Speaking the Truth, Without Envy

What leaders say matters. The way they say it also matters!

Paul calls us to speak the “truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).Then he adds that love “does not envy” (1 Corinthians 13:4).So, servant leaders are called to speak “truth without envy.”

Envy is a desire to possess what another other person has. This may be a desire for what that person has materially or a position or honor that the person enjoys. I may envy that person’s success in ministry, business or career. Envy is a condition of my heart which will often be expressed in the way I talk. Speaking the truth without envy means that I speak truth with no desire to gain what the other person has. My speech does not change because of the other person’s success and I am able to rejoice in any success the other experiences.

As we reflect on what this means, imagine a situation in which a friend tells you that a peer of yours, working in the same profession, is doing much better than you are. You learn that their business (or church) is growing rapidly or that they just received a promotion in their career. After listing all the achievements, your friend looks at you and asks, “What do you think about that?” What will you say? How can a servant leader respond by speaking the truth without envy?   

Speaking the truth without envy requires balance.

Will you envy that person or speak the truth? What will you say if the truth is that you are envious? It’s not likely that you’ll say, “I really wish I was as successful as my friend!” It is more likely that because of envy, you will minimize their success, perhaps by suggesting that their success is not earned. You may respond, “I doubt they could have succeeded like that without cheating. They must be compromising, paying bribes or avoiding taxes.” If it is a successful church you may say, “They must have compromised the true Gospel if that many people are coming!”

In these responses you expose your envy and minimize the truth. Or, because of envy, you may change the “truth” of your own situation to make things look better than they really are. You may say, “That’s great but I’m also expecting a promotion soon!”

  Servant leaders acknowledge the truth, but without envy. The person has done well, perhaps because of God’s favor, or their hard work, or both. You might respond, “That’s awesome, I’m so glad for them!” Is that true? If, as you speak these words, you know that what you are speaking is not truth, it is pretending to rejoice while your heart is filled with envy. Servant leaders speak without envy and without changing the truth.

Speaking the truth without envy reveals maturity.

To see someone else succeed and not have envy in our hearts is a sign of maturity! We are naturally selfish and want the best for ourselves with little concern for others. It is hard to rejoice in another person’s success when our hearts are focused on our own success! No leader can speak the truth without envy unless they have died to their own selfish desires.

Servant leaders lay down their own egos and rejoice in the success of another. They recognize that their tongue is connected to their heart and until their heart is set free from envy, their speech will reflect their heart. It takes most of us a long time to reach this level of maturity!

Speaking the truth without envy reflects Jesus.

Jesus did not envy the success of others, instead He rejoiced in it. Consider His words, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).

There is not a hint of envy as Jesus spoke of great success for those who would follow. In fact, Jesus seems to enjoy the reality that His disciples would do more than He had done. His ministry was confined to the nation of Israel while they would take the gospel to the nations. He was speaking the truth without envy and servant leaders learn to speak in the same way.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What is my natural tendency, to speak “truth without envy” or to be “envious”? What is the result in my leadership?   
  • When have I spoken with envy? What was the result in my own life and in the life of the person to whom I spoke?  
  • Reflect on John the Baptist’s statement in John 3:27-30. In what way could John have been tempted to speak with envy? What can we learn from his example?
  • Can I think of another time when Jesus could have been envious but instead spoke the truth with no hint of envy? What can I learn from His example?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2019

Speaking the Truth, Kindly

Paul calls us to speak the “truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) and also says “Love is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4). What does it mean for a leader to speak truth kindly? To be kind is to think about the other person’s feelings and not cause any harm or damage. So, leaders who speak truth kindly consider carefully how their words will impact the other person. They are intentionally careful not to cause harm to that person.

Speaking the truth kindly requires balance. Truth and kindness are both important and need to be balanced. Some leaders may be so concerned about kindness that they are afraid to speak the truth. This “kindness” damages the relationship because the truth is not revealed. But truth spoken harshly will also damage the relationship!

