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How God Shapes a Leader By Dr. Brian S. Simmons

God Shapes Us in the Valleys of Life

A few years ago, I remember one particular Bible study meeting when we were discussing the valleys of life and what shapes us.  An older gentleman in his mid-eighties who rarely said anything spoke up and said that when he looked back over his life, he realized that the ‘bad times’ were really ‘the good times.  He went on to explain that growth takes place in the valleys of life!

Peter’s Perspective

Consider Peter’s perspective on life experiences,

“My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace to you.  Stand firm in this grace.”

I Peter 5:12

And what were the people Peter was writing to experiencing,

“For God is pleased with you when you do what is right and endure unfair treatment.”

 I Peter 2:19 ff

In my words, if we suffer for doing wrong, what do we expect?  But if we endure suffering for doing what is right, God is pleased with us! 

“For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you… He left His case in the hands of God who always judges fairly.”

I Peter 2:21 ff

I understand that God bestows grace (and mercy) upon His followers when we go through the most difficult times in our lives!  But what does Peter mean when he writes, “What you are experiencing is God’s grace to you?!”  How can these events in our lives be God’s grace to us?

Making a Leader

Over the holidays, I reread The Making of a Leader (NavPress 1988) by Bobby Clinton.  In this book, Clinton writes,

 “God processes a person by bringing activities, people problems-you name it- into his life.”

The Making of a Leader (p. 28) 

God’s ultimate purpose for those process items is to change the heart of the leader.  God must first do His work in the leader before He can do His work through the leader! 

“God uses a cluster of processing items to develop character… isolation, conflict and crises.”

The Making of a Leader (p.135)

As we go through the most difficult seasons and experiences of our lives, God’s purpose through our response to each of these events is to form Christ’s character in the hearts of His steward leaders!  We have a choice, however, as we can either become bitter or better! 

“God has to get our attention first.  Then He teaches.”

The Making of a Leader (p. 29) 


This is why, according to Clinton, being precedes effective ministry.  Our part is to identify the lessons God has for us in these events of life.  We need to ask, What Are You Shaping In Me Through This (WAYSIMTT?)?

“As a leader, you should recognize that God is continually developing you over a lifetime.  His top priority is to conform you to the image of Christ for ministry with spiritual authority.  Enduring fruitfulness flows out of being.”

The Making of a Leader (p. 45) 

In other words, if I care for the depth of my walk with God, He will care for the breadth of my ministry!  Be precedes do!

I was sharing this lesson with my wife, Bonnie, a few weeks ago. 

I said to her,

 “Look at what God has done for us!  When we made the difficult transition from Heritage Christian School to Indiana Wesleyan University where I served as Vice President for University Relations, God provided free College tuition for our four children!  When I made another difficult transition from the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) where I served as President to Columbia International University (CIU) where I now serve as Vice President of CIU Global God provided a beautiful, new home on Lake Murray, 12 grandchildren (7 who live in Lexington with us) and a ministry role I enjoy.  That illustrates how these events we lived through were God’s grace to us!” 

Bon smiled and said,

“As good as each of these gifts is, they are not the primary examples of God grace to you through these difficult times.  You are not the man today that you were then!  What he did in your heart through each of these tough times is the primary gift!”

 Swindoll writes that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond!  We make the choice about whether or not we will learn the lessons God intends for us to learn through these events!  If we choose right responses, God builds His character into our hearts one lesson at a time.  In this way, the lessons we learn during the worst of times in our lives is His grace to us as we ask,

What are you shaping in me through this?


Dr. Brian S. Simmons is the Vice President CIU Global and Professor at Columbia International University.  He exists as a visionary builder to further the kingdom of God through Christian education, teaching, and influencing others.

Meet Dr. Brian S. Simmons at the Outcomes Conference 2023.

He will be teaming up with Dr. Scott Rodin, Steward Leader Content Expert, Center for Steward Leader Studies, and AndreaCapuyan, Executive Director, The LPC to present a six-hour Leadership Intensive. Here is a quick look at what they will be sharing and the outcomes!

Set Free to Lead
When Jesus promised ‘Life in all its Fullness’ he meant that for leaders as well! If that is not your leadership experience, come join us for a rethinking of leadership from a one-kingdom, steward perspective.

Outcomes: 1) Discover and use new tools to assess what lies at the heart of your leadership, 2) Understand your choice between leading as an owner or steward and the implications of each, and 3) Create your Steward Leader Life Plan and find friends to walk with you on the journey.



What is Christian Leadership Alliance?

Christian Leadership Alliance equips and unites leaders to transform the world for Christ. We are the leaders of Christ-centered organizations who are dedicated to faithful stewardship for greater kingdom impact.

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