Jesus’ parting words and Hebrews 12: how to soldier on leader.
Leaders know about resistance, criticism, even rejection.
In a way, a leader is like a lightning rod – he/she sticks out and attracts both the praise and the electrical charges that come in a storm. There is plenty of good wisdom out there about this reality.
But what struck me as I listened to Scripture today in John 15 is how Jesus prepared his disciples for what was coming when he would no longer be physically with them.
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”
As with most of what Jesus said, this probably sounded enigmatic to them. The crowds were just hailing him as he entered Jerusalem. Sure, there were the nasty religious leaders; but they are too uptight and laden with layers of professionalism and public persona to unwind enough to ‘hate’ – such an intense emotion that inevitably spills over into irrational behavior!
Then Jesus explains that he is telling them this so that “they will not go astray” (16v1). He spells out for them to expect that the usual places of safety (synagogues) may turn into places of danger… and the world can get so crazy that –
“..anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.” (v3).
Yes, think ISIS. But I am afraid to say, we may need to think about the murderous activity happening within our own ranks; when we put down, defame or malign another.
I looked back at my journey as a follower and a leader. When have I demonstrated courage? When have I shrunk back, or worse; compromised? This reflection – necessary – is not to bring shame but to shed light.
But then I thought too: when I have spoken up or stood up, was I compelled by my love for God and my brethren or was it more about me really: my sense of justice, my need to establish my understanding of what is right, my ‘right’ to speak and fight for others?
And I am gently reminded,
“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” ~ Hebrews 12v3
I love, follow and serve a Master who knows opposition and endured it – for me. Dwelling on this infuses me with a supernatural strength that renews my courage and helps me persist. Reflecting on Jesus’ responses refines and hones my responses and tampers my heart with wisdom. I am to expect a struggle with sin – the sin within, the sin about me. The former I can repent and be cleansed; the latter I must stand and resist.
Then the writer of Hebrews continues:
“and you have forgotten..”
Forgetfulness costs us.
“you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons..”
This we seldom hear preached as divine encouragement: discipline.
We are still somewhat buzzing from the Mother’s day weekend. One of the best gifts for a mom or dad — when a child writes, “mom/dad, thanks for making me say sorry (do what’s tough, stay on the task, choose the right way).” When our children recognize what the discipline was and that at the heart of it is a love that wants the best.
Discipline in the form of deprivation, denial, (God says ‘no’), delay, even time-outs!
God did not come to your rescue soon enough?
God did not appear to defend you?
God seemed quite silent when you desperately need a word?
Today’s word lifts us up to the heavenly plane and calls us to see with our spiritual eyes: God has something better in store. Be encouraged, there is something more in you that will emerge and shine. Don’t lose heart. And if you are a lightning rod right now; bear the heat like a good soldier. Ask for true courage that will love God and His people.
And remember, you are a servant because you are a child of the Most High. Go to God with all your tears and rest, rest, rest.
For your ministry is but the overflow of who you are, really.