The story of William Wilberforce fascinates me. Born in 1759, Wilberforce became the youngest member of the House of Commons at just 21. Thanks to the influence of his mentor John Newton, the former slave ship captain and hymn writer of Amazing Grace, Wilberforce’s life changed radically. He became a born-again, devout Christian. Inspired by the Scripture’s teaching on the foundational equality of human beings, he spent his entire life leading the anti-slavery movement in the British Empire.
Behind the remarkable legacy of this leader, I discovered the greatest secret to his personal life:
His commitment to weekly withdrawals form the wild scramble of public life so that he could engage in worship, connection with a small circle of close friends, and quiet reflection.
Today, we live in a world blinded by the intoxication of consumerism. Every day, we are inundated with a litany of to-do lists. There’s simply too much “pursuits” on our plate (albeit all for the “glory” of God).
Gordon McDonald challenges leaders to ask the following questions to engage our inner conversation.
1) What have been the beautiful moments in which God may have been revealing himself to me? And what have been the evil moments when the worst in me or in the larger world showed itself?
2) What happened this week that needs to be remembered, perhaps recorded in a journal so I can return to it in the future and recall the blessing (or the rebuke) of God? Making such a record is like those monuments and altars God had the Israelites raise up when great things worth remembering had happened.
3) What have my prevailing feelings been (and what are they at the present)? Has there been a preponderance of sadness, of fear, of anger, of emptiness? Or has it been a time where joy and enthusiasm has been the dominant mood
4) What have been the “blessings,” those acts of grace that have come through others or—as I perceive it—directly from God himself? Can I express praise and appreciation (sometimes even written in a thank-you note or journal)?
5) Have things happened for which I need to accept responsibility, perhaps leading to repentance? Why did they happen? Were they avoidable and how can they be prevented in the future?
6) What have been the thoughts that have been dominating my leader think-time? Noble thoughts? Escapist thoughts that woo me away from more important or challenging issues? Superficial thoughts that lead to nowhere?
7) Is there a possibility that I am living in denial of certain realities? Painful criticism, sloppy work, habitual patterns that are hurting me and others?
8) Are there any resentments or ill feelings toward others that remain unaddressed, unforgiven?
9) As a leader visualizing myself in the company of spouse, children, friends, colleagues: am I a pleasant person to be around? Are people challenged, elevated, enthused when I enter the room? As someone has observed, “Some people bring joy wherever they go; others bring joy when they go.” Which am I?
10) What is God trying to say into my life today? Through Scripture? Through other readings? What has he been saying through those in my inner circle of relationships? Through critics? What insights swirl up and out of the deepest parts of my soul? Which of them needs to be repudiated, and which needs to be cultivated?
11) What are the possibilities in the hours ahead? Where might there be ambushes that would challenge character, reputation, well-being?
12) What are the things I might do and say that would make the people in my inner circle feel more loved and appreciated?
13) Am I mindful of the socially awkward, the poor, the suffering, the oppressed in my local world and in the larger world? Am I in tune with appropriate current events in the world and perceiving them through the lens of biblical perspective?
14) What specific steps will I take today to enhance growth as a follower of Jesus?
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