For example, if a worship leader prepares well but did not choose good songs, the pastor may say, “Those songs were terrible!” Is this the truth? Yes, but it was not spoken kindly! But if the pastor only says “You really prepared well,” it may be kind, but the truth that the worship leader needs to hear is not spoken. Both are needed.

The leader could speak truth kindly, “Thank you for leading the worship. I can tell that you prepared very well. However, I don’t think the songs were the best for our people. Let’s talk more about how to select good songs.” Servant leaders learn to balance truth with kindness.

Speaking the truth kindly reveals maturity. Some leaders speak truth with little care about the impact their message will have on the person who listens. They just want the truth to be known! They don’t stop to think about how the other person will receive their message.

Mature servant leaders think before they speak! They ask themselves, “What impact will the truth have on this person? What would I feel if I were in their place? How can I speak this truth as kindly as possible?” This is not easy and does not come naturally to most leaders, but kindness is a fruit of the Spirit. As leaders mature, God helps them to speak truth with kindness.

Speaking the truth kindly reflects Jesus. Jesus was able to speak truth in a kind way.

13People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them (Mark 10:13-16).

The disciples were rebuking children, sending them away from Jesus. They were not even attempting to be kind! Jesus was not happy when he saw them—he was “indignant” or angry with the disciples!

Many leaders speak harsh words very quickly when they feel angry. In this situation they might say to the disciples, “What do you think you are doing? I didn’t tell you to turn them away, you’re wrong. Stop rebuking those parents!” This is all true, but not kind! The disciples were wrong in rebuking the parents who brought their children to Jesus. And they needed to know the truth!

Jesus spoke the truth but did it kindly even when he was angry. He spoke so carefully that He had children in His arms as He spoke the truth. He corrected the disciples but didn’t embarrass them publicly for their mistake. He treated the disciples and the children with kindness. The disciples heard and saw the truth expressed so kindly that they never forgot the lesson.

Servant leaders make an impact by speaking the truth kindly. They carefully consider the impact their words will have on the other and use kindness to allow the truth to penetrate as deeply as possible.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

• What is my natural tendency: to speak “truth” or to be “kind”? What is the result in my leadership?
• When have I spoken truth, but not with kindness? What results did I see in my own life and in the life of the person to whom I spoke? How could I have spoken the truth in that situation with kindness? Do I need to apologize to that person?
• Can I think of another time when Jesus spoke kindly? What can I learn from His example?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2019. 

Speaking the Truth, Patiently

Paul calls us to speak the “truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) and also says “Love is patient” (1 Corinthians 13:4). How can leaders speak the truth patiently? Patience simply means to accept delays without becoming angry or annoyed. So, speaking the truth patiently requires leaders to think carefully about the timing of their words. They acknowledge that sometimes speaking the truth in love requires waiting or taking more time than they might want to take.

Speaking the truth patiently requires balance.

Truth needs to be expressed, but patience requires a willingness to wait. The two must be balanced to speak truth in love. Some leaders may be so “patient” that they never actually speak the truth!

More often, leaders may want to just get the truth out too quickly. They quote Jesus’ words, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).And they reason, “The sooner this person knows the truth, the better!” But speaking truth with patience requires balance. Servant leaders learn that they need to wait for the right time to speak the truth.

Speaking truth with patience may mean waiting until the person is ready for the truth. There may be a situation that requires waiting for a person to change so they are open to hear the truth. Sometimes speaking the truth in the presence of other persons may bring shame to the person instead of encouraging change. Servant leaders recognize that without patience, truth will not “set you free.” They are willing to wait for the right time to speak the truth. They recognize that love for the person is as important as love for the truth.

Speaking the truth patiently reveals maturity.

Immature leaders rush to speak the truth with little thought to timing. Truth often seems more urgent to proclaim than it really is. As leaders mature, they allow the fruit of patience to develop in their lives and sometimes choose to wait to speak the truth. They allow time for God to shape their own heart which may reveal a wrong motive. Mature leaders realize that not everyone is ready for truth at the same time and they are willing to wait with patience. Servant leaders wait for the right time, the right context, and the right motive.

