A Spirit of Fear

If you are like me, you know 2 Timothy 1:7 by heart: "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (NKJV). I use this verse often when I coach people to find purpose or to be creative, and I have felt free to use this truth in many other areas of life and ministry, including my own. Therefore I was surprised this week when I looked at this verse in the context where it is found, and discovered that I should not be as free to use this verse as I have been, for it seems to be  specific and focused in one and not all areas of life.

In the verse before seven, Paul wrote these words: "Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God FanIntoFlamePicwhich is in you through the laying on of my hands" (2 Timothy 1:6 NKJV). Paul was urging Timothy to recognize the gift he had and instructed him to fan the gift into flames. When our homes had a fireplace, I would often have to employ this tactic. If I could get a small flame going, I would gently blow on it, giving it more oxygen so that it would spread. That is what Paul was telling Timothy to do: Take the smallest spark of his gift and do what he had to do to make it burn hotter and brighter.

So the context for not having a spirit of fear is not applied to all areas of life, but to the expression of our purpose and gifts. Paul would not tell us not to be afraid where our gift is concerned unless it was a common tendency for it to happen. We shrink back in fear when we have a chance to express who we are instead of taking every opportunity to do so and to learn how to do it more effectively.

Where are you afraid to express your gift? In fact, do you know what your gift is? Have others laid hands on you to confirm or release the gift? What can you do to fan it into flames, giving it the oxygen it needs to flourish and prosper. I have been on a search and destroy mission the last few years of my life to find and eradicate fear, and it's been a large task. I suspect this will continue for the rest of my life.

What are you doing to confront and neutralize the fear where your gift is concerned? I encourage you to read these verses and the others in 2 Timothy 1 and do what Paul was advising Timothy to do, which was to stop hiding behind his fears but to step out into the light of self-expression, which is the only way to honor God for making you who He made you to be.

W48D3 - Self-Awareness

"While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: 'Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man,  for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him'" - Matthew 27:19.

Pilate was in a leadership position and was sitting in judgment of Jesus. While there, his wife sent him a message that he should have heeded. She knew Jesus was innocent and she also knew Pilate should have dismissed the case. God gave him one last warning, yet he could not pay attention because he was about to make a politically expedient decision to condemn Jesus in order to please the Jews and keep the pax Romanathe peace of Rome. If leaders want to get the wisdom and insight they need for good decisions, they need to pay attention to their heart and also listen to the insight and integrity of others closest to them. Often when they ignore these warnings, they stray into the land of poor decision making.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Step today is to spend 30 minutes of quiet time to listen to your heart. Go where there are no distractions, turn off your cell phone, don't take your computer, and only take your journal and Bible. If you aren't 'done' after 30 minutes, then linger a bit longer if you can. If you can't get away, then get with one or two trusted colleagues or advisers and ask them to share their heart about the direction of your organization or decisions being considered.

W43D3 - Self-Awareness

"But Peter declared, 'Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.' And all the other disciples said the same" - Matthew 26:35.

Peter is often remembered as the disciple who proclaimed his loyalty only to deny Jesus hours after his declaration. Yet this verse states all the disciples did the same thing. They assumed they were one place in terms of loyalty and commitment but were really in a very different place. Leaders must be aware that they are as susceptible to failurebad decisions, fear, fickleness, betrayal, lying, exaggeration, misinterpretation and faulty memory of the factsas anyone else in their organization. An accurate assessment of their dark side gives leaders a chance to face and overcome it. Denial only challenges God to devise a scenario where reality will be revealed, just like it was for Peter and his comrades.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Leadership Step today is to face the fact that you, like everyone else, have a dark side, but you may need help to identify and see it. Armed with this realization, find a leadership coach, someone who can listen to, observe, and evaluate your performance and give you honest feedback. You want to focus on enlightening your dark side so it is not functioning while you deny it even exists, thus becoming a source of dysfunction and pain in your world.

W38D3 - Self-Awareness

"My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes" - Job 42:5-6.

Job summarized what he had been through and concluded that before he lost everything, he had only heard about God. After his ordeal, he had seen God and it gave him a better perspective of who he truly was—insignificant when compared to God. That is a lesson some leaders who are impressed with who they are could afford to learn. Not only did Job see an awesome God and a relatively un-awesome Job, but then he humbled himself, admitting he had erred in his judgment and behavior and vowed to repent, which simply means he wanted to turn his thinking around and move in the opposite direction.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Step today is to humble yourself before God to ensure that you, like Job, are not someone who has simply heard about God without a proper vision of who God is. You can do this in several ways. Consider a time of fasting. Perhaps you can do some volunteer work involving menial tasks or serving others in practical ways. Maybe you need to seek reconciliation with someone from whom you are estranged, or ask forgiveness for a situation or relationship you botched.

W33D3 - Self-Awareness

"Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other" - Galatians 5:26.

Leaders are often in front of others because they are charismatic, dynamic, intelligent, visionary, and/or skilled. They also often have some measure of success due to their strong ego drive to get things done, achieve, and excel. A problem doesn't arise when leaders use their ego to get the job done. The problem comes in when leaders become egotistical, insisting on getting the credit for everything, believing their own "press clippings" that they are as good as others say or they think they are. When that happens, leaders resent or envy anyone else's success and demand that they be the center of attention in all things and receive the credit for all things done well.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your transition from ego to egocentric can be subtle but painful for those around you and dangerous for you. Your Step today is to take measures to keep this from happening: 1) surround yourself with people who will tell you the truth you need and not want to hear; 2) celebrate the success of others; 3) mentor others so they can excel and thrive; 4) serve others' needs; and 5) divest yourself of all privileges you get simply because you are the leader.

