“Serve each other in humility, for ‘God opposes the proud but favors the humble.’” 1 Peter 5:5 (NLT)
There are leaders who focus on being the greatest – leaders first. They naturally try to control, make decisions and give orders; driven to lead, possessive about leadership & dislike feedback.
There are leaders who focus on being the least – servants first. They assume leadership only if it’s the best way to serve, called to lead, view leadership as an act of stewardship rather than ownership, if someone else is better then they’ll step back; like feedback – helps them to serve better.
There are many temptations that leaders face but among the most enticing are the desire to be self-sufficient, spectacular (celebrity mentality) and self-centered (control). How do you combat these temptations in your life?
Weakness is not a curse; it’s a blessing. Because we all still tend to want to be independently strong, we tend to hate being weak. We hate feeling that we’re not prepared. We don’t like not knowing what to do next. We find it hard to acknowledge that we did it wrong. We tend to be afraid to confess that we’re at the end of our rope. It is hard to be in the deep end of the pool and not be confident about our ability to swim. But because we follow Jesus, weakness loses its terror, because the source of our rest is not our strength but the strength of our Father. It’s liberating to be able to face our inadequacies without shame or panic, but that’s just what the grace of God enables us to do.
God will expose our weaknesses so that we will run to Him, find His help in our time of need, and grow in our street-level confidence in His presence, power, and provision. The Apostle Paul discovered these realities and shared them with the first-century church in Corinth. As we ponder the lessons from his life, remember that it’s not our weaknesses that we should fear, but our delusions of strength. Delusions of independent strength are a curse because they tell us that we have power that we don’t truly have and they keep us from resting and relying on the power that is ours in the presence and grace of the One who called us to be His representative in the lives of those we lead.
Saul became Paul … took the gospel all over the known world … spent 20 years of his adult life traveling around by ship sharing the good news … imprisoned, beaten, whipped, stoned, ship-wrecked, snake bit ... God did miracles through him … he wrote 2/3rd’s of the New Testament. He became a Christian 3-4 years after the resurrection. He was all out and all in for Jesus!
At some point he was inflicted with a physical ailment (don’t know for sure what it was?) and he asked God to heal it, to take it away. And God’s answer was “NO.” Jesus said “nope, not gonna do it.” Think about how much this guy did for the Kingdom. Remember all the sermons and the altar calls. Don’t forget about all the people whose lives would forever be changed!
This has implications for us. Jesus knew him by name, loved him, called him and the answer was NO. Why do we think it will be any different for us? Why are we so privileged and special? We’re not! Even though Jesus said NO, He did promise something else in the midst of these circumstances.
Let’s take a look at this in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (MSG) …
“… So I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap (thorn in my flesh) to keep me in constant touch with my limitations (tormented him). Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that (seasons of prayer), and then he told me, My grace (the ability and energy to make it through another day; to endure) is enough; it’s all you need (sufficient; more than enough) ...”
My strength comes into its own (made perfect) in your weakness.
We’ve all seen athletes point to heaven after touchdowns or home runs. And we’ve heard actors thank God during their acceptance speeches. We know God can be glorified in our moments of success. But what about moments of weakness? How do we keep going when our circumstances are crippling and God seems to be saying, “No”?
Here’s a heads up if it’s in your future, an explanation if it’s in your past and a comfort if it’s in your present: God will … God has … and God is going to showcase His strength in your weakness if you’ll learn to take “No” for an answer.
This has NOTHING to do with His love for you or His compassion toward you or His presence in your life. His strength in your weakness IS His presence in your life!!!
“... Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (MSG)
Don’t you love being around these kinds of people? They truly get what Jesus promised: SUSTAINING GRACE!
Reflections on God’s Sustaining Grace …
1. We have permission to ask God to remove our thorns. 2. God has permission to say “No.” 3. God may choose to showcase His power on the stage of our weaknesses. 4. We can’t experience God’s sustaining grace while resisting His will. (not taking NO for an answer) 5. Sustaining grace begins with: “Not my will but Your will be done.”
1. Are you leading from a position of strength or from a position of weakness?
2. What is one thing you can do to begin leading out of your weakness? With whom can you share your weaknesses?
3. What do you need to share with others so they know you’re an authentic leader?
4. Imagine a God you could control. What would you like or dislike about Him?
5. How does the apostle Paul’s call to delight in weakness challenge the values and assumptions of the culture in which we live?
6. Describe a time when God said “no” to your prayers. Did it cause you to question His existence?
7. When God said “no” to you, did you submit to His will or struggle to deal with the situation in your own strength? What was the result of your choice?
8. What does the fact that God didn’t remove Paul’s “thorn,” but chose to use Paul’s weakness to demonstrate His own power tell you about God’s priorities?
9. How could the story of Paul’s “thorn” strengthen your faith when God seems uncooperative?
Resource: “When God Is Uncooperative” message by Andy Stanley (10/16/11)
On December 8, 2016 pastor and author Tim Keller spoke on the 3 Dangers for Anyone in Ministry at the Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama. In this talk he mentions some deeply insightful thoughts about weakness. "Ministry will lead to conceit unless God intervenes.” — Tim Keller