We are looking at five implications for leaders taken from Philippians 2:7, where Paul tells us that Jesus “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant.” Are we ready to lead in this selfless, sacrificial way? If so, here is the fifth of five ways that leading in obedience to Christ will require of us that we become leaders of no reputation.
Surefire Way #5. Lead by waiting for God’s timing in everything. We live and lead in an age of rapid change and the pressure it puts on leaders to make quick decisions. Almost certainly the need for decisiveness will come into conflict with our desire to follow God’s leading and lead according to God’s timing. When those two collide, consider the story of Lazarus. Jesus gets word that his dear friend Lazarus is deathly ill. The Great Physician, the healer and miracle worker is alerted that his power is needed now to save his friend’s life. Surely he will jump up and go at once to his aid. What other possible reaction could he have?
Jesus, however, does not react as others expected. Instead we are told that, “When he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.” And while Jesus tarried, while he was seemingly unwilling to make a decision in a timely manner, Lazarus died. I can only imagine that the disciples were urging Jesus to act, questioning his decision to delay and even started to doubt the sincerity of all of his talk about loving one’s neighbor. If he couldn’t even be bothered to come to the aid of his dying friend, what does it say about everything else he has been teaching?
Martha, too, had her doubts. She meets the Messiah with a thinly veiled accusation, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” In other words, you let us down, you weren’t the person we thought you were, you failed us when we needed you most. The reputation of the Son of God was being called into question.
The dialogue that follows and Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead serve to exonerate his decision to wait. His delay provided him one of the most powerful teaching moments in all of Scripture. All because for those two short days, Jesus chose obedience to God’s timing over preserving his reputation.
I believe as leaders there is as much to learn about Jesus’ decision to wait as there is in his miraculous actions. Jesus demonstrates that we are to do God’s will above all else… all else! Jesus remained for two days in obedience to the work God sent him to do. He did not give in to pressure to jump to the solution and be the hero. He did not take matters into his own hands (thanks, Lord, but I’ve got this one covered). And while he waited, he did not run around trying to shore up his reputation and correct any misunderstandings people may have of his actions, or in this case, his inaction. He simply obeyed and waited until God’s timing was right.
One of the hardest, yet most freeing lessons I learned about Christian leadership is that we are not the caretakers of our own reputation. We obey God’s leading and trust God with our reputation. When we try to do it ourselves we are constantly distracted by the need to manage and manipulate the way others see us. Too often we will worry so much about what people may think that we shrink back from doing what God calls us to do.
Leaders who are committed to following Christ will continually find themselves in situations where reputation must be set aside in favor of obedience. One of those is our need to wait for God’s timing and avoid the pressure to make decisions according to our time-lines, to respond to worldly pressures and to meet human demands and expectations.
Decisions without discernment always end in disaster. Waiting on God takes courage, and will sometimes make us seem cowardly, indecisive and uncaring. Waiting requires patience that might be mistaken for procrastination. Waiting requires faith that may cause many to question our fortitude. Yet following Christ as a leader means setting aside the need to build and nurture our own reputation. It requires an unwavering faith in God’s prefect timing, and while we wait, taking on the mantle of a leader of no reputation.
“They all wait for you, and you give them their meat in due season.” Psalm 104:27