Character is essential in leadership. Your competency determines what you can do. Your commitment determines what you want to do. But your character determines what you will do. It shapes how you engage the world around you, what you notice, what you reinforce, who you engage in conversation, what you value, and what you choose to act on. The list goes on. 

There are more books on leadership that focus on style than on character. It seems that we are more interested in leaders who can get us what we want rather than leaders who model the life we need to live. At times we act as if character is old-fashioned and out of date. At other times we are reluctant to discuss character because we cannot measure it objectively.   

Failure of Character

When mistakes are made in leadership, we usually look first at a leader’s shortcomings in abilities and gifts, when the root cause is a failing of character.  A lack of self-awareness is rooted in character. Not being willing to listen to others because of the perception it will undermine your leadership is a problem of character. The fear of making decisions reflects character. Selective truth-telling is a measure of character. 

On a more positive note, challenging decisions made by others, because they are morally or ethically wrong, requires character. Dealing with prejudiced and unfair behaviors by others requires character. Creating a culture of constructive disagreement so others can challenge your decisions without fear of consequences requires character. Truthtelling requires character. 

Christ-Centered Leadership Necessitates Character

Character is essential to leadership, especially Christ-centered leadership. Let’s look at what the apostle Paul says about character.

Let’s use the pattern of READ, REFLECT, RESPOND, and RETURN as a way of examining one aspect of character in the scripture. 

READ: Galatians 5:16-25  

Focus on the scripture verses in italics.

Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.


Paul names nine qualities of character known as the “Fruit of the Spirit.”  These qualities can be divided into three categories: relationship with God, relationship with others, and relationship with yourself.

Without these qualities, you cannot and will not reflect who God has created you to be as a leader. The Fruit of the Spirit reflects the characteristics of God in human form. Ultimately revealed in Jesus, these are the characteristics of Christ-centered leaders. Your character as a leader produces this fruit.

Relationship with God

The first category is love, joy, and peace.

Love:  This is agape. It means unconquerable benevolence.  No matter what a person might do to you by way of insult, injury, or humiliation, you never seek anything other than his or her highest good.  It is a feeling of the mind as much as it is of the heart; it concerns the will just as much as it does the emotions.  It describes the effort of seeking the best for all people, even for those who seek the worst for you.

Joy:  This shows your trust in God. It means to know God as the God of all circumstances.  You are living into who God created you to be regardless of life situation or setting. Being rooted in God, joy is not upon the happenings or consequences in your life. It is seeing the situations of life as opportunities for trusting God

Peace:  This is Shalom. It means everything that makes for a person’s highest good.  It is more than the absence of conflict or trouble.  It is the calmness of heart and mind, which comes from the all-pervading consciousness that your life is in the hands of God. It is being at one with God, yourself, and others. 

Relationship with Others

The second category is patience, kindness, and generosity. 

Patience:  This is an action-focused upon people rather than circumstances. It means to overlook the inconveniences of the world in regard to people.  It is an attitude, which leads us to deal with others with love, forgiveness, and long-suffering, just as God in Jesus has dealt with us.  It also means to be disciplined in regard to wants or desires.

Kindness:  Again, this is an action focused on people. It means to love and care for people with the same love and care God in Christ has loved and cared for you. It reveals your inner life because kindness is the integration of the inner character and the outward expression of your life in relationship to others. You are making the way easier because you are related to the people around you.

Generosity (goodness): It means you see people doing the best they can in every situation and circumstance. Your actions reveal the love of God to the point that those around you who are comfortable in their apathy, unconcern, and insensitivity are afflicted by your very presence, and those who are afflicted by the pains and problems of life will be comforted by your same presence.  It refers to the life of a person who can be caring and strong at the same time.  

Relationship with Yourself

The third category is faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 

Faithfulness:  This means you are trustworthy or reliable.  It means keeping your promises and being dependable.

Gentleness:  This is a matter of self-awareness. It means you know yourself to the point that you are pointing others to God as you love and care for them. You are teachable and considerate. And because who you are grows out of your relationship with God, humility is revealed in the way you relate to and treat others.

