How Will You Choose To Live Your Example? by Jim Reese
Every leader’s heart longs to effectively lead their family, to be the leader who has an incredible impact and shows great love. They know that while they’re here they’ll make a difference, and when they’re no longer here, they’ll leave a legacy of having led their family.
I must start with a disclaimer: I’ve genuinely worked hard in my life to lead my family well, and in some areas I have, yet in many others I haven’t done it as well as I could’ve. Thus I share all this with you from a perspective of always working and caring for success, but not always achieving it.
I BELIEVE TRUE LEADERS DESIRE TO LEAD THEIR FAMILIES WELL, AND RECOGNIZE THAT THEIR ABILITIES TO LEAD IN BOTH THEIR FAMILIES AND IN THEIR CHOSEN VOCATIONS HINGE ON HAVING A TRUE KINGDOM INFLUENCE.
Today I’d like to talk through Four Key Areas regarding this that have challenged me to truly be the ultimate leader that God has called me to be with my family – I believe they have the same power to do so for you:
It seems that the hardest place to be humble is in our homes. We want respect and we sincerely believe we deserve it. After all, we are always right and we always know all the answers. “Hey I run this big organization and I deal with big problems and solutions every day! If I can deal with the real world, I can certainly deal with my home.” Now this all may be true, but the ability to truly be humble, to listen and not just hear your husband or wife or kids; this is the ability that gives you a phenomenal opportunity to show that you yourself are willing to learn. And even more importantly, that you’re willing to change in order to help them, and not simply to help yourself.
See, I had to learn this lesson the hard way. My wife is really awesome at having fun, and the truth of the matter is that she was much better at this with my three girls while they were growing up than I ever was. I can still remember my girls constantly reiterating how much fun Mom was. Dad, not so much. What I came to realize, thank God sooner than later, was that I needed to actually take my wife’s lead in this department and to listen and follow her. Helping our family have fun was a gift from God that my joyous wife was clearly blessed with, and no matter how many skills or talents I had in leadership, my wife’s ability in this area was clearly far better than mine. So I chose to humble myself and to learn from my wife. It was either choose to do this, or choose not to have our family be all it could be.
Life goes by so incredibly quickly. You don’t entirely buy in on this concept in your 20’s, but trust me, once you hit your 50’s you’re sold on the fact that time literally does fly. Think about a football game: There are four quarters and at the end of the game the scoreboard tells the winner. The thing is, it’s a rarity that a team who’s preformed poorly through the first half has the chance for the game to be all of it could’ve been with only one half left to play. In the same way, if we live our lives with a plan and a purpose considering each quarter with a true intentionality, our impact as leaders of our families can be that much more impactful.
Unfortunately many times we as leaders don’t apply the skills and talents that have made us so successful in our vocations to our family life. I learned to do exactly this in my early 30’s when I started leveraging my planning skills with significant intentionality to live my life as the true leader of my family. My wife and I planned out what the key things we sought to achieve in our marriage as well as for our daughters for the next year. Their goals were centered around their character, their time, and the things they sought to achieve. Again I’ll be honest, at first all this planning wasn’t met with open arms by my loving family. Eventually though, when they saw the results in their lives and in ours, and we all were grateful we’d done it. Not only were we able to accomplish many of the items we laid out, but I also genuinely saw God create multiple opportunities throughout the year for all of us to have discussions that never would’ve occurred, if we hadn’t planned our lives out with intention. In fact, I clearly remember several times while driving around with my daughters that we had conversations in which God sparked a discussion around character and as opposed to being “teaching sessions” they became times for a genuine sharing of our hearts. This would’ve been missed, had it not been for our planning exercises.
Each day as President of the Atlanta Mission, I see first hand real tears from men who’ve not chosen to live with intentionality. Men who’ve had zero relationship with their families. These men love their kids, yet because they lived with a complete lack of intentionality, they’ve lost 2 or 3 quarters of their lives. Now it’s true that God is the great restorer and He genuinely can restore lives, but I’d still challenge each and every one of us to live every quarter of our lives with the intentionality that considers both the final whistle of the game, and what we’d like the game films to reveal afterward.
There is a reason that it’s a cliché when we say “Do what I say, not what I do!” Consider for a moment the people that have had the largest impact on your life personally. Were the lives they led inconsistent with what they spoke? Or was what you truly admired about them not so much their words, but more-so how they lived out their daily lives?
