Don’t Waste God’s Time
by Jim Seybert
I got my first set of eyeglasses when I was in the seventh grade. I still remember walking out of the doctor’s office and saying to my mom, “Wow, I can actually see the leaves on those trees.”
I didn’t know how bad my eyes were, so I hadn’t been worried about not seeing the leafy detail. The thought that I was missing something never crossed my mind because it was outside my scope of experience and understanding. The new glasses — big dorky brown plastic frames and all — provided a revised perspective. They helped me see things I had never seen—had never even considered seeing — before.
My hope is that this little book can become that new pair of glasses for you.
Leadership RE:Vision isn’t about changing your goals or objectives. It’s about challenging the conventional wisdom and long-held premises of what it means to be a leader. It’s about looking at your leadership habits from a new perspective and using a different set of standards to measure the success of your efforts.
I intend to rattle your assumptions and challenge the status quo, but these aren’t new ideas. In fact, the foundations for Leadership RE:Vision are as old as time itself. The Bible is packed with lessons on leadership. God filled the pages of his book with examples of leaders — good and bad. Somewhere along the line, our ideas of what it means to be an effective leader have been tweaked and disjointed into a style that is out of kilter with what I think God intended.
Leadership RE:Vision is my attempt to help you put on a new set of glasses and to really see the leaves.
Don’t Waste God’s Time
One of my favorite leadership stories from the Bible happened when Saul was the newly appointed first king of Israel.
Saul had a mission to accomplish—God’s mission. He was the person chosen to lead God’s people. This was the next step in God’s strategic plan to fulfill his promise to Abram that he would make Abram’s descendants into a great nation and that through him“all the families on earth” would be blessed (Genesis 12:3).
The people of Israel had never been at this place. They’d never had a king. The status quo was changing. God didn’t choose Saul to manage the people; he chose Saul to lead them.
Saul had a group of men around him who
were dialed into the mission. They weren’t
supporting Saul the man so much as they
were supporting the mission he represented.
These advisers certainly didn’t agree with
everything Saul suggested. (Counselors are
worthless if they’re merely yes-men.) But
God had touched their hearts, and they provided
Saul with valuable input as he began his
But there was a group of people who just wanted to get in the way. These naysayers didn’t just have a different idea about how or why to move forward; their purpose—if indeed they even had a purpose—was to stop progress dead in its tracks.
If you’ve spent any time in a leadership role, you know about such people. You may even be thinking of some of them right now and could name them if I asked you to.
They ask the same questions and raise the same tired old flags at every meeting. They push personal agendas that are counter to the group’s mission and goals. Even after decisions have been made and the organization is poised to move ahead, these “scoundrels” (God’s description) stand in the way and impede forward momentum.
You might think Saul would try to negotiate a solution or find a way to compromise. But he doesn’t. He doesn’t try to reason with these men. He doesn’t change course to accommodate them. What does Saul do when these men get in the way? He ignores them. One Bible translation says he turned a deaf ear to them.
Turn a Deaf Ear
When I was a kid, we had a family friend who had 100 percent hearing loss. Ben was, as he described it, “deaf as a fence post.” Ben read lips amazingly well. His eyes had become his ears, and if he could see you, he could “hear” what you were saying.
Ben and his wife clearly shared a deep love for each other, but they were also world-class arguers. When they argued, Ben would stare intently at his wife’s lips to hear what she was saying. They’d go on for great lengths, but when Ben was finished with the conversation, he would put up his hand and squeeze his eyes tightly shut. If he couldn’t see, he couldn’t hear. When Ben closed his eyes, the world around him ceased to exist.
Saul was God’s appointed leader, and when a mission-busting group of scoundrels tried to steer him off course, Saul treated them as if he couldn’t hear them, as if they didn’t even exist. And here’s the clincher: There’s no evidence that God punished Saul for this behavior. In fact, there’s good reason to believe that eventually listening to these people is what got Saul into hot water with God.
It’s easy to confuse leadership and management. A manager’s task is to maintain the status quo, follow established procedures, and evaluate performance based on accepted standards. Some managers are also leaders, and some leaders do a good job of managing. The two functions are often interchanged and combined, but they are not the same.
As the leader, you’re the one who stands at the door and says, “Come and look outside. I’ve seen what’s out there, and it’s awesome,” or “I know the policy manual says to follow this procedure, but I think we need to try something different.”
Conventional wisdom suggests that effective leadership requires an open-door policy in which all complaints are heard and considered. But I don’t see that described in Scripture. The apostle Paul says that people who are causing divisions aren’t worth a third hearing (see Titus 3:10), and when it comes to people who have ulterior motives, he accuses the Corinthian believers of finding pleasure in “putting up with fools” (see 2 Corinthians 11:19-20).
God is above time. He exists outside of time. He created it and has an endless supply of it. Yet even God shows us that he won’t waste time on those who refuse to get with the program. Scripture is full of examples where in one way or another God says enough is enough.
If the One who has an endless supply of time draws a line in the sand, why are you allowing those people whose names you thought of just a few paragraphs ago to derail the mission you have to accomplish with your limited amount of time?
The next time you are facing a situation where these folks will have an opportunity to disrupt a meeting with their predictable behavior, take them aside beforehand and let them know that you will no longer tolerate their attempts to derail forward progress. Give them a chance to ask their questions in private, answer them to the best of your ability, and warn them that there is nothing to be gained by asking the same questions again.
Be gracious and speak lovingly, but don’t give in to their agendas.
Do whatever you do in the name of the Lord. He’s given you a job to do and a finite amount of time to do it. Don’t let the scoundrels trip you up.
This article is an excerpt from Leadership RE:Vision published by Tyndale House Publishers and is used with permission. (ed.)
Many more articles in Creative Leadership in The CEO Refresher Archives