If you're a Christian leader, you're not allowed to have problems. At least, that's what some people will tell you.
Have you ever noticed that? We Christians seem to have certain expectations of leaders. Whether you're a leader of:
- a volunteer group…
- a Sunday School class…
- a church ministry…
- or even an entire church…
… there is a stigma that people who are in leadership, or have reached any level of spiritual maturity at all, are not supposed to have problems. Or, if they do, we seem to believe that their battles should be against big things of organizational, community, or nationwide importance.
This stigma says leaders shouldn’t struggle with personal battles like doubt, or discouragement, or fear. It says that that leaders shouldn’t feel disheartened or want to walk away.
And if you're a leader who's struggling, it can feel like there's no help for you.
- You might feel like there's no way out.
- You might feel like you have no one to talk to.
- The enemy may even be plaguing you with a fear mindset that says: “If I admit I'm struggling, people will think I'm unspiritual.”
You might feel you will lose favor or influence. You might even be concerned you will be removed from leadership. And if you're in full-time vocational ministry, you might even be concerned you could lose your job–your livelihood, your ability to provide for your family–if you admit you are anything less than perfect.
And it's time to get rid of this stigma. You may be a leader, but leaders are real people too.
The reason God placed you in leadership has nothing to do with saying that you should never battle any personal problems. No; personal, inner struggles are common to man. If you’re human, you’re invariably going to face some of these things.
The fact that you're a leader doesn't mean you can't be human, and God never expected you to be perfect when He placed you in leadership.
The fact that you're a leader simply means this:
1) God trusts you with influencing His people, which is another subject for another day; and
2) When it comes to personal struggles, God knows you have enough character to respond to personal battles in a godly way.
You're not in leadership because of your perfection. You're not in leadership because of your immunity to hardship. You're in leadership because of your character. Character is the essential test of leaders, and character makes all the difference in the world.
The difference character makes is this: When you’re squeezed by personal battles, what comes out of you?
- Will you quit and walk away?
- Will you spew venom, in public or in private?
- Will you stab somebody in the back?
Or will you honor God, even when it hurts?
- Will you admit your struggle to the Lord and wait on Him, seeking His comfort and asking Him to bear your burden for you?
- Will you obey the instruction of the Lord as found in His Word, even when it doesn’t seem like the logical thing to do?
- Will you persist? Will you keep on? When things look bleak, when you can’t remember why you stay, will you stay anyway?
These are the questions that make all the difference in the world. These are the issues that determine the outcome. These are the factors that mean you pass the test and get to move on, or, if you fail, the factors that mean you get to go around this mountain one… more… time.
Struggles will come. But how you handle those struggles is the true evidence of your character … the character that caused God to put you into leadership in the first place.
So, precious leader, how will you handle your struggle today?
Here are my suggestions, based on my own personal experience:
1. Speak little.
Jesus, when facing the cross, told His disciples that He would not talk with them much from that point forward. Why? Because He did not want to give place to the enemy. Jesus said:
I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me” (John 14:30).
Honestly, sometimes the less you talk about things, the better off you are. I know that sometimes I’ll be in a perfectly-fine mood… until I start talking; and then my attitude goes downhill fast. That’s basic human nature. So when you’re getting squeezed, make like Jesus and speak little so you don’t inadvertently open any doors to the enemy.
This doesn't mean you can't have a confidant. Just choose your confidant very carefully, and make sure he or she is going to handle things in a godly way too.
2. Pray much.
Above all else, pray for godly responses:
- Pray that God will set a watch on your tongue.
- Pray that He will give you His perspective on everything.
- Ask Him to give you ears to hear and eyes to see.
- Ask Him for hinds’ feet in high places—that you will navigate your landscape with agility and excellence.
When you’re under duress, let your biggest prayer be: “God, no matter what, let my life honor You.”
That is a godly response. If you will pray that, GOD will work everything else out. Don’t you worry about the fight—He never called you to fight anyway; He called you to stand and pray without ceasing. So you let God fight and you just stand, and pray.
3. Trust God.
No matter what you’re going through, the Word of God is still true:
- He WILL perfect all things that concern you.
- All things WILL work together for your good.
- Your times ARE in His hands.
You MUST keep your focus on Him—His faithfulness, holiness, purity, and all-sufficiency. Only He can do His work. So stop worrying and let God be God. (Admit it: You're not very good at being God anyway, so just give it up.) 🙂
4. Devour the Word of God.
Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3). No matter what you're going through, the only way you can get through it victoriously is to devour the Scriptures. As you hide God's Word in your heart, He will keep you from sin.
No matter who you are, this applies to you. I'm sure you probably already know the Word if you're in leadership. But even if you know the Word already, it's still imperative that you get your daily food from God's Word.
- God's Word will sustain you during your dark time.
- He will speak to you through it.
- He will encourage you, strengthen you, and lift you up.
So eat God's Word for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Believe it for what it says; don't dumb down God's Word to accommodate your doubt and unbelief (or anybody else's doubt and unbelief either). Present God's promises back to Him in prayer. God is not a man that He should lie (Numbers 23:19). He WILL come through for you according to His Word.
5. Weather the storm.
I'll write more about this on Friday. But for now, I simply want to remind you that weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. (Read the encouraging word the Lord gave me recently for people who are weeping here.)
Precious leader, God sees your heart. He knows what you’re going through. You don't need to be ashamed. He will work out your situation; YOU just focus on Him and guard your reactions and responses.
If you will concern yourself only with God, and walk before Him in holiness and purity, God will take care of the rest.
Are you a leader who is struggling with personal battles? Does this message speak to your heart today? If so, please leave a comment below!
Image courtesy of Andrea Westmoreland on Flickr via Creative Commons license. Image has been cropped and graphics added.