Speaking the truth patiently reflects Jesus.

Jesus, a master leader, was able to wait for the right time to speak truth. He knew that Peter would deny him and spoke that truth to Peter in the upper room during the Passover meal (Luke 22:34). Later, Jesus was arrested, and Peter followed him to the courtyard of the High Priest where he denied knowing Jesus three times.

60Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 6 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:60-62)

As Peter finished his third betrayal, Jesus turns and looks at Peter. What was the truth in this situation? Peter had failed and betrayed His Lord. Many leaders would quickly speak the truth, “I told you that you would fail!”

But what does Jesus say? Nothing! Jesus was patient. He knew that this was not the right time to speak the truth. Peter needed time to weep and reflect on his actions.

Later, Jesus would come back to Peter and gently restore him by asking three times, “Peter, do you love me?” Then He called Peter to take care of “my sheep” (John 21:15-19). There was a time for truth, but Jesus spoke it only after waiting patiently.

Like Jesus, servant leaders learn to speak truth…patiently!

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What is my natural tendency, to speak “truth” or to be “patient”? What is the result in my leadership?
  • When have I spoken truth, but not with patience? What was the result in my own life and in the life of the person to whom I spoke? What would have been a better time to speak truth?
  • Can I think of another time when Jesus waited patiently to speak the truth? What can I learn from His example?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2019.

Speaking the Truth in Love

Your words matter, a lot! It matters what you say, how you say it and why you say what you do! Solomon’s words, “the tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21), are true for everyone, but should especially challenge leaders who use their tongues to influence others.

In my leadership, I have often reflected on Paul’s exhortation to speak the “truth in love.” He says, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).

Recently, however, a colleague* challenged me to think more deeply about what it means to balance truth and love. He linked this “truth in love” statement with Paul’s description of love, 4“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

So, speaking the “truth in love” demands that we speak truth patiently, with kindness, without envy, and so on down the list. That list gives me a lot to work on as a leader!

In this series we will look at the list one by one to discover how speaking truth in love will impact our leadership. First, in this issue, let’s reflect on what we learn as servant leaders from Paul about “speaking the truth in love.”

Speaking truth in love requires balance.

Truth and love often seem to conflict with each other. We choose to speak the truth or we speak with love. I have often spoken words to my spouse which offended her. But then I defended myself by saying, “But it’s the truth!” Yes, it was truth, but not spoken in love! Without a balance, the relationship was damaged. In other situations, I find it difficult to speak the truth with courage. I fear that I will hurt the person and damage our relationship. So, I avoid speaking the truth. But again, the relationship is weakened because there is no balance of truth and love.

Some personalities and some cultures will naturally speak truth while others find it easier to speak with love. But to all of us Paul says we must speak “truth in love.” Servant leaders learn to balance truth and love. This is not easy, and it is a journey! Paul says, “we will grow…” as we learn this art. In this series we’ll learn that while we may have mastered one element of speaking truth in love, there will be another that needs work!

Speaking truth in love reveals maturity.

Paul says that as we learn to speak truth in love, we will “grow to become mature.” How mature are you as a leader? You might think of your leadership position or role. You might count the number of years you have served as a leader. But Paul’s instruction reminds us that our ability to speak truth with love reveals how mature we are. Servant leaders measure maturity not in years of leadership, but in how well they speak the truth in love.

Speaking truth in love reflects Jesus.

Paul reminds us that as we mature, we reflect Christ, the head of the church. John describes Jesus as one, “who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”(John 1:14).He was full of both grace and truth, or love, a perfect balance. Jesus rebuked sharply and spoke tenderly. He courageously confronted injustice but spoke gently to the woman at the well.

