“…for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, to be content.” Philippians 4:11
“It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.” Psalm 119:71
“Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths….teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day.” Psalm 25:4-5
I am writing to leaders. I don’t know about you but I never sought or chose to be a leader. It was not on my “bucket list” of things to do as a child, as a youth, or even when I began ministry. I would say that I was chosen by default. In checking the word “default” in my handy dictionary, one of the meanings listed states: “a selection automatically used by a computer program in the absence of a choice made by the user.” It might sound facetious, but from my perspective, I was absent in the “choice decision” made by God in calling me to be a leader (Ephesians 3:7). I think Moses was also. He definitely came sputtering and dragging his feet into the position that God had for him in leading Israel.
A confession: leading has never been easy for me. I have made so many mistakes in attempting to be what God wants me to be. Maybe you are what some call a “natural leader.” I have said that of some great men of God I have known over the years, although I don’t know if they would say that of themselves. What I have observed is that the class room of life is a learning lab for leading. Several years ago I received a letter from a program committee chairman of a national fellowship of churches asking if I might teach a workshop on failure “because of my experience in that area.” I kid you not, those where the exact words. Within a fellowship of some fifteen hundred plus pastors, I was the one chosen to teach a workshop on failure. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
I think that you would agree that most of what we have learned through life has come through affliction. Affliction takes on many forms; it has many faces. “Affliction” in both the Hebrew and Greek speaks of hardships, tribulations, sickness, poverty, distress, pressure and often oppression. I once had a little plaque over my office door which read, “Wit’s End!” My text was Psalm 107:27, “They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end.” One thing for sure in our lives, and the lives of all leaders listed in Scripture, affliction makes us more acquainted with God and with His Word.
I so admire the Apostle Paul. Other than Job, where might such a man of affliction be found? A second century writer described him as “a man little of stature, partly bald, with crooked legs, of vigorous physique, with eyes set close together and nose somewhat hooked.” But it wasn’t his stature and all the physical calamities he went through for the cause of Christ that attracts me to him, it was his attitude towards life in the class room of learning. Paul was a great leader made by God because he had learned to be content in whatsoever state (physical illness, heartaches, distresses and disappointments) he had to endure. How sad when we come out of affliction the same as when we entered. Affliction may attack the body, but it is attitude that affects the soul. Paul’s attitude towards the hard times of life teaches us that how we respond tells much about our theology. God does not call us to things we are equal to, but often that which only through His strength and wisdom we can accomplish and then use in leadership roles that He entrusts to us. There is no question that ministry is leading by example.
Leading is an awesome responsibility. The class room of life is a learning lab for leading. As we continue to learn we will be better equipped to lead. When we lead, or counsel, or attempt to encourage, it is from what we have learned in the class room of life. We have all lost ground spiritually at one time or another due to affliction in our lives. But that ground is re-gained when through affliction we have learned more of God and His Word (Psalm 119:71).
As leaders chosen of God to lead, may we continue to wait upon Him all the day (Psalm 25:4-5). J. Oswald Sanders in his valuable book, “Spiritual Leadership,” lists some lessons he had discovered in life’s learning lab for leading. I close by sharing them with you and ask that we pray for each other so that we may lead well for His honor and His glory.
- Treasure people who will pray for you every day.
- Keep up your spiritual reading and trust the sovereignty of God in your life.
- Be an early riser and a time miser. Use little gaps to best advantage.
- Be willing to step out and do something for which you feel inadequate.
- Never lose the desire to grow. On retirement, the Lord has something better.
- Watch your attitude to failure.
- Accept the disciplines of God. Suffering tempers us all.
- Don’t let finance play a big part in your decisions.
- Minister in the power of the Holy Spirit. The secret of the fullness of the Holy Spirit is a yielded life.
–Maynard H. Belt