As we think about our families and how to effectively lead them, what are the examples that we want to demonstrate for them that we hope they’ll follow? I love the film “Father of the Bride”. Do you remember when Steve Martin shares with his family that “he comes from a long line of over-reactors.”? I resemble that. It actually was a running joke at our house how anytime one of my girls got hurt I’d come running down the stairs, yelling: “Where are you?” “What happened?” “Who did it?” Way back when my daughter Ashley, and her younger sister Courtney were in high school there was a car blocking the end of our drive way, so Ashley of course chose to drive straight through the trees in our front yard. I then in turn came hauling out the door screaming and waving my hands like a mad man shouting: “What are you doing???” I’m happy to report the grass eventually recovered, as did my vocal chords.
So how does one set out to live their life in a manner that sets an example in a way they know would honor God in all they do? Well, I believe that any time you can live the example with your family; it’ll have a far greater impact than mere words. The mission trips I‘ve joined my daughters on have shaped our lives by creating a mutual heart for the poor. These are shared life experiences that will never fade between us.
You see, I’ve clearly learned, as I am sure most of you have, that our kids always watch our examples, whether they be positive, or not so much positive. If I say I’ll be at your game, but I then never tear away from my desk, my example speaks far more for me than my words ever will.
Now some of you might ask why courage is my fourth and final challenge? The truth is it’s because I see the largest thing standing in our way as leaders is courage. Specifically the courage to have faith in God and to do what we know is right. It’s easy to say the words but it’s the courage to follow through with the right actions that separates those who will effectively lead their families, and those who simply talk a good game.
True courage is trusting God when you know the choice you need to make won’t be seen positively by those around you. I’ve seen so many people sacrifice their families by staying at their desks late, when they know they should be home. The sad thing is they didn’t stay for a lack of choice, but instead because they simply lacked the courage to leave based on what others might think. Andy Stanley describes this predicament well when he says: Who do we choose to cheat on: Work or our Families?
Just as Daniel jumped courageously into the lion’s den, are we ready to take the risk that we know is right? Or do we just want to hang back with the crowd, and take what we perceive as the easier way out? You never know how your courage might impact not just your own family, but potentially also countless other families around you.
Today more than ever before, the pressures of ministry and the marketplace are wearing our leaders out. We are all exhausted from all the planes and all the cabs running us from place to place to place and then from spending what seems like the other half of our lives on all the conference calls. I’d like to challenge you, just as I have challenged myself, to genuinely consider whether you have the courage to do what you know is right. Consider whether you’re doing all this scurrying around because you genuinely need to, or is it instead because of a lack of faith or courage to walk away from it all. Not because of insecurity about what it would mean to your family, but really because of what it would mean to your co-workers and to your boss? I always have to ask myself: Whom am I truly living for? It’s really a rarity that I see people in the workplace challenging us to ever have courage for our family. The fact of the matter is, it’s more so a discouragement, if anything.
Joshua is one of my favorite Books in the Bible, as it opens with God challenging him to “be strong and courageous because God is with him” as he takes on his role of leadership. Isn’t it also interesting that at the end of the book he ends with the classic quote: “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”. He said those words and we still believe them because of his faith in God and how he lived with true courage.
Courage is not based upon our own strength, but through the faith that God gives us to be who He’s called us to be.
Humility, Intentionality, Example and Courage: These are the four key words that truly exemplify the leaders who create influence in their homes in order to be examples for God to the world.
I’ll end this by sharing an awesome God ambush in my life that took place last August. My daughter Ashley and her husband Oliver were expecting their first child. This was also going to be Dina and my first grandchild. You can imagine how excited we all were! I of course was worried how my little girl would do; remember I come from a long line of over-reactors. Well Oliver finally comes in the waiting room to tell us that it was a Boy: Owen Kilpatrick Jones! Now the grandparents could come in and see the baby. So I got in the room and saw Ashley doing well, and then they brought over little Owen for me to hold for the very first time. And then something happened that I didn’t expect. As I held my new grandson in my arms, and looked down at his precious face, it was as if God said to me: “What will you leave him and what will he remember you for?” I really didn’t expect the seriousness of that question at that particular time, and in some ways I really didn’t want it. I realized, though, that I wouldn’t be here for the larger portion of Owen’s life, and I was responsible for what he’d remember his Papa for.
It was a moment I’ll never forget and it has me asking myself that question daily now: How will I choose to live my example?
Are you living your example for your wife, your kids, your grandkids and even for the generations beyond you won’t see? What will you leave for them? What will they say while you’re here? What will they remember when you’re gone?
My prayer is that you would fully lean into God to live life as the leader that He has called you to be, and that it would all start with leading your family today.