From passages like Luke 4:18-19, 19:10 and John 17:4 we can conclude that Jesus was a man with a clear direction—provide for salvation, model righteous living, and train men to advance the Gospel and His Kingdom. During the three years of His life that we know most about, Jesus lived His set direction. Observing His relationship with His Disciples, He intentionally nurtured their awareness of this direction. And, during the week before His death as well as the days before His Ascension, He commissioned His followers with their set direction.
Leading by setting direction and helping others discern and confirm their part in the direction was important for Jesus and should be for all leaders. Direction setting involves at least three components: clarifying where to go, why go there, and what it could look like upon arrival
1. Where to go? For the Christ-follower, no factor is more important than hearing from God. Jesus made it clear that His direction was set by the Father (John 5:19, 30; 13:3-4)—He did not set the direction Himself. What does this say to us?
In my earlier days I was very “ambitious for God.” In fact, I designed a recruitment brochure by that title to attract ambitious people to join the cause of missions. It happens more often than not for a person, a group, or an organization to use their best individual or combined understanding is to set a direction for God. But, God does not need our direction! Like with Jesus, one has already been set. Our challenge is to discern the direction He has set for our community and us.
In the direction-discernment process we can assume that God wants us to use the minds and heart He gave us as our guide. Apart from some dramatic revelation, God expects us to do our research to gain accurate and relevant data. A direction is only as good as the information you base it upon. He also impresses upon our hearts a longing to make a difference. By listening with “emotional ears” we can find confirmation of where He is leading us.
I am reminded of how one great missionary statesman sensed God’s direction for him and what would become a fundamental principle of the mission he founded. On June 25, 1865, James Hudson Taylor was walking a beach near Brighton, England. His mind was overwhelmed by the spiritual needs he saw firsthand during his first decade in China. His heart was overwhelmed by how British worshippers were oblivious to the plight of millions of Chinese people. While struggling to discern God’s direction he later recorded:
“There the Lord conquered my unbelief, and I surrendered myself to God for this service. I told him that all responsibility as to the issues and consequences must rest with him; that as his servant it was mine to obey and to follow him—his to direct, to care for, and to guide me and those who might labor with me…”
2. Why go there? Once the direction is clear the only reason worth pursuing it is for God to receive the glory that is due Him. Lesser motives abound such as some great need, a longing to please God, a desire for adventure, among others. These will never sustain the rigors that come with the pursuit of God’s direction. Leaders must frequently remind themselves and their followers of why God’s direction is worth our dedication.
3. What could it look like upon arrival? If we accurately discern His direction and move with proper motives, we can expect His enabling to accomplish the outcome that honors Him. Again, it was Hudson Taylor who lived his belief: “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.” Since God’s thoughts and ways are not ours, what it looks like when we arrive at the destination will be adjusted from our initial vision. And just like God, it will be above and beyond all that we could ask or think!
How confident are you that the direction you are leading is God’s direction? If confident, how well are you living and communicating this direction? Setting direction is a first step in leading like Jesus.
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