CHAPTER 6: A LEADER IS AN OPTIMIST
Our church had outgrown our small meeting place a few years ago. Starting from eight members in the early 1980s, we were jampacked in a chapel that could accommodate comfortably no more than 60 people. I knew that we had to build a bigger worship hall if the church was to grow further. However, there were no funds for a building construction project. When I started floating the idea to the church, some members were skeptical that we could raise enough money to build a new chapel. When I look at the numbers, things were indeed bleak. However, I thought it was not impossible. We devised a plan where members could commit some amount of money over time, no matter how small. We figured that if we can have at least one million pesos of pledges, we could begin the project. We then set one Sunday when we would open all the commitments. When the time came to open the pledges, we were blessed to have more than a million. Now, we are using the new worship hall, and God has blessed the decision to enlarge the meeting place of the church.
A leader will undoubtedly face difficulties, scores of them in fact, throughout his life. Well, without problems, there is no need for leaders! So crises come with the territory. One essential ingredient in navigating issues is a positive attitude. A leader who has a bleak outlook in life will not inspire people to follow her.
What is the ground of optimism for a Christian leader? The world’s confidence is frequently grounded on one’s abilities, achievements, or resources. In contrast, a Christian relies not on herself, but on the grace that God provides. Paul can therefore say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:9). That passage has been abused and misused by well-meaning Christians. In the context, we learn that what Paul has in mind is the grace of being content in whatever circumstance God had placed him. The general principle we can draw from this text is that God will enable His people to do what He requires of them, even in times of great difficulty.
Ultimately, the confidence of the leader is anchored on who God is. He is a faithful God who will do as He promised (Number 23:10; Lamentations 3:22-23). Yahweh is the highest sovereign and none can prevent Him from doing what He wants to do. The Lord will complete His redemptive plan for fallen humanity precisely as He purposed. That is why Paul wrote the following words:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)
Astoundingly, whatever happens to a Christian is part of God’s plan and will be for his spiritual good. The passage above declares that all those who have been chosen by God will be fully glorified on the last day when Jesus comes again.
What a great encouragement these truths are for a Christian leader. He doesn’t have to rely on his native abilities. When things go “wrong”, and a situation seems hopeless, he can look up to God for deliverance. The passage above does not mean that he will do nothing and wait for God to do everything. Instead, as he uses the means that God provides, he commits the results to God. Ultimately, success is measured by one’s faithfulness to God and not on the results obtained. He may lose money because of individual decisions, but if he abides with his Savior, a leader knows that God is pleased.
In the light of the above realities, a leader does not see his ministry as the end all and be all of his existence. From the perspective of eternity, whatever happens to his leadership is not that of a big deal. Thus, he faces disappointments with courage, knowing that such things are fleeting. Even better, all that happens will eventually lead to the glory of God. With such a perspective, a Christian leader cannot be but optimistic. Indeed, it will be harder to explain if someone who holds such convictions is a pessimist!
Another encouraging truth from the Scriptures is that we abide in Christ even as He is in us. Jesus said, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). Jesus abides in every believer through the presence of the Holy Spirit in her life. This means that you are not alone in whatever difficulties you face in life. Every leader will experience a sense of failure at one time or another. There will be trials that will overwhelm her. In such moments, you can rely on the promise of Jesus not to leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
Stepping in the shoes of Moses is not something that we would readily volunteer for. But that is exactly the situation that Joshua faced. Moses had just died, and God has passed the mantle of leadership to him. It must have been a daunting prospect to lead the people of Israel across the River Jordan and in the conquest of the promised land. In the first chapter of the book that bears his name, Yahweh repeatedly told the new leader, “Be strong and courageous.” Why? “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9). The unfailing presence of the Lord is our strength. A leader can face the future with hope because he is never alone.
However, such optimism is guarded by reality. Some of us tend to be overly optimistic. While such an attitude can help start projects, a lack of realistic perspective will eventually cause such projects to stutter when confronted with real-life constraints. Quