A Servant Leader

Autumn landscape on the lake in the woods

Joshua 4; Psalms 129–131; Isaiah 64; Matthew 12

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;

My eyes are not raised too high;

I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother.

O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore (Psalm 131).

Last week, I watched a leadership video by Andy Stanley called Empty Your Cup.  In this video Stanley describes a leader’s duty to “pour into” the lives of those they lead.  He makes the statement that no leader, working alone, has everything their followers need to fill their cup.  A humbling reminder for those of us in leadership roles. He then goes on to tell leaders, “your responsibility isn’t to fill anybody’s cup, it’s to find ways to pour into the people around you what you do know, not because it’s all there is to know, but because it’s all you know.” He calls this emptying your cup.

Do you see the Empty Your Cup theory of leadership in Psalm 131?  A leader whose mission is to empty their cup for the betterment of those they lead describes a servant leader.  This leader is not arrogant nor does he/she carry an attitude of superiority.  Rather than occupying themselves with things too great and marvelous for them (Psalm 131:1), they find a way to teach others about what they know because it is all they know.

This theory leads me to a couple of key questions:

  • If all I can pour into others is what I know, how do I make sure I know the right things?
  • What is the secret to maintaining a servant’s approach to leadership?

I think Psalm 131 verses 2 and 3 provides some answers. Calming and quieting our souls before God (Psalm 131:2) gives him an opportunity to shape our hearts and minds/fill them with godly things. When our hearts and minds are filled with godly things, we can’t help but put our hope in the Lord (Psalm 131:3). This naturally helps us serve others rather than ourselves.

Growing up, my family vacationed every summer in the north woods of Minnesota on Long Lake. When I read the words “I have calmed and quieted my soul”, it takes me to this place.  Calming and quieting your soul before the Lord is an art.  In my experience, it isn’t something that comes naturally, but takes time and practice.  Perhaps that is why this verse takes me to Long Lake.  When I was a kid, we didn’t go to Long Lake for just a weekend or even a week at a time.  We went for 2 or 3 weeks every summer.

For each of us to calm and quiet our souls before the Lord, we need to get away from the business of schedules, from email, from 24 hour news media and so much more.  This definitely isn’t easy.  But if we are distracted by the craziness of life, how can we ever expect God to get through to us?  If we aren’t filled with godly things, how will we ever be prepared to pour goodness into the lives of others?

How do you calm and quiet your soul before God?

In the mid-1980’s, the choir at Eastview performed a musical titled Psalms Alive.  It was simply the words of 10 different Psalms (113, 84, 92, 143, 40, 23, 148, 86, 131, 19) set to music.  I remember sitting on Long Lake singing the song I Have Stilled and Quieted My Soul.  All these years later, the beauty of God’s creation, quiet surroundings and the soothing words of Psalm 131 still help me calm and quiet my soul before God.