This is our tenth lesson in our new series entitled “21 Qualities for Christians in the Bible.” We must remember our goal is to aid in our growth as Christians and help to develop servant leadership traits inspired by men and women of Scripture. The apostle Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3:18, “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Peter also tells us to “add” to our faith in 2 Peter 1:5-11, “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
The apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things.” These are just a few of the Scriptures that teach Christians to grow and mature as Children of God. These things aren’t done to make the Christian better “than” those around them but better “for” those around them. As Christians are to be as Jesus says in Matthew 5:13-16, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
You see, the Bible is not only the greatest book every written, it is the greatest leadership book ever written. Everything we could ever want to learn about leadership – vision, purpose, thinking strategy, communication, attitude, encouragement, mentoring, follow-through – it’s all there. We must be open to what God wants to teach us. We learn from the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 55:11 concerning God, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Three things we must recognize in this text, (1) God’s Word always fulfills His purpose. (2) His Word does not return to Him void; (3) It accomplishes what He pleases and prospers in what He sent it for.
So, for Our lesson today we examine: Initiative: You Won’t Leave home Without It.
Christians are to initiate. Some one has to go first, and the one who does is usually seen as the leader. To take initiative is to go beyond noticing a problem or seeing a need. Successful leaders take action on what they see – often before anyone else does. This comes more easily for some personalities. But even people more prone to contemplation can learn to take action.
Effective Christians, Servant Leaders, are always on the lookout for opportunities. They know what they want, and they see everything through the filter of opportunity. Even in the midst of hardship or failure, they ask themselves, “How can I use this situation to move forward toward the goal?” And once they see an opportunity, they immediately look for ways to seize it. They are decisive, and they refuse to give in to the “paralysis of analysis.” After deciding to act, they don’t wait for anyone else to motivate them. They push themselves to take action, even if it takes them beyond their comfort zone.
To succeed at taking initiative, Christians, Servant Leaders, must face the fear of failure and overcome it. They understand that mistakes are possible, and they weigh the risk accurately. Then they take action accordingly. One reason for this is that they recognize the price of not acting. Usually, it is higher than imperfect action. And not making a decision often leads to the decision being made by others for them.
The good news for initiators is that they make things happen. The bad news is that they make lots of mistakes. IBM founder Thomas J, Watson said, “The way to succeed is to double your failure rate.” The greater the potential for success, the greater the chance for failure. As Senator Robert Kennedy said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” If you want to achieve great thins as a Christian, Servant Leader, you’ve got to be willing to initiate and put yourself on the line.
This is exactly what the apostles did. Once they heard the words from our Lord, “Follow Me” they dropped everything, put their lives on the line, and were the greatest servant leaders the world has known. Why is that you might ask? Because, the one they followed was THE greatest Servant Leader EVER and EVER WILL BE! He gave up the glories of heaven for you and me! He knew what it would cost, and he paid the price! He valued us more than anything else He had created!
Today we are going to learn Initiative from Noah, Isaiah, and James. In the book of Genesis chapter 6:9-22 and Genesis 7:1-5 we get to learn about the Bold Actions of Noah! “This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah begot three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. 11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, "The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14 "Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch. 15 "And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. 16 "You shall make a window for the ark, and you shall finish it to a cubit from above; and set the door of the ark in its side. You shall make it with lower, second, and third decks. 17 "And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 "But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark-you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you. 19 "And of every living thing of all flesh you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20 "Of the birds after their kind, of animals after their kind, and of every creeping thing of the earth after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive. 21 "And you shall take for yourself of all food that is eaten, and you shall gather it to yourself; and it shall be food for you and for them." 22 Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.” Gen. 7:1-5, “Then the LORD said to Noah, "Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation. 2 "You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female; 3 "also seven each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth. 4 "For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made." 5 And Noah did according to all that the LORD commanded him.”
There are two verses from our text that should really stand out to us for our study, Genesis 6:22, “Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.” and Genesis 7:5 “And Noah did according to all that the LORD commanded him.” God provided Noah with the warning of what was about to happen. God also gave Noah a plan in which he could save others if he chose to obey. This would be God’s grace, a plan for salvation! As the text says, Noah did all that God commanded him. With this instruction from God Noah had some decisions to make. What would he do first? He would have to figure out how to make the Lord’s Will happen. He had the dimensions of the ark and the design. He had the number of floors, doors, and windows. He would also have to have help in constructing the Ark. He would have to talk with his wife, his three sons and their wives and anyone else who would listen. As we know from the end of the story, only 8 souls were saved on the ark along with 2 of each animal along with 7 each of birds of the air (Gen. 7:2, 3). But Noah had a lot to accomplish, and we see from our text he accomplished it and was blessed by God! Here is the story of man who lived in a time when God “saw the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thought of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). This is the environment Noah had to build the Ark in. It would take initiative! He would have to step up and do as he had been instructed by God! Lives were at stake! God was to be glorified! Just think of the leadership traits Noah would need to get this task accomplished. Just think of perhaps the ridicule he would have had to endure. Perhaps he might have had doubt to getting the job done. All the emotions and challenges that you and I face today would have plagued Noah as he was busy about doing the will of God. The Bible reveals to us that Noah did overcome every challenge and did according to all that the Lord commanded Him! You may not think of this, but we have Noah’s initiative to thank for our existence to this day! Because of his willingness to work diligently for the Lord, we were given the opportunity to live and have our turn to serve our God and fellow man in this life!
