Allen Jackson - Leadership Lessons From Life - Part 1
And I want to begin with just a simple idea, but I think it's very important in this season. I think we're getting a little bit of tragedy fatigue. Do you feel like that? And I'm like, just enough already, you know? Go home and shelter in place, two million of you are gonna die and open borders and economic stuff and chaos and disinformation and propaganda and manipulation and violence here and violence there and ungodliness. And I'm confused about how I was born. And I interact with Christians these days across the country.
I did an interview yesterday in Philadelphia, and they said, "How do you avoid discouragement"? And it's really where I'd like to start, and what I want to submit is, isn't that complicated? I think we have to just refuse to be discouraged. There are some discouraging things happening. I mean, if you look at them and you focus on them and you take them to heart and you meditate on them, they will rob you of your joy and your hope and you just try to avoid it. But that's really not the best answer. I think we have to begin with this notion that, "I will not be discouraged".
I'm gonna ask you to think of discouragement as an unwanted guest, a visitor, a person without a body. Don't think of it as some inanimate object or an emotion. I want you to think of it as a person. I think it's a spirit, and you need a plan for how to deal with it. And when we can begin with this notion that it is not welcome and then if you'll make that decision, it can diminish the impact of discouragement on your life. Discouragement will visit every one of us, but we can make the decision that it's not a welcome visitor. You can't stay here. I'm not gonna entertain you. I'm not gonna listen to the reasons you're bringing me to be discouraged.
You know, our children's spaces around campus are secure places. They're not open to the general public. You're not welcome just to walk through the nursery. If you have a baby and you're taking them to the nursery, we'll ask you to check in, register your child and yourself. And we will give you a tag unique to every visit. And there are people standing there checking your tag. If you get into the nursery without a tag or a child, you come tell me. I mean, I tried to get into one, I had some guests tonight I was showing into one of the spaces where there were teenagers, and they gave me grief. Somebody on our staff last week had a child that was participating in character question. At the end of the day, the parents pick up the kids, and they have to have the tag. The staff person was picking up their child and another staff person was working the door and would not release the child. I'm still picking on him about that. So I'm suggesting you take that mentality with your heart.
See, we're really sloppy. "Well, today I just kind of feel kind of blue". No, today I feel like I'm gonna worship the Lord. Today, I think I'll break out my Bible and read the Psalms till the joy of the Lord overtakes the heaviness that settled on me when I woke up today. You're not welcome here. Or "The Fed raised rates again and it's gonna impact this or it's gonna". Okay, so the economy's in a little bit of turmoil. I'm confident heaven's not in a panic. The streets are paved with gold, just scrape off the top layer and share. We're gonna be good. Repave, we do it around here frequently enough. Establish in your heart, you don't have to be discouraged.
"Well, life's hard". Okay. I agree it can be much harder than we would like it to be. Circumstances, relationships, diagnosis, age, weather, whatever, it's harder than we want it to be. I'll even sit next to you and cry a bit. Sometimes it's painful enough and you can sit next to me and have a little cry. Then we're gonna get up and go, "But I'm not giving into it". My Bible says, "Guard your heart above all else". We've been really casual with it. Do you think they had a poll on D-Day? How many of you young people feel really courageous today? Statistically, more than half of you probably will not survive. Does anybody feel blue? If you feel blue, just stay home. I don't think so. Well, what are we? What are we trying, do we think we're gonna make a difference in this generation for the kingdom of God against all the forces of darkness without there being a counter attack? And the primary battlefield is going to be in your thoughts and your emotions.
So we're gonna have to say to discouragement, "Nice try, not today". 1 Chronicles 28 David said to Solomon his son, David, greatest king in Israelite history to Solomon his son who has secured the throne, powerful power, an ancient Near Eastern monarch. There is no court of appeal, total authority. David's counsel to him is, "Be strong and courageous". Now, what's he have to be courageous about? What's gonna discourage him? He's the king. He can take your land. He can take your daughter. "Be strong and courageous, do the work". There's work to be done and you're gonna need strength and courage to do it. "Do not be afraid or discouraged".
If David's telling him not to be afraid and discouraged, what's the battle? He's frightened and discouraged. There are other rivals to the throne. There's a constant churn in the monarchies. The reason they had cupbearers and taste testers is the most frequent way of disposing of them was poison. "Don't be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. And he will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished". He's telling him not to be discouraged or frightened for building the temple. Do you have room to imagine that doing something God called you to do, God wanted you to do, God's made provision for you to do, could still be met with a response internally of fear and discouragement?
"Well, I thought the Lord had called me, but now I don't know, I'm so frightened. And I just feel so heavy and so discouraged. And this is more difficult than I", yeah, "I decided, you know, I was gonna lose a little weight. I want to get a little more cardiovascular fitness. So I signed up for the gym. I got a personal trainer. I went, it was awful. I got in there, I felt bad. I didn't do very well, everything hurt. I just got out of there with my life, and I'm two days later and it's worse. Now everything really hurts. I'm never going back there". Yeah, it's called getting stronger.
