Previously, we looked at the challenges of handing over responsibility to others. Here’s the second half of that story.
Let’s assume for a moment that you’ve overcome the obvious challenges (and eventually, you will). You’re figured out what you can hand off, prepared others to accept those responsibilities, and handed things over to them. Now comes the part that’s not so easy for a lot of leaders: Once we’ve given responsibility to others and seen they can handle it, we need to step back. Not step away, but step back. We need to allow what was our responsibility to become truly their responsibility. In short: We need to learn to let it go. The relationship has changed. And that’s OK. But we need change along with it.
Something we always need to keep in mind with God’s work, no matter what it involves, is that we’re not just handing off a task, and that we’re not just handing off responsibility to others. It’s God’s work. Ultimately, we’re entrusting others to follow God’s leading to get the work done. And that means trusting those people to God. We’re asking God to take those people where we can’t go, because it’s no longer our job. We should still be there to support them, but we now also have to trust them, and trust God, in this process. It’s easy on paper, and often tough in real life. Let’s look at a classic example of stepping aside from the Bible:
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17, NIV).
As we determined in the first half of our discussion (and hopefully sometime before that), we’re not Jesus. But as a man, Jesus experienced life and even the same emotions as we do. And Scripture reminds us that we too are adopted sons and daughters of God (Romans 8:15). So let’s take a few minutes to look at this scene from a more human perspective.
• How do the Father and the Spirit empower Jesus here, as a man?
• How do you think you’d be changed if God said this about you, this clearly?
Hearing God’s blessing—and knowing we truly have it—changes everything. It changes the way we look at God, the way we look God’s work, the way we look at ourselves, the way we look at others.
And because we know God and know what it’s like to have his blessing, God wants us to extend his blessing to others, especially those God whom has led us to place our trust in. God can use us to bless others, even as we’re “increasing their workload.” Let’s look at an example of what that blessing might look like:
To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God (2 Timothy 1:2-8, NIV).
• In what ways does Paul bless Timothy? How does he communicate his confidence in Timothy—and God’s work in Timothy?
• Who needs to hear some of these things right now? What would you say to that person if he or she were here?
We need to give others we’re leading the chance to succeed. But equipping them to take responsibility and grow further into the gifts and abilities God’s given them is never only about sharing information. What’s even more important is giving them the confidence to succeed. We need to let those we’re handing responsibility to know we have faith in them. We need to let them know how we’re already seeing God working in them. And we need to be very clear in telling them that we believe they can do this—especially if they don’t believe it for themselves yet.
And there’s one more part. We need to let them know that we can’t always be there for them—but Jesus will. And that’s the most important piece of information we can ever help them understand. And we need to understand it, too, if we really want to fully let go and let God and do his work.
Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, 19 holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith (1 Timothy 3:14-16, NIV).
• How does trusting those we care about to Jesus strengthen them—and us?
• What or who are you still having trouble letting go of?
• How will letting it go help both you and everyone else involved grow more fully into whom God wants you to be?
God has given each of you strengths—and weaknesses. And God uses both for his glory as we give them back to him. And that’s true of everyone. So let’s conclude this lesson with a blessing for you:
May the Lord continue to strengthen each of you where your strength is needed, and to break you where you need to be broken, so that you may see God’s strength there as well. May God bless you as you bless others, through your words and your actions. May God put those in your path who you can trust with God’s work, and may you experience God’s joy as you let go and watch God work through those people, as you trust both God and them. In Jesus’ name.