Now let’s turn over to Isaiah 6:1-13 where we will learn from the initiative of Isaiah when he Steps Forward! “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!" 4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 So I said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts." 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged." 8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: "Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me." 9 And He said, "Go, and tell this people: 'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.' 10 "Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed." 11 Then I said, "Lord, how long?" And He answered: "Until the cities are laid waste and without inhabitant, The houses are without a man, The land is utterly desolate, 12 The LORD has removed men far away, And the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. 13 But yet a tenth will be in it, And will return and be for consuming, As a terebinth tree or as an oak, Whose stump remains when it is cut down. So the holy seed shall be its stump."
From our text we see that Isaiah was terrified by what he saw, yet he volunteered when the Lord looked for someone to send as his representative. Isaiah had a low self-image. A humble spirit if you will. And the task the Lord gave to Isaiah was not a pleasant one; the message was not happy and uplifting. Much like Noah, Isaiah had to deal with people whose hearts were rebellious toward God. However, as our text shows us, Isaiah fulfilled the mission the Lord gave him. It was initiative that moved Isaiah to serve the True and Living God. He knew the mission had to be accomplished and even with the challenge before him he was willing to step up and do those things necessary. Lives again were again at stake. The Lord’s Will was to be done. No one else was willing, so to speak, but Isaiah said those famous words, “Here am I, Lord, send me!” This is exactly the attitude each and every Christian needs to adopt in their life. God was the one who sustained Isaiah in his efforts to accomplish his mission. God was the one who gave the instruction. It was God’s plan Isaiah was to utilize. Much like Noah, God provided the plan. So, as we all well know, His plans always work!
From Noah to Isaiah, now we turn to James 2:14-26 and learn where James extols the value of taking action! “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
James helps us to see that “faith” will “move” us to obedience, meaning we will do as God commands! Christians are to like Noah and Isaiah, have faith and God and get busy doing His Will! James utilizes Abraham and how he “believed” and showed his faith by his actions. God accounted is deeds or actions to Abraham for righteousness! Fro someone to claim they have faith, but they do nothing with the instructions given in the Bible to grow, change, and serve others than their faith is not a saving faith! Not that one can earn salvation, but we show our obedience to God, but “moving” to do those things, those “good works,” God has given us to do. James also uses the harlot Rahab to help us see that she was “justified” by her works! She believed and did as she was commanded! A wonderful brother in Christ by the name of BillyDon Wright once explained the word “justified” to me like this, “justified means, ‘just as if I had never sinned”” This is what we must understand for us today. The obedient child of God, starts by being added to the body of Christ through baptism, having their sins washed away by the precious blood of Christ, rising to walk in newness of life. This life, is an abundant life in Christ of service to others and bringing glory and honor to God! Therefore, all of those who have obeyed the gospel of Christ have a responsibility to take initiative and get busy doing the will of the Lord just like Noah, Isaiah, in the manner in which James commends. In each of our examples of initiative, God provided the plan to be used. In each case, when God’s plan was used, it was successful. Let’s remember the words of Isaiah concerning God in Isaiah 55:8, 9, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. 9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” Man kind has had some great plans and done some wonderful things, but none of them measure up to the plans God has for us. We learn from Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” The New international Version puts the verse like this, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Let’s stick with His plans! For Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
So, with these examples of Initiative and so many others, let us examine our hearts and see if we “measure up” to the level of initiative truly desired in us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! The level of initiative He Himself had when He was willing to go to the cross on our behalf. His initiative aided Him in going through all that He did on our behalf. All Christians need to be a people of initiative! Our world around us struggles so, because too many true Christians have sat back instead of stepping up! Let us do better in serving our fellow man and bringing glory to our God! We must take action and that requires initiative. We must go above and beyond in our efforts to serve as did Noah, Isaiah, and as James instructs.
So, for this series of lessons we have studied: Character, Charisma, Commitment, Communication, Competence, Courage, Discernment, Focus, Generosity, and now initiative. The Lord has provided for us time and time again these qualities modeled in the Bible for our growth for His Will to be done!