Without Him we cannot, but without us, He will not.
— Augustan

One of the biggest mysteries of faith-based leadership is where the work of God and the work of our hands begins and ends.  Clearly, as God , He created all things, has authority over all things, and can accomplish whatever He chooses… with or without us.

But we are not simply the marionette to the divine puppeteer.  We were given the ability to choose to enter into the work He has for us to do.  We are given the opportunity to partner with the Creator of the Universe.  We are invited to be coheirs of His eternal Kingdom, here and now.  We are His hands and feet and the vehicle He chose to most prominently reflect His incredible glory to a dark and fallen world.  We are His plan “A” and there is no plan “B.”  

Let the implications of that sink in for a minute.  The One who does not really need me to accomplish all that He intends, has enlisted me to play a crucial role.  Does your heart rise at the mere possibility of that?

Next to the incarnation, I know of no more staggering truth than that a Sovereign God has ordained my participation.
— Elizabeth Elliot

I would say it even stronger that Elizabeth does.  I think He not only “ordains,” but in fact, “requires” our participation.  It is not merely a tacit endorsement of our opportunity to play a role in the Larger Story, but a need.  We are part of the plan.  Let’s look at what Augustan said again.  I think he powerfully defines the tension:

Without Him we cannot, but without us, He will not.
— Augustan

There is a false nobility I often find in my leadership and others in the faith-based space.  Almost an inability to accept acknowledgement or encouragement for the work we have done.  I remember a season where I wasn’t comfortable receiving praise about my six children.  I deflected anything positive offered about them or my parenting.  Every attaboy was redirected to the work of God, my wife, others, and pure dumb luck.

My children are not perfect and I have made lots of mistakes in parenting them, but they are really special kids.  There is a grace, mercy, and peace in them that clearly emanates from my wife.  And, of course, all glory goes to God for who they are and who they are becoming.  But I did work really hard at being a father and they bear the imprint of my parenting as well.  More often than not, when someone directs something positive about my kids in my direction, I now respond with a simple, “Thank you.”

For there is an invigorating momentum that comes from understanding we have a crucial role to play.  There is fuel for the journey in seeing that we actually contribute and play an important and particular part in the larger story of God.  It is not about taking credit, but honestly owning all the privilege, responsibility, and nobility of our appointed roles in the Kingdom.  We matter.

What we need are more Kings not making themselves the point of the story, but using their prominent place in the story to carry out the incredible work He has given us to do in the larger story.  If a person understands in the deepest way…

  • The great love their Father has for them,
  • The unique role He has created for them to play,
  • And is actively carrying out the work they have been given to do

…there is no need for false nobility.  It is the foundation for holding their leadership loosely in their hands and wearing the crown they have been given in the beautiful tension of both privilege and responsibility.  It is the essential understanding necessary for us to not only receive affirmation and encouragement, but offer it as well.  One doesn’t happen without the other.

  • Do you know the great love of your Father and understand the work He has created you to play?
  • Are you comfortable receiving affirmation and encouragement for the impact of your leadership?
  • Are you comfortably and readily able to offer it to others?