Leadership and Discouragement

Posted on October 29, 2013 by

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DSC04853Leadership can be a lonely enterprise at times.  The longer we lead people, the more isolated and abandoned we sometimes feel.  There is a tension in loving the people that you also lead.  We get closer to them, and yet we are their authority.  Inevitably we will have some of the people we lead make poor decisions that can be painful for us.  And sometimes we will even be betrayed or abandoned by those we lead.  Judas and Peter are perfect examples of this as Jesus’ own close disciples.  You may be able to argue that the betrayal of Judas wasn’t that painful to Jesus because it had to happen for the scriptures to be fulfilled, but the denials of Peter are just insult to injury.  How alone our own Lord must have felt.

Paul lived with some of the same issues.  In his second letter to Timothy, his last letter and one written shortly before his death, we see some of how Paul dealt with his own hurt and loneliness.  Here are 5 thoughts that might be helpful to us in our loneliness.  Let’s look at what he says.

1. Go back to the Word

1 Timothy 4:13 “When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments.”

When all is lost and the end is near, Paul asks Timothy to bring the books and the parchments.  He wanted to study.  He wanted to listen to what God had to say.  He wanted to look deeply into the Word of God to see the Word of Life, Jesus.  When we are tired and lonely, we often look for distraction, but maybe the best thing we can do is draw back to His Word.  Remember that it is the word of life.

2. Take no vengeance

1 Timothy 4:14-15 “Alexander the copper-smith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching.”

Alexander had clearly done Paul much harm, but instead of retribution, Paul instructs Timothy to steer clear from him, and to let The Lord repay him as He saw fit.  When we are intentionally hurt, our first reaction is to lash out.  But it is God’s business how He will repay evil.

3. Forgiveness

1 Timothy 4:16 “At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them.”

If anyone understood forgiveness, it was Paul.  When we are forgiven, we forgive.  When we forgive, we not only free the other person, but we are freed ourselves.

4. Stay focused on the mission

1 Timothy 4:17a “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished.”

Don’t let your focus be turned to the hurts and the loneliness themselves.  Paul still has in front of his eyes the proclamation of the Gospel, this great news that he had been entrusted with.  Keep His calling on your life ever in front of you.  He has called us to be co-laborers in His work of reconciliation.  Don’t get distracted.

5. Develop a holy longing for eternity

1 Timothy 4:18 “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

It is inevitable that as we lead people in this world we will grow weary.  It takes a toll.  As we expend ourselves in this endeavor and run the race marked out for us, we can develop a deep longing for a time when all will be put right.  I don’t think it’s escapism.  I think it’s the bigger perspective of a people who are just sojourning in this world.

One of my former regional directors, Rob Crocker, used to say, “Life wouldn’t be so hard if you didn’t expect it to be so easy.”  We are promised a difficult life as followers of Jesus.  We need to hold loosely to this world and the things in it.  That includes relationships.  I don’t mean to say that they don’t matter, just that even these are temporary and we are moving towards something greater.

Press on.  Hopefully these thoughts from the life of Paul will help us endure with hope.

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