There are difficulties every leader will face: painful challenges, overwhelming obstacles, impossible barriers, and meanspirited opposition. It’s during these times a spirit of fear can seep into the soul of our leadership. We become hestitant, reluctant, lose confidence and even tempted to quit.
Leadership requires courage. In fact, if you’re leading out of fear you will never maximize what God wants to do in you or through you. After affirming Timothy’s leadership gift, Paul challenged him, ‘For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.’ 2 Timothy 1:7
When a leader leads out of fear…
- He makes the popular decision rather than the right decision
- He strives to please people rather than God
- He’s tempted to back down rather than step up
- He looks for excuses rather than opportunities
- He shuts up rather than speaking up
- He lives with regrets rather than results
When we are fully surrendered to God he gives us a spirit of POWER so we can overcome any Obstacle, a spirit of LOVE so we can overcome any Opposition and a spirit of SELF-DISCIPLE so we can overcome any Temptation.
Is there any area of your leadership that you are leading out of fear? If so, what adjustments do you need to make?
I want to follow a leader that’s real, don’t you? When a leader pretends to have it all together I tend to shut them off. That leader may be gifted, love God and have a great vision but the lack of authenticity can limit their ability to connect with and lead others.
In 2 Timothy 1:5 Paul commended Timothy for his authenticity when he wrote, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” The Greek word “sincere” means without hypocrisy. Timothy developed this authenticity in his faith because his mother and grandmother were real. If you want to be real…get around real people. Authenticity can be contagious and is essential if we want to influence others. It’s tempting to guard our “leadership image” but doing so only produces an environment of pretense.
Paul didn’t want Timothy to lose that spirit of authenticity. He was a young leader taking on a big challenge of providing leadership for the church at Ephesus. With this level of responsiblity there would be a temptation to “pretend” to be something he was not. The moment we start pretending is the moment we start losing credibility and influence. It may feel counterintuitive at times, but people want to know that you are not perfect as a leader…show your weaknesses, admit your short comings and confess your mistakes. Be real.
Do you allow people to learn from your leadership mistakes or are you trying to protect your “leadership image”?
“Do your best to come to me quickly.” 2 Timothy 4:9
When he said these words to Timothy, Paul was facing one of the most difficult seasons of his life.
- He was stuck. He was near the end of his life and was confined to a Roman prison. (1:8; 4:6)
- He was lonely. The first time he was being held in prison (Acts 28) he had many visitors, but this time no one was coming to his side. (4:16)
- He was hurt. A long term friend and ministry partner, Demas, had abandoned him. (4:10)
It’s interesting, when Paul was hurting he asked for Timothy to get to him as soon as possible. In Greek that phrase, “Do your best”, means to move with a sense of urgency. Every one of us will face painful seasons in our leadership. In these times we must be willing to ask for help.
Leaders are accustomed to asking people to follow a vision, sign up for a cause or sacrifice for a mission, but asking someone to help you personally is difficult for most leaders to do. We want to be strong and self-sufficient. But a wise leader will ask for the support he needs to stay spiritually and emotionally healthy.
How’s your spiritual health? How’s your emotional health? Is it time to ask a trusted friend for some help? What keeps you from asking for support when you are struggling?
It can sound so egotistical to say, “I’m the leader”. There’s no doubt being a leader holds an inherent danger. The “power of leadership” can easily produce a spirit of self-importance and self-centeredness. In fact I’ve watched gifted leaders crash and burn because the “leadership position” became a means of power rather than a means of serving.
In 2 Timothy Paul starts his letter basically telling Timothy, “I’m the leader”, but in doing so models for us the reason we lead. He writes, “This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. I have been sent out to tell others about the life he has promised through faith in Christ Jesus.”
I lead because God put me in leadership. Paul says he was, “chosen by the will of God to be an apostle”. I talk to young men all the time who tell me they want to go into ministry. The temptation is to immediately encourage them and push them forward but instead my typical response is, “If you can do anything else do it.” I say this not because I’ve had a horrible experience being in ministry. I say it because I want them to ensure that what they’re feeling is from God and not just an infatuation with ministry. A person is in dangerous territory when they place themselves in leadership or manipulate their way into a position. So I lead because God put me in my current leadership position. I thank God for it every day, but hold my position loosely.
I lead to serve His purposes. Next, Paul says he recognizes that he is in his leadership position “to tell others about the life He has promised.” Reggie McNeal once jokingly told me, “Leadership is creating the world you want to live in.” That’s a very real temptation. When we find ourselves in a leadership position, we have power. And we can abuse that power by serving our own purposes rather than becoming a servant of God’s purposes. Paul understood he was a servant to God’s purpose of helping people discover and know the promise of life in Christ. I have to remind myself all too frequently why I lead…I lead not so I can build my dreams or execute my ideas…I lead for the purpose of encouraging, equipping and empowering His church to reach the lost.
Are you using your leadership to serve your own purpose or to be a servant to God’s purpose?
A pastor friend of mine, Russ Miller of James Island Christian Church, had a guest speaker come to his church recently to talk about the value of family. The speaker blew everyone’s minds when he said, “I want to share my 150 year plan for my family.” I’ve heard of a one year plan, a three year plan and even a ten year plan…but that is the first I’ve ever heard of someone having a 150 year plan. Now that’s some “far out” thinking, if you know what I mean.
I think there is a great leadership principle here for us: Think in terms of Generations. Paul does this in 2 Timothy 2:2
“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. “
Do you see it? Paul is challenging Timothy to think multiplication way beyond himself. His mentoring was going from…
Paul – Timothy – Reliable men – Others
This would make Paul the Leadership Great Grandfather of the “Others”. As you look at your own leadership challenge yourself to do some “far out” thinking. When you’re mentoring someone challenge them to be developing someone who will develop someone. Wouldn’t it be great to get to the end of your life and know that you’re the Leadership Great Grandfather of hundreds of leaders?
What can you do this week to begin to think and act in terms of generations?
I read through 2 Timothy last night. Check out just a few of the imperatives in these 4 short chapters. Paul told Timothy… fan into flame the gift of God, do not be ashamed, join with me in suffering, guard the good deposit, be strong, endure hardship, do your best to handle God’s Word accurately, flee evil desires, preach the Word, keep your head in all situations.
Paul was pushing Timothy. Pushing him to exercise the gifts God had given him. Pushing him to overcome the stronghold of fear that had a grip on his life. Pushing him to be strong in his leadership.
You know it is easy to find someone to encourage me, but finding someone to push me is a little trickier. I want that “pusher” to be someone who knows me, knows my gifts, my passion, my strengths and sees how those work together to make up who God has created me to be. I want my “pusher” to be someone who believes in me, who sees me bigger than what I really am, who sees a God sized potential in me. I want my “pusher” to be someone who loves me, who wants to walk beside me and do life with me and go with me to the end.
Do you have a “pusher” in your life? If not, take a risk and invite someone to give you a push this week. And just as importantly, are you being a “pusher” to someone you know, love and believe in?