As we look at the life of Jesus, we see one of the main foundations of his life was that he only did what he saw his Father doing.
Toward the beginning of his ministry, Jesus gave a State of the Union address (known as the Sermon on the Mount) in which he preached on the realities of how to live from a heavenly perspective. At the end of this sermon, he shares about the parable of the wise and foolish builder, and how the wise builder builds a life on two things: humility and courage.
He has the humility to hear and the courage to obey what he hears. (Here’s why this is important: from an earthly perspective, not everything you hear will make sense. That’s why courage is also required.)
The Struggle For Us
What I’ve found is that most of us are really good at one or the other, humility or courage. To be great at both hearing and doing requires time and effort. The great majority of committed Christians naturally gravitate toward either the hearing or the doing category.
Here’s a closer look at the variations I see most often in the leaders I know and work with:
The Forgetful Person/Leader
These individuals are good at hearing from God and they enjoy that ability, whether it’s from the Bible, books, sermons or nature. However, putting what they hear into practice can be a struggle. They are like the great seminary professor or an amazing basketball coach who knows what to do and even why to do it but who isn’t that great at implementation. In other words they can create the hype or expectation, but they aren’t good at playing the game. They live by the (mostly unspoken) motto: “Do as I say, not as I do.”
The Fumbling Person/Leader
These individuals are good at obedience but not necessarily good at listening. So they stumble their way through life. They generally know the good they ought to do and the principles of the Bible, yet they don’t create the space to specifically hear what God is saying to them. For example, if Joshua had said, “Yeah God, I got this battle—no worries” at Jericho, defeat would have come upon the Hebrew people. Instead, God had specific instructions as to how to defeat the enemy. Fumbling leaders are like the experienced Christians who generally know what to do but can’t disciple others. In basketball terms they are the star players who have lots of experience and instinct but lack the competency to explain it or teach it.
The Frustrated Person/Leader
These individuals go through life choosing to neither hear nor obey, and so they find plenty of frustration. Choosing to do life their own way, they find themselves out of the game—much like the player who rides the bench for the season unwilling to listen to the coach or work on the basic fundamentals of the game. This mentality will either bring an attitude of cynicism and negativity or a false arrogance, often with undertones of insecurity.
The Faithful Person/Leader
This, of course, is the wise builder—an individual who is slowly and steadily advancing by creating the space to humbly listen and courageously obey. Over the course of their life, two things become increasingly clear:
- Identity: who I am (values)
- Calling: what I’m called to do (vision)
This is similar to the Level Five leaders described in Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great. Their life and leadership draw people, as they are both compelling and contagious—attributes that produce a multipliable harvest (30-, 60-, or 100-fold) as well as the fruits of the Spirit. Their faithfulness builds into people, families, communities and organizations, as they bring life and love into this world.
Hearing and Doing Matrix
Here is how we can illustrate these different dynamics:
Wherever you find yourself in the hearing and doing matrix, know that God will meet you right there and wants to help you take both your personal and professional life to another level. Sure, there might be difficult choices, or a change in priorities or investments, but the price will be worth the prize.
Recalibrate your perspectives, rethink your potential, realign your priorities, review your practices and choose to humbly hear and courageously obey. Then see what Jesus the builder can do.
Not only does he want to build your life, but he wants to help you build a better life, and it begins by hearing and doing.