Life is full of ups and downs, so they say, and the Christian (leader or otherwise) is not exempt from life's storms. It is during such storms that we learn to lean afresh on the faithfulness of Christ. Such incidences also underscore that leadership is rarely "convenient." The dictionary describes inconvenience as: n. the state or fact of being slightly troublesome or difficult; v. cause inconvenience to.
My experience as a leader has taught me that leadership does not come all tied up in a nice neat package with a bow. It is a privileged path of blessing, and at other times excruciating pain. It is a journey of joy and sometimes sorrow; it can often be lonely; it takes one to the edge of what is known into the unknown realm of encounter and fresh experience of touching the hem of Jesus in humble God-reliance. It can be mentally, physically, emotionally and even spiritually demanding. It is often a deep place of communion with Christ and has the potential of being a continuous process of emergence in discipleship—both on a personal level and on the basis of leading others into the transformational lifestyle of walking with Christ. It is a humble privilege to serve others through the grace of leadership, yet I do not think I would ever call leadership "convenient."
Introduction—"Out of Range"
Allow me to share a short, recent testimony with you from our family that I hope will be both inspirational and an encouragement to you today, whilst at the same time serving as a useful life analogy to which we may apply Scriptural truth.
With all our children safely despatched to school, and a carefully planned slot in my diary and ministry schedule for a hair appointment, I had finally made it to the hair salon and was looking forward to a much-needed (and rarely available) time-out to have my hair cut and coloured. For some strange reason (and despite all modern technology) the hair salon is out of range with regard to mobile phone signal. Normally, it is a little oasis of peace and quiet for me to retreat to once every couple of months without interruption—however, not so on this occasion.
At the point of looking less than attractive (wearing a gargantuan black cape to avoid staining on my clothing, with my hair plastered to my head with thick purple peroxide paste), my sister-in-law burst into the hair salon and announced, "Daniel is being sent home from school and you need to come now!" (Daniel is our second eldest son). When I explained I couldn't move for at least 30 minutes, she left mumbling that my mother-in-law was going to pick Daniel up. At that moment my head was completely covered in chemicals with the potential ability to dissolve my hair if it was left on there for too long!
Daniel had left home for school just two hours previously with not a hint of any health problems and I couldn't think what might be wrong. I reassured the hair stylist that everything would be fine and quietly began to pray for healing for my son Daniel, at this point quite unaware of just how ill he had become.
Moments later, my mother-in-law arrived ashen-faced and shaking. She had driven to school to pick up Daniel and was now telling me that his hand was paralysed and he had gone blind in one eye. To say I leapt out of the chair would be the understatement of the year. Now, in the moment of absolute crisis, there was no other course of action to take or direction to run but into the eye of the storm. So, with purple hair and wearing a black stylist cape (and at this point now not caring one iota what people thought of how I looked), I ran out of the hair salon and out to Daniel, who was sitting weeping silently in the car. I laid hands on my precious son and commanded his eyesight to be healed, the pain in his head to go and the paralysis in his right hand to be healed in Jesus' name.
The power of God immediately began to manifest in Daniel's healing. I reassured Daniel I would have the peroxide washed of my hair and join him in just a matter of moments. I instructed my dear mother-in-law to take Daniel straight to the doctor and tell them what had happened. Meantime, I called my husband and asked him to come from work so that we could provide a support system for Daniel and the other three children, should this be necessary. Although shaken by the circumstance, I felt calm, and at the same time a righteous anger rose up in me against the devil. I spoke out loud with resolute faith, "Satan, you will not touch my son in Jesus' name."
Fifteen minutes later I was free of the purple peroxide and standing in the doctor's office. I was surprised that Daniel and his Gran had not yet been seen by a doctor given the potentially serious symptoms that Daniel was presenting. I strode up to the reception desk and politely enquired when Daniel could expect to see a doctor. The receptionist was somewhat rude and retorted that she did not know how long Daniel would have to wait; bless her, but this status quo was not a position that this determined and focused parent was going to accept during a crisis. I paused and made eye contact with the woman and repeated the same question in a low and determined voice, "When is my son going to be seen by a doctor? He has had a sudden, painful and unexplained attack of paralysis and blindness." The receptionist left to find a doctor and moments later Daniel was examined by a General Practitioner.
