2 Chronicles 17:3-13
It has been said that the pen is mightier than the sword. In today’s reading we see this being very evident. When Jehoshaphat came to power, he was deeply convicted that the kingdom of Judah would only be successful if it was fully devoted to God and His ways. As the leader, it was his responsibility to instill this value into the population.
At this point in any reign of leadership, there comes a fork in the road and a decision has to be made as to how these convictions will be transferred to the group being led. Whether you are a parent, a pastor, a shift manager, a CEO, or the natural leader of a group of friends, you will be faced with this same decision. There are basically two choices. On the one side you could force your convictions upon others. Force takes on many forms. The most violent version is “evangelism at knifepoint” where the leader says, “convert or die.” Unfortunately, many world leaders have used this method throughout both distant and recent history to strong-arm whole nations into conforming to their particular ideology. The natural result of this external coercion is that a military state must be established to enforce the state values and punish any person who even breathes a word against the state.
In our experience, we will probably not experience or employ such a violent form of manipulation. However, we may, far too often, fall into the trap of being coercive and manipulative leaders who strong-arm our constituency through the shame/blame game, and using emotional extortion. As parents we withhold our love if certain expectations are not met. As employers we threaten termination for shoddy work. As friends we whine and manipulate in order to get people to do what we want.
While this option may bring some short term results, history has proven time and again that forcing people to conform to your values is a fruitless endeavor. At best this form of external motivation will produce outward behavior, but it will never produce a lasting change.
There is a better way. There is the way that Jehoshaphat chose. This King decided to “conquer” his people by educating them. Here we are reminded of a crucial and fundamental truth. The war for winning people to the truth is fought on the battle field of the mind. In the human being there are three basic centers: the mind, the heart, and the body. The body is the physical actions, the behaviors that are motivated by the will. The heart is the emotional center that reacts to the stimulus of the world and informs us of what is going on around us. The mind is the control center that holds the core beliefs and dictates to the body how to behave.
Here is the main point. A person’s behaviors are governed by his core beliefs. If a person truly believes something to be true, then his mind will dictate to his body how to behave. For example, if you believe a chair is trustworthy, you will walk to it and plop down on it without hesitation. If, however, you have doubt about the trustworthiness of the chair, you will never plop on it. Instead, you will cautiously approach it and inspect it before sitting on it.
If the mind is the decision-making part of our makeup, then the emotions are our decision-influencing parts. The heart is our thermometer or our antennae that keep us in tune with how the environment is, while the mind is the thermostat that sets what our reaction WILL BE. The emotions react to stimulus. When a dog barks we get startled. When our lover approaches our heart is warmed. When the enemy advances our defenses go up. When we are violated we become angry. These emotions are good and valid and necessary, yet they cannot dictate us. The emotions serve the mind by informing it. Yet, ultimately, the mind sifts through the emotions and makes a final decision as to their validity, then sends orders to the body to act upon the beliefs that the mind has chosen.
The brief discussion of the function of the mind is to emphasize that the only way to bring about lasting change in the lives of people that we lead is to teach them well. Many leaders and teachers are very gifted at getting people excited and stirring them emotionally toward concepts about the Kingdom of God. This is good, to a point. Emotions, as we have said, inform us, but they cannot convict us and cause transformation. The emotions can and will open the window to the mind, but, if the leader wants to truly win people over, he must teach them well. The leader must create a solid, compelling reason for why the values that the leader upholds are actually aligned with truth and will, if believed, result in the greater benefit for the whole community. When the mind is convinced then the core beliefs are transformed. When the core beliefs are transformed then the overflow of those core beliefs are behaviors that are in alignment with truth. In this case, good behavior is the authentic result of inward conviction rather than a reluctant reaction to an aggressive manipulation. The latter will die on the vine; the former will flourish and grow.
Simply put the church needs good, effective teaching at the core of who it is and what it does if it is going to be a force that advances the Kingdom of God in the world. Pray for your teachers. Pray that your current teachers will be ever deepening in their walk with God, and that the Holy Spirit will be continually filling their hearts and minds with a deeper understanding of the eternal and absolute truths of the Kingdom. Also, pray that new, emerging teachers will be identified in your congregation and empowered to grow in their giftedness so that good teaching can be multiplied in the body of Christ.