Leading Sustainably: The Inner Life

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Leading Sustainably: The Inner Life

Posted on 25 Mar 2024



In the midst of the incessant demands and distractions of our fast-paced lives, there exists a profound need to tend to the sanctuary of our souls—the inner life.



This inner sanctuary is where we find the strength to carry on when we are stretched. It is also where God resides in our lives despite the winds and waves that come consistently.

We each need a hope that is an anchor for our souls:

 

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

— Hebrews 6:19-20


This is especially so for those of us who lead. As leaders, there will be times when we are anxious and disappointed. Leading sustainably demands that we tend to our inner lives on a consistent basis.


Neglecting our inner life quickly brings burnout. The scriptures provide examples.

At the height of Elijah’s triumph in 1 Kings 18 and 19, Elijah faced fear like any mortal man. Elijah summoned the 450 prophets of Baal and told them to set up their altar, to call upon Baal and if he were real, for him to respond by fire.

Elijah made it even harder for himself by pouring jugs of water on his altar and sacrifice and declared that only God could perform the act (1 King 18:30-37).

God heard Elijah’s call.


In spectacular fashion, fire fell down and burned up not only the sacrifice but even licked up the water around the altar in the trench. In one fell swoop all the prophets of Baal were also caught and killed. Everyone fell prostrate and declared that God is Lord! Elijah was doing great.

However, in the following chapter, we read that Jezebel was out to kill him and Elijah ran for his life. He was so distraught that he asked God to take his life.

 

“...while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.”

— 1 Kings 19:4

The easy question to ask is, shouldn’t Elijah have called fire from heaven to destroy Jezebel? Why run?

Making disciples can sometimes feel like a culmination of the same triumphs and defeats that Elijah faced.

Seeing people transformed, calling Jesus the Lord of their lives and even declaring that everyone should be like them as they serve God zealously may feel like a triumph in a moment.

Yet, being a disciple is for life.

When the same disciple falls and sometimes dramatically makes a scene about how wrong they have been, our disappointment may make us feel like giving up.

As leaders, disciplemakers, and co-labourers continue to plough the ground, we hear far too often of faithful service but ‘fruitlessness’ in comparison to others who are ‘fruitful’. We try to celebrate the success of others, but the constant nagging feeling that we are not good enough or have not tried hard enough can be very real.

We would be glad to know that Elijah’s story didn’t end in disappointment. God patiently and gently restored Elijah. Giving him time to rest, eat and slow down. Giving him time to reflect and have his inner life restored once again (1 Kings 19:5-9). God explained that Elijah wasn’t the only one left, in fact, God had reserved 7000 in Israel who had not bowed down to Baal for His purposes. God then went on to ask Elijah to anoint successors to His work.

The crux of the matter is not merely God calling Elijah back to his senses, but rather, the fact that to lead sustainably, one must recognize that God is in control.

Whether or not we succeed or fail, God still calls those who are His back to Himself. Every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.

 

“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

— Philippians 2:10-11


We will still inadvertently wrestle with the fears and failures of life, but that does not mean God is not present.

Jesus Himself also exemplified the importance of nurturing the inner life through his life and teachings.

In Matthew 6:6 and Mark 1:35, Jesus taught and demonstrated the significance of private, intimate prayer as a means of nurturing our inner lives and deepening our relationship with God.

 

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

— Matthew 6:6


“Very early in the morning, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

— Mark 1:35

In the solitude of prayer, we have the opportunity to pour out our hearts to God, seek His guidance, and experience His presence in a profound way. If even Jesus took time away to be with the Lord, what more should fallen human beings like us?

Pastor Edmund Chan once shared this simple way of developing a discipline of solitude. Spend 1 hour every day, 1 day every month and 1 week every year with the Lord.

Taking an hour a day might be daunting to some as a start, but it won’t take long for one to realize that the amount of time is not the issue; it’s the quality of time spent with the Lord that matters. As quality time is spent with the Lord, the things of the Lord naturally flow out of our lives much like what is said in Luke 6:45—


“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up. In his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”



Nurturing our inner lives is not merely so that we can serve better, but to seek God as the anchor for all that we are and are called to do. It is not a luxury reserved for the spiritual elite but an indispensable aspect of being a disciple of Christ.

By prioritizing spiritual disciplines and fostering intimacy with God in the privacy of our rooms, we embark on a journey of spiritual growth and transformation that enriches every facet of our life, ministry and leadership.

How will we prioritize our next step to cultivate a rich inner life so that we can lead sustainably?




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The article above encapsulates a poignant reflection shared by NavTech Ministry Leader, Roger Yeo, who facilitated the recent NextGen Leaders Initiative titled "Leading Sustainably: The Inner Life" together with the National Director, Viloane and his wife, Patricia Ko.

In our ongoing national initiative to develop emerging disciplemaking leaders, one paramount theme emerges: the cultivation of inner lives.

We are convinced that to keep labouring and leading for a lifetime, we each need a healthy and rich inner life. This is especially critical for leaders who often find themselves neglecting their inner lives in our externally oriented world amidst a busy and hurried life filled with multiple pursuits, preoccupations and activities. 
 
Here are reflections of several emerging leaders following the recent gathering and Extended Time Alone With God (XTAWG) assignment, their immersion in 3-5 hours in solitude to connect with God:



Abner 
I was encouraged to keep my eyes and heart humble. I was also refreshed with God's perfect peace. I have all I need, rather, when I have everything in God and Christ. 



Nissi
Keep returning to the Shepherd of my soul to receive His shalom of mind and heart. 



Adrian


“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel”

— Philippians 1:27


Despite barrenness in the ministry, God wants me to live out a life in a manner worthy of the gospel, being the one man consistently testifying for Christ regardless of the response of the crowd. 
The gospel is a precious message to my life. 


Siew Siew 

I felt God spoke to me: "Siew Siew, I want you to know that out of all nations, you will be my treasured possession, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5-6)



Jermyn

The Lord has shown me certain falsehoods in my mind in response to certain failures in life. He impressed upon my heart the need to trust in Him more. I can plan a lot and do a lot, but it's essential to trust in Him. 


Jennifer
Moving away from the Lord (Jesus and His Lordship) leads to the problem of having no peace. 
I see the need to truly guard my devotional life and the living relationship with Jesus in the midst of busyness and challenges, with a clear focus on maximizing glory for God.


“Peace I leave with you; peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

— John 14:27



Nicholas

I pondered about those areas of my life where I didn't have complete peace, harmony, or completeness. I realized that these are the areas in which I have a fear of what is to come... I'm not relying on God or humbling myself before Him and letting Him lead the way.


Zhi Yi


“Of one thing I am certain: my soul has become calm, quiet, and contented in You.”

— Psalm 131:2, The Voice


It is not about the removal of ‘bad’ circumstances, or situations that I see as limitations, but seeing You! You are there! You are with me! You called me. You chose me. You know me. You love me.



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“my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!”

— Galatians 4:19, ESV


With Galatians 4:19 as the vision, we want to make cultivating our inner selves—who we are becoming in His Kingdom—our foremost pursuit, priority, and passion.


As we ‘enlarge the place of our tents’, we pray for our current and emerging disciplemaking leaders to keep enlarging our souls until Christ is fully formed in each of us. 

It is from the depths of our being, where Christ dwells richly, that sustainable and transformative leadership truly emerges.


 

 

 

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