2 Chronicles 20, there's an overwhelming army, an army that cannot be defeated. Israel does not have the military might nor the technical superiority to defeat the army that has besieged him. And the king's name is so long, he had to be 16 before he could spell it. I mean, it's not easy. "King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: 'Do not be afraid or discouraged.'" You know why the Lord's saying that? Because they're terrified out of their mind because of this vast army. "The battle is not yours, but it's God's". If you're not living in a place where you're conscious that the part of the battle in front of you is not yours, it's God's, you need to change places because we've been called to serve the Lord. The Lord doesn't serve us, we serve him.
I want there to be places in my life where if God isn't engaged and God isn't participating, the outcome is not gonna be great. It's beyond me. It's beyond my ability, beyond my intellect, beyond my experience, beyond my contact list, beyond my resources that are available. I want to be engaged with the Lord in such a way that his participation is essential for a good outcome. And if you'd make that choice for yourself, you're gonna have to guard your heart because discouragement and fear will come to visit. And you're, "Oh, I've been waiting for you. You passed by here last month. I remember".
Well, let me read you what the Lord has said. He said, "The battle's not mine, it's his. You better pack up. He's coming for you". Before we leave this session, we're gonna read a psalm together about what God said he will do to our enemies. But the beginning point for us is to say, "Discouragement, huh-uh, not here, not today. And I'm gonna worship the Lord until you leave". The devil hates it when you worship the Lord. I'll tell you the truth, the darkest days in my life, the most difficult, challenging days, I didn't have the emotional strength to do what I'm telling you with the enthusiasm that you see. But I have been able to sit down, and I would start with the character of God. And I would say, "God, I know you're a faithful God. I know you're a faithful God, and I know you're a loving God. And I know you're a just God. And I know you're a merciful God. And I know you're a God of grace and a God of power".
And I would stay with the character because that doesn't matter about how I feel or whether I'm good or bad or whether I've got strength or I don't have strength or I have a solution. I'm gonna stay as close to who God is as I know how to stay. "God, this is what I know about you, and I'm with you. I'm with you. I'm not moving. I'm not going anywhere". And I would stay with that until that heaviness would begin to, I won't tell you would just evaporate, and I'd be filled with his overwhelming joy. But I would find enough strength to take another day. You gotta decide that you will not yield to that. And the cousin to discouragement is disappointment.
"Well, you know, I didn't think I'd be in this place. I didn't think at this point in time or in this season of my life or I didn't think this summer or I really, this summer I wanted to, or I thought by the time I finished that class or I thought". No. No. "I will worship you. I will worship you. You're good to me and merciful to me and gracious to me, and I'll give praise and honor and glory. I'll not be discouraged. I will not yield to disappointment. God is at work on my behalf. In the places I can't see him and the circumstances I don't understand and the challenges that are before me, God is at work in my behalf. And I'll give glory to him and praise to him and honor to him". "Well, this isn't the way I wanted. I wanted him to heal me supernaturally".
Okay, I appreciate that. It's a legitimate desire. Sometimes he heals us in different ways. "I didn't want to have to work overtime. I wanted to win the Lottery. I didn't want to have children that were strong-willed, I wanted compliant, God-honoring children that leapt out of bed in the morning and say, 'How might I serve you today, parents?' And God gave me the spawn of", Lord, I will worship you.
I've told you the story before, but it's on point. When I was in college and I made the decision that I would do ministry if the Lord asked me. I didn't know what that meant. I certainly didn't want to be a pastor and nobody wanted me to be. But I changed my academic career. I only had three semesters left, and I needed to get a degree on time or I was gonna be out of resources. So I did all of that and I said, "Lord, I don't know what that means, but I'll serve you somehow. I'll do what you want me to do". For me, it was all the courage I had. I didn't have the courage to say I'd go into the ministry. I just said, you know, "I'll serve you".
And I won't go, 'cause I had a plan to be independent and not too long after that, it was on a Friday afternoon, I crushed my face playing in the snow. And I went to the hospital and they said I needed immediate surgery, that there could be nerve damage and the sooner the better and all this stuff. It wasn't a good, very good diagnosis. And I was frustrated. I was mad at God. And then I said, "No, I've made a decision. I've reoriented my entire life, and I'm gonna serve the Lord. And if God won't heal me, I won't serve him". And I checked myself out of the hospital. Can you say, "pride"?
And I checked into a hotel for the weekend. I didn't want to go back to the dorm, and I spent the weekend with my Bible open and talking to the Lord. And by Monday morning, through some wise counsel and some people who let me vent, mostly my parents, by Monday morning I understood that if God wanted to heal me through the skill of a physician or if he wanted to heal me supernaturally, it was not my decision, that I had to trust him to be my healer. And with a great deal more humility than I had had on Friday afternoon, I called the doctor back and I said, "If I were to show up at the hospital, could I get back on your rotation"?
