Leadership in Paul’s day of first century Christianity was punctuated with hardships: being beaten for teaching others about Jesus, feeling betrayed by brothers and sisters of the faith who he thought were partners in ministry, going hungry, being imprisoned, and the list could go on and on!
Amidst extreme persecution, he said one of the biggest burdens he carried was the love for the church and desire to serve them and teach them more about Jesus, their Savior.
How did he balance it all and keep his sanity as a leader of the early church? Second Corinthians 4:7–12 and 16–18 gives us a peek into how he not only survived, but thrived!
Paul recognized he was nothing more than a “jar of clay.” However, in this “earthly tent,” as it is also called, he had an all-surpassing treasure and power from God which allowed him to be struck down but never destroyed. Though his body might be outwardly wasting away, inwardly he testified he was being renewed day by day as long as he disciplined himself to keep his eyes on that which is unseen and not what is seen.
By focusing on Christ and daily choosing to die to himself, he was able to realize that any momentary troubles would achieve for him an eternal glory that far outweighed any earthly discomfort.
Verse 5 of the same chapter gives us insight into how he saw himself as a leader when he exclaims, “for what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (NIV).
For most in the Western world, leadership today is certainly not characterized by a fear of being thrown to the lions, being put in jail, being beaten publicly, being shipwrecked, or any of the other atrocities that surrounded Paul’s life.
However, as Ecclesiastes states so profoundly, there is nothing new under the sun. Circumstances might be different but it doesn’t mean that humanity has changed. Being a godly leader can still be a hard job with few earthly rewards.
We see Christ as the answer and so badly want to help those we disciple to truly let go of the glitter and glamour of the world to truly embrace a death to themselves so that they could live fully and freely in Christ, but we just cannot force them.
We see such progress and feel like the work we do is making a positive impact, only to find out that person we discipled last year and put so much energy in has backslidden this year.
We sacrifice so much to volunteer our services out of the goodness of our hearts only to find people find fault in us, gossip about us, or complain about the way we lead. Tempted to throw our hands in the air and give up, we remember Paul’s testimony—persecuted, but not abandoned; hard pressed, but not crushed; struck down, but not destroyed.
Let me encourage you. Next time you plan a big event and very few people attend and you hear that someone is saying something bad about you behind your back or any other trial you face as a leader, remember these truths. I have been crucified to Christ. I carry the death of Jesus in me so that I can speak life to those I lead. I will keep my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith; not on those who are hurtful and discouraging around me. I will not focus on what is seen, but I will train my eyes to do everything I do for the unseen audience of my Savior. I am a servant of the most high God, and I will not be destroyed or deterred because my Lord already died for me and I already died in Him, so there is nothing of me left to destroy.
Though I may be getting older, every day I live, breathe, and have my being in Christ, I am inwardly being renewed each day. It doesn’t matter what anyone says or does, I find my joy and reward in being a servant and a vessel that the power of God shines powerfully through. I will not lose heart because I know that these momentary troubles are achieving for me an eternal glory which far outweighs them all. What a joy it is to be an ambassador of the King of kings!
Ashley and her family live in Botswana where they use media as a platform to teach biblical family values on an international level. They do this through television in Botswana and through weekly national newspaper columns in Zambia, Eswatini, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. They also work with the government to lead village-wide campaigns promoting biblical family values.