Napoleon defined a leader as “a dealer in hope.”
One of my close friends, Myron Pierce, serves in an underprivileged community—one often blanketed in despair. He sees himself as the lead hope dealer in his church. In other words, every church member is a dealer in hope.
A recent poll in the business community revealed just 43 percent of employees described their immediate supervisor as optimistic. I think a poll reflecting pastoral leadership might look much the same.
A couple of weeks ago, I met a pastor whose last couple of pastorates had beaten up. He suffered true injustice from mean-spirited church members. Sadly, his experience pulled his eyes off of Jesus and onto circumstances. When we met, he predicted the worst outcome in every church polity and practice discussion. Then the Lord touched him through some other leaders at the event. The upshot? When we last spoke, he told me, “I’ve signed up for my job once again. I trust God to do good things. I have new plans, and I think they will work.” The Holy Spirit breathed hope into his heart during that series of meetings. If he continues on that path, God will do good things in and through him.
His new paradigm explains to me the power of the prosperity gospel. I know there’s a lot of controversy surrounding that school of theology. A lot of people get upset about it—perhaps too upset.
But, here’s the deal, If you believe God’s going to do good things, A. You’re exercising faith, and God responds to faith. B. Hope that God will bless you, and tomorrow promises to be a better day will affect your character. You will embrace discipline and perseverance, which positions you in a spot where God can bless you.
Hope makes a vast difference in everyone’s lives.
School came pretty easy for me, yet I was never more than a B-student. But when they brought on those scholastic aptitude tests, I rocked. In elementary school, a girl named Christy Haglund was always the top performer, but I usually followed close behind. As a result, I believed I was an intelligent person and would get ahead in life. The result of that was diligence in whatever jobs I landed after school in high school and later while working my way through college. And it paid off. Promotions came my way in my first, second and fourth jobs. I expected the good thing to happen, so I worked hard to make it happen.
Whenever I control what to teach in a Bible study, I’ll start with Philippians. The same goes for the three churches I’ve planted. I launch a group in Philippians because it is so hopeful.
Despite Paul being in prison and unsure if he will live or die, it’s upbeat. Apart from Jesus, he’s the ultimate hope dealer, encouraging his friends to rejoice no matter what happens to him.
Toward the end of the letter, he says some things that can sound like sappy Christianese under one set of circumstances. But they stand out as solid advice during times of distress,
…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:8-9 NIV).
Hope dealers focus on these elements no matter the shape of their world. And they prevail because they do so. You and I need to become the hope dealers that make the world go round.
Yesterday I ran into a study that recorded that 80 percent of American CEOs rate higher on an optimism scale than the average population. Optimism, or hope, helped get them their job. Contrast this with just 43 percent of lower-level management that we saw a couple of paragraphs ago. People with hope work harder while expecting it to pay off.
If the secular world bears this out, we Christ-followers ought to live it out. If they can do it, you can do it, and so can I. We have Jesus on our side. That makes all the difference in the world. And when we put our trust in Him, then it’s a lot easier to just put one foot in front of the other in a hard time, as well as it is a good time.