By Scott Hagan
Being valiant will take you farther than being relevant
Mindful of a coming sunrise, the Almighty entered Eden and began taking inventory. He was short two humans and one apple. Also missing was the former atmosphere of uninhibited communion between himself and His creation. The once pure air of Eden reeked with silence, shame, and the first ever game of hide and seek.
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the property line separating heaven and earth. God did not create it to be crossed, yet Adam and Eve, patrons of free will, chose to hop the fence and pluck the forbidden fruit.
God quickly called those responsible to step forward. The man got sweat. The woman contractions. The snake, because he was the instigator, received his sentence in three stages. First he would lose his legs. Next he would lose the keys. Finally, he would lose it all. In other words, on the eighth day God created … accountability.
Ever since the Garden collapse, the human race has limped along with its usual cycle of battles, bloodshed, plagues, and broken promises. Occasionally, a young boy grew to become a prophet with the grandeur of revival, only to discover that like those who came before him, he was prophesying to deaf ears and divided hearts.
Running parallel to the prophets were promising new kings who would take power and attempt to govern by virtue instead of aggression. But time and again, like the prophets, they found themselves leading hardened nations who opted out for stone deities instead of a living and loving God.
King Uzziah was such a king. Sixteen is a rare starting point in life. While you and I found ourselves driving our first car at 16, Uzziah found himself behind the wheel of a nation. His exploits were jaw dropping. His military moves were the envy of kings. But like many successful people, Uzziah became proud and presumptuous. Feeling the strength of personal sovereignty, Uzziah crossed the boundaries of God’s laws and entered the temple to burn incense – a role strictly reserved for priests.
Bursting through the temple doors was Azariah the priest along with “eighty priests of the Lord, valiant men. They opposed Uzziah the king and said to him, ‘It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary’ ” (2 Chronicles 26:17,18, NASB1).
Gutsy, to say the least. More than a voice of reason, these friends of the Lord and Uzziah spoke with the voice of restraint. Every leader needs someone who will love enough to speak valiantly (courageously) into his or her life and circumstances. Certainly, no leader needs a reckless and selfishly ambitious person in their ear hindering their leadership. This is not the mission of this encouragement. Instead, we need a valiant voice or two with both God’s reputation and ours at heart.
The motive of these 80 priests was simple. As valiant men, they wanted Uzziah to remain valiant as well. Success breeds many ills; one main contagion is presumption. It makes leaders self-believe that they are innately right about anything and everything, that they can trust their every impulse. Yet, we see that the course chosen by Uzziah was anything but trustworthy. In this case, God’s grace came through accountability and the hope of 80 valiant priests. Sadly, Uzziah became enraged with the thought of having to give account for his behavior. That rage cost Uzziah everything. It will in any person’s life.
I once spoke to group of leaders about this passage and the personal hope I have for staying valiant for lifetime. I listed nine traits I have noticed throughout the last 35 years about valiant leaders and the valiant voices they offer.
When it comes to valiant leadership, I foremost want to be one. Equally important though, may I hear one when he speaks up on behalf of God. Here is what it takes to be a valiant leader:
- Valiant leaders are passionate. They become the change they seek. They operate in the intuitive gifts God has given them. They love inspiring those around them to become their best and live out their design. They balance well a life of passion and practical living.
- Valiant leaders love God every day. They do the things that matter most. Their love for the Word of God and Bible study runs deep and is a habit for which others know them. They have sensitivity to God’s presence and a prayer life to prove it. They desire greater faith and build that desire through fasting.
- Valiant leaders have great friendships. Just like Jesus, they love all people the same. They never impart stigmas. Instead, they implore the world around them to build lasting connections. They develop friendships with others inside a committed circle. Yet, their sphere of friendships reaches into the marketplace. They always have a place in their hearts for new people.
- Valiant leaders rule their spirit. They are men and women of grace not impulse. They never raise their voices to manipulate or coerce the emotions of others. They exercise respect for others in the marketplace. Integrity is the mark of their private life.
- Valiant leaders love to serve. They are humble and see the value of little things. They use their gifts and passions to serve others apart from their professional duties. They pitch in to help a neighbor in need. No assignment is beneath them.
- Valiant leaders give generously. They see money as the test of gratitude and trust. They return to the Lord God’s tithes and offerings. They are intentional with their finances and commitments. They prepare for the future by saving money.
- Valiant leaders share their faith. They are on mission no matter where they are. They are never embarrassed or ashamed of Jesus. They look for ways to bring other people to their churches. They take time in the marketplace to pray for people.
- Valiant leaders love their church. The church is a key part of their lives. For valiant pastors, the church is not an office, but a house of worship, learning, and serving. They regularly pray for other leaders and their families. They speak well of them and handle conflict biblically. They invest their own personal resources in the church’s vision before they ask others to do so.
- Valiant leaders love their family. Their passion for God and life begins at home. They shape and resource the dreams of their family. They prepare for their future possibilities. They celebrate their unique gifts, talents, and relationships. They see marriage as a gift, not a grind.
The tragic fact is this: Uzziah died a leper. An untouchable. An outcast. Though surrounded by valiant priests, Uzziah died lonely and mostly forgotten – a physical fugitive. His obituary might have read “king,” but his eulogy said “fool.” Uzziah could have avoided such an end had he been just one more thing – teachable.
Stay valiant, friends. It will take you farther than staying relevant.
Scott Hagan is President of North Central University, my Alma Mater in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
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