I am walking in the Land of Giants again. Israel. Yesterday we were atop Mt. Carmel where Elijah called out the prophets of Baal. Today we walk were the Apostle Paul walked, rather, stood in chains before his captors and played the only card he seemed to have left. After several years of captivity, Paul breaks the deadlock of waiting and trials and depositions and iron fetters. He says, ‘I appeal to Caesar!” and everyone knows what that means. He is off to Rome.
Later today we will be in the boyhood home of Jesus of Nazareth next to the Church of the Annunciation. There, Mary said one phrase that launched the birth of a son who would save the people from their sin: “Let it be to me.”
And on and on… the tour goes to survey the land, or walk in the footsteps of Jesus, or to see the story of the Gospels as they were played out upon the land. It is a brilliant place for any Christian leader or learner to find a renewed faith. I never tire of coming, and I never tire of bringing people.
But, as I say, we walk in the Land of Giants. Here we see and read about men and women who gave it all for God; some gave their lives. They all gave their future, and some even gave their fortunes. That is the theme behind every single one of these leaders. They gave up what they had for God so that they could take up what God had given for them.
This, it seems to me, is one of the first and perhaps most important principles of leadership. Give up what we have to take hold of what we can receive. Do you hear this echoed in Paul’s words? I took hold of that which took hold of me. Do you hear this theme in Mary? Let it be to me according to your Word. Do you hear it in the followers of Christ? Rabbi, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!
Perhaps you can hear it more clearly if I paraphrase these.
I wanted the one who wanted me. I gave up the good thing I had so God could give me the best thing he had. I gave up my future so that God could give me His.
More than a Cap
John F. Kennedy inspired a country to ‘shoot for the moon’, so to speak. He used one of his favorite anecdotes about commitment and leadership when speaking to a group of scientists. His words are profound:
“Frank O’Connor, the Irish writer, tells in one of his books how, as a boy, he and his friends would make their way across the countryside, and when they came to an orchard wall that seemed too high and too doubtful to try and too difficult to permit their voyage to continue, they took off their hats and tossed them over the wall—and then they had no choice but to follow them.”
– John F. Kennedy at the Dedication of the Aerospace Medical Health Center, San Antonio, Texas, November 21, 1963
To this day, I still use the expression to motivate myself forward on a project or for team leadership. Quite often, I will say to my wife or a colleague, “I am committed to this; I threw my cap over the wall…and now I have to go get it.” (It is profound to note that Kennedy’s was spoken in Texas the day before he was killed.)
But the leaders of the Bible did more than throw a cap over the wall. In fact, they were the cap. They threw their own selves over the wall. They didn’t need to motivate themselves…they seemed almost propelled to go.
Indeed, they were ‘propelled’ by God. David says as much in one of his remarkable analogies captured in the old King James Version, “and by my God have I leaped over a wall.” (Psalm 18:29) That is what made these people in the Bible the leaders they were with legacies of faith and conviction. They didn’t throw caps…they pledged their lives. They gave up to God because God had given up to them.
There is something about standing in these places that brings the faces of the Bible into greater clarity. I hear the urgency in their voices and the conviction in their hearts. It’s good to be back in the Holy Land. Fran and I will be returning to Israel in November—would you consider joining us?
Canon David has over 35 years of local congregational ministry, diocesan and national involvement, leadership, and ministry experience and is the founder of Leaderworks. He was the founding Rector/Pastor, Christ Church, Plano and currently serves as the Strategic Leader and Dean, Diocese of C4SO.