Thursday, August 25, 2011

Starting Strong But Finishing Poorly

Self Esteem and Weak Leadership

Last week we looked at the early life of Joash, king of Judah.  We saw how he was able to thrive as king under the positive guidance of Jehoiada, the high priest, in spite of a severely dysfunctional family history. The historical account of Joash’s reign begins on a high note with the statement, “Joash did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight throughout the lifetime of Jehoiada the priest.” (2 Chronicles 24:2)

Sadly his reign doesn’t end on this same positive note. The words “throughout the lifetime of Jehoiada the priest” foreshadow the downfall of Joash’s reign following the death of his mentor.

The early verses of 2 Chronicles, chapter 24 depict the acts of Joash and Jehoiada as they rebuild the temple of the Lord and reinstate godly worship. But in verse 15 we’re told Jehoiada dies and Joash is left without his lifelong mentor and guide.

Immediately things take a turn for the worse. Verses 17 and 18 tell us, “But after Jehoiada’s death, the leaders of Judah came and bowed before King Joash and persuaded him to listen to their advice. They decided to abandon the Temple of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and they worshiped Asherah poles and idols instead!...”

Did these men take advantage of Joash while he was vulnerable following his mentor’s death? Is it possible he was a weak individual who thrived under the strong leadership of Jehoiada, the priest, but when left to his own devices succumbed to the pressure of other leaders around him? Was he not capable of making decisions himself?  Perhaps he struggled with low self esteem and self doubt, finding it easier to give in to the opinions of others than to defend his own beliefs.

Whatever the reason Joash is influenced by the leaders of Judah and a lifetime of revival of the Lord’s temple is tossed to the wind. Joash begins to worship idols and follows pagan gods. Zechariah, Jehoiada’s son, sees what is happening and questions Joash, calling him to task for turning from serving God. But Joash, too deeply enmeshed in the pagan lifestyle, coldly orders the leaders of Judah to kill Jehoiada’s son.

In the end Joash is assassinated by some of his own men because of his decision to kill Zechariah and doesn’t even warrant burial in the royal cemetery. It’s sad to see a life start out with such promise and end so poorly.

Do you struggle with self doubt? Perhaps you’ve been bullied. Have you made decisions based on the approval of your so called “friends” or co-workers; perhaps even your boss and then regretted the choices you made? Have you compromised your beliefs and standards to satisfy someone else?

These are hard questions to answer truthfully. No one likes to admit to compromising their values or changing who they are to make someone else happy. The truth is at some point in our lives we’ve probably all done just that. It’s very difficult to defend yourself and your beliefs to your peers or the bullies in your life if you struggle with self-esteem and self-worth. We see from the life of Joash how important it is to speak up for what we know is right and not give in to evil influence.

I’ve struggled with low self-esteem all my life. In hindsight I know one of my marriages failed because I was too weak to stand up for myself. I “went with the flow” and believed I was flexible, adaptable and accommodating when really I was just “wishy washy” and weak, allowing all my decisions to be made for me because I didn’t want to make them myself.

A poor self image is hard to overcome. Sometimes it’s hard to believe we’re worthy of self love and self respect and the respect of those around us.  We don’t think other people care about our opinions and don’t believe we have something of value to contribute to conversations and life around us. But believe me when I tell you we do! You are of utmost value to God! You have something important to contribute to this world and to the people around you! You are worthy of God’s love, your own love and the love and respect of others!

If you struggle with low self-esteem please seek the guidance of a trusted counselor. Consider reading some books on the subject – a good place to start is “Completely His” by Shannon Ethridge. Believe that God loves you. Remember the verse John 3:16, “For God loved the world so much that He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  That’s you – the world is you and me! Try reading the New Testament in the Bible and you’ll see just how much God loves us all!

Have you struggled with self-esteem?  It’s more common than you think.  Please comment below.

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