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“Spiritual Leadership”

Friday, October 20, 2006
Interpretation of the 10 Principles from Chapter 12 of “Spiritual Leadership” by J. Oswald Sanders with Biblical and Non Biblical References.


I. The Biblical writer Qoheleth writes in Chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes that “there is and appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens, a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant….”[1] The first principle that I feel that Sanders gives the reader of his chapter on “The Leader and Time” is that the leader and in fact each Christian must understand the brevity and the gift of time. We are created for eternity and the choices we make to live in His love and follow His Will in the allotted time that we are given determine the destination of ourselves and other when we pass beyond the door of our earthly life into eternity. Because time is a gift given to the soul by God to be used prudently for the building of the Kingdom and to aid in the continual conversion of and sanctification of our souls we must take advantage of this short time we have. St James[2] refers to the sin of presumption[3] in speaking of people who assume they have many days or years yet squander the gift of time today and endanger their soul[4]. An understanding of time as a gift which is passing quickly[5] and shall not be repeated will aid the leader in more effective time management there by making them through God’s grace a more productive disciple for His Kingdom.
II. Sanders indicates that the leader must ‘carefully select priorities’ to more effectively break open this gift of allotted time that we have been given and there by bear more fruit for our Divine Sovereign. This can be accomplished in several methods by setting and revising short, medium and long range objectives to correspond with an updated ‘to do list’. In 2nd Chronicles 29 we see the prophet Nathan and others giving a set of priorities which needed to be fulfilled. Furthermore, in Nehemiah[6] we see a well organized man of God setting priorities to better meet the objective. In leadership and in so many other areas in setting priorities to better maximize our time we need to remember the old maxim to “pick and choose our battles”. There will always be battles and important tasks needed to be met by the leader the key in setting priorities is to use the gift of discernment and pray for the grace to choose our tasks and battles in priority setting.
III., IV., V. Sanders goes on to give three additional principles in time management for the God centered leader which are strategic steps, measured steps and never being hurried. The example in the Bible of strategic and measured planning comes from the prophet Ezekiel[7] and others. God is clearly very logical in his Divine Will for us and in following His Will we too must carefully, prayerfully and strategically plan so as to insure we are maximizing our time and talents for His greater glory. The concept of never being hurried has a variety of reasons for being important which would be from maximizing productivity—which in this case in souls for the King of Kings[8]. It would also aid in increasing usable time for other priorities, decreasing stress, increasing enjoyment and maximizing quality. While we will all face times of great stress, suffering[9] and anxiety[10] we need not create an environment which increases these thing which can lead us and others away from God. As Sanders points out in reference to the text of the wedding feast at Cana passage[11] even Our Lord Himself knew the importance of not hurrying the Divine Plan and so too we must. I borrow again from an old idiom to close this selection of principles in the words “haste makes waste”[12].
VI. This is a good point to bring up the next principle which Sanders discusses being the submission to the Divine Will. The Father in His infinite Wisdom and Love has a clear plan for the sanctification of our souls, those around us and to meet the temporal needs of His children who live within His Divine Will. It is in the submission to the Will of God and within His commandments that we find joy and can meet the needs and plans of our days. Just as the Psalmist sang of the joy of the Lord on a ten string lyre[13] we too find our ultimate joy in the 10 commandments[14] and the Divine Will. As the Lord Jesus tells us[15] we pray not for our will be done but rather for the Father’s Will to be done. It is the loving Father who can see the future and the needs of the day and desires the best for us[16] today and then and in eternity with Him[17]. So Sanders correctly points out that the best priority and time management comes from following completely the Will of God daily.
VII. Sanders picks up another key principle in time management in the God centered leader in speaking on the subject of interruptions and distractions. Sanders recognizes that there are time when distractions and interruptions are times when either God wants to use us for His glory, say in witnessing to others, or when God needs us to begin a new task or convey a message to us. Some of the spiritual masters such as St John of the Cross[18], St Theresa of Avila[19] and St Ignatius of Loyola[20] speak of times when a distraction or interruption actually turns out to be an moment when God is giving us a message about Himself or something. It is also true that the evil one[21] can cause distraction and interruption in our lives trying to prevent us from carrying out the Divine plan. Finally we know too that as mere creatures we can cause our own distractions or that in others without any help from God[22] or Satan. That is why great discernment and prayer and a balanced life is needed to carefully gage the situation individually. If we have poorly prepared or have poorly managed our time and not spent quality time encountering the True and Living God in prayer then we will not only not be able to judge the source of the interruption but we may miss an opportunity for grace in our lives or the lives of others.
VIII. Spiritual leadership is similar and different from temporal leadership in that the spiritual leader must always spend time in prayer constantly in order to know and do the Will of God. We can use the best time management strategies known to man and have ever organizing device there is and if we are not following God’s Holy Will we will be at best ineffective and even a counter productive element in the Kingdom. The only way to know the Divine Will is through constant quality time in prayer[23] and then through the Sacred Scripture and other sources. There will be times when our schedules will be so busy that there is no way to accomplish the task of the day or His mission. While many times that is poor planning on our part occasionally it has been arranged like that by God so that we have to fly to Him in prayer and then we see results that we could not have accomplished without prayer. Prayer time for the leader must be a time that is set in the schedule and preferably the same place each day- such as the early morning[24] before the day begins. A scheduled prayer time and various other scheduled times in the day for a smaller amount of prayer sets up regular appointments with God that He can use to give greater fruit to our work. If we structure our day around our encounters with God in prayer[25] then quickly the rest of our time management issues begin to fade away[26] and we become more productive than before.
IX. Sanders brings up another important principle in the need the achieve balance in the life of the leader which greatly contributes to increased time management and productivity. I enjoyed the idea of John Wesley who would break his day into five minute segments. I think that if we were to seriously look at the amount of time we spent per day or per week on needless things we could spend more time in service to Him, more time with family, more time in prayer and so on. We each have our temptation which can be too much time on the telephone, the internet, on television, in un important books or in trivial conversation, etc. A good evaluation of time spent on an occasional basis can free up the schedule and the leader just as a good examination of conscience can help free up the soul of the sin and evil taking hold in various areas of the soul. Balance creates harmony and peace and helps the leader and a individual soul to be a more effective child of God and serve Him better. A balanced life with work/ study, prayer, rest, recreation, worship, family, friends are like the even and fair scales spoke about in the Psalm[27]—it is from the Lord and therefore is good.
X. The final principle which I took from Sanders is a warning for all of us that being to avoid at all costs procrastination. Sanders writes that “procrastination the thief of time, is one of the devil’s most potent weapons for defrauding us of our eternal heritage.”[28] We find God and God’s Will for us in the tasks and duties of the present moment.[29] We need not try to please and serve the Good God tomorrow for that is in Divine Providence for that day that may or may not come. Besides having an awareness of our past sins and short comings and lessons we have committed or learned from in the past we must entrust the past with it’s joys and sorrows with it’s good and evil into Divine Mercy. Today God is present for us at this moment[30] and it is with this realization and for the love of Him Whom we should love above all things and creatures that we can fight the noon day devil of procrastination and avoid the sin of presuming that we can carry out His Will or grow closer to him in the ‘morrow. We are called to be faithful sons and daughters of the Most High today in all of our activities and to all those we meet. In our time management we do the task before us until it is done then if and when the next day comes we move to the next task He sets before us. In a word we are called to be faithful each day. “Work with cheerfulness, with peace, in the presence of God. In this way you will also carry out your task with common sense. You will carry it through to the end. Though tiredness is beating you down, you will finish it off well; and your works will be pleasing to God”[31]
The Lord Jesus calls us today to do certain tasks for Him. These tasks range from family obligations to work to school to Church and things that to the created eye seem mundane and unimportant yet if we are living within the Divine Will and in a life with the Crucified and Risen One these things can be very important to the mission that He gives us to do. To procrastinate in these daily tasks in many ways is akin to the Lord calling us[32] and for us to come up with a laundry list why we can not and he moves on. The potential disciple is left while the work of the Kingdom goes forward. Procrastination is deadly[33] to the soul[34] and deadly to any leadership position.[35] Constant vigilance must be kept to avoid this and if one falls into the trap to pick up quickly and move on.
I close with the poem by Robert Herrick[36] which seems to fit well in this paper on the need for time management in Christian leadership and by all followers of Christ. That we may manage our time better so as to serve Him more fully let us pray that He will guide us and assist us in our shortcomings and better take advantage of this gift of time He has granted to us.


“GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he 's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he 's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.”


[1] Ecc 3:1-15
[2] Jas 4:13-17
[3] Gen 3:1-5- cf. “…’you will surely not die’ said the serpent…”; also see Gen 11:4; et al.
[4] Num 15:30-31
[5] Mt 24:42-51
[6] Neh 3:1; et al.
[7] Ez 40-42
[8] 1 Tim 6:15; et al
[9] Jn 13:13-16; Jn 18-19; Acts 7:54 8:1; et al.
[10] Ps 94:19; Ecc 11:10; Philp 2:28; 1 Peter 5:7
[11] Jn 2:1-12; et al. be patient and diligently pick up our daily crosses and priorities to better fulfill His Will
[12] Prov 29:20
[13] Ps 33:2; Ps 92:3; 144:9
[14] Dt 5:6-21, 6:4-9; et al.
[15] Mt 6:9-14; et al.
[16] Mt 6:25-34; et al.
[17] 2 Jn 1:3; et al.
[18] “Ascent of Mount Carmel”, “Dark Night of the Soul”, “Spiritual Canticle of the Soul and the Bridegroom Christ”, St. John of the Cross, 1542-1591.
[19] “Way of Perfection”, “Interior Castle”, St. Theresa of Jesus, 1515-1582.
[20] “Spiritual Exercises”, St Ignatius of Loyola, 1533.
[21] 2 Cor 11:14
[22] Acts 12:7
[23] Acts 1:14; 2 Thes 1:1; 2 Tim 1:3
[24] Ps 88:13; Mk 1:35
[25] Ps 119:64
[26] Prov 3:5-6
[27] Ps 16:11
[28] “Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer”, J. Oswald Sanders, Moody, Chicago, 1994.
[29] 2 Cor 6:2, Ecc 12:1; Prov 27:1
[30] Abandonment to Divine Providence, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, S.J. (d. 1751), St. Louis: B. Herder Book Company, 1921
[31] “The Forge”, # 744, St. Josemaria Escriva, 1902-1975, Scepter Publishing, New York, 1988.
[32] Lk 9:59-62; Ps 119:60; et al.
[33] Lk 13:25
[34] Is 55:6
[35] Dt 23:21; Ecc 5:4
[36] “To the Virgins, to make much of Time”, Robert Herrick. 1591–1674
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