Self-control:  This means you control desires and wants. You control yourself to the point that you are fit to be the leader of others. As a leader, it is easy to step out of the character of God and into the passions of your own heart. Your passion (fallen nature) is often opposed to the passion of God (your true created nature). 

To be led by the Spirit is to be obedient to God’s plan and purpose for your life. Paul knew within himself the struggle to be who God had created him to be. He knew the distinction between the works of the flesh (his own desires) and the fruit of the Spirit (God’s desires) through his own experience.  His life had been in chaos.  His sinful nature in rebellion against God made him at war even with himself and split his life into fragmentary deeds.  Then came the reconciling love of Christ, integrating his life with God and with others. It is all centered on the unifying love of Christ. 

Evidence of Integrity

The evidence of your integrity (joining of inner life and outer life) is shown in your obedience to the work of the Holy Spirit in your life.  The evidence of the character of God in your life and leadership is called “The Fruit of the Spirit.”  

The fruit of the Spirit is the outward expression of Christ dwelling within you.  Powerfully and surely the Spirit works.  Sometimes dramatically, sometimes slowly, and most times imperceptibly, the Spirit works in your life and is seen in your relationships. 

Character is essential to leadership, especially Christ-centered leadership. There is much more, but this lays a partial foundation for understanding the importance of character in leaders. 


There once was a woman who had a deep desire for peace in the world as well as in her life. She became frustrated because both seemed out of her reach. The world seemed to be falling apart and her personal life wasn’t that great either. 

One day while shopping, she noticed a new and different store. One she had not seen before. She stepped inside and was surprised to see Jesus behind the counter. She knew it was Jesus because he looked just like the paintings she had seen in museums and in devotional books. After several glances at him, she got the nerve to ask him, “Excuse me, but are you Jesus?” 

“I am,” he replied. 

“Do you work here?” she asked. 

“In a way; I own the store.” 

“Oh, what do you sell here?” 

Jesus replied, “Just about everything.  Feel free to walk up and down the aisles, make a list, see what it is you want, and then come back and I’ll see what I can do for you.” 

Well, she did just that. She walked up and down the aisles, writing furiously. She made her list: Peace on earth, no war, guidelines for guns; Peace in families, harmony, no dissension; Food for the hungry and housing for the homeless; and Resources for those in poverty. She found honesty and hope, as well as care and compassion. She was excited to see many of the things she wanted for her community and for the world.

By the time she got back to the counter, she had an extensive list. She hands her list to Jesus. He looked it over, smiled, and said, “No problem.” 

He bent down behind the counter, picked out several seed packets, stood up, and laid the packets on the counter. 

“Seed packets,” Jesus answered. “This is a catalog store.” 

“You mean I don’t get the finished product?” 

“No, this is a place of vision and dreams. You come and see what it looks like, and I will give you the seeds. You go home and plant the seeds. You care for them and nurture them to help them grow. Someday someone else will reap the benefits of you planting and nurturing the seeds.”  

The woman was disappointed, as well as a little put off. She turned to the person behind her in line and asked, “Do you believe what he just said? Are you going to do that? Are you going to plant the seeds so someone else can reap the benefits? Are you going to do that?”

Character is revealed by your leadership.  

“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…”

 Who you are is how you lead!


Give God thanks for the people you met today. In what situations did you feel you were making decisions based on character? With whom was your character challenged? How did you respond? How did you assist others in developing the character of their lives? Who is helping you grow in character? What will you do differently tomorrow as a leader? Ask God to give you the faith to be the leader God has created you to be.  

As an effective leader, it is important that you know and understand who you are and what you believe. What are your values? In whom do you place your faith? If you are clear about who you are and who you trust, then you can without fear and with hope, lead with courage. 

Christ-centered leaders possess hope for a better future. They believe that God has created them and gifted them to lead, not for themselves but for others. They possess the ability to recognize and develop the potential of the people entrusted to them. And even when they have seasons of doubt, when they question themselves, their identity, and the people around them, they keep their focus upon the One who has called them to leadership.  

Courageous leaders know when to step out trusting who God created them to be. They are vulnerable and trustworthy, as well as compassionate and dependable. And even when they have their doubts, they keep their focus as a leader.

Let’s look at a story that gives us a clue to the fundamental focus of Christ-centered leaders. 