The GP's diagnosis was that Daniel had suffered a serious migraine attack (it was the first of its kind he had experienced). She gave us some medicine to help with the nausea and told him to go lie down and sleep at home. If the migraine re-occurred she asked us to come back. I took Daniel home, tucked my darling 16-year-old in bed, reassured him and prayed for him again. My husband went back to work and I set about calling family members to let them know that Daniel was just fine. As most of you are probably aware—bad news travels faster on the family grape vine than most other types! I felt it was important to thank everyone who had helped us and to reassure them all (including the hair stylists) that Daniel was fine and the crisis had passed.
Standing in the Storm with Jesus
Now what does my peroxide anecdotal ramblings have to do with the "inconvenience" of leadership?—frankly, quite a lot! In the first instance, have you ever noticed how crises requiring leadership intervention usually always happen at inconvenient times? They occur when you least expect them and often in the most inconvenient of ways—normally when one is "out of range" (just as I was out of range with my mobile phone). To be out of range in a leadership context might be described as being away from one's normal environment or perhaps one's resources and team members; it may involve dealing with difficult circumstances and awkward timing.
Crisis requires strength and dependability from anointed leadership that trusts in God and seeks to stand in the storm in the strength of Christ. A reliable leader knows how not to panic and how to access Christ's presence in the eye of the storm and to prayerfully and boldly press in to God's faithfulness for a solution to the presenting problem. Such a leader will also always seek to reassure those who have become fearful and/or are suffering and in pain. As leaders, we will not always know ahead of time when a "storm" will arise or how it will affect those whom we love. However, we can rely on God for His strength, His delivering power and His solution to all life's crises. The prayer of faith is also an important part of a leader's (indeed, any Believer's) response during a life storm.
The Example of Christ
One day Jesus said to His disciples, "Let's go over to the other side of the lake." So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, He fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke Him, saying, "Master, Master, we're going to drown!"
He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. "Where is your faith?" He asked His disciples.
In fear and amazement they asked one another, "Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him"—Luke 8:22-25 (see also Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 6:47-52; John 6:16-21).
All four Gospel narratives describe an incident in which Christ was asleep during an unexpected storm, each one illuminating various truths about God's dependability during life's storms. Luke clearly outlines the gravity of the storm that had arisen, reminding us that the disciples were "in great danger," as huge waves swamped the little fishing boat, threatening to sink it and take their lives.
Jesus was asleep in deep slumber on a boat, totally and utterly exhausted from intense ministry. Have you ever ministered for hours till your mouth was dry, your body ached, but your heart full of His blessed love? I have and I know the kind of sleep that follows: it is deep. The Lord was in such a place of deep resting, and during this intended and much needed "time out," a violent storm arose that terrified His disciples. Panic-stricken, they woke the Master up, with an expectation that He would know what to do. A crisis had occurred and His disciples needed re-assurance. Putting His own needs to the side, Jesus focused on the issue at hand.
Matthew's Gospel is similar in many ways to Luke's recollection of the storm that night. Matthew outlines that Jesus got into the boat with the men. "Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat." We are reminded of the severity of the storm. Matthew recalls that Jesus was sleeping, and then the disciples called out to Him that they were going to drown. Awaking, Jesus asked His disciples why they were so afraid and He took authority over the winds and the waves and it was "completely calm." Furthermore, they reveal the power and authority of Christ to bring peace to any storm situation.
Both Luke and Matthew's reflections reveal the need for faith to be engaged during the violent buffeting of an unexpected storm.
Dear Heavenly Father, today in Jesus' name I pray for every Believer, and especially leaders who are seeking to help others, that they would know Your peace, Your wisdom and Your power to respond with a new level of faith to whatever storm they may be facing. Lord, empower Your servants so that they may pray with holy boldness and see Your mighty delivering hand act on their behalf. Encourage those who feel oppressed by circumstance and loose your wonderful Holy Spirit to their situation to bring healing and freedom in Jesus' mighty name. Amen.
Founder, Gatekeepers Global Ministries (GGM) and
Co-founder, Scottish Apostolic Networking Enterprise