesus redefines greatness, leadership for us. The greatest leader is the servant, the slave of all.
It is laying down my wants, my desires, my pride, my titles, my life…for others, for Jesus.
Jesus told us that those who believe in Him will do even greater things (John 14:12) because He’s going to the Father. I’ve always thought of these “greater things” as things like healing and preaching.
However, Jesus has redefined greatness as the slave of all.
So, the greater things we get to do is out-serve Jesus.
We will do even greater things than Jesus, in that we will get to out-serve Jesus, we will get to lay down our lives, we will get to sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom, we will get to lay down our titles just as the King of the universe lay down His title. In the name and power of Jesus, we will get to out serve Jesus, the One who gave his life as a ransom for many.
Look what Jesus told James and John, and tells us, that we get to do, instead of focusing on what we don’t get and what is out of our control.
James and John, and us, Jesus says, get to be apart of seeing God’s kingdom come here - of offering the Lord’s cup, the Lord’s sacrifice, of offering baptism in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We get to show and tell the Gospel everyday.
God invites us to be a part of His Kingdom coming here on earth as it is in heaven now.
NO, we don’t get to decide our title, our position, as we do that.
We don’t get to decide which opportunities come our way and which doors get closed.
We don’t get to decide if we get recognized for our work or trampled on for our work.
We don’t get to decide if people (or a church or organization) gets angry with us or loves us for our work.
We don’t get to decide what other people are saying about us.
We don’t get to decide if that means we deal more with dying churches or thriving churches.
We don’t get to decide if that means we are dealing with a nose-diving economy or thriving economy.
Often we don’t get to decide when team members will leave us and when they will stay.
We don’t get to decide if we sit on the right or the left, or 152 chairs down or 3053 chairs down
….as we serve our King.
BUT, daily, we do get to decide if we’ll take up the cup that HAS been given to us and pour it out as our offering, as a sacrifice.
We do get to decide if we will be faithful each day, to be a servant of Jesus.
We get to decide to use what has been given us, including our position, as an opportunity to serve.
Trusting Jesus that He’s the one that figures out the rest - the role, the position, the opportunities we need or don’t need, to serve His Kingdom best.
As Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” in this season is my response more like James and John or like Bartimaeus?
Blind Bartimaeus response was very different than that of James and John.
It was very simple.
“Rabbi, I want to see.” (v51) To which Jesus replies “Go, your faith has healed you.” (v52)
No big speech from Jesus this time.
A simple request, “I want to see.”
Is that my response, "Lord, I want to see the world”
“Jesus, I want to see the world as you see the world.”
During the month of October the CBAC Youth and Family team challenged youth groups, children’s ministry and churches in Neighbouring Month. Daily challenges that invited people to open their senses to where God is at work right around them.
Is that my desire?
“Lord I want to see”
“Lord open my senses to where you are at work around me each day and I will join you.”
This is about faithfulness each day, instead of worrying about my position, my recognition and the things I can’t control.
This is a simple prayer to see.
One morning, a couple of years ago now, I was out for a run on a chilly winter morning in Saint John, NB. As I was running along Harbour Passage I saw a man walking towards me that looked like he had been up all night and was likely homeless. When I got close he shouted out “What time is it?” I answered “6:20” He said “Oh good, only 40 minutes until breakfast opens.” As I ran away the thought “How privileged am I?” stung my heart. Here I am exercising for fun, not to stay warm, and I’m headed home to a warm house and warm coffee.
Friends, how privileged are we?
Think of all your privilege.
This isn’t a guilt trip – this is an opportunity to take what the Lord has given and pour it out as an offering. It’s an opportunity to pray “I want to see” and use what you have been given to join God’s work around you.
Such different responses we can have to the question “What do you want me to do for you?”
How easy it is, I’m discovering in leadership, to have James and John’s response sneak in:
- to desire others/churches/leaders to praise us
- to want a different seat
- to get our drive from who is calling us or the size of our pay cheque
- to lead it myself instead of releasing it to a young person to lead
- to be more concerned with our expense account than the state of our churches or world
- to lean into our title instead of lean into Jesus
- to have the luxury of just talking about change instead of leading change
- to be more concerned about politics and policies than peacemaking
- to become more concerned with the meal I’m going to get when I am on the road, than the meal the poor go without in my own city
- to have the luxury just to have another meeting about it, instead of following what I know was God’s Holy Spirit nudge
- to ask Jesus, can I sit at your right or left?
I don’t know how it sneaks into your heart, but I know it sneaks into mine.
Jesus, can I sit at your right or left?
My prayer is, we’d leave those things, those concerns to Jesus.
My prayer is each day we’d faithfully say to Jesus, open my eyes to see You and what You are up to in me and around me, and I will join your work.
Lord, I want to see.
-Renée @r_embree #1neighbourhood
In response, reflect on this “Private Litany of Humility” -Adapted from a prayer by Rafael, Cardinal Merry Del Val (1865-1930) From the prayer book, For Jesuits, Loyola Press, 1963
From the desire of being praised, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honoured, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of comfort and ease, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being criticized, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being passed over, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being lonely, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being hurt, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering, deliver me, Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like yours.
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, strengthen me with your Spirit.
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, teach me your ways.
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, help me put my self importance aside
to learn the kind of cooperation with others that makes possible the presence of your Abba’s household.