Improbable Situations and a Sovereign God

Its a chilly Friday morning as I walk toward my office.  Rainy mist surrounds the gorgeous mountains that overlook us here in the Hudson Valley, near the southeast corner of New York.  I'm still in awe as I walk past Washington Monument here at West Point.  It is the first equestrian statue to stand in the United States, a tribute to one of the greatest leaders our nation has known, the first POTUS. 
The statue stands right outside my office, which is in the aptly named Washington Hall, here at the United States Military Academy.  I can't believe that God has brought me here to do ministry, among some of the finest minds in the world and no doubt to many bright and future leaders of the next generation. 

I would have said that this scenario is entirely laughable and improbable 7 1/2 years ago.  I was staring the possibility of unemployment in the face.  God was clearly moving, but I was being stubborn.
When I was a boy I subscribed to Sports Illustrated for Kids.  Every issue included a story from a well-known athlete describing one of the biggest failures of their career.  NFL kickers would share stories of missing a big kick.  NBA stars would discuss missing a game-winning shot.  Baseball players might mention a moment of striking out with the bases loaded.  The point of the story was to show perseverance in the face of adversity, learning from mistakes.

I wouldn't align my scenario, 7 1/2 years ago, with those star athletes.  However, I now see that it was a defining moment for me as a man, a leader, a professional, a minister of the gospel, and a Christ-follower.  Without disclosing an entirely new story, I'll just say that I was in a difficult position and I learned a lot.  I look back and see things that I could have done better.  But, I also look back and remain proud of how I stuck by my integrity and convictions, things I've always strived to do. 
I learned that even "good" and "experienced" leaders can make bad judgment calls and mistakes.  As a young leader, I respectfully listened to some of these leaders to what I believe was the detriment of the situation.  I even remember feeling guilty when I eventually challenged a few of the leaders, calling them out on their bad judgment.  I didn't want to be prideful and arrogant, but I felt strongly that better choices could be made.  When all was said and done, I was looking at making a move (finding another job) in the ministry and profession of which I loved and was comfortable.  However, God had other plans, and ultimately I knew that.  I just wasn't looking forward to stepping out on a limb and taking a giant leap of faith.

It was that leap of faith though that propelled me into positions and places I never dreamed.  I was commissioned in the United States Army as a Chaplain.  God was grooming me as a leader and missionary.  Not to my credit, but completely to God's, I became the Distinguished Honor Grad of my Chaplain Basic Officer Leader Course.  I served with Explosive Ordinance Soldiers and Officers, some of the smartest people I've ever met.  I got sent to a historic cavalry regiment and deployed to Afghanistan.  Then, I worked with the Army's bright aviators and was sent to Afghanistan again.  All this time, I got to share the gospel in many dark places.  I was able to model professional leadership and teach ethics and integrity, all from a biblical perspective.  I was able to reach people on some of the farthest corners of the globe and share Jesus with them.

The reason I share all of this is to hopefully stress to you the importance of seeking God's wisdom as a leader, because we never truly know the next step to take.

 John Maxwell says, "leadership is influence".  I agree.  Although, its important to note that a leader's influence can be good, bad, or somewhere between that spectrum.  I've been reading another book on leadership recently called, "Leading with Integrity".  It's written by Pat Williams, Senior Vice President of the NBA's Orlando Magic.  In the book, Williams examines leadership principles from King Solomon of scripture. 

Solomon sought God's wisdom above everything else when he began his journey as a young leader.  Check this out from 1 Kings 3:3-4, "Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places. 4 And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place. Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” 6 And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. 7 And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” 10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. 14 And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”

Solomon wasn't a perfect leader.  In fact, he was extremely successful during his tenure when he lead through God's wisdom.  When he got away from such wisdom, that's when he found failure.

I have no doubt that God brought me through a specific set of circumstances to teach me how to be a better leader and fill me with more wisdom.  I can honestly say that I have tried earnestly to seek His wisdom as a minister.  I'm not perfect, but that has always be a huge part of my driving force, God's strength and His wisdom!  There are many days that I have no clue what I am doing, but I'm not alone.  God uses the unlikely people and propels them to places of leadership.  In just a short period, God took Joseph from a slave to practically governing all of Egypt.

God strategically puts you where you are to reach specific people.  As I sit today excited about my current opportunities in an improbable position, I want to make it known that it is not an attempt to brag on me.  This is an opportunity to brag on God!  I want to encourage you to never doubt that God may take you to great heights quickly in order to reach people.  Don't pout along the journey.  God is mighty to save and each step is a building block to something new.  Soak in all the wisdom that you can!  Ask God for wisdom and He will give it to you!