Dear fellow elders, parents and mentors,
Isn’t it amazing that God has allowed us to put our feeble hands into His eternal work? The fact that we’ve been called to lead others is itself an incredible sign of the grace and goodness of God. What a privilege it is to serve God by leading His people!
As the Bible makes clear about elders – and, I assume, about other leaders – we are to lead not just with the right words or great wisdom, but with spiritual maturity. We don’t have to be perfect, but we do have to put away sin regularly and strive for godliness. The fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 is a great way to evaluate true spirituality and a helpful way to evaluate our own leadership.
So let me ask you a question which originally grows from my own spiritual immaturity: are you leading with joy? Are you leading in joy?
Our friend Michael points out in his book about the Psalms that a great theme of the Psalms is the king leading the people of God into worship. Often in the Psalter it’s the king who is calling the people to join him in worship. This is a beautiful picture of Jesus leading us into worship. But by extension it’s also an example for those who lead others into the presence of God. So when King David writes, “Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Ps. 32:11), he is calling his people to follow him into worship and have the same joy he does.
Ten years as a pastor and eleven as a parent have shown me that joy isn’t something we can take for granted. Anyone called to spiritual leadership will frequently have the burden of others sin and problems in addition to their own. Because pastors and elders spend much of their leadership energy on people who are running away from God, it is incredibly easy to become discouraged and even lose some measure of our joy in God.
So let me ask again: Are you leading with joy?
Are you pursuing joy? After all, it’s a fruit of the Spirit, a non-optional characteristic of Christ that ought to be growing in our life.
Are you spending enough time at the fountain of joy? Or is all of your time in the Word and prayer geared toward helping someone else?
Are you regularly amazed at the wonder of the gospel, the glory of God, the beauty of Christ, and the freeness of His grace?
When you lead in worship, is there a smile on your face? Not that there aren’t times for being serious, but shouldn’t happiness be our baseline when coming into God’s presence?
Would the people you’re leading ever think or say, “I want to be as joyful as you”?
If any of these questions cut a little too deep, please know that you’re not alone. If joy was easy, we wouldn’t need the Spirit to plant it in our hearts! But don’t be too comforted. Rather, let’s decide together to pray for and pursue a renewal of joy in our lives.
Our God is a God of joy! He takes delight in the love He has within Himself. He takes delight in His people (just like we can! Phil. 4:1). And He communicates His joy to us by sending His Son and Spirit. Remember Jesus’ amazing promise, “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11) You don’t have to dig your own well! Cling to the crucified and risen Lord and you receive His joy as your own.
Pursuing joy will not erase the hardships you face. You being filled with joy won’t automatically erase the heartaches plaguing you right now. But the people we lead need us to be joyful and God’s amazing grace practically demands it. Because of the overwhelming delight we have been invited to in the presence of God, it is more than possible to abound in joy while walking through the darkest things this world has to throw at us!
Let’s pray for each other. Let’s encourage each other. Joy is a team sport, much like the sticks that burn long when in the fire but burn short when all by themselves.
Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous!
Praise befits the upright. (Ps. 33:1)
Yours in His joy,