Day 116: Upright Heart, Skillful Hands (Psalm 78)

Reading plan: Psalm 73,77,78

And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.” Psalm 78:72

Psalm 78:72 became one of my favorite verses several years ago. It was my last day in a job I loved— editing Bible study materials for a Christian publisher. I had worked for this company for 16 years, and I felt confident in my work, I loved my coworkers, and I knew what to expect from each day. Publishing has a very slow, steady, methodical workflow, and in the time I was there, I felt like I had mastered it.

But I was leaving to join a church staff in Alabama as an education pastor. I hadn’t served on a church staff in nearly two decades; had never been an education pastor, and the only time I had been to Alabama was on the way to the beach.

I was afraid I would fail. I was afraid I would disappoint people. I wondered if it was only a matter of time before I would come crawling back to what I was comfortable and secure in.
This Psalm was part of my quiet time the morning of my last day at my old job. I read verse 72:
“With upright heart he shepherded then, and guided them with his skillful hand.”

And it hit me that the Psalmist put these two phrases in this order for a reason. Integrity of heart must precede skillful hands. If the heart is there, the skillful hands will follow. But if the heart isn’t upright, all the skill in the world doesn’t matter.

It seems we have seen a number of church leaders fall in recent years. They have been talented musicians, skilled communicators, and effective, visionary leaders. And as far as I can tell, not one of them left the ministry because they didn’t know enough guitar chords, or they only remembered half of the 21 things John Maxwell says every leader should know.

Ministers fall, and ministries collapse, over integrity of heart issues. Not skillful hands issues.

My church was gracious with me as I learned how to be on a church staff again. And I got pretty good at being an education guy.

Two and a half years later, the cycle began again as another church in town called me to be its lead pastor. All the same fears of leaving what was known to try something new. Was I up for the job? Could I do more than preach? Did I have what it took to lead?

And again, Psalm 78:2. Upright heart, then skillful hands.

Beloved, be faithful in keeping these in the right order. And if you are in a position where you help make hiring decisions, look at the heart first. Skillful hands will follow.

Author: James

I pastor Glynwood Baptist Church in Prattville, Alabama. I read a lot, write a little, and drink lots of coffee. I have three callings in life: surrender to Christ, be a husband to Trish, and be the best father/grandfather I can be. Everything else is an assignment, because everything else can be done by someone else.

2 thoughts on “Day 116: Upright Heart, Skillful Hands (Psalm 78)”

  1. Always loved this post. I have some of your words written in my Bible next to Psalm 78:72. You have a great heart. I imagine you’re a great leader.

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