Disloyalty can destroy like a termite, undermining whatever good a once-powerful church has accomplished. It’s time to practice and preach loyalty as the indispensable Christian virtue it truly is.
Potiphar had many servants who were faithful to do the tasks assigned them. But in Joseph he had something more. He had loyalty. “So he left everything he owned in Joseph’s charge; and with him there he did not concern himself with anything except the food which he ate” (Gen. 39:6).
Amasa had never learned loyalty. He had joined Absalom in his rebellion. Now, however, he was pardoned by King David and raised to the position of David’s commander-in-chief. He was very grateful, but in the very first task he was asked to perform, his lack of loyalty surfaced again. It almost caused a civil war.
Sheba, a rebel from Benjamin, was beginning to assemble the northern ten tribes to rebel against David. David knew that time was of the essence. So he commanded Amasa to gather as many of the troops of Judah as he could within a day and a half that they might strike Sheba and those with him before they had a chance to mobilize.
Amasa thought he was being loyal, but he decided to take extra time so he could gather many more troops from Judah. When the morning came for him to appear before David, there was no Amasa and there were no troops. David, realizing that the situation was desperate and immediate action was needed, sent his household troops against Sheba. (The record is in 2 Sam. 20:4-6.) Amasa had failed because of this subtle form of disloyalty.
If you are asked by another to do something, can that person relax as Potiphar, knowing it will be done and done well? Is he free from having to ask again and again?
In a congregation there are usually one or two men on which God has put a mantle to guard the overall direction of the flock. No one else sees the congregation quite from their perspective. All too often, however, other elders are raised up who also want the best for the flock, who want to do things right, but who want to do it their own way. Like Amasa, they may cause disaster. They have not learned that loyalty is of more value than their own opinions, even when their opinions are right. If they want to do something their own way, they should talk it out with their leader and get his blessing first.
What Loyalty Looks Like
Loyalty means you want the one you serve to be blessed. The heart-set is as that of Eliezer, the servant of Abraham. The focal point of Eliezer was to please Abraham, not just to get the job done. When he was sent to find a wife for Isaac he prayed, “‘O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today, and show lovingkindness to my master Abraham’” (Gen. 24:12). His focus was on his master, not his performance.
Loyalty means that the one you serve can trust you. He knows that you will not only do the task that was assigned, but that you are for him. He can rest in the knowledge that his wishes and vested interests are safe with you.
Loyalty means you serve the way you have been asked. You are not to do things your own way unless you are specifically given the freedom.
Years ago, as I ministered in one church after another, my ministry started to dry up. It became stale, at least to me.
I besought (requested; asked) the Lord as to what was wrong. He told me that I was concerned for how I was ministering, not for the people to whom I was sent. Selfishly, out of my own insecurity, even my prayers were for the success of my performance. The people were just the sea of faces, one group much like the next, that allowed me to serve – to “serve Jesus” but not necessarily the people. I was striving to do my ministry faithfully, but I had no thoughts about loyalty to the people. I repented and immediately the ministry blossomed more than ever.
Loyalty means that a leader hangs in there even when the going gets rough. When Jesus was about to leave for the garden of Gethsemane, Scripture says of Him, “Having loved His own… He loved them unto the end” (Jn. 13:1). Even though they were about to run away and deny Him, Jesus loved them with an unbreakable loyalty.
Some congregations would be spared much grief if their elders could only focus more on the people rather than their own ministries, more on the health and joy of the saints than on arguing over the proper way to minister. Many times they struggle because their loyalties are to themselves and their own thinking.
When such things happen, there is much heartache. Some of the churches which had tremendous promise, have broken apart and disappeared. Such times are not easy for God’s people.
Though loyalty is often used interchangeably with faithfulness, there is an important difference. Faithfulness refers to actions. When a person is given a task and then completes it properly, he has been faithful. However, that fact tells us nothing about the set of his heart – his motivation.
Loyalty, on the other hand, describes a heart-set that is positive, honoring the one served and giving without self-serving motives. It is that part of love that “does not seek its own” (1 Cor. 13:5).
How to Gain Loyalty
Some of the things you can do in your own congregation to rectify any lack of loyalty are:
1. Teach the difference between faithfulness and loyalty.
2. Remind your people that, according to their new nature, they already want to be loyal. Unless they are outright rebels, any disloyal acts come out of ignorance and/or weakness of the flesh.
3. Let them know, in light of their sharpened understanding, you are expecting them to be loyal. They will be what you expect them to be.
4. Be careful about whom you appoint to places of responsibility. Look for loyalty, not just faithfulness.
5. As a leader, practice those qualities of leadership that will help people become more loyal to you. Remember, you are representing Jesus to your people. We are faithful to Jesus because He is our Master and Lord. We are loyal to Him because He is our Brother and Friend.
Spiritual leaders are called to be servants not only of Jesus, but of the members of the congregation as well. They are not just called to a town or a certain ministry. They are called to a people; a people whom they are to carry in their bosom; a people for whom they are to live and if necessary to die; a people with whom they are to fall in love, and whom they are to nurture through good times and bad. They are not to serve “with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord” (Col. 3:22).
Loyalty, the holy heart-set, is a must if we are ever to have victory in our personal lives and in our congregations.
The Lord Jesus wants to build the steel sinews of loyalty within His people. Within Christ’s kingdom, everyone in one sense or another is subject to someone else. We are all servants. We all have masters over us. To serve the ones to whom Christ has given us, we must put aside our individual rights (Matt. 20:26-27; Eph. 5:21).
Pray for loyalty! Pray for new eyes that see your leader with godly esteem. Pray for the Holy Spirit to set an alarm system to guard your thoughts and the set of your heart.
Settle Your Accounts
Jesus describes the difference between a good shepherd and a hireling. It isn’t that the hireling doesn’t feed the sheep well or doesn’t lead them to green pastures. He is faithful to do his job – until the wolf shows up, then he runs. All too many spiritual leaders are running, taking other calls, going to other congregations when the going gets rough, leaving the sheep to the wolves. How will such leaders answer the Lord? And how will they ever stand in the crisis to come?
It is not too late! You can still settle accounts with your masters, whether God or men. The Lord Jesus has paid for all disloyalty. The door of forgiveness and cleansing is still open.
You can also settle it in your heart. To whom has God made you a loyal servant? You can settle it in your will, to serve that leader with a loyalty he can trust.
John the Baptist is a servant who exemplifies a heart being focused on his Master rather than upon his own performance. He said to the Jews, “‘You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease’” (Jn. 3:28-30).
Bob Heil, Ministries