"Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." (Philippians 2:1-4)
Today, as we go through our lives, we are faced with extreme pressure to conform to the popular culture of the day. We all want to fit in with the in-crowd, but all too often the in-crowd is traveling down a dangerous road. It has always been that way as when I was younger than today I could not afford to be trendy. I didn’t have the right clothes, drive the right car, or go to all the right places as the popular kids. Then being the type that I am I didn’t care to have a large circle but was better satisfied with a small loyal circle I could trust to be true. As you have gone through life you learned that most friends are really just associates, and true friends are counted by your fingers.
As life rolls on and the years begin to stack up, we find ourselves in groups. First I was from Manatee High School and was a Hurricane. Then the Army for a season and then to my first job. These are groups that we fall into, and we have to have respect for the group and have a good measure of loyalty to them. I worked for W W Trucking for thirty years, and that was my employment group. I was loyal to my company and did what was best for then above others. What was best for my employment group was best for secure employment. Security is true no matter what group we fall into because we want the group we belong to become the best of the best. So as it was the outer man, the one the world sees and knows, always was bonded to the foundation of the group. Who are you? A question answered by what group I was affiliated with.
Therefore, we all fall into these associations in our life. The job, the club, the bowling league, and so forth. That is fine and expected for the outward person as we are social creatures. Inwardly we are individuals. Each unique and different from any other in our group of mankind. I had often heard folks say, “God broke the mold when He made that one.” I thought that was cute, but now I believe it to be true. An infinite God can and does create an infinite amount of individual people. There are said to be eight billion people living on the earth today, and none of them are identically the same. All are individually created. They may have similar appearances, but the hearts and souls are uniquely individual. We all want to be seen as our own persons, which explains why my daughter had orange hair when she was a teen.
I learned early on that individuality is a greater satisfaction than hanging with a bunch of people that you know the names of but really don’t know. An example is my oldest son, who has a large group of friends but has a hard time finding any in times of trouble. My youngest son has a small group of friends, and it is seldom that they are not together. I cannot say which is better or worse, but I can count my friends on the fingers of one hand and I’ve known all of them but one most of my life, yet I know a lot of people, but they are not close friends.
Some follow, and those who lead. I really do not know what makes the difference in a person to become one of the two, a leader or a follower. Perhaps it is found in the inspiration of thought or the exceptional personality of a person. Another essential aspect would be the life experiences of the person. The more experience a person has, the more capable that person is to lead others through the same experience. It does require a courageous boldness to take charge. Then there are times that the followers will lead, and the leaders will follow. In my time I have seen the brave stumble and the cowardly turn and fight, which makes me realize that heroes are inspired by the moment.
There are exceptional leaders, and we say of them they were born to lead. I don’t disagree with that as some have that natural charisma to inspire others to follow. But in my time I have met leaders that I wouldn’t follow across the street unless I had to. They seemed to be more caught in the position and the power of leading than in the welfare of their followers. There are all kinds of definitions of leaders to be found, but I think the best is what Jesus said to His disciples. "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. "It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Matthew 22:25-28)
When looking at the attributes of a leader, I have read that there are six characteristics of a good leader. These are confidence, focus, honesty, positivity, decisiveness, and inspiration. I add that a leader must have well-founded self-esteem of themself. There is a flaw in leaders, even good leaders, and that is to what they are leading people into. Being a good leader does not make one a good person. We have all experienced good leaders and bad and the bad are usually leading in the wrong direction. A good leader then would have to have a good grasp of what is right and true. The best leaders then would have an inward knowledge of righteousness and righteousness is found in the Word of God.
If you are a leader or a follower, or occasionally both, and if you have a large circle or a small tight circle of friends, it comes down to this you are reverently and wonderfully made by God in the sanctuary of your mother’s womb. "For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb." (Psalm 139:13) Regardless of any group that you are associated with you are a person with unique abilities. Ideally, your passion and employment are the same and making money is also making fun. But sometimes employment and passion find themselves in different spheres. The point I am driving at is that God has given you a talent that is uniquely yours and one that you will develop. This talent may be a way to earn your way through this world, but it is also given for you to glorify God. If I was a piano player then I could be a concert pianist. But I would also by a piano player in the worship service for God not only in Church but wherever worship takes place.
The Lord God Almighty does not create anything outside of His plan to accomplish His purpose, according to His Will. Therefore, you were fearfully and wonderfully made for a purpose according to God’s plan to accomplish His will. You were created to play a part in something bigger than creation itself. It is said that 75% of the world population has rejected God’s Word, His plan and purpose for their life, and have chosen to dance through this world out of harmony with His creation. Yet each and everyone has a part to play, has an eternal purpose for their life, and a home in His Kingdom at the end of this age. When we make choices as to what we are going to do with our day do we weigh the eternal effects?
All have been given a unique and individual talent to be used for a specific task that has been prepared for us long before we were conceived. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)
There is a choice to be made by each of us individually before that mysterious appointed time for us to depart this world. We can choose to live in God’s will for our lives and accomplish the work that He has ordained for us to do, or we can eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we will die. "And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry." (Luke 12:19) Too many live their life looking for the morrow confident in the stores of today. Sadly for them, that day never comes, and God laughs at their foolishness. "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?" (Luke 12:20)
As uniquely talented individuals, we have the purpose of playing in God’s plan and purpose which I believe is to restore mankind’s personal relationship with Him, as it was in the Garden of Eden. We should use that talent given to us by God to enlighten the hearts of those who are lost in a darkened world by sin. Not all will come, most will reject God’s truth, but we are to be there to shear it with those who will. Those whose hearts have been prepared by God to receive it. All Christians then have a leadership role in leading those who seek the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven. For the sake of their spiritual lives, for the purpose of our duty, and for the glory of God’s name. As Peter wrote to the Church, "Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory." (1 Peter 5:1-4)
Thomas N Kirkpatrick
First Baptist Church of Durant, May 29, 2019