Trust: Your Most Valuable Leadership Asset
Sitting in the airport terminal I couldn’t help but overhear the cell phone conversation of the man sitting directly behind me. Apparently returning from a business trip this jerk was clearly proud of his accomplishments. He was loud and caustic as he spoke about the stupidity of his boss who, I’m sure, had no idea how he was being taken advantage of. He blasted on for the better part of thirty minutes about cheating clients out of thousands, strip clubs that his wife would never know about and the ways he was double billing his company for expenses.
As he thoughtlessly rambled on I felt a sense of sadness for the people in the wake of his bravado; his wife and kids and his boss, who all apparently trusted him. These were the unknowing victims of his care-less ways.
As he boasted away my anger swelled at the injustice of it all and I wished somehow this schlep would get caught…and then it happened. I heard him drop the name of his boss – the full name, and then a little while later I heard him mention the company name. I already knew an approximate location of the company as we were both sitting just feet from a sign that read, “Gate 36, Lexington.” It was all the information one would need if they were ever to perhaps, do a little internet research and make a helpful phone call to a person.
Anyone within fifty feet of this guy could have made that call, I told myself. It’s said that loose lips sink ships and it appeared his was taking on water fast. I only wish I could have been a fly on the wall the following Monday morning in that office where I’m sure a very brief and mostly one-sided conversation took place. Trust is foundational for healthy relationships; it’s earned over time but flitted away and destroyed in a careless instant.
We build trust one conversation and one interaction at a time over months and years. Our trust in God is not all that different. We come to understand that he can be trusted one experience at a time over a lifetime. Because of our life experiences on this side however, we’re jilted. We’re jaded and trusting him is not so simple. We don’t trust because we don’t grasp how trustworthy he really is.
The signs are all around us that we aren’t fully trusting. As we jockey and leverage for church vitality there is trust in anything other than the one who is the author of the church. We trust in our church growth seminars, we put our confidence in Bill and Andy and Rick, we place our dependence in Catalyst, Compassion and Cru. We hold on to Piper and Passion and Platt, our worship forms and our liturgies, but do we actively trust in Jesus, the one who said He would build the church? (Matthew 16:18)
With each person in the pages of Scripture whose lives intersected with the divine the major challenge was always whether they would trust God or not. From Adam to the saints in the book of Revelation the question remains constant; will God be trusted in spite of circumstances? Would Abraham trust God while sojourning toward an unknown destiny? It was Joshua’s challenge to trust God in the face of adversity that gave us the often quoted, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
Trust is the major issue for Joseph in the house of Potiphar, and it is the central theme of the story of Abraham when asked to put his son Isaac on an altar. The major question for Daniel was whether he would trust God in a foreign land even if it cost him his life. And of course there’s David, who was challenged with trusting the Lord as he waited for the commencement of his kingship. This struggle shows up on the pages of the Psalms, revealing some of the mystery of why David was called a man after God’s own heart. The Psalms are filled with his declarations of trust. Consider also; Ruth, Esther, Gideon, and Lot, and his wife. Trust is the major question in any relationship with God.
All of my own life difficulties contain the same question, will I be able to trust my Creator, my Shepherd, as I walk through the particulars of a trial. The major question of all people in all generations is can I trust God; will I trust him not only for salvation but for every day following conversion. Do I trust that he is present and actively interested in my welfare? Do I look to him for direction and guidance as I participate in the building of his kingdom?
And do I trust him in the ordinary; in the day-to-day monotony of my life? Or is my life simply marked by self-confident, self-directed living? Does my life give testimony to God who gives daily sustenance, or do I generally go about my business as if I am the master of my destiny?
How we Begin is how we Continue
We must ask ourselves, why it is that we begin the Christian life in an act of trust and then proceed as if the rest depends on us. Should there be no resemblance of that initial act of trust in the way we interact with him daily after that point? Did he only save us so that he could have access to our incredible wisdom and expertise; so that he could finally be able to complete the building of his church?
So many Scriptures attest to our need to trust him in the small stuff as well as the big stuff. Proverbs 3:5-6, the often quoted life verse of so many says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him. And he will make your paths straight.” What are these paths that are mentioned here? These paths represent the direction of our lives. It refers to God being involved in our lives daily.
Trust is a vital part of our life in God. Trusting is so important that God actually considers it a righteous act. When God told Abraham that he would be having a son and that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens Abraham trusted God believing him at his word, and it was counted to Abraham as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6) Trusting God is a righteous act, so it follows that not trusting is an unrighteous act.
Trust was so important to Jesus that it was included in his final instructions before he went to the cross. In John 14:1 he said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” (NLT) Paul reminds us in Romans 15:13 of the importance of constant trust in God. “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” This challenge to trust Christ meets us at every turn and is the continual issue facing us in our daily walk.
Wise Leaders Reflect a Trust-able God
Trust is important not only because it’s needed for inside out growth both personally and in the church. Trust is vitally important because it gives testimony of the character of God. Being trustworthy is a way to represent him and reflect who he is to others. Proverbs 20:6 says, “Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find?” God can be trusted and our character should reflect that. This ought to not be rare, but common, the substance of the Christian life.
Much of the way we carry on in the church however appears to indicate that we don’t really trust God. Our methods tend toward human centeredness and a dependence on the abilities of mortals. Our programs are produced with little time spent considering God’s desires. Assessment of our successes is determined by the reaction of the people rather than the pleasure of God. If you get one thing here get this; the ultimate challenge for every Christian leader is to move from self-confident living to trust oriented life in Christ. And this trust relationship should be evident, first and foremost, in our relationships with those with whom we serve.
If we really believe that the Christian life is a walk of trust, then how should our leadership structures and churches reflect that? Christian leadership should look more like Abraham walking in faith out of Ur, and less like a business model. Our ministry ventures should require faith like the children of Israel had while trudging around the city of Jericho. Our churches should be less dependent on the abilities of high performing leaders and more focused on Christ. If we really believe that God can be trusted then shouldn’t our leadership reflect that? Shouldn’t our relationships with the servants closest to us be characterized by a deep and uncommon trust?