We celebrate our freedom every Fourth of July because over 230 years ago there were men and women committed to establishing a nation free and independent from England. The Declaration of Independence states:
These United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.
These were not just words to the people of the original 13 colonies; this was not just an ideal to think about, this was what they fought for. Their commitment to freedom is what made our nation free. Commitment is a vital leadership principle because it is our commitment that turns our passion and courage into action.
Commitment is action. Commitment is taking that first step forward and then pushing through the obstacles and stretching our limits to make our passion and vision a reality. Commitment in sports isn’t thinking about going out to practice – it is getting out the door and doing it. Commitment in marriage isn’t saying you will forgive one another – it is forgiving and working through the challenges that come up every day. Commitment to Jesus isn’t believing he is our savior and lord – it is living according to the teachings and example of Jesus as our Savior and Lord.
Commitment is action. It is an action that moves us forward again and again and again because we are sold out and all in for the cause. Gideon was a committed leader in the Old Testament and what makes him a great leader for us to consider today is that he started out exactly where many of us start out – reluctant, afraid and asking God for a sign.
When I was at a crossroad in my life I felt God leading me to return to college. I had dropped out after three years but the direction I had wanted to go came to a dead end so I was left asking God what he wanted from me now. I felt like I was to return to MSU, but I wasn’t sure. I was reluctant, afraid and looking for a sign, so I said, God, if you want me to do this you need to give me a sign. I need to get back into MSU and its already late in the year to apply so I’m not sure I can get in. I applied and in a few weeks got the letter saying I was accepted. There was the sign, but I still wasn’t committed because I thought maybe that sign was too easy so I asked God for another sign and this time I made it harder
There was one section of housing at MSU that I really wanted to live in if I was going to return, but they were not easy to get into so I said, God if you want me back at school, I want to live in Spartan Village. I applied for an apartment and in a few weeks I got the notice that I had one and so then I moved forward. I wasn’t fully committed to God’s direction when I began so I asked for a sign or two before I moved forward and that is what Gideon did.
Gideon was not a committed leader when God called him. In fact he was called by God while he was threshing wheat in a winepress, Judges 6:11. Now what’s important to know is that threshing wheat in a winepress was not normal. People would thresh wheat out in the open on a large flat rock where you could beat the wheat on the rock and break the kernels apart. The chaff would be carried away by the wind and the good grain would fall to the ground. It made sense do this out in the open but Gideon was doing it in a winepress because he was afraid. All of Israel was being terrorized by the Midianites who, when they saw the people of Israel working in the fields, would come and take their grain and livestock leaving them with nothing. Gideon is threshing wheat in the protection of a garden and winepress because he didn’t want to be noticed. He wanted to stay safe.
So Gideon is a very ordinary man when God called him and yet look at how the angel of God addresses him –Judges 6:12. Mighty Warrior – Gideon is hiding in a winepress and yet God sees him as a Mighty Warrior. Many times God sees more in us than we ever see in ourselves. God sees the leaders that we already are and if we are willing to commit to that and step out in faith to live into that reality – we will become all God sees in us.
Gideon did not immediately commit himself to the cause of God. In fact, he is very reluctant. Gideon questioned the angel who called him and then asked God for a sign that he was to step forward. Judges 6:13-18. When I read that I could help but think that this sounds like many people today, even many leaders. We push back on what God is asking for from us and we question God’s plans, but Gideon’s reluctance and questions didn’t disqualify him from being a leader – in fact, his reluctance and questions helped make him a more committed leader but only because he was willing to move forward and take that first step. Even though he was reluctant, afraid and wanted some assurance God was with him, Gideon did move forward, the first thing he did was bring an offering to God.
God then used that offering to give Gideon a sign. When Gideon placed his offering of bread and meat on a rock and then touched the tip of his staff to the rock, the meat and bread were consumed by fire, not a fire from the sky in the form of lightning, but a fire that came up from the rock. This was a sign that God’s power was with him. But Gideon wanted more. The second sign was when Gideon laid out a wool fleece and asked God to make the fleece wet and the ground dry. When morning came the fleece was wet and the ground was dry, but Gideon still wasn’t sure so he asked for a third sign and wanted God to make the ground wet and the fleece dry. In the morning the ground was wet but the fleece was dry.
Now Gideon was committed – totally committed, but that commitment didn’t come immediately, it came through small steps and actions that deepened his conviction and strengthened his commitment even though he was reluctant. Small steps forward will deepen our conviction and lead to a stronger commitment, but it has to start somewhere. Commitment always has that first tangible step that comes from a decision made in our hearts.
Last week we saw that courage always begins in the heart; it is making the decision to stand up and be counted no matter the cost and once that decision has been made commitment turns that decision into action. Commitment takes the first step forward, but it doesn’t end with the first step; it takes more steps because we are convinced that we are doing what needs to be done. Gideon’s commitment to God is fully seen in Judges 7 where God calls him to take an army out to fight the Midianities.