And it was the first episode in a lesson I'm still learning, that we don't dictate to God how he brings our deliverance. There is a God and it's not us. It's not up to me. My decision is to honor the Lord. My decision is to guard my heart and my mind. My decision is to give the joy of the Lord first place. So I would submit to you in the midst of all the turmoil, and there's a lot of it, unprecedented amounts of evil and ungodliness and wickedness, we're gonna begin by saying to discouragement and disappointment, "No. You're not welcome here. You may visit here and there may be circumstances that give you entree here, but it's gonna be a very short visit because every time I'm aware of your presence, I'm gonna begin to worship the Lord".
Why do we have to go? I don't know. Why didn't God part the Red Sea before Moses and the Israelites got there? Well, they would have missed out on a lot of lessons. They'd have missed out on a lot of courage that got tucked into their hearts. They would have missed a lot. See, I don't ever want a problem. I don't ever want a deliverance 'cause I don't ever even want to know I have a problem. But the only strength you get is from working against resistance. And you say, "Well, I don't really want to be strong, I just want to be happy. I don't want to be strong". I think if you gave us a choice, most of us wouldn't go get in the line.
How many of you would like to have huge, spiritual muscles? "No, I'm good, really. Just won't go to heaven". And the Lord says, "But I need my church to be strong in the earth". And he begins to call us and put us in places to mature and grow up and go, "Whoa, whoa, big fella, couldn't pastor just get more mature"? We have to say no. We've gotta learn to follow the Lamb completely and totally with our whole heart. It's an image that is used so frequently in the Book of Revelation. In fact, the Book of Revelation can be understood as a conflict between the Lamb and the Beast, between the true Christ and the false christ.
And the message or the outcome in the Book of Revelation is triumphant for those who follow the Lamb. And there's this unique phrase that's used a couple of times, and I just want to tag it. It's Revelation 7:17, it says, "The lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; and he will lead them to springs of living water". If you will follow the Lord, he will lead you to springs of living water. He may choose some paths that you didn't anticipate. He may have more confidence in you than you have in yourself, but he will lead you to springs of living water. "And God will wipe every tear from their eyes". That phrase is used again in Revelation 21, very near the end of the story, right before the end of this age and a new heaven and a new earth. And it says, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. And there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away".
And I was thinking about those passages and praying through them and the question that was in my heart is, what's the cause of the tears? Because you can look in Revelation and there's some pretty intense suffering. Big chunks of humanity come under the judgment of God and there's suffering of the saints. You know, I know most Christians like to read Revelation they go, "Well, that's not about me. I won't be here". Well, some saints will be here, and I don't think we have enough precision in our understanding of the story to not pay attention. So what is the source of those tears? It could be pain or suffering or disappointment, and that's a legitimate interpretation. I'm not saying that's evil, but that wouldn't be my first choice.
That's not my first understanding of it. In Revelation 5, there's a scroll in heaven that has the key to this unfolding vision. But there is no one that is worthy to open the scroll, and John begins to weep because there's no one worthy. It's a fascinating passage. Revelation 5, "No one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. And I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside". How often do we weep because the presence of God is inadequate? "Then one of the elders said to me, 'Don't weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He's able to open the scroll and its seven seals.'"
The lion of the tribe of Judah, and when he turns to see the lion of the tribe of Judah, it looks like a lamb who's been slain from the foundation of the world. It's our Lord. And as I read that and meditated on it, I felt like at least for me was the Lord was, you know, when we see the Lord in his glory in all of his majesty, I believe we will weep. And I think one of the things we will weep for is those times we've been so reluctant to cooperate with him because when we truly see him in all of his glory and all of his splendor, you know what the Word of his mouth, all of the dead will come to life. I've been thinking about that for a few weeks now. With just the word of his mouth, all of the dead will, how could he do that? Because he defeated death. All he needs is the Word of his mouth and death is like, "We got no hold over you".
That's our bross, and we will see him one day in all of his splendor and all of his glory and all of his majesty. And I think when that is so clear to us, there'll be tears. "When I was so reluctant to believe you, you put invitations in front of me, and I didn't want to participate. I didn't want to yield. I didn't want to cooperate. I was so stubborn. I wanted my way. Oh, I didn't understand. I didn't understand your glory and your majesty and your power. I'm so sorry. I'm gonna go back and read those verses where you wipe every tear away, and you said there'll be no more crying". Whoo-hoo-hoo. There'll be no more mourning. There'll be no more death. Uh-uh, death's been defeated.
See, we're still live in the middle of the conflict, and the condition and the attitude of our heart is so important. Our King is triumphant. He is triumphant. Revelation 19 says, "I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. And his eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns".
Folks, you're gonna see Jesus one day, not in a stable, not in a manger, not with a bunch of fishermen that can't figure out how much bread to bring, not with a group of people that deny him when the pressure comes on. You're gonna see him with an innumerable company of angels and many crowns and all the glory of heaven and the splendor of Almighty God.
Father, I thank you that you have called us out of the dark into the kingdom of your light, that you have washed us and cleansed us and justified us. Forgive us for our attitude of complacency. Father, we've been willing to sit in a space at a specific time and imagine that we were interacting with the Creator of all things. Forgive us for our indifference. Ignite a passion within us to know a living God that we might yield our days to you, beginning with each morning. In Jesus's name, amen.