By Congressman Gregg Harper
Leadership Is About Perspective
I remember a cross stitch that my mother did when I was a little boy, and I saw it every day growing up. It showed a large sailing vessel with these words:
“One ship sails east, another west, with the self same winds that blow,
‘tis the set of the sails, and not the gales, which determines the way they go.”
I extend my sincere congratulations to the amazing young people selected as finalists for the “Christian Living Leaders of the Future” event. Each of you brings encouragement to all of us, helping us to realize that God is not done with America. So where do we all go from here? How do we make the right choices and decisions? How do we recover from the poor choices that we will invariably make in life? How do you “set your sail” to go in the direction that God wants to send you?
First and foremost, always look to the Holy Scripture to assess your situation. Hebrews 12:1-2 tells us,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
It’s important to frequently take inventory of your life and your walk with Christ. Sin is obvious and undeniable, but why would the writer of Hebrews say, “let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely”? Does this mean that we do things or have things in life that are not necessarily wrong or sinful, but yet they hold us back, preventing us from attaining a higher purpose for Christ?
Last June, I had quite a scare. I had not been feeling well and had become very short of breath while mowing my yard. I had to stop and rest several times. I felt fine when I rested and it did not feel like a problem with my heart, and when I went to see the doctor that Monday, everything checked out fine. To be certain, I requested a treadmill stress test at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. It was set for the very next week.
Let’s just say that I flunked the test! Four minutes into what would normally be a 21-minute test, the cardiologist stopped the technician and informed me that there was something seriously wrong with my heart and a heart catheterization would have to be done. As I was lying there, not knowing how bad it was, and waiting on my wife, Sidney, to arrive from Mississippi, I thought of only two things—my family and my relationship with Christ.
The doctors discovered that I had a 95% blockage of the Left Anterior Descending Artery, the one nicknamed the “widow maker.” A stent was placed in the area and today I feel better than I have in years. I am truly thankful that God spared me. My daughter, Maggie, had become engaged only a few weeks before, and I prayed to God that He would allow me to live to walk her down the aisle. When she was married January 16 this year, I praised God for letting me be there with her, and I reflected on His mercy.
I had to be reminded of what matters most. We all know it, but perhaps we sometimes place that in a box in the attic of our minds. If we hope to recognize God’s call in our lives or if we hope to be the leaders God wants us to be, even when we go through the vicissitudes that inevitably occur, we must keep focused on Christ. We do that through prayer, reading, and studying our Bibles, surrounding ourselves with those who are following Him, and all the while being the encouragers to those around us who are lost.
We all feel inferior at times, but much of that has to do with the fact that we measure our failures against someone else’s highlight reel. Never worry about what you cannot do, but rather, focus on your gifts and the strengths that God has given you. In August 2007, we made the decision to run for Congress and felt this was God’s call, not knowing what the outcome would be. Our campaign verse was and still is Proverbs 21:31. It reminds us, “The horse is made ready for battle, but victory rests with the Lord.”
As it was our dream to serve in Congress, we took that to mean that we should work as hard as we could, but to trust God with the outcome. Never forget that a true leader is someone who serves others, serves our Lord, and lives the Golden Rule. Never give up or be afraid to discover God’s call for you. He has great things planned for you!
Congressman Harper is in his fourth term serving the Third Congressional District of Mississippi in the United States House of Representatives.