W28D3 - Self-Awareness

“Have pity on me, my friends, have pity,  for the hand of God has struck me" - Job 19:21.

Job was in the midst of his trials and he turned to his friends for help. Their lack of compassion and harsh advice are legendary as an example of how not to comfort someone going through a tough time. They could not empathize with Job because they had not done the tough work of recognizing and acknowledging their own weaknesses and emotional neediness, so how could they possibly identify with someone else's pain and sorrow? Leaders can learn to empathize with others when they are in touch with their own shortcomings and humanity, and can be gracious to others when they learn to be gracious to themselves.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your awareness of others begins with your own self-awareness. Your Step today is to recognize your emotional condition. This may seem awkward, but keep a journal today chronicling your emotional state for the day. If you feel fear, write it down and explain why. If you are happy, record that too along with what made you so. Do the same with anger, surprise, joy, and all other emotions along with the details of why they emerged. As you recognize your own emotional state, it will then be easier to do so for others.

W23D3 - Self Awareness

"In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of  King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not  been sad in his presence before, so the king asked me, 'Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart'" - Nehemiah 2:1-2.

These verses are a good example of self-awareness on the part of the king. He noticed something was wrong with his trusted servant and did not hesitate to ask what the problem was. First, it was impressive that the king noticed, with all the trappings of royalty surrounding him that could have caused him to be self-absorbed and not aware. Second, it was significant that he cared enough to ask what the problem was. Finally, it showed that the king was aware of his own emotional state, which enabled him to be in touch with that of others. When you are like that king, you are better equipped to empathize and identify with those who are depressed and hurting. The king notice of Nehemiah's funk set off historical events that touched many lives and helped restore Jerusalem--and produced a book in the Bible from which leaders have learned for centuries.

LEADERSHIP STEP: The king in today's story was well acquainted with his 'employee' and when Nehemiah did not look happy, the king noticed and spoke up. Is there a member of your team, staff, or family who does not look like their usual self? Today, gather courage, ask to see them, and then spend some time talking about how they are doing and what is going on. Then, if it is in your power, do something to help alleviate their sadness, even if it costs you or the company time or money--or both.

W18D3 - Self-Awareness

"Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him" - 1 Samuel 16:23.

Saul was tormented by an evil spirit perhaps depression, anxiety, hatred, or anger--or a combination of all of them. This became a problem for everyone in the royal court, yet no one dared confront or deal with the issue, including Saul himself. Instead, everyone tried to medicate and placate him with soothing music played by David. Because of this, Saul became the focus and center of attention instead of God or the needs of the people. When leaders control their situation through moods or preoccupation with their own personal problems and needs, an organizational dysfunction takes root that only grows bigger and stronger unless dealt with honestly and directly by the management team or the board of directors.

LEADERSHIP STEP: As a leader, do people know which one of you will show up every day? Are you consistent with your moods and feelings, or do you have people walking on eggshells around you? Your assignment today is to identify a counselor, whether you think you need one or not, and then schedule time to talk about any personal or personality challenges that may be impacting those with whom you work. Then you should plan on meeting with that counselor or advisor at least once every three months, just to talk. The goal is to prevent you from becoming a problem in your organization.


W13D3 - Self Awareness

"I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me" - Psalm 16:7.

Leaders make decisions using not only their heads but also their hearts. For this to happen, however, leaders must develop their heart life and then pay attention to what their heart is telling them. When done effectively, their heart actually becomes the place where God can speak to guide them through their desires, wishes, intuition, compassion, empathy, and stored memory of experiences—both good and not-so-good. This process can go on both day and night and is not restricted by sleep or recreation. Then the heart can actually educate the mind to teach it how to think and not work alone, which makes any leader more effective and creative.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Today you will make a journey into your heart. First, read Psalm 37:3-4. Then take out your leadership journal and write down the desires of your heart for your business, family, and ministry. Don't try to figure out how any of it will happen, just listen to your heart. Once you have those things written down, examine them for patterns or trends and then set some goals to act on your heart's desires, having faith God is counseling and directing you through them.

W8D3 - Self-Awareness

"It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all" - 1 Timothy 1:15.

Paul was aware of his state and condition before the Lord. He wasn't being overly humble to say that he was a significant sinner, for he had at one time put people in prison and to death, thinking he was doing God a favor. Yet he didn't allow the reality of his past to hinder him from serving the Lord or becoming a great leader who is still impacting the world. Leaders don't have to hide from or deny their weaknesses or failures, past or present. They simply acknowledge them while looking to operate in their God-given strengths, all the while acknowledging their propensity to 'sin' and shortsightedness. At the same time, they use their failures as learning experiences to make them even more effective leaders.

LEADERSHIP STEP: How transparent and self-aware are you as a leader? You don't have to hold a special meeting to confess your sins, but you do need to be aware when you acted inappropriately or are demotivating your team. In Week Four, Day Three of this study, you were encouraged to have a 360-degree profile done. Did you do it? If not, then take steps to get one done and study the results. Then walk in a fresh awareness that you have blind spots that are negatively impacting your team and begin to restore vision to those areas of weakness.