When I was younger, growing up on a farm in the country, one of the things I liked to do was play in the woods. It was either playing war with some friends or hunting or exploring, finding new places and imagining that we had to survive off the land and the things we could gather. (Only a country boy would understand) Even when I got a little older and my likes changed more to motorcycles and four wheelers, I still liked to get out in the woods and blaze some new trails and explore new areas. The only bad thing about these times, and one of the things that stands out the most, was that the person that lead the way always took the brunt of what was coming. Since it was an area that no one had passed through the one out front usually got a face full of spider webs, and then came the feeling that the spider was crawling all over. Also any briars, or limbs etc would get him first and thus he would clear the way for those that came behind. Usually, it ended in an argument to see who would go first because no one wanted to have to face all the obstacles.
This same phenomena can be seen when it comes to leadership and leading people into new uncharted territory. Leadership is not and easy position to have. Figuratively, the one who is out front is the one who has to take the yucky “spider webs” and briars to the face. There will often be opposition, difficult decisions to make, days when you might ask yourself if it is really worth it. I once heard it said that a “Successful leader sees the opportunities in every difficulty rather than the difficulty in every opportunity.” Often, it is not a pleasant position to have, but if you are going to accomplish things that others have not, and take people there with you, then that is the reality, and that is your calling. Just remember that anyone can hold the helm when the seas are calm, but what we need are leaders that are willing to take the helm and fight thru the storm to take others safely to the other side.
So what are some things that can help us continue in spite of the difficulties?
Keep your Destination in Mind
They say that the most difficult part of running a marathon is not muscle fatigue, or the physical pain that one experiences, but the mental challenge that every runner faces. I have heard that there comes a point when your mind begins to tell you that you cannot continue on and it can become so strong that many give up at that point. The only thing that can keep the runner on his course is when he blocks those thoughts out of his mind and replaces them with his goal, the finish line.
I think it is much the same for a leader. The mental battles are often the most difficult, especially in the ministry because our enemy is an expert when it comes to those battles. He knows our weaknesses and how to hit us where we are most vulnerable. The difficulties of the moment can easily distract and discourage us but we must block those things out of our minds and look beyond to our goal, where we are headed. The Bible says that we are to take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and that we are to replace those thoughts with true, good and pleasant things (Philippians 4:8). Every time a negative or discouraging thought comes into our minds we must say, “I am not going to think about that”, remove it from our minds and replace it with the promises that the Lord has given us.
As we begin to win the battle over our thoughts the key is to keep our goal, our destination in mind. In Hebrews 12, the Bible says that we are to lay every weight aside, run with patience and to look to, or keep our eyes on Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith. If we allow the “spider webs” and other difficulties that come with leadership to distract us from focusing on Christ then easily we can get off track or discouraged and make it difficult to reach our goal.
Think of the Rewards
The Bible says that men run in a race to receive a prize or crown that is corruptible but our prize or crown is incorruptible. Not only does keeping the goal in mind help a runner make it to the finish line, but also the thought of the prize that awaits him. In most races the purpose of the race is to win even if it is considered a race against ones self. Often today in kids sports we see a trend of not having a “winner” for fear of hurting the kids self esteem. To me this completely removes the purpose of sports in the first place. While winning isn’t everything, as they say, it is what motivates us to get stronger and do better each time. A good example of that would possible be Olympic Athletes. They often spend four to eight years of intense training as much as six to eight hours a day six days a week just to qualify. Why would they sacrifice so much? I would think that winning has a little to do with that. When they are on the podium with the medal in their hands their faces say it all.
When it comes to spiritual leadership, not only will keeping the finish line in sight help keep us on track but also thinking about the rewards will motivate and energize us. While our goal may not be a trophy or money it is something even better. We can probably see several rewards that will motivate us to keep on keeping on.
1. Our Heavenly Home
The Bible says in Romans 8:18 that no man has seen nor even thought of what God has prepared for us. I think that our finite minds can’t even comprehend all the wonders and glory that awaits us. This is actually my life’s verse and even though I have not faced extreme difficulty in my life per se, I know that what ever comes my way I can keep going because one day I will be able to enjoy all that God has prepared for me.
2. How it will effect Others
While we shouldn’t focus on others lives knowing that they can fail us, unfortunately we know that others are watching us and our lives do effect others. Many have come to Christ because of how a faithful Christian as graciously faced trials and difficulties. So in the moments that we are discouraged and maybe want to quit, we have to keep in mind how our quitting will effect others.
3. His Glory
More than anything else it is being pleasing to the Lord and glorifying Him with our lives that should be our goal and motivation. There is nothing that makes a child light up like hearing his father praise his accomplishments. In those difficult times when we don’t feel like we can continue on it is knowing that our life is glorifying Him that will keep us going. At the end of our race, the finish line brings a much greater reward than a trophy or medal. It is when we hear those words, “Well done thou good and faithful servant”.
Realize that God has Equipped Us
There are probably several things that keep most people from taking up the task of running a marathon. The cost or sacrifice that is required and not knowing if one is even capable of accomplishing such a task. When someone takes the step and decides to sacrifice and prepare to run what he is really overcoming is fear. Once he overcomes the fear of if he can really do it, the rest is much easier because he already believes he can.
As a leader, fear is probably the number one thing that keeps us from attempting greater, more challenging things. While as a leader we don’t believe in our own capacity, we do have someone that we can trust in that promises us the victory. It is in the difficult moments that we must look to Him knowing that He has equipped us not only to run but also to win.
1. God’s Strength
Psalms 18:2 tells us that God is our rock, fortress and strength. Most people when facing a trial cry out to God but as soon as they do, they are already thinking about how “they” can solve their problem. That is why many give up so quickly, because they tired and fear creeps in and they think they can’t make it. If we try to trust in our own strength we will fail but if we trust in Him He will give us all the strength that we need.
2. God’s Protection
The Bible tells us that He will never leave us or forsake us. We are His children and He is always there to help and protect us. In Bible times, when a city was attacked the people would retreat inside the city behind the walls of safety. We on the other hand, often try to fight the battle on our own and loose. He is our fortress and protection and we must keep in mind that nothing can separate us from His love.
3. God’s Purpose.
One of the things that can cause the most fear in our lives is uncertainty. If we don’t understand what is happening or why it is easy to be afraid. When many face trials the first question they ask is “Why?”. As a Christian, we have nothing to fear because we know that our heavenly Father has a purpose in everything that He does in our lives. (Rom 8:28) When we know that He has a purpose and is using every trial for our good we can rest in Him and continue leading with His help.
So the next time you are called on or have the opportunity to take the lead, don’t let fear get in your way. Step out and trust God to see where He will lead you.