Gideon gathers an army of 33,000 men to go into battle but God says, Gideon, you have too many men. Now you would think Gideon, who has been reluctant to move forward, would question God’s wisdom here because how can you have too many men when you are going into battle? But Gideon doesn’t question God, he is fully committed. He’s sold out and all in with God so Gideon simply divides the men and sends home those who are afraid. 23,000 men went home that one day.
Gideon still has a sizeable force to go into battle, 10,000 men, but God says, you still have too many men so divide them again. Those who lap water with their hands from the stream will go with you, but those who lap water with their faces in the stream will go home. So Gideon goes down to the stream and can you imagine his dismay when 9,700 men all get down and put their faces in the water to drink – they are the ones going home. Gideon’s army is now 300 men. 300 men to go against the hordes of the Midianites, but again there is no reluctance on Gideon’s part – he is committed, he will take his 300 men and go fight.
Then God comes to him again and says, send them into battle but don’t send them with swords or spears, send them with trumpets in one hand and torches in jars in the other hand. 300 men with trumpets and torches to go against the well-armed Midianite army and again Gideon does not complain or pull back because he is committed. He is sold out for God and moves forward with his 300 men armed with trumpets and torches but Gideon knows there is more because he knows God is with him. Gideon knows he is moving forward with the power of God. That is commitment.
Gideon was an everyday leader who became committed to God by taking small steps of faith that proved God to be trustworthy. We learn to be committed to God, to a cause, to our family, to our job, to what is right by taking small steps forward and never looking back. Commitment is important for leaders because we won’t follow people who aren’t committed. If we don’t see our leader 100% committed to the cause, we won’t follow them. God needed 300 men to see Gideon’s complete commitment, so he nurtured that commitment until it was strong and when those men committed to Gideon and the cause of God, it gave them the strength to go into battle armed only with torches and trumpets. God can nurture and strengthen our commitments if we will take the small steps forward and then keep on going and as we do, others will be drawn to our side willing to work with us. Just like passion and courage, commitment is contagious.
To evaluate and strengthen our commitments, let’s look at three specific steps we can take.
1. Name it. What we are committed to? What are those things that we are willing to die for? What and who will we give everything for? What are things we simply won’t stop doing and giving ourselves to? The reality is that we are all committed to something and it is important to make sure we are committed to the right things. So identify and write down these commitments.
2. Measure it. Once we can name what it is we are committed to we need to honestly and objectively measure that commitment. To measure our commitments we need to look at three specific areas of our lives: our time, our relationships and our money.
First look at your calendar and identify where you spend your time. For many of us the bulk of our time might be spent at work, but what about our free time? If we say that family is our #1 commitment, what % of our free time do we spend with them? If we are committed to God, what % of our time do we give to worship, prayer and reading God’s word? Where we spend our time will help us see what it is we are really committed to.
Second, look at our relationships. If our marriage and family is a top commitment, how much time and energy do we spend investing in those relationships? How much time do we spend together as a family? What specific things are we doing when we are together? Is it just watching TV and movies or is there conversation and activity that brings us closer together? Who we spend our time with also helps define what we are really committed to.
And then this is where it really gets tough – where do we spend our money? In many ways this will be the most revealing to us about our commitments. If we are committed to God – how much money goes to the work of God? If we are committed to certain causes and issues, how much money do we give to them? If we are committed to helping those who are hungry and in need, how much money do we actually give to the food bank compared to how much we spend on ourselves and eating out? Our money reflects our commitments.
3. Announce it. If we really want to strengthen our commitments then we need to share with others what we are committed to because then we will be more likely to work for it. Once we make our decisions public, it’s hard to take them back. Unless God changes some plans, I don’t think I can take back my decision to go to Sierra Leone – I made that decision public in part because I want to make that a commitment in my life. John Maxwell calls this the Edison Method because when Thomas Edison would come up with a good idea for an invention he would announce what he was going to do and then he would have to go and do it. Making our commitments public strengthens our conviction to follow through.
Commitment is vital to every leader and yet we don’t suddenly arrive one day fully committed, it takes time. It takes time to reflect on our passion and courage, we need small victories and successes to help us see ourselves as leaders and know that we can move forward with God’s power. In many ways commitment is a process – but it has to start with action. What one step can we take today that will lead us to becoming a fully committed leader at home, at work, in the church or community? God created us to lead and he sees us and calls us to be leaders, will we commit ourselves to this and take that first step forward.
Leadership Principles ~ COMMITMENT
1. Name your commitments.
• Who and what is most important to you?
• What are those things you are willing to do die for?
• What things will you not stop doing or give up?
2. Measure your commitments.
• Where do you spend your time (free time)?
• Where do you spend your money (discretionary money)?
• Who do you spend your time with?
Are these results in line with your commitments from Step 1?
3. Share your commitments. When we make public our commitments we will be more likely to work toward them.
4. What one commitment do you want to focus on during the next month? Name one action you can take to keep this commitment and make it stronger?
5. Evaluate your commitment to the church. Membership vows for Faith Church ask: “Will you faithfully participate in the ministry of Faith Church through your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service and your witness?”
• Where are you strong?
• Where (and how) can you improve?