My Greatest Challenge

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Leaders face many challenges.

A country’s president deals with rogue nations, squirrelly economics, and profound social schisms. The company CEO faces troublesome investors, complex HR dynamics, and products that fall short of consumers’ expectations. Moms contend with defiant toddlers and thin finances while working in environments caring about neither. Pastors navigate the complex care of burdened sheep, point toward gospel goals, and communicate the Word of God to incredibly diverse audiences.

In every field leaders confront no small measure of challenges.

I certainly have had mine.

Years ago an elder in our church murdered his wife. Following the 2008 economic crash I made a real mess of a staff reduction, costing our church family far more than dollars. I have had to help churches step through the grievous valleys carved by a given staff member’s immorality. Many years ago a couple of students were killed while carpooling to a church-sponsored event.

There are also people and their expectations, whether good or bad or right or wrong. Add to that tackling hard but necessary aspirations, such as New Hope Church’s commitment to becoming a multiethnic and multicultural community, and the leadership challenges continue to mount. Leaders face no small measure of challenges.

But, while these speak to the complexities of leadership, without a doubt, the single greatest challenge in my life is leading myself. Nothing else even comes close. The biggest challenge that I face as a leader is Me. The world and the devil can be overwhelming, for sure, but this wicked flesh of mine too easily dominates these.

Without a doubt, the single greatest leadership challenge in my life is leading myself. Nothing else even comes close.

Jesus helps me know what to do.

According to John 6:15, when the crowd He had just fed with bread and fish realized the way in which He stretched a boy’s lunch to feed thousands, “they were about to come and take Him by force and make Him king.” How tempting would that have been? Can you not hear the Evil One whispering into Jesus’ ear? “Jesus, you don’t need to suffer. You need no cross. They’ll make you king right now. Agree?”

Though the temptation was strong Jesus would have none of it. Immediately, He pulled away from the crowd and headed into the hills where, according to Mark 6:46, He went “to pray.” My suspicion is He affirmed before His Father His special mission as the suffering Savior. When the expectations of others might have gotten the best of Him, He realized His greatest challenge was His own self and how He might respond. In that moment He drew close to His heavenly Father.

The Apostle Paul underscores such in 1 Timothy 4:16. Here he pens to his young protégé, Timothy, “Keep a close watch on yourself.” In 2 Timothy 1:14 he adds, “By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.”

That is what Jesus did when a good sounding opportunity came His way. He kept watch on Himself, withdrew to meet with His Father, and guarded that which was entrusted to Him, namely the eternal plan of redemption.

I must follow Jesus’ example.

While any day may bring its share of challenges as a leader, the single greatest responsibility I have is to lead myself, keeping watch over my soul, drawing close to the Lord God, and guarding that which has been entrusted to me.

“O God of Heaven, may I be tender to your Spirit’s ministry over my life, yielding to Him completely and humbly, obedient to His every prompting, for your great glory, the gospel’s work, and my own eternal good. Amen.”