Read Luke 9:18-20 

Once when Jesus was praying by himself, the disciples joined him, and he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others that one of the ancient prophets has come back to life.” He asked them, “And what about you? Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Christ sent from God.” Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell this to anyone. 


In the Gospel according to Luke, we see Jesus praying at particular points in his life and ministry. It was his pattern to engage in ministry and then retreat to a lonely place. It was his way of staying focused on the work God had for him to do. 

In this story, he has been off by himself praying. Then he approaches his followers and asks, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 

This story is found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In Matthew, the confession is “You are the Christ, Son of the living God.” In Mark, it is “You are the Messiah” or “the Christ.” In both Mark and Matthew, Jesus begins to talk of his death and has a conversation with Simon Peter which leads to Jesus rebuking him. 

Luke’s Perspective

The focus is different in Luke. In Luke, Jesus talks of his death, but there is no conversation and no rebuke. Luke is interested in alerting us to the importance of the confession. “Once while Jesus was praying by himself” is a clue to its importance. Neither Mark nor Matthew mentions prayer. 

Jesus has been ministering in Galilee. The crowds have been following him as he has been helping people, teaching lessons, preaching sermons, healing people, and exorcising demons. He reaches the point where he asks, “What is the public opinion?” “What do people say?” Is he asking to discover how effective his ministry has been? What impression has he put across? How is he viewed in public? 

The disciples answer, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others…one of the ancient prophets…” The public opinion is, like John the Baptist, Elijah, an ancient prophet, Jesus is the forerunner of the Messiah, the Christ. The crowds who have followed Jesus, who have been benefactors of his ministry, do not think of him as the Messiah but as one getting everyone ready for the Messiah. 

So, Jesus then asks, “What about you? Who do you say that I am?” And Simon Peter responds, “The Christ sent from God.” 

What does it mean to say, “Jesus is the Christ?” 

We don’t know what Simon Peter was thinking. But we do know this, when Jesus began to talk about his death, Simon Peter and the others did not relate to a suffering and dying Jesus to the Messiah. They took it as being a contradiction of who and what they understood the Messiah to be and do. If he is crucified, hanging on the cross with criminals, can he be the Messiah? 

How is he going to be like Moses and lead us out of the wilderness? How is he going to be like David and be our king? The images of the Messiah were many: a great teacher, a great prophet, a great king, or a leader. We don’t know what Simon Peter meant, but Jesus knows that Simon Peter did not understand. So, Jesus tells Simon Peter and the others to be quiet about it. “He gave them strict orders not to tell this to anyone.” Why? 

Wherever There is Misery…

The popular understanding of the day was that wherever the Messiah was there would be no misery. That is what the Messiah does, gets you out of the troubles you face. So, wherever the Messiah is, there is no misery. The truth is, wherever there is misery, there is the Messiah. See the difference? 

Jesus is not the one who gets you out of difficulty. He is the one who sends you into difficulty. Wherever there is misery, there is the Messiah. Here is a clue to Christ-centered leadership. To be a Christ-centered leader means you follow Jesus into the community and into the problems of the community.   

The question is “Is Jesus the one you expect to get you out of trouble? Or is Jesus the one who sends you into places of trouble? 

Take Up Your Cross Daily

Maybe this will help. Jesus, in his teaching, says, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me.” This teaching is found in Mark and Matthew as well, but Luke adds the word “daily.” He is reinterpreting the teaching for his own context. 

In both Mark and Luke, the cost of discipleship is the same: your whole life. But in Mark, written just after Nero’s persecution of Christians in Rome, where Christians had been killed and Simon Peter himself had been crucified, “taking up one’s cross” was understood literally as the cost of discipleship. 

For Luke, there is no direct persecution. By adding “daily” to “take up your cross,” Luke is saying the cost of discipleship is not seen in one dramatic act. The cost of discipleship is experienced in simple acts of service, care, and compassion as each situation presents itself. Christ-centered leaders are not called to positions of power but to postures of service. 

So, faith in the risen Christ keeps you focused as you lead into and through conflict, misery, and pain.   


Until you know who you are and who you trust you will not be the leader needed for this time. Your faith in the risen Christ makes a significant difference in your leadership. It is experienced in your relationships and interaction with others. It is experienced in your trustworthiness, compassion, stability, and hope. 

