Most young Christian leaders understand that God has great things in store for their lives. Many have been given dreams to impact their workplace for the sake of Jesus’ name. Others have been called into ministry and are eagerly pursuing His direction as they serve at their church. And some young leaders simply have this inner conviction that God is going to use them in the future, whether at home or abroad. No doubt many of these leaders have Jeremiah’s words of “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give a hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11) inked into their skin, or at least into the A4 piece of paper their testimony is written on.
This desire for purpose is, with good intentions, injected into our hearts as young Christian leaders. After all, it is a truth that we see in the gospel message: God is about redeeming people to Himself to continually grow and inspire them as they are sent out with His power. This results in positive progress in our world as many creative and diverse ways of reaching the lost are given to Christians. Just look at how the gospel has spread around the world as faithful followers have stewarded God’s purposes for their lives (hospitals, education, songs, charities and the list goes on!).
However, this God-given desire for impact in this world oftentimes quickly morphs from a God-given desire into a human-worked craving, and matters are swiped from God’s hands into the believers’. Alternatively, the desire or dream is completely forgotten about as followers are swamped by the hard slog of this world, resulting in no kingdom impact. Both sides of the young Christian leader story are counterproductive, and I believe God is calling us into a happy medium where God remains in control, while we faithfully take up the mantle of leadership in our desperate and confused world.
So how can we faithfully steward the desire injected into us to influence the world around us? As young Christian leaders, how do we remain from being presumptuous, while keeping our God-given desires and dreams alive? Recently God has been speaking to me through a passage in 1 Peter 5 about this very topic, so let’s check it out.
In the final chapter of Peter’s letter to the persecuted and suffering Christians in Asia minor (modern day Turkey), he directs his attention towards two groups: the elders and those who are younger. While the first few chapters are some of my favourite passages in Scripture, I want to focus on what Peter says to the younger people, looking at three keys that will help us faithfully steward the God-given desires in our hearts as we influence the world: humility, confidence and alertness.
To be a Christian leader is to have the character trait of humility. Jesus, our ultimate leader, “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8). You cannot look at Jesus, be inwardly transformed by the gospel and lead others around you, unless you are humble. Or if you can, I would argue that you are leading from your strength, skills and abilities rather than from God’s grace. This is exactly what the passage reassures us with. Verse 6 calls us to “humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time”.
When we use the key of humility in our leadership, we are saying no to the temptation of making the God-given desire into a human-worked problem. We do this by coming under God’s mighty hand, the same mighty hand that brought the Israelites out of Egypt and the same mighty hand that was pierced for our sin. My goodness, as a young Christian leader, I want to come under that hand! When we do continually humble ourselves, Peter informs us that there will come a time where God will lift us up: when the time is right. We don’t need to worry about promoting ourselves, converting people or forcing out our God-given dreams. Humble yourself and He will lift you and your God-given desires up.
Once we have this first key locked away in our leadership strategy, confidence must overflow. Peter understands this and enlists his young leaders to “cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you”. This casting of anxiety naturally produces confidence. This confidence is not an egotistic or “jock” mentality, but rather it is an assurance that God is true to the previous truth: that He will lift those who humble themselves under His care. It is an assurance that God can and wants to deal with our anxieties and struggles.
If all of this is true, then we should be an anxiety-free generation rather than an anxiety disordered generation. We should be able to walk in confidence knowing that the God-given desires inside us will at some point come to completion.
The final key for faithfully stewarding the God-given desires and dreams inside of you as a young Christian leader, is alertness. Peter finalises his letter reminding the people to “be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith…” (verses 8-9). If I was the leader of an army, I would look at taking down the leaders of the opposition before all the other fighting men and women. This way the enemy army would be leaderless and before long would collapse to my strategy.
I’m no captain or general, and I’m sure that military strategy is not that simple, but I understand what Peter is getting at here. The enemy prowls around like a lion looking to devour those who follow Him. Kingdom work will be halted if he turns Christians away from Christ. He’s especially looking for young leaders who are filled with God-given desires and potential to devour and draw into sin and destruction. To influence, therefore, we must be alert and aware of the tricks and deception of the devil as we lead ourselves and those around us. And of course, we do this by humbling ourselves once again under God’s mighty hand, seeking forgiveness from sin as we stand firm in our faith.
When we take Peter’s words to young leaders seriously, we will see the God-given desires come into completion. As we humble ourselves, we will be filled with confidence, which will allow us to be alert to resist the devil when he comes. Today as you read this blogpost, take a moment to reflect. Think about those dreams or desires God has given you. How have you been faithful to steward them? How have you taken it into your own hands? Perhaps you have not followed Christ’s example of humility and need to repent for how you have been leading those around you?
I believe God is forming young leaders into great influencers in our world – great leaders in the workforce, the church and around the globe. If we make sure that God remains in control of our God-given desires and faithfully work with Him, the world will not be able to resist the hope that lies within us.
By Scott McKinnon