In this series we’ll observe how Jesus spoke truth in love in every imaginable situation. The goal of all servant leaders is to reflect Jesus in all they do. As servant leaders learn to speak like Jesus, balancing truth and love, they learn to lead like Jesus.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Where am I on the journey to balance truth and love? How does my culture influence me in this? How does my personality impact me in whether I more easily speak the truth or speak with love? What would a better balance look like at home? In my area of service?           
  • What is my maturity level if measured by how well I speak the truth in love? Would those under my leadership rate me as strong, average or weak in the way I express truth and love?
  • Reflect on a recent conversation with a colleague or friend. Was my speech more loving or more truthful, or was it balanced? What can I learn about myself from that conversation? In what way could I have strengthened that relationship with a better balance of truth and love?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2019.

The Leader and Emotion: Peace

We have looked a David’s life to reflect on all kinds of emotions including joy, sorrow, fear, anger, guilt and vengeance. We’ll conclude our reflections on emotion with peace…a pleasant place to finish!  

1Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. 2Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. 3How long will you assault me? Would all of you throw me down— this leaning wall, this tottering fence? 4Surely they intend to topple me from my lofty place; they take delight in lies. With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse. 5Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. 6Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. 7My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. 8Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge (Psalm 62:1-8).

David writes these words from a place of peaceful rest. He mentions rest several times as well as calls God his “rock”, “fortress”, and “refuge.” What does he teach us about peace?

Peace should be recognized. David says, “Truly my soul finds rest in God.” He is at a place of peaceful rest. Peace is an emotion we can easily overlook because it does not have the intensity of many other emotions. We are more likely to recognize when we feel anxious or angry. There are no loud bells or whistles to alert us to this emotion, just a quiet sense that our soul is at rest. When we are experiencing peace, it may feel so comfortable that we don’t recognize it!

We may believe that the emotion of peace can be experienced only when all is well. But David makes it clear that he is experiencing peace during an assault from his enemies! David helps servant leaders learn to recognize that peace is possible even during difficult times.

Peace should be revealed. David reveals that he is at a place of peace and rest. He reveals this emotion to himself and to others. He speaks about the state of his soul as he says, “my soul finds rest in God.” He also speaks to his soul, “Yes, my soul, find rest in God…” He invites servant leaders to not only reveal emotion but to direct their emotion in the proper direction. Finally, he invites others to join him in this emotion, “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” His call is an invitation to all servant leaders who lack peace. David invites us to focus on God as a refuge for whatever storm we may be encountering.

When peace is missing, it may indicate that we are focused on the storm swirling around us instead of the “rock” who provides peace in the storm. Servant leaders learn to reveal peace and know what to do when they find it missing.

Peace should be restrained. Many of the emotions we have looked at need wise restraint to minimize any negative impact. But peace is generally a very positive emotion. It seems that we should desire more peace, not less! Yes, peace is a great emotion and most leaders should seek more of it. But there are also ways it can hinder our leadership.

A leader may enjoy a sense of peace so much that he/she is not willing to make difficult decisions and move forward courageously. Leaders cannot be satisfied with the way things are; they desire to bring change. They should do this with a peaceful spirit, but with many other emotions involved to overcome the friction of movement. There may also be times when peace is the wrong emotion. In the face of injustice, anger may be a more appropriate emotion than peace! So, servant leaders learn, as with other emotions, that peace at times should be restrained.

May you experience peace, as well as the full range of other emotions that God created us to feel. And may your leadership reflect appropriate expressions of them all! Use the ‘feelings wheel’ below to remind you that feelings are an important part of our journey.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Would others describe me as a peaceful person?
  • Have I learned to “speak” to my soul as David did? If not, stop and practice! Reflect on what emotions you feel in your soul, then speak words of correction to yourself.
  • Do I tend to experience too little or too much peace? What does David teach me about how to correct that?
  • At the end of this series on emotions, take some time to reflect with the following questions:
    • How have I grown in my awareness of how I am feeling?
    • How have I changed in my willingness to let others know my emotions?
    • How have these changes impacted my leadership?              

In the next issue, we’ll begin a series on speaking the truth in love!  