Leadership is About People

Leadership is about people. It is about influencing and impacting lives in a positive way. To be an effective leader, you need to have a genuine desire to serve others, along with the ability to model and prioritize the needs of others before yourself. In whatever leadership capacity you serve, the needs and well-being of the people entrusted to you are your greatest concern. 

Compassionate and responsible leaders put people first above their own selfish ambitions and desires. They love and care for others with the same love and care they have received in and through Jesus. How you treat people is a reflection of your leadership. 

Leadership is Relational

Leadership is about relationships. Take time to know the people entrusted to you. Make time and effort to care for people, to know what matters to them, and be present with them. It is in and through relationships that you discover the potential of others and assist in helping that potential be fully realized.   

The scripture points out that Jesus reverses our expectations of who and what the Messiah should be. Your faith in Jesus reverses the conventional understanding of who you are and who you trust as a leader. Maybe it is time to stop looking for the perfect approach to leadership and begin to develop the relationships that reveal who you trust to direct your living and leadership. 

Your confession is more than words. It is how you live and lead in relationship with the people entrusted to your care. 

Lead with Authenticity

Leadership is about authenticity. Courageous leaders are honest, transparent, and truthful with their people. It does not mean you tell everything you know, but it does mean knowing when to say, “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure. Such action might make you feel vulnerable, but the strength is in your truthfulness. 

Stable and hope-filled leaders live consistent lives. You walk the talk. What you know and believe on the inside is lived out on the outside. It does not take people long to experience the values and convictions of a leader. 

So, live an integrated life. The same one whether you are in a board meeting with church members, or at home with your family. If you are a follower of Jesus, then Jesus directs your leadership regardless of the context. It is your faith in Jesus that keeps you accountable. 

Lead with Purpose

Leadership is about purpose. Effective leaders know they are created to lead within the context they are leading. It is living into who they are that brings peace, joy, and fulfillment. Because you know you are being who God created you to be, you know that everything is not measured through immediate and tangible outcomes. You know that you must work patiently behind the scenes, laying the foundation for people to live to their potential. 

Because your relationship with God is real, you fix your eyes on eternal things that matter, the lives of people. This is the ultimate purpose of your leadership. 

Leaders are Generous

Leadership is about being generous. Everyone is a work in progress. Effective leaders seek support and encouragement along their leadership journey. They recognize that leadership development does not happen at a single training event, or by reading leadership blogs. They understand that it takes a community of faith to assist good leaders in becoming great leaders. For most of us it takes a lifetime. 

Your faith in the risen Christ makes a significant difference in your leadership. Who you are is how you lead. 


Give God thanks for the people you met today. Faith in God through Jesus is important to your leadership. How did you live out your faith? How did you encourage others to live their faith? Who is helping you grow in faith?  Ask God to give you the power to love others as God has loved you. What will you do differently tomorrow as a leader? Ask God to give you the faith to be the leader God has created you to be.  

You have just celebrated Easter, a time of hope and promise, yet there is a lingering feeling of despair. You hear and read about the news reports that suggest the new day you have just announced has not yet dawned. You are surrounded with people with different points of view on just about everything and you wonder if there is anyone who really cares about the truth of God’s love and the power of new life. 

Even with the hope of the resurrection and your faith rooted in God through Jesus, you know that lump-in-the-throat, knot-in-the-stomach feeling of anxiety. At your best, there are times you feel everyone wants something from you. And at your worst, even an act of kindness seems like a veiled attempt to manipulate you. How do you keep yourself healthy? How do you live with and lead through despair? 

Addressing Despair

Despair is not a word we associate with leadership. But you and I both know, all too well, that as a leader you face despair every day in some form. Ari Weinzweig, in his book Dealing With Despair in Day-to-Day Leadership, writes, “Despair comes quietly in our heads, hearts, and bodies, but if we don’t handle it well, it can have negative impacts…”  In other words, if you don’t name, face, and deal with your own despair, you will not be able to care for and lead others in and through despair. 

