This morning we are carrying on with our Leadership Series. Recently we looked at the Heart of Leadership considering the roles and responsibilities found within the Trinity and how this relates to leadership in the home. As well, we recognize the importance of fanning into flame the gift of God in our lives, and keeping courage forefront in leadership and not giving into “a spirit of fear” but relying on the Holy Spirit for power, love and self-control (2 Tim 1:6-7).
One of the lessons I have learned over the years of pastoral ministry is the balance between integrity and skill. When both integrity and skill are sought after and enhanced there is great reward. I have had the privilege of working with men and women who have put both into practice with positive results. I have seen parents beautifully display integrity and skill in their homes. I have seen these qualities in the workplace and at school - these are the kind of people who inspire others.
The key verse for this morning is – “And David shepherded them with integrity of heart;
with skillful hands he led them.” Psalm 78 is a psalm of wisdom presented in the form of a parable or short stories. The writer Asaph reminds us of Israel’s history and the lessons they had learned on their journey with God. Asaph highlights God’s faithfulness despite Israel continuing to sin before him; they struggled with unfaithfulness towards God and they did not remember all that God had done for them. At the end of the Psalm Asaph recounts God’s eventual rescue of Israel, describing how God has rejected Ephraim and selected Judah to lead his people. He concludes by emphasizing David’s faithfulness and skill in guiding Israel. We must remember that no leader is perfect and this includes David. At this point in David’s life things were going well and his leadership exemplified integrity and skill.
Integrity of heart…
Integrity of heart is a wonderful word picture. Think with me for a moment of someone you know who carries truth, honesty, innocence, reliability and uprightness in their hearts. This does not mean they are perfect or without sin, but that their walk with Jesus is open and vulnerable and this comes out as integrity. In other words, we all make mistakes but it is our desire to walk with integrity in our hearts.
This reminds me of a funny joke… A couple decided to go to Cyprus for the weekend, but because they both worked it was hard to coordinate their diaries. So, they decided the husband would go a day early, and his wife would join him the following day. On arriving, the husband thought he would email his wife from his laptop, but he accidentally mistyped her email address and sent it off without realizing.
A widow had just returned from her husband's funeral. He was a minister of many years who had been 'called home to glory' following a heart attack. The widow checked her e-mail, expecting messages from relatives and friends, but instead found this:
I've just arrived and have checked in. I see that everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing you then! Hope your journey is as uneventful as mine was.
Integrity has several aspects to it that are important to consider. Integrity is not a gift of God; it is something that individuals must exercise. It does not matter where your leadership influence is aired but it does matter that we put into practice these three points of integrity:
1. Say and think
We must understand that right thinking is essential for integrity to be powerful. The Bible tells us over and over to have godly thoughts and godly speech. A key verse is found in Phil 4:8 -
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. When we think about good things it will come out in our speech. Mental health is a significant part of a life of integrity.
2. Believe and feel
Another aspect of integrity relates to our beliefs or values. In the case of David, he not only cared for his father’s flock of sheep he cared for the nation of Israel. His belief system honoured God and God’s people. This is why he had such a strong emotional response to Goliath taunting Israel. His beliefs and feelings were congruent and complimented each other. One area that is often overlooked in relation to beliefs and values is emotional health.
3. Do and act
Lastly, integrity of the heart is something that is put into action. True integrity is something that is seen and heard by others. In other words, integrity can be measured to some degree. Only God knows the inner heart of a person but integrity can be examined just as Jesus said, “you will know them by their fruit” (Matt 7:16), whether a good tree or bad tree.
This leads us to the aspect of skill in relationship to our leadership influence. You have heard the question, “which comes first, the chicken or the egg?” In the case of integrity and skill. Integrity comes first, but it must be followed by skill. Skill sets vary depending on the ministry or job to be accomplished; social skills, workplace skills, communication skills, some skill sets work with their hands, others work with their minds, leadership skills, research skills, artistic skills, musical skills… The list could go on and on…
There are several words that are used in connection with the word skill:
· Understanding refers to the knowledge related to a certain skill set.
· Aptitude is the ability to know how to put the understanding into practice.
· Competence is the maturity of the skill, in other words, “I’m good at what I do!”
There are examples of skill biblically, David being mentioned in Psalm 78:72. Other examples are the artisans who crafted the Tabernacle (Ex 31:1-5). Daniel and his three friends were skilled above others in their day (Daniel 1:4-6). From tent making to preaching the Gospel, Paul showed skill in his work for God. It is important the skill be developed in our areas of leadership so that we can be the best as what we do.
I believe that Jesus had both of these leadership traits in his life. A key verse is found in Luke 2:52 – “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” This was Jesus experience as a young boy. Jesus was aware of the need to be in the temple so that he could learn all he could. Integrity and skill were being developed in him at this young age.
In 1975, Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade and Loren Cunningham, who founded Youth With A Mission, first spoke to seven areas of society that the Christian needs to influence. They are Family, Religion, Government, Arts/Entertainment/Sports, Media, Education and Economy/Business. Why do I mention these “Seven Mountains” as they are commonly referred to? Because it is in each of these areas that believers are to show leadership and influence, especially integrity of heart and skill.
Over the past few weeks, I have mentioned our leadership influence in primarily two areas – family and religion. And without a doubt we need to see an increase of integrity of heart and skill in these arenas. In the home and in the church, integrity and skill must reach maturity. In the other areas of society, we want to see integrity of heart and skill increase. Just mention the word politics and we soon discover a lack of integrity and skill no matter who you vote for. The same can be said of the Arts and Entertainment and Sports arenas; we want to see uprightness and talents that bring glory to God. The same can be said of the Media, Education or the Business world.
To God, the heart is the person's innermost motivation and attitude for life and is of prime importance:
· “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isaiah: 66:2).
· “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (2 Chron 16:9a).
· “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Prov 4:23).
As Christians, integrity of heart and skill, must be complemental; one without the other can hinder the effectiveness of our leadership. I have met very nice people who have high integrity but lack certain skills to be a good leader. On the other hand, I have met many skillful people who lack integrity, not good.
We can no longer fake it and pretend to be something we are not. We must seek God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. We must be students of God’s Word and be empowered by the Spirit. Integrity – what we say and think, what we believe and feel and what we do and how we act – must be a desire of our hearts.
And we must be skillful at what we do whether at home or in the church. It is only when believers lead by the example of integrity and skill that we will be able to significantly influence the other areas of society and those who don’t yet know the Lord.
I believe there are several points of application here.
Firstly, we must have a heart that seeks after integrity. But we must allow the Holy Spirit to empower us in the pursuit of integrity. Say yes to integrity.
Secondly, we must recognize that training and skill development is our responsibility. No one can be trained for us in our areas of skill and talent. Say yes to continued training.
Thirdly, passion for Jesus and his mission is key. Say yes to a renewed first love for God.