Copyright, Global Disciples 2019

The Leader and Emotion: Vengeance

When someone has opposed your leadership, have you ever wished you could just hit them in the face? Or, knowing that action doesn’t sound very Christian, did you wish God would do the same?

Every leader has moments when the natural response is to take revenge and see someone else suffer. David certainly had these times in his life as he experienced opposition from many different places. Psalm 109 records one of these situations.  

1My God, whom I praise, do not remain silent, 2for people who are wicked and deceitful have opened their mouths against me; they have spoken against me with lying tongues. 3With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause. 4In return for my friendship they accuse me, but I am a man of prayer. 5They repay me evil for good, and hatred for my friendship. 6Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy; let an accuser stand at his right hand.  When he is tried, let him be found guilty, and may his prayers condemn him. 8May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership. 9May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. 10May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes. 11May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor…. 27Let them know that it is your hand, that you, LORD, have done it. 28While they curse, may you bless; may those who attack me be put to shame, but may your servant rejoice. 29May my accusers be clothed with disgrace and wrapped in shame as in a cloak. 30With my mouth I will greatly extol the LORD; in the great throng of worshippers I will praise him. 31For he stands at the right hand of the needy, to save their lives from those who would condemn them (Psalm 109:1-11; 27-31).

Vengeance should be recognized. David recognizes what he is feeling. He wants revenge! He wants those who oppose him to suffer! Vengeance is a strong emotion that stirs up intense feelings.

Many leaders would prefer not to acknowledge these kinds of feelings since they seem so wrong. But servant leaders learn to recognize vengeance. They acknowledge that it is better to recognize vengeance than to pretend it does not exist.

Vengeance should be revealed. David recognizes his emotion and writes it down for all of us to see! (There is more revealed if you take time to read the entire chapter!) Although David is a “leader after God’s own heart,” he is secure enough to be honest with what he feels and to share this with everyone.

Many Christian leaders find this emotion difficult to reveal since it seems so negative and so unlike Christ. What will others think about me if I reveal what I am feeling? Yet, until vengeance is revealed it cannot be redeemed. Servant leaders learn to reveal vengeance knowing that as they do, God will be able to direct them to deal with it in an appropriate way.

Vengeance should be restrained. While David revealed his desire for vengeance on his enemies, he fortunately did not act on his feelings! Instead, he goes to worship with others. As he worships, David understands that it is God who will “save their lives from those who would condemn them.”

Servant leaders learn to restrain their vengeance. They don’t allow their leadership position to become a place to attack their enemies. They learn to join with others in worship and turn their desire for revenge over to God. He is the only one that can save us from those who condemn us as He also saves us from the poison of revenge in our own hearts.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • When is the last time I was hurt and really wanted revenge? What situation produced this emotion? Did I acknowledge and reveal my emotion or pretend it wasn’t there? Did I take it to God and ask Him to deliver me from the poison of revenge in my own heart?
  • Reflect on Romans 12:17-21. What does it mean to “leave room for God’s wrath”? How can God change my heart so that I am able to bless my enemy? 
  • Is it possible for our desire for vengeance to be in line with God’s judgement of wickedness? How do we know when our hearts and His are aligned?       

The Leader and Emotion: Anxiety

What will happen to me tomorrow? Will I be able to pay the bills? Can I overcome the obstacles I am facing? What if I lose my job?

Every leader deals with questions like these about the future. These questions can easily lead to anxiety—a feeling of worry or nervousness about an imagined threat or future event.* In this issue, we’ll examine how David experienced the emotion of anxiety and what we can learn as servant leaders from his life.

16Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers? 17Unless the LORD had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. 18When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, LORD, supported me. 19When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. 20Can a corrupt throne be allied with you—a throne that brings on misery by its decrees? 21The wicked band together against the righteous and condemn the innocent to death. 22But the LORD has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge. 23He will repay them for their sins and destroy them for their wickedness; the LORD our God will destroy them. (Psalm 94:16-23)

Anxiety should be recognized. David has many questions as he wrestles with God in this psalm. He questions whether there will be justice for those who oppose him. These questions troubled him to the extent that he felt that his “foot is slipping,” and could lead him to the “silence of death.” In the middle of his questions he recognizes that he has anxiety in his heart.