Everyone has dealt with despair at some time in their lives. It can be caused by deep loss, seemingly impossible financial circumstances, paths forward blocked by systemic unfairness or the unexpected departure of a partner. Sometimes it’s a combination of all of the above. When it hits, even with all the advantages you have going for you, despair is hard to handle. 

So, let’s take a look at one of the resurrection stories to name, face, and deal with despair so you can and will lead with courage and effectiveness. 

Again, let’s use the pattern of read, reflect, respond, and return as a way of examining this story of Mary visiting the tomb of Jesus.   

Read John 20:1-18

Focus on John 20: 11-18 in italics below

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So, she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’s head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed, for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes. 

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb, and she saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not touch me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and she told them that he had said these things to her. 


Mary stands weeping at the tomb. The body she was expecting to find is gone. But there are two angels there. Angels are messengers of life and good news. They ask Mary about her tears. In her hopelessness and despair she answers, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 

Then she mistakes Jesus for the gardener. As we have seen in past studies of John’s gospel, John writes on two levels. On one level Mary’s lack of perception might have been that she was overcome by grief or blinded by tears. But on another level, she was facing the wrong direction. She couldn’t take her eyes off the tomb. In her grief and despair, she literally had her back to Jesus. So, she experiences him as a stranger. 

Whom are you seeking?

Jesus asks, “Whom are you seeking?” He does not ask “What are you seeking” but “Whom are you seeking?” Mary, assuming that this stranger might have been involved in moving Jesus’ body, asks if she might have the body to care for it. She loved Jesus. This is her way of showing her love, even after he is gone. She is still acting in grief and despair. 

It is then that Jesus, the risen Christ, speaks her name, “Mary.” It is the shepherd calling one of his sheep, and Mary recognizes the voice of her shepherd. It is at this point that she turns to him. She changes direction. She turns from focused on despair to focusing on hope. And in adoration and wonder, she falls at his feet and utters, “Rabboni.” 

Holding On

She attempts to hold on to him, which for John is an association with holding onto the past. Without recognizing it or naming it, she wants things to go back to normal, the way they were before the crucifixion. But Jesus insists that she cannot continue to hold on to him in that way. 

Mary is the first to see Jesus. She is now a messenger of his resurrection and ascension. Rather than allowing her to cling to him, Jesus sends her on a mission to tell the others what she has seen and heard. 

Like Mary, we are sent forth to announce that the body is not in the tomb. We can face our despair and turn toward hope. The hope found in God’s love we see and experience in Jesus. God’s love has not come to end. 

Name the Despair

So, what can we learn from this story? First, Mary names her despair. It is real. “They have taken away my Lord, and I now know where they have laid him.” 

David Whyte writes: “Despair takes us in when we have nowhere else to go; when we feel the heart cannot break anymore, when our world or our loved ones disappear, when we feel we cannot be loved or do not deserve to be loved, when our God disappoints, or when our body is carrying profound pain in a way that does not seem to go away. We give up hope when certain particular wishes are no longer able to come true and despair is the time in which we both endure and heal, even when we have not yet found the new form of hope.” 

What we know is that denial, pretending to yourself and to others that you don’t feel despair makes your situation worse and your life miserable. Brené Brown reminds us, “Without understanding how our feelings, thoughts and behaviors work together, it’s almost impossible to find our way back to ourselves and each other.” So, Mary names her despair. 

Mary Faces Her Despair

Second, Mary faces her despair. “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?’ Supposing he was the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher).” 

Facing despair requires trust. Trust is fundamental to relationships. It requires vulnerability as well as authenticity and integrity. Look at Peter’s vision in Acts 10. To trust means you have to let go of your suspicious feelings and imagine that people around you have your best interest at heart. I know that is not always the reality, but without trust you will never face your despair. 

I also know that it is not easy to trust when your trust has been violated.  But distrust leads to isolation. So, take the risk and start trusting. By modeling trust with the people you are leading, you will actually build a movement of trust. People who encounter a trusting leader want to be trustworthy. Mary trusted the gardener. 

Mary Offers Hope

And third, Mary offers hope. “Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and she told them that he had said these things to her.” Despair comes when hope goes dark. But when you decide to turn from the darkness and step into the light, despair begins to grow into hope. 

