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I was in a Board Meeting in a hotel conference room. It was in the 90s outside, but I was ready to put gloves on so I could write without shaking. The air conditioner in our conference room was set one notch past high. It was on arctic! We wandered over to the control box on the wall, and all we did was discover that the controls were locked up. Great! So, we called the desk and they had a hard time understanding us because our teeth were chattering. They finally got the message, and the maintenance man came and he turned down that ice machine. At that moment, he had the power in his hands. Summer or winter, he is the man who decides what the temperature will be. You know, that's a pretty significant position.
Our word for today from the Word of God turns the spotlight on one of the Bible's greatest role models for leadership - my hero, Nehemiah. He led God's people in the effort to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in just 52 days. As we join the story, Nehemiah is now governor for a poor group of people who are trying to establish life in their rebuilt city. In that difficult time, the climate was very important, and God had a man who knew how to establish just the right temperature.
Our word for today from the Word of God, Nehemiah 5 beginning in verse 14. "When I was appointed to be their governor...neither I nor my brothers ate the food allotted to the governor. But the earlier governors - those preceding me - placed a heavy burden on the people and took forty shekels of silver from them in addition to food and wine. Their assistants also lorded it over the people. But out of reverence for God, I did not act like that. Instead, I devoted myself to the work on this wall. All my men were assembled for the work; we did not acquire any land. Furthermore," Nehemiah says, "a hundred and fifty Jews and officials ate at my table, as well as those who came to us from the surrounding nations...I never demanded the food allotted to the governor, because the demands were heavy on these people."
In the intensity of this survival situation, the people desperately needed a climate of unselfishness, of sharing, of cooperation. But someone had to be the thermostat, and Nehemiah was that man. He led the way, setting a temperature of sharing, and you know what? The people followed.
The greatest responsibility of any leader is probably not even in his or her job description. It's establishing a climate. Parents do it at home; Dad establishes a climate when he walks in the door at night. Teachers set a temperature in a classroom. A chairman sets a temperature in a meeting. Leaders do it in a church. Supervisors set a climate in an office or factory. In a sense, we're all leaders to the extent that we set a climate where we are.
If you're in a position of influencing others, have you considered how the temperature feels where you are, what kind of climate you're establishing? Not so much with what you say, but more with the way you are. Is it tense around you or peaceful? Are people around you seeing a model of caring? Of unselfishness? Of pitching in on what needs to be done, as Governor Nehemiah did with the work on the wall? Are you setting a climate of respect for other people? If people are around you, do they become people of prayer?
You're a leader. You're setting a climate, whether you realize it or not. And the interesting thing is that you end up reaping the climate you sow. So make the place where you are feel like it would if Jesus were there. He is.