Anxiety is usually seen as a negative emotion, so it is more difficult for leaders to acknowledge. David might have paused to ask himself, “What am I feeling?” At least he recognized his emotion of anxiety.

Many leaders don’t stop to recognize what they are feeling and may not even be aware of the anxiety in their souls. But servant leaders learn to recognize anxiety and be honest about what they are feeling.

Anxiety should be revealed. David recognizes his anxiety and brings it to the surface. Because anxiety is not a healthy or positive emotion, many leaders try to ignore it, to pretend that it’s not there or to call it by another name! But David is honest enough to admit that he has a “great” amount of anxiety!

We can learn from David that anxiety thrives in secrecy but can be dealt with when it is revealed. Servant leaders learn to reveal their anxiety. They find a trusted friend or counselor with whom they can be completely honest. They are not afraid to say, “I’m filled with anxiety about….” Sometimes the honest confession is enough to break the grip of anxiety in the life of the leader.

Anxiety should be restrained. All leaders look towards the future and can be immobilized by anxiety and unanswered questions. But David’s response to his anxiety shows us that this emotion does not need to control our leadership. As he revealed his anxiety, he quickly came to a place of hope. God’s “consolation” brought him joy to replace the anxiety. In the final verses of this chapter, he acknowledges that God is his “fortress” and the One who will take care of his future.

David teaches us to focus on the One who controls the future, instead of the lies our enemy wants us to believe. Servant leaders learn to restrain their anxiety as they trust God for their future and then lead others with courage.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What situations in my own life bring me the greatest temptation to be anxious? 
  • How aware am I that I feel anxious? Am I able to quickly recognize this emotion?
  • Are there fears that keep me from revealing to others that I am anxious about the future? What does this say about what is happening in my soul?
  • What is at the root of my anxiety? What lies am I believing about myself, this situation, or about God?
  • In what way does my anxiety represent a lack of trust in God?
  • Reflect on 1 Peter 5:7. What does this verse teach me about my anxiety?

*We have already examined how David responded to fear which relates to a known danger or event. Anxiety differs from fear as it focuses on a future imagined event.

Copyright, Global Disciples 2018. 

The Leader and Emotion: Fear

We all face situations that bring fear. Fear can be a very natural response to a situation that presents danger or harm to us. Our bodies react instinctively either to flee or fight. David also experienced fear.

1 Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; 2 hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught 3 because of what my enemy is saying, because of the threats of the wicked; for they bring down suffering on me and assail me in their anger. 4 My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me. 5 Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me… 22 Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. 23 But you, God, will bring down the wicked into the pit of decay; the bloodthirsty and deceitful will not live out half their days. But as for me, I trust in you (Psalm 55:1-5, 22-23).

David faced his fear and learned to overcome this powerful emotion and he guides servant leaders on their own journeys with fear.

Fear should be recognized. David recognizes his emotion. “Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.” David’s enemies are speaking against him and making threats. The natural response is to be afraid and David recognizes this fear which was overwhelming to him.

Leaders often believe the lie that strong people should not experience fear. So, they find it very difficult to identify the emotion of fear and may call it anger, worry or something else. But servant leaders learn to recognize fear and are not ashamed to admit, “I am afraid.” They know that they won’t correctly respond to fear until they can name it.

Fear should be revealed. As David recognizes his fear he reveals it to God. As for me, I call to God, and the LORD saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.” David revealed his fear to God three times a day!

When servant leaders recognize their fear and reveal it, they can begin to process it more thoughtfully as David did. They can examine the fear to determine if it is a rational fear that will keep them from danger or they may find that it is an irrational fear that is crippling and harmful based on false or incomplete information.

