Thoughts on Leadership, Part 4 by Larry W. Peebles June 16, 2017 17.22
At five ft. five inches, my Dad was considered short in stature. But as a boy, I watched him deal with authority as a customer and a consumer. He did not let his size diminish his authority. He knew the authority he had with the company when a mistake had been made in his account. In those days, the conversations to straighten out an account with a problem were done face-to-face. There were no automated phone answering machines, no internet, and no email. Even a big retailer like Sears would have a department in the local store to handle account questions.
Dad would walk in and ask to speak to whoever was “in charge” or “the boss”. He went straight to the top authority in the company to explain the mistake and receive his assurance as a customer that all would be corrected. He saw no point in taking time to explain the mistake to someone who did not have the authority to correct it.
When I think of leadership and the role of the leader, I believe this question of authority must be addressed. At the most fundamental level, the leader must realize that ultimately all authority is given or granted; it is not taken. Authority is also not to be confused with power. To help distinguish the two, let me give this example. When a police officer or a state trooper raises their hand to stop traffic, do they stop the traffic by power, or by authority? The officer or trooper does not have the physical power to stop a bus or an 18-wheel truck. Those vehicles will, however, come to a stop when the officer’s hand is raised to halt traffic because the driver of those vehicles recognizes the officer’s authority to stop traffic.
The city or state has by law granted the officer the authority to stop that traffic, and stands prepared to enforce that authority. That city or state has been granted the authority to pass those laws by the people’s consent to be governed. So who is the real leader in that traffic control situation? Is it the driver who applies the brake, the officer who raises the hand to signal halt, or the court who stands ready to issue a fine for failure to stop? It might be the people of the state, who hired the officer to enforce the control of traffic, and granted the court the ultimate authority to back up the officer with penalties provided by law.
I spent the biggest part of my career in homebuilding in charge of the local division of corporate homebuilding companies that operated across the nation. I was considered the leader of that division, which might consist of hundreds of employees. My title was Division President, or General Manager. Many would consider that a powerful position. However, my authority to operate in that position was granted by the corporation in the form of a written document called a corporate resolution. This resolution, adopted by the Board of Directors of the corporation, spelled out what I was authorized to do, and what I was not authorized to do in my position. If I took authorized action, the company stood behind it.
I reported to high level officers of the corporation, who reported to the Board, who reported to the shareholders. I had no power per se, except for personal energy, drive and certain abilities. My authority in that position was granted by the corporation, who ultimately answered to the shareholders. All authority is granted by some ultimate source, and authority is not to be confused with power in the leader’s mind.
During His time of ministry on this earth, Jesus’ authority was questioned by the chief priests and elders of the church- “By what authority are you doing these things [teaching and doing miracles], and who gave you this authority?” (Matthew 21:23). [Insert mine.] But following His crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection, Jesus said in Matthew 28:18- “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples,….baptize,….and teach. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
His death and resurrection annihilated any and all other claims to authority. No king or kingdom, no devil or mystic power could ever again claim authority. Jesus had ALL authority in the earth and in the heavens. Ephesians 1: 20-21 says the incomparable power and mighty strength of God was exerted in Christ “when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age, but in the age to come.”
The devil had tried to destroy His creation. Jesus’ mission of turning the tables and restoring mankind to his original position with God was complete. In the process, He utterly destroyed the works of the devil. After He made that point clear, Jesus issued a heavenly resolution. He in turn authorized us to “go” spread the good news of the Gospel, and make disciples. We were also authorized to baptize into new life in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teach His commands (which are not restrictions, but rather keys to long life). We are not to be fearful and shrink back. We are to let nothing stand in our way- -Jesus said He would always be with us to enforce the authority given to us as believers and His followers.
Simply said, our authority is His delegated power. Consider these Scriptures that speak of the authority (delegated power) given believers:
- Jesus said in John 14: 12-14- “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing [miracles]. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name [delegated authority], so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” [Inserts mine.]
- Mark 16:17- “And these signs will follow those who believe. In my name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues, they will take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will by no means hurt them. They will lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.”
- John 15:7- “If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, ask whatever you will, and it will be given you.”
- John 16:23- “In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”
- Matthew 17:20- “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there’, and it will move and nothing shall be impossible for you.”
- Romans 5:17- “We shall reign in life through Jesus Christ.”
These scriptures make the case clear. When Jesus conquered death and the devil, He put all things under His feet. Then He gave the authority to His followers, and delegated power to enforce the consequences. If this is not enough to convince, consider that in other Scriptures, He used these terms to describe His followers, all of which reveal the authority given: “heir of God”- Galatians 4:7; “ambassadors for Christ”- 2 Corinthians 5:20; and “more than conquerors”- Romans 8:37.
Finally, He would not be the Good Shepard if He left us short of anything we needed to succeed in this life or the life after. 2 Peter 1:3 says- “His divine power [delegated to His followers] has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.”
Prince George, the son of William and Catherine, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, is royalty but does not know it. He is a future king, but now acts like a small boy. That is no criticism, but rather an indication of his maturity level as a soon-to-be four year old. He will grow to know who he is and the authority he possesses. Similarly, we have been given full authority by the King of Kings, but often do not act like it. Our maturity level of faith in Jesus needs to grow so that we know and understand our authority. Otherwise, what He has given us goes unappropriated, wasted and useless. We are already standing in the highway, dodging everything that is coming our way, and asking God to redirect the traffic away from us. He could do that, but we would not grow from the experience. He has already given us the authority to stop what is coming at us.
All believers have the authority (delegated power) to oppose everything that oppresses them spiritually-fear, sickness, poverty, loneliness, anger, etc. James 4:7 says- “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” It is not a matter of feeling powerful or authoritative. We have been given more authority than we think we have. My Dad did not feel or appear “big”, but he knew his authority. A true leader must rise up in authority, and exercise it, remembering it is not about the leader’s power, but it is about the authority they have been given. For the believer, there is no greater authority than that given by the Lord Jesus Christ.