One of Max de Pree’s famous management quotes is this, “the first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.” This is true, not only for leaders, but for all of us who seek to follow Jesus. While we may agree with this advice, defining reality may be more difficult than we think. How do we define reality? The need to do so assumes that there are a host of alternatives that are somehow counterfeit, deceptive, or misleading. As we look at the challenges of today and the concerns for the future, how do we discern truth from deception?
The task can be even more challenging as stewards because we have an enemy whose primary media are lies and deception. Nothing delights the enemy more than when we fixate on illusions rather than the truth. It takes us off course, wastes resources, and directs our focus toward ourselves instead of toward Christ. So how do we, as stewards, define reality?
When I ponder what is real and what is illusory, I am reminded of my total knee replacement surgery. After the procedure, I was put on a heavy dose of strong narcotics to eliminate the pain so I could engage in the rigorous physical therapy needed to rehab my knee. It was an odd and disorienting time. While my body was truly in pain, my brain was tricked into believing that I was feeling better than I was. The cost of this was a constant fog. I called it living in my ‘castle on a cloud’. It sapped my energy, kept me from being able to engage in relationships, and fed me misinformation about my well-being. While the deception was planned for and the long term results were for my best, it was not a pleasant state. Neither was coming out of my ‘castle on a cloud’ and returning to the reality of drug-free life.
I reflect back on this time and realize that my definition of reality was significantly skewed. I wonder if the same happens to us as stewards? The challenge, of course, is whether we choose to define reality in light of kingdom values or worldly values? Do we assess our present situation and future prospects in light of human wisdom and secular metrics of success, or are they modified by God’s promises and the values of His kingdom? Consider the following:
Is reality the challenging state of your finances or the promise of God‘s abundant provision for you and the work He’s called you to?
Is reality your sense that you never have enough time to do everything you need to do or is it the promise that God always provides enough time to do the work for which He commissions us?
Is reality our sense of inadequacy to meet the challenges and demands of life or is it God’s promise that His strength will be made perfect in our weakness?
Is reality the sense of hopelessness we feel when the challenges of the world and work overcome us or is it God‘s promise that our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness?
As stewards, it is certainly our job to define reality. The real question is whether that reality is based on what we see and do or on what God is doing and promises to do in our midst? My prayer is that, as faithful stewards, we view our life and our work through the lenses of God’s promises, that our sense of reality would be shaped solely by the values of God‘s kingdom, the sovereignty of His power and the overwhelming presence of His love. If we can always define reality in these kingdom terms, we will find rest for our soul and bless all the people whose lives we touch.