As Kingdom agents, we carry unique responsibility.
From leading in humility to serving with authority1, no question our purpose thrives as we help others find theirs.
Yet, while these efforts often demand a lion-like attitude…
You’d probably think I was nuts…baa none.
Granted, this is partly true (just ask my wife); however, in all seriousness, if we truly desire to impact people, then we must seek to hear the Lord with all our hearts in all modes of life (Matthew 11:15). As the Psalmist declares, God not only wants to talk to us like a father, but lead us like the master shepherd he is…regardless of where we’re at.
That said, here are three steps we, as sheep-ish2 leaders, can take to better hear God at work…
1. Trust the Shepherd
Scripture: John 10:3-4; 14-15 (ESV) – “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
Imagine you’re a supervisor delegating tasks in hope to achieve an important outcome. How would you manage? Obviously, you wouldn’t assign work outside your team’s ability or understanding. Rather you’d ensure they were properly trained, equipped to execute, and clearly communicated to.
Unfortunately, when it comes to God, we often think we have to ‘know’ our way to what he’s trying to say…as if he’s a detached boss speaking over our heads in hope we’ll one day figure it out.
But truth is: when we recognize the Lord as shepherd (Psalm 23:1) in whom we lack nothing, we can rest assured he will be faithful to awaken our ears to hear (Isaiah 50:4-5) as opposed to just leading through circumstance.
John 10:3 captures this beautifully…
“The sheep hear his voice…”
No effort, no striving. Just listening in hope to follow. Listening in hope to follow…
…the epitome of stillness in motion (as well as call being rooted in listening and obeying, not skill and power; more on this in a future post).
Continuing into v. 4, we see how God, as shepherd, not only shows the sheep where to go, but goes before and calls them by name. Accordingly, the flock is at peace trusting the shepherd’s voice knowing the emphasis is not on their following, but his ability to lead.
Scripture: John 10:27 (ESV) – “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
Scripture: Isaiah 30:21 (ESV) – “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.“
Bottom line: Hearing God speak at work starts with trusting him at all times. Even when God works in mysterious ways (Romans 11:25-36), he’ll still speak in ones we can understand, trust, and obey.
2) Follow the Leader
Scripture: Psalm 23:1-6 (ESV) – “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
For many of us, we have no problem telling God, “Where you go, I’ll go, where you stay, I’ll stay, when you move, I’ll move, I will follow”; sadly, when it comes to, “what you do, I’ll do, what you say, I’ll say, what you love, I’ll love…”, we’re far more hesitant.
Why it that?
For starters, while it’s easy to trust God in green pastures and quiet waters, it’s harder to trust him in the darkest valleys surrounded by enemies. David captures this vividly in Psalm 13…
“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him, lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”
Of course, if there’s ever a time to ask the Holy Spirit to light up our eyes declaring, “I yield myself in this moment of decision, wanting only that which will glorify Jesus”, it’s when we work3. After all, one could say there’s hardly a place more consuming4 than where we’re employed.
Yet, even when we feel lost within our corporate flocks, even when we think the daily grind is more like a daily distraction, note what the Lord, our shepherd, does on our behalf…
- He guides us along the right paths for his name’s sake… (v. 3)
- He establishes our steps by preparing tables (Note: if he can do this in the presence of our enemies, he can surely do it in the presence of our leaders, supervisors, bosses, etc.), anointing our heads, filling our cups… (v. 5)
- As we follow him, his goodness and love follows. (v. 6)
In essence, not only is God faithful to illuminate our hearts to trust, but also our strength to follow…both as our front/rear guard (Isaiah 52:12) and through the ‘bellwether’ leaders he puts in our path.
Bottom line: Trusting God’s leading means trusting his will in those he entrusts.
3) Still Your Soul
Scripture: Psalm 100:3 (ESV) – “Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”
For many, 9-5 silence can be hard to come by. Phone calls, conference meetings, appointments, trainings…no doubt, the quest to quiet our souls is far from easy.
Thankfully, where there’s a will, there’s a still…where we can allow the Spirit to convict our hearts as we worship and focus on God.
Take my case for example…
As a TDOT Finance employee, I work inside a moatless cubicle providing travel, departmental budget, and federal grant reporting support to a network of over 2,000 people. One could say I bring an umbrella to work even on dry days given when it rains, it pours!
Still (pun intended), even on days when I’m drowning in what I can’t control or tempted to wallow in what I can’t understand, that gentle whisper5 reminds me of the invitation with my name on it…calling me to enter in his gates with thanksgiving, his courts with praise (Psalm 100:4)…helping me die to my own reasons, feelings, and false hopes.
And before you to know it…my peace is secure with the shepherd…my domain nothing more than the daddy’s lap6 where I inquire what he insists and longs me to resist7…
…where I am his and he is mine…
…my dependence complete in perfect love.
Bottom line: Don’t just draw near to God; soak in his impressions8. Remember the goal is to be close to hear, not hear to be close. Even in silence, God’s guidance is always perfect, his heart always felt, his ways always clear.
Stay tuned next time for a sequel post on how we can test, apply, and share our guidance and impressions.
‘Til then, don’t stop baaa-lievin’…
- As opposed to ‘sheepish’
- Marketplace, day job/place of employment/occupation
- Assuming one or more apply: competing voices, compromised ethics, and crazy/unpredictable workloads
- Inner voice could sound/look like a mental image, word picture, impression (whether visual or Scripture), word, peace/dispeace, surprising idea you normally wouldn’t have thought of (usually discovered through prayer), a sentence on the screen of your mind like the typing on a computer screen
- #staynotstray, #herdistheWord
- Be it vanity, mediocrity, fear of man, fear/anxiety, resentment, our past, etc.
- Tip: Consider bringing a notepad/writing utensil to record what the Spirit is telling you; if you have the privacy, you can also record your thoughts memo style on your phone
Cover photo creds: Biblical Research Reports