One of my favorite football coaches was asked a question about his leadership following the game. He had just been beaten badly by a rival, he was navigating ongoing player discipline issues, and he looked exhausted and discouraged. A reporter asked him, “Do you think you’ve lost the team?” and he answered, “I don’t know.” The next day he was fired. I learned a valuable lesson from that coach I respect so much. I learned that one of the most important tools of a leader is confidence in the plan.
As Christians we have an unfair advantage when it comes to leadership. We’re trusting the Lord Jesus who always knows the plan (Jer. 29:11) and is faithful to establish us (2 Thes. 3:3), so we can be confident He will complete the plan in us (Phil. 1:6, He. 12:2). But our feelings will betray us.
Elijah experienced overwhelming discouragement and burnout in 1 Kings 19. He was being threatened and chased because God had used him mightily. The Bible says that he was so exhausted he lay down and prayed that he might die. An angel came to encourage him to eat because the journey was too great for him. If we had asked him how would overcome Jezebel, I’m guessing he would have said, “I don’t know.” If we had asked him if he would survive the difficulty, I’m guessing he would have said, “I don’t know.” If we had asked Elijah that day about his leadership ability I’m guessing he would have said, “I don’t know.” These battles of uncertainty are exhausting and scary, and each of us has been there from time to time. Later in the chapter, Elijah’s confidence in the Lord’s plan is renewed and he goes back into the battle.
Paul said in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me… 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith.” Paul knew how to answer every question and was confident in every overbearing difficulty. He knew we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Eph. 2:10).
Nebraska head coach Scott Frost recently said after starting the season 0 and 5, “it would have been easier to stay where we were comfortable, but there’s not going to be a place where it’s sweeter or more fun for me than here, when we get this right.”
Dear Christian leader, the next time you’re in a great difficulty, or you’re exhausted or discouraged, and you’re asked a question about your leadership, be careful not to say “I don’t know.” Start with what you know. Be confident in who He’s created you to be and what He’s called you to do. Be confident that He will complete it, and your only work is to believe (John 6:29). Remain in fellowship with Christ so that you can be full of courage and not shrink back (1 John 2:28). Communicate the confidence you have in following Christ, and demonstrate humility by inviting other wise counsel into the discussion. After sharing what you’re confident in, ask other key leaders what wisdom they can share with you, and acknowledge the “I don’t know” when it comes to the details. And always, when you’re just really not sure, “lay down before you hurt yourself,” and allow the Lord to minister His Bread to you until you can get up in confident humility again.
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