Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Embarrassed (07/19/07)
TITLE: Training Camp
By Robin Wisch
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Thank you so much for your recent correspondence. The maturity in your letters is quite remarkable for someone so young in the Lord.
Now, regarding leadership:
First, understand that becoming a good leader takes time…much time. It’s usually preceded by hardship and plenty of it. Frequently, time itself is the great teacher of leadership; that and personal offences at the hands of others. Our Lord often puts His future leaders under unfair circumstances. It is His training camp, so to speak.
For example: David was anointed king by Samuel at the tender age of 17. By age 20, he’d already killed a giant. A decade of running from mad king Saul followed. What’d David learn during those ten years? Primarily, how to handle unwarranted offences.
The Apostle Paul also learned leadership in the crucible of time and hardship. Paul’s conversion occurred following the death of Stephen in 37 A.D. which also initiated great persecution and causing Jerusalem Christians to be dispersed abroad. Many of them came to Antioch in Syria. Paul meanwhile returned to Tarsus, his hometown.
While in Tarsus, Paul wasn’t heard from for quite awhile. During these silent years, a new work of God rose up in Antioch. Since travel in those days was slow at best, the gospel probably wasn’t even preached in Antioch until a year after the dispersion. Soon, a new work of God was birthed and many believers were added. Time passed and news eventually reached the Jerusalem leaders. They sent Barnabas to Antioch. It may have been as late as 42 or 43 A.D. before Barnabas arrived on the scene. With the influx of believers, Barnabas sought Paul’s help, bringing him to Antioch from Tarsus.
History records Paul’s first missionary journey from 46-48 A.D. Therefore, from the time of his conversion (37 A.D.) until the time God ordained Paul for public ministry, approximately 8-10 years had elapsed. What did he do for those years? Well, Paul was a tentmaker by trade so quite logically, he made…tents! What is the greatest Apostle doing in preparation for his ministry? Why, he is making tents. Thus, Paul was living in God’s training camp for ministry: delay.
Why does God make his leaders wait, you ask? Wonderful question! Several reasons.
One is that God’s heart is forgiveness and all God’s leaders must learn to forgive. Well, nephew, you must be wronged in order to forgive.
A leader must learn that forgiveness only comes from God. Anything else is a lie. To hold a brother at arms length after an apology is not forgiveness. To simply tolerate him because you know he is prone to error and will likely offend you again is not forgiveness. Don’t fool yourself Michael; your Lord doesn’t treat you that way when you offend Him. He forgives and receives you back as if you’d never offended Him. That’s God’s kind of forgiveness. God’s brand of forgiveness must be rooted into your life and usually, it will take time…and many offences.
Secondly, a leader must learn how not to exercise lordship over those he leads. Now, this is a subtle issue. Generally, when we are wronged, we want God to justify us by showing the other person the enormity of his wrong. This is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Self-righteously, we really want to see the other person embarrassed for their wrong so that in our spiritual arrogance we can pity the “inferior one.”
Jesus never did that. He was compassionate, but never pitied from a self-promotion position. He deferred chastisement even when his followers acted foolishly.
For example: Thomas clearly declared that he didn’t believe Jesus had risen from the dead, even when the others had told him so. He was the epitome of unbelief. Yet, Jesus appeared to him, simply asking him to put his fingers in his scars to verify that it really was Him. He didn’t say, “Why didn’t you believe me, Thomas? I told you I would do this? How could you be with me for so long and not get it?”
Leaders learn how to rebuke with grace, bringing the offensive one back into the fold. They do not embarrass even when they’re dead right. They do not hold the offensive one at arms length making them earn acceptance.
Clearly, this kind of leadership cannot happen in a day, a month or even a year. It took Moses eighty years. Yes, nephew, God’s greatest tool for developing leadership in you will simply be…time.
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