Although it’s difficult to remember when you are in the middle of it, despair when acknowledged and faced, can lead to positive and creative outcomes. Psychologist Mary Pipher says: “What despair often does is crack open your heart. When your heart cracks open, it begins to feel joy again. You wake up. You start feeling pain first. You feel the pain first, but then you feel the joy.” 

Trust Your Relationships

After you have acknowledged your despair and faced it, then trust the relationships you have developed. Mary went back to her community, the disciples, to tell them what she had experienced. 

Community emerges from those with whom you associate. It is built upon the relationships you develop at home, work, or play. Wherever it does, it is critical to find hope in the midst of despair. Just as isolation is a breeding ground for despair, healthy relationships are the protection against despair. When you have people close to you, you have a connection to something more important than yourself. You can be yourself as well as share yourself. It is in giving to and sharing with others that you will find the greatest joy. 

Mary’s despair was transformed when she began to share her hope with those closest to her. 


It is not easy to acknowledge and face your despair. But there is evidence that understanding hope and making it a daily practice makes a difference in overcoming despair. If you practice hope in good times, you are more able to see possible solutions and new ideas in challenging times. There are several ways to practice hope in leadership. 

Look for Hope

Focus on the positive and not the negative. Just as Mary in the story, when she focused on the tomb and what she did not have, she had her back to Jesus, the one whom she was seeking.  Practice looking for Jesus in everyday situations and relationships. You will experience him in unexpected places at unexpected times.

Make Hope Happen

Become familiar with the Hope Cycle and promote hope and a hopeful view.

  • Know your context. Where you are.
  • Know your goal. Where you are going.
  • Navigate the barriers. The path to get you to where you are going.
  • Claim the agency to move forward. Know what you can do. And ask for help along the way. 

Be Grateful. 

Pay attention to the positives when the problems feel overwhelming. Sam Keen writes, “Make a ritual of pausing to appreciate and be thankful. The more you become a connoisseur of gratitude, the less you are the victim of resentment, depression, and despair. Gratitude will gradually dissolve the hard shell of your need to possess and control and transform you into a generous being. The sense of gratitude produces true spiritual transformation. And for no particular reason, despair is replaced with an undefinable sense of hope, and enthusiasm returns.” 


Give God thanks for the people you met today. Regardless of how small, what hope did you experience?

  • How did you offer hope to others? 
  • Who is helping you name, face, and transform despair?
  • Ask God to give you the power to love others as God has loved you. What will you do differently tomorrow as a leader? 
  • Ask God to give you the power to turn despair into hope.

Trust is one of the most important qualities of a Christ-centered leader. When you are trusted, you are able to develop healthy relationships, which help you collaborate, communicate, and innovate.  It starts with who you are. If you don’t trust others, you are not going to build trust with others.  

Trust means that you are authentic, transparent, and reliable. The question is, who is the source of your trust? Trust means you establish clear expectations, and you follow through on your commitments. It means that you are who you say you are by how you live your life and interact with those entrusted to your care.

With that in mind, who do you trust?

The Source of Trust

A quick look at Jesus on the cross reveals the source of his trust. In Luke’s story, while Jesus is on the cross, he does not pray for clarity, he prays a prayer for trust.    

The death of Jesus occupies six verses in one small paragraph. In the middle of that paragraph, Jesus prays, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” It is a prayer of trust. It is not a story that evokes an emotional response like, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It is not a story where you feel bad for Jesus like, “I thirst”.  It is a story of Jesus trusting his life to God.   

In Luke, there are two prayers. We have examined one of those prayers, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” Let’s use the pattern of Read, Reflect, Respond, Return to explore what we might learn about trust.  

Read Luke 23:44-49 

“It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed, and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’ And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts.   But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.”  

“Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” Luke 23:46 


While on the cross, Jesus prays a prayer of trust. Jesus knew the comfort and affirmation of the scripture. He is praying a Psalm, “Into your hands I commit my Spirit” (Psalm 31:5). His prayer shows no distance or pain in relationship to God. It is not a prayer of resignation or defeat. It reveals to us who Jesus is and who he trusts. 

