the baby and the bathwater


input – rejoicing in the success of others
February 16, 2008, 12:08 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This is an article I wrote some time ago, but in our current look into the way we can invest in others, it seemed the right moment to give it a new airing!

One Christmas I went and watched my daughter take part in her school’s nativity play. She was playing the lesser-known character from the biblical text of ‘snatcher the thief’! It was a proud moment to watch my daughter act well, remember her lines, and get laughs in all the right places. Right at the end for the big final song, she found herself at the front of stage, lights on her, cameras flashing, singing her heart out. It was fantastic. I’ve even got it all on home video.

I’ve been reflecting a little bit on what it means to truly rejoice in the success of others. And as I remember that Christmas play, and watch the video, I realise that as her father, I was desperate for her to succeed – it was natural. And when it all went right, as it did this time, it was easy to rejoice in that success. But equally I realise that this is not naturally the way of the world. When I worked in the finance industry some years ago it seemed that success seemed more reliant on making sure other people failed as individuals crept up the corporate ladder. Even, dare I say it, in Christian ministry there can be an unhealthy competitiveness, if not outright jealousy when others do well. Worship leaders (and i speak as one!) can be the worse, especially now so much of the worship industry has a commercial aspect to it.

When I started heading up the worship ministry for New Wine, I sensed that I should be using the platform I had been given to raise up other leaders – and I vowed to the Lord that I would! I remember the very next year giving a young worship leader a chance to lead for a week. And I have to say he did very, very well. In fact I remember being on the font row as he lead worship thinking – ‘I thought it would be good, but i didn’t think it would be this good’. And in some ways, I was struggling a little with it – the worship was going so well, and I was not leading it!. And God spoke to me in that moment – it was as though he said ‘If you mean what you say about raising others up, this is what it will feel like’.

There’s that time when David had slain Goliath, and as he and Saul and the army travelled back, the people of Israel were chanting ‘Saul kills in his thousands, but David kills in his ten thousands’. And we see how badly Saul reacted to that – he couldn’t cope with the new guy doing well and getting so much adulation. And this reminded me a little of how I had reacted that evening at New Wine. And I also recall how I very quickly got to the stage where I realised that I didn’t want to feel the way I did. And in fact that the words the God spoke to me that time were more of a challenge to sort it out rather than a life sentence to feeling rubbish every time someone else succeeded! And so I’ve done a little work trying to articulate what I think we need to grow in if we are to be people who truly rejoice in the success of those we are raising up.

Wisdom

Comparing Saul and David, we get some idea of the root of wisdom. When things started to look like they were going pear-shaped for Saul, he started to take things into his own hands (1 Sam 13). When things got tough for David, he looked to God (1 Sam 17). As someone once said ‘A person who approached each decision with a trust in God, and acknowledges Him rather than lean on his own understanding, is wise.

If we are to see others succeed, and rejoice in that, we need incredible wisdom in choice of person. It is actually quite easy to put people on a platform. It’s actually quite hard to get the right person. Putting the wrong person on a platform, how ever well intentioned, is not a wise thing. Putting someone up on a big platform at the wrong time, could destroy them if things go badly. In my role here at Trinity, despite being the worship pastor for 11 years, I have only really invested significantly in 5 or 6 other worship leaders: I have seen potentially hundreds of hopefuls though! We need huge amounts of wisdom in who we invest in.

Generosity

We need to develop a generous attitude. Some time ago I read a book by Gordan McDonald called ‘secrets of the generous life’ and it’s really been a huge challenge to me. If I am to see others succeed, I need to be generous, not only with my time, my affection and praise or my money, but in giving them the great places to serve and work where they have chance of success.

Loyalty

Loyalty is not an ‘in thing’ these days, except maybe in terms of financial loyalty through store cards and the like. But relational loyalty is often hard to come by these days. As I reflected on my own journey in ministry, I realise in many ways I am the product of the loyalty of others around me. Much of my success is down to people with the guts to stand by me, especially when things go wrong, and i’ve made bad decisions.

Now of course, or first loyalty is to the Lord, and I’m not saying we need to blindly follow others and never disagree. But actually, I think we are all too ready to disown people when things go a little astray, rather than stay loyal. As someone who has had experience of people laying into me when things have seemed hard (a long time ago!) and experience of people being loyal when things are tough – I know first hand how important this has been. As people intent on raising others up, we should be intent on standing by them through thick and thin!

Bounce-back-ability

This probably isn’t a proper word, but it should be. What I mean by this, is the ability to get back up, after falling flat on your face, and start again.

An invitation to invest in the success of others is an invitation to fail. There will be times when those you choose let you down, sometimes very very badly. Look at Samuel. He put a lot of effort into Saul. But Saul let him down. And Samuel grieved long and hard (1 Sam 15). BUt God said to him ‘How long are you going to mope over Saul. Fill your flask with anointing oil and get going’.

Here is the call to leadership: fill your flask with anointing oil and get going. There will be times when others – even those who we invest hugely in – let us down. The key to leadership is getting back up and starting again. Or as Churchill put it: ‘leadership is about moving from one failure to the next without loosing enthusiasm.’

Wisdom, Generosity, Loyalty and Bouncebackability. Four things we need to grow in if we are to truly see others succeed, and for us to rejoice in it.

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