Servant leaders learn to reveal fear, but they are careful to reveal it to the right persons. Certainly, as David did, it is appropriate to reveal the fear to God, not because He is unaware, but because we need to acknowledge it! But it is often helpful as well to reveal our fear to someone else. Servant leaders look for others who will help them deal correctly with their fear. They avoid revealing it to those who will only increase the fear.

Fear should be restrained. David shows leaders that fear does not need to control our leadership. He concludes this Psalm with hope. “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you… But as for me, I trust in you.” David learns to bring his fears to God and to learn to trust instead of fear.

Fear can cripple a leader and make it difficult to move forward. The fear may be real when a serious threat is experienced. Or it may be an imagined fear of what others will think that keeps a leader from making a difficult decision. David teaches servant leaders that the solution to fear is trust! He chooses to focus on God during his fear and this frees him to trust in God. David realizes that God may not literally remove all the things he fears, but God will not let him be shaken.

Servant leaders learn to restrain their fear. They say to themselves and those they lead, “Our fear is with us, but our God is bigger than our fears.” Servant leaders turn fear into trust and lead on!

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler


For further reflection and discussion:

  • What do I fear most often? Is my fear a rational fear to keep me safe or is it irrational? If irrational, what is the reality?
  • When I am afraid, am I able to reveal this appropriately to others or do I try to hide it? Who is or could be a helpful person to whom I can reveal my fear?
  • How significantly is my leadership shaped by fear? Am I able to openly admit my fear as David did? Do I regularly choose to turn my fear into trust? How do I communicate this to others?


Copyright, Global Disciples 2018.

The Leader and Emotion: Guilt

Leaders fail!

Paul’s declaration that “All have sinned….” (Romans 3:23) certainly includes leaders. And sin produces the emotion of guilt which is not a pleasant feeling!

David experienced guilt after committing adultery with Bathsheba. His sin was more public than most and David wrote openly about his guilt.

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. 14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness (Psalm 51:1-3; 12-14).

Guilt should be recognized. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” David recognized he needed cleansing because of his guilt. This recognition took a long time for David, coming only after a rebuke from the prophet Nathan, months after his sin.

His story illustrates the power of our minds to justify sin after we have done wrong. We want to avoid the emotion of guilt because when we recognize guilt, we must acknowledge our wrongdoing. Our minds will provide many reasons that we are not guilty or convince us that what we are feeling is not actually guilt.

But servant leaders learn to recognize guilt as a gift from God to lead them to repentance.

Guilt should be revealed. David revealed his guilt in writing and we still read it centuries after his sin! Guilt is not an easy emotion to reveal. The emotion of guilt brings a quick temptation to ignore it or hide it from self and others. To reveal the emotion of guilt is to admit wrong and no one enjoys confession. But the emotion of guilt carries a purpose, to bring repentance. Repentance can’t happen until guilt is revealed. Ignoring guilt only leads to greater guilt!

Leaders are tempted more than others to hide their guilt since their leadership reputation is at stake. Followers often expect leaders to be perfect and leaders who don’t reveal their guilt encourage this expectation. Leaders who won’t admit guilt often hypocritically point fingers at the mistakes others. They think that if others look guilty, they look better!

But servant leaders learn to reveal their guilt appropriately. Sometimes guilt needs to be acknowledged privately. But many times guilt needs to be shared with another person or a group. Servant leaders learn from David not to hide their guilt.

Guilt should be restrained. Unresolved guilt can cripple a leader. The enemy will whisper that we can’t lead when we have sinned. But David says, “Then I will teach transgressors your ways.” David confessed his sin and then allowed his guilt to open up more doors for influence. He recognized that a leader who has gone through the brokenness of confession and repentance becomes a stronger leader.

A leader’s repentance brings greater compassion and empathy for others who fail. Leaders who experience God’s grace can extend God’s grace to others. Servant leaders learn to restrain their guilt so that it does not hinder their leadership but enhances it. They recognize and reveal their mistakes and then move on, leading with greater compassion and grace.

May God enable each of us, like David, to lead with grace when we experience guilt.


Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler


For further reflection and discussion:

  • In what situation recently did I experience guilt? How did I respond and in what way was my response similar or different than David’s?
  • When I am guilty, in what ways does my mind justify what I have done? How can I be freed from this pattern of thinking?
  • In what situations do I need to reveal my guilt to others? What makes this difficult for me?
  • Are there times when I feel a “false” sense of guilt because of the expectations of others? What is God saying to me about how to respond to this guilt?
  • Are there situations in which a leader should stop leading, at least temporarily, because of guilt? What situations would call for this step and how can it be done with grace? Have I discussed this issue with key leaders on my team so that we are in agreement before this situation arises? If not, when can I initiate this conversation?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2018.

The Leader and Emotion: Gratitude

Emotions are often spontaneous and unplanned reactions to the circumstances of life. David seems to have experienced them all.

David also experienced gratitude, an emotion that can be chosen and cultivated by all leaders.  Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. 2Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. 3Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 4Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. 5For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations (Psalm 100:1-5).

This Psalm is filled with thanksgiving and praise. David is clearly filled with gratitude and invites all of us to join him in being grateful leaders.

Gratitude should be recognized. David identifies his gratitude and chooses to focus his attention on this emotion. David recognizes God’s goodness in His creation and His faithfulness that “continues through all generations.” David is filled with gratitude and calls everyone who listens to be grateful.

While there is always much for which we can be grateful, many leaders choose instead to focus on the struggles and obstacles of their journey. They may focus on the pain of betrayal or the emotion of fear. Or they focus on their ‘to do list’ which seems much longer than the ‘done list.’ So they choose frustration instead of thanksgiving. David chooses to come to God with gratitude. He recognizes that no matter what the circumstances, he can see things for which he is grateful.

Servant leaders learn to recognize the power of gratitude in their leadership and choose to focus on things for which they are thankful. They recognize that those who lead with gratitude are a joy to follow!

Gratitude should be revealed. Like all his emotions, David does not keep gratitude a secret from himself or others. He cries out, “Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.” David reveals his gratitude to anyone who will listen! He reveals the reasons he is grateful to the God who made him and the entire universe.

Leaders sometimes think of things for which they are grateful but fail to reveal their gratitude. But servant leaders serve those they lead by expressing gratitude openly. They may write it, say it, or sing it but they always find a way to reveal their gratitude to those around them. They tell their spouse how much they are blessed by their presence. They write a note of appreciation to someone on the team who has done a good job. They publically thank the person who serves even in menial tasks. They are grateful for the contributions of each of their team members and express their thanks openly.

Gratitude should be restrained. We have looked at many emotions that can hinder our leadership when they are not properly restrained. We are called to lead with emotion but not be led by emotions and servant leaders learn the proper balance. But it’s hard to imagine a leader being too grateful!

Perhaps some leaders focus so much on the positive that they are unable to address issues that need attention. Servant leaders do not allow gratitude to keep them from corrections that need to be made. But for more leaders, the danger is in leading without gratitude!

Servant leaders in this situation learn to cultivate and develop the emotion of gratitude. They refuse to allow their leadership to be defined by ingratitude no matter how difficult the challenges they are facing. Like David, they lead their emotions to a place of gratitude! And they serve those around them who are ungrateful with a gentle call to follow them to experience the emotion of gratitude.

Choose today to lead with an attitude of gratitude.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Find a blank piece of paper and list everything that comes to your mind for which you are grateful. Turn the list into a prayer of thanks to God. Then reflect on what this does to your soul and record your learnings here.
  • To whom should I express gratitude today? What is the best way to express my gratitude to this person or persons? (Verbally, in writing, publically or privately, etc.)
  • What steps is God inviting me to take to develop more deeply a grateful heart? (Be specific and then share your list with a trusted friend for accountability.)

Copyright, Global Disciples 2018.