The apostle Paul was a great coach. His impassioned exhortation in 2 Corinthians 4 sounds like a locker room pep talk before a championship game.
His words conjure images in my mind of athletes who push themselves to their limits…who sacrifice long hours of training… who suffer injuries, but play through.
“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. Through suffering, these bodies of ours constantly share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” - 2 Corinthians 4: 8-10 NLT
Perseverance. Strength. Focus. Oh, to be that kind of Christian! Oh, to be that kind of leader! Think about your life for a moment. In what areas do you push yourself? I think of my friend, Jill, and her dedication to physical fitness. In our workouts together, I am always impressed with her ability to perform every move with power. She squats lower, lifts more, and performs more repetitions than I ever can. Well, I take that back. I could do them, but I choose not to. When Jill pushes herself, I often take shortcuts. I often fail to really push myself.
Paul described something of vastly more important than our exercise routines. He shared that he had been pressed, knocked down, perplexed, hunted down, and that he suffered, but he wasn’t crushed, didn’t quit, didn’t feel abandoned, and he kept going. Still, he pushed himself to be the man God asked him to be. He had incredible stamina and endurance. He had a clear understanding of his purpose and mission. He knew his goal. He kept his eyes on the prize.
So, how can we do that? As leaders, you and I aren't often met with physical resistance as extreme as Paul experienced. Yet, we encounter situations that make us want to crawl into the fetal position and hide awhile, don't we? How can we prevent those "pressing" and "perplexing" circumstances from driving us to quit? My answer is going to sound cliché. You might be craving a 3-step process to overcoming adversity in ministry, but I'm not offering one.
The key to being a resilient leader who doesn't quit is this: Stay close to our Father. Take every need to Him. Talk to Him often. Know Him and His ways through Scripture. Discipline your mind to be God-centered. Rely on His strength. View ministry and leadership as something you tackle... not something that tackles you!
Why should we do these things? Paul answered: “For our present troubles are quite small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.” - 2 Corinthians 4: 17-18 NLT
What could that “immeasurably great glory” be? What “joys” could last forever?
1. The pleasure we’ve brought to God because we’ve obeyed him.
2. The refinement of our character.
3. The example we’ve lived before others.
4. The people we’ve influenced for God.
5. The mission we’ve accomplished with our lives.
6. The consequences we’ve avoided (and helped others to avoid) because we’ve chosen God over our own desires.
7. The celebrations in Heaven when we've chosen to deny ourselves and follow God.
My mind can’t even begin to comprehend the rewards that will be ours in Heaven if we’ve been good stewards of our time, gifts, and ministries here on earth!
Today, friends, push yourselves. Be Paul’s kind of Christian leader today. In the face of confusion, don’t give up. In the face of trouble, be unbroken. If you get knocked down, get back up again. Not with your strength, but with God’s, for He never abandons you when you are living for Him!