Over the course of my life, I would guess that I’ve had to pass more tests than many medical students do in the duration of their schooling career. However, my degree isn’t tangible. There is no prestigious framed piece of paper hanging on my wall, nor do I have a smattering of letters after my name. Yet, I can confirm that the tests were no less difficult, nor were the lessons learned any less valuable.
I have found that being an entrepreneur and creating my own company, and later on my own ministry, has been fraught with many challenges and some downright, drag-out adversities along the way. Although worthwhile, the journey has been arduous and demanding… and honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way!
According to J. Oswald Sanders in the book Spiritual Leadership, some of the most common tests within a leadership role are “compromise, ambition, the impossible situation, failure and jealousy,” to name just a few.
Today, I want to touch on the three I think have been instrumental in my own leadership development:
Compromise: Normally compromise would be considered an admirable attribute, but it can also be a terrible trap, especially when, for the sake of peace, you compromise your very values and ideals. In today’s world, it’s easy to fall prey to compromise for the sake of comfort or “waive principle to reach agreement.” However, I have found that when I stay quiet, when I allow peace to override my standards, I end up taking a huge backward step in my walk with God. The “peace” is never worth the concession of my principles or the direction reversal with God. I have found that it’s far better to stand firm to your values than ignore them for the sake of another’s feelings.
The Impossible Situation: Nothing is impossible when God is involved. Sanders says “Our own day presents leaders with difficult problems as never before. If leaders are to survive, they must view the difficult as commonplace, the complex as normal.” As a leader, you must tackle the difficult rather than the easy. Don’t shy away from the seemingly impossible situation. As the common cliché goes, “God will never give you something you can’t handle.” Although the saying seems tired and trite, it rings true in my life over and over again. There has never been a challenge God handed me that I couldn’t manage through prayer. And that right there is the clincher… “THROUGH PRAYER.” The impossible situation can always be managed when God is involved.
Failure: Oftentimes, people think I’ve whipped failure fair and square. They think that because I’m successful in business, I no longer experience feelings of failure or inadequacy. I’m here to tell you that I experience failure Every. Single. Day! There is not a day that goes by that I don’t see something not go as planned: A house we rehabbed is still on the market; I missed an important meeting; I yelled at my kids for no good reason; the Sunday Message didn’t feel quite right. I fail each day. But, failure is a natural and essential part of being a Christian. Natural because we’re human and prone to messing up. Essential because failure keeps us humble and serves as a reminder of Who really is in charge.
Failure is also imperative because it allows us to experience a greater understanding of God’s infinite grace and mercy. God is constantly giving you and me not just second chances, but third and fourth (etc) chances too. God knows that no failure is final. It only is, if WE allow it to be.
Over the course of my journey in Christ, my leadership has been challenged by many of these human-made traps. I’ve learned that how I react—whether or not I compromise in the face of conflict, avoid the challenge, or give into failure—makes all the difference to how I inspire others to search out and walk with Christ. A leader can beget more leaders as long as he or she faces the common tests head on and with God.