Encouragement to Press On -
Leadership 'Ain't' Easy
There are days in ministry when a padded room at Central State Hospital would be helpful. Just for a moment - not to stay or anything. Just long enough to scream and kick for a moment. Why? Leadership 'ain't' easy.
You may never have that problem, but most leaders do (if they'll actually admit it). II may be sunshine and daisies every day in your leadership, but I've seen a few storms and thorns in my day - not all that many but enough to know that I need to be encouraged to press on sometimes.
Even when things are seemingly going well, you can be discouraged or frustrated in leadership. Whether it’s spiritual attacks or just frustrations, leadership gets hard and you can get drained.
Leadership 'ain't' easy, but we can have encouragement to press on. Here are some things to do to stay encouraged!
Feed Your Soul.
Psalm 1:1-3 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.
Plants wither when they are taken away from the source of life. For us, that life source is Jesus. As spiritual leaders, nothing is more important than our time with the Lord in Bible study and prayer. Nothing. Not a meeting, not a visit, not a sale, nothing. The most important thing is our personal time with the Lord.
In his book, Don’t Quit Before You Finish, Jimmy Draper says, “You cannot expect to lead someone where you have not been, through experiences you have not had, and through challenges you have not faced. Dependence on the Lord will be the lifeline through which you survive and thrive.” That book is written to pastors, but this teaching applies to any leader. You can’t lead your people beyond where you have been. So go to the Lord daily and feed your soul.
Ephesians 4:26-27 26 "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.
In other words, forgive fast, or else the devil will make a mess.
In ministry, you will be hurt. I'm sure it is the same in every leadership position. It’s going to happen. Someone is going to hurt your feelings. Someone is going to be a jerk. Someone is going to let you down. Someone is going to betray you. When that stuff happens, forgive fast. Letting unforgiveness fester will tear you down. The hurt may remain for a while, but for the healing to come, forgiveness must be given fast. The sooner you forgive, the sooner you can begin healing. Otherwise, you end up with many wasted years. A lack of forgiveness is one thing that will hold you back spiritually. Forgive fast. Life is too short to simmer and sour.
Celebrate victories – no matter how small
Zechariah 4:10 "Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. "
I ran across that verse in a devotional while pastoring my first church. The version I read back then said, “Do not despise the day of small things.” I needed to hear that as a pastor of a small church in a town nobody had ever heard of. Do not despise the day of small things.
As a leader, you will go through seasons where there is a lot to celebrate. For pastors those are the seasons of adding a new staff position, a building project, an unexpected wave of new members, etc. Those high points are usually just mountaintops with valleys in between. There are other times where you might think nothing is happening, but it is, it’s just not as evident. In those seasons, you might get discouraged. “It’s not like it was. Growth isn’t as evident.” Maybe not, but don’t be discouraged. Celebrate and reflect on the small victories. Don’t despise the day of small things.
Trees bear fruit in season. In the time when the fruit is not being visibly bore, the tree is growing. It’s roots are going deeper, it’s branches are extended farther, the tree is growing taller – all to prepare for greater fruit bearing! There are seasons when you’re picking fruit every day. Then there are seasons when things are growing to prepare for another harvest.
During those times – look for the not so big and visible victories. Celebrate and reflect on the victories, no matter how small.
Beware the depression following the big victories.
Often the greatest personal challenges come following the greatest victories. In 1 Kings 18 we read about Elijah battling the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Then in 1 Kings 19, all hell breaks loose against Elijah as Jezebel sets out to kill him. Elijah runs for his life, finally crashing under a tree where he prays, “I’m done, Lord. Just kill me now.”
Times like that come – and they often come after great victories. We have to watch out for the depression following the big victories. Uually they come because we as leaders are tired! But, when those victories come with spiritual attack, we have to be extra watchful.
In those times, we need to listen to the voice of the Lord. He will speak to us – just as he did to Elijah. In Elijah’s case, God spoke in a still small voice and encouraged him by letting him know he was not alone.
Believe God for provision.
Philippians 4:19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
The people of Philippi were not necessarily wealthy but they were extremely generous to Paul and his ministry. Paul reminds them that faithfulness to God will result in his meeting their needs. The same is true in our ministry here at the church and in your business. God will meet all of your needs.
Before I became a pastor, I never worried about the budget. The budget was somebody else’s problem. But when I first started at my first church, the budget became a worry. Then when I came here in 2008, I stepped into a big hole of worry – a budget we couldn’t meet and a pile of debt we struggled to pay. Then, as we’ve grown, we’ve pressed forward with some bold steps. I’ve worried much in the last ten years. Thankfully, God has been teaching me a lot in the last couple of years – “Don’t worry, I will meet your needs. Haven’t I always?” I have to admit, He has. Looking back, I realize how silly it was to be worried. Believe God for provision.
Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Challenges come in ministry when we lose focus. From the moment Jesus was raised out of the waters of the Jordan at his baptism, He set his face towards the cross. Satan tried to distract, dangling temptations before him, but Jesus maintained focus. The crowds tried to distract, encouraging him to be an earthly king, but Jesus maintained focus. One of his closest apostles, Peter, even tried to derail Jesus by telling him such a horrible thing as an arrest and killing could never happen to Jesus, but Jesus maintained focus. Even on the cross, one of the thieves try one last effort by saying, “If you really are the Christ, save yourself and us!”, but, even in that most gruesome and horrible moment, Jesus maintained focus.
So must we. All types of things will try to distract you – stresses, challenges, personalities, temptations – but you must maintain your focus.
Don’t quit. We need you.
Philippians 3:12-14 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Sometimes you just have to press on. Even strain.
A couple of weeks ago, I attended a Revitalization Seminary hosted by our association. The speaker shared some lessons he’s learned in his journey. One was “Sometimes you just have to press on.” As a leader, you will go through seasons where, well, frankly your attitude stinks. Maybe it’s a spiritual attack. Maybe you’re just tired or stressed. But you want to just throw up your hands and quit.
But don't. Just don't. Press on. Consider what God has been doing through you. And, also consider, how God may want to grow you through this struggle. There have been two times when I wanted to quit. They were the most awful times of ministry. God made me stay and press on. Consequently, He did great things in me during those times.
Sure, leadership 'ain't' easy, but you can do it. Press on!I bet you can even make it without a padded room - though I've found screaming in a pillow from time to time helps.
Praying for you and your leadership,