Jesus and Prayer

Luke has Jesus praying from the time he is baptized to the time he ascends to heaven. Jesus is not surprised by life but is prepared for life. In Luke’s story, Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit. After he is baptized, while he is praying, the Holy Spirit descends upon him. The Holy Spirit leads him into the wilderness to pray. It is in these moments of prayer Jesus is checking his trust of God’s direction for his life. 

In his sermon in Nazareth, Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, he has anointed me…” In Luke, Jesus not only possesses the Holy Spirit but promises the Holy Spirit to his followers. So, in The Acts of the Apostles, we witness how the Holy Spirit at work in Jesus lives and works in and through the church. 

Jesus and the Holy Spirit

Spirit is important to Luke. So, in this prayer, “spirit” simply means “breath,” or “life.” “Father, into your hands I commit my life.” Luke replaces the despairing cry of Psalm 22:1, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” with quiet confidence and trust. Just as Jesus’ prayer of forgiveness, “Father forgive them…” becomes a model for his followers, so his dying prayer of trust in God becomes a model. The same prayer is prayed by Stephen at his death (Acts 7:59). 

According to Luke, not only the way Jesus lived but the way he died brought glory to God. The soldier at the cross says, “Certainly, this man was innocent.” With those words, Luke is saying that even Rome recognizes that Jesus’ death was a great injustice, that in executing Jesus they killed an innocent man. This is a theme Luke carries throughout his gospel as well as The Acts of the Apostles. 

Stand at the Cross to Understand Easter

I find it interesting that Luke does not rush to the joy of Easter morning. For Luke, Easter can only be grasped by those who have stood at the cross and reflected upon their own involvement in the sins of humanity that have led to the rejection of God’s revelation in Jesus. 

Just as the tax collector, who lamented and beat his chest in repentance, did not presume that he would go home justified, neither did the mourners at the crucifixion anticipate the resurrection. As you read Luke’s good news, over and over again, grace can only be amazing grace. 

Quiet Trust

In quiet trust and confidence, Jesus commits his life into the hands of God. From his baptism to his decision to go to the cross, from his teaching about his death to the misunderstanding of who he was as the Christ, from teaching his followers to pray to forgive those who intentionally turned their backs on God’s love, in quiet trust and confidence Jesus prays. 

As he commits his life into God’s hands, his witness continues, “Certainly this man was innocent.” So, Jesus prays, “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.” 


Brennan Manning, in his book, Ruthless Trust tells the following: When ethicist John Kavanaugh went to work for three months at “the house of the dying” in Calcutta, he was seeking a clear answer as to how best to spend the rest of his life.  On the first morning there he met Mother Teresa.  She asked, “And what can I do for you?” Kavanaugh asked her to pray for him. 

“What do you want me to pray for?” she asked.   

He voiced the request that he had borne thousands of miles from the United States: “Pray that I have clarity.” 

She said firmly, “No, I will not do that.” 

When he asked her why, she said, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.”  

Praying for Trust

When Kavanaugh commented that she always seemed to have the clarity he longed for, she laughed and said, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust.  So, I will pray that you trust God.” 

Jesus prayed to keep his focus on God. After ministering to the crowds, he would go into the wilderness, a lonely place, to pray. His prayer life was not only to keep him focused on God but to keep his trust in God. 

As a Christ-centered leader, it is important that you not only develop trust but that you learn to trust. Trust, defined as a belief in the abilities, integrity, and character of another person, is thought of as something that personal relationships are built on. And even more than that, according to recent research in Harvard Business Review, trust is the foundation of most successful organizations.

As the leader, you set the tone for trust. By recognizing the potential in others and helping develop that potential, you are developing trust in others as they learn to trust you.

The fundamental question regarding leadership and trust is, as a leader “who do you trust?’ Remember, who you are is how you lead. 


Give God thanks for the people you met today. How does Jesus’ prayer model trust for you?

  • In what areas of your life do you trust God?
  • In what areas are you having difficulty trusting God?
  • How are you assisting others in trusting God’s direction for their lives?
  • What will you do differently tomorrow as a leader who trusts God’s direction for your life?

Give God thanks for the opportunities you had to love others as you have been loved. Ask God to give you the faith to live and lead with quiet trust and confidence. 


O God, into your hands I offer my life.  By your grace, give me the trust I need to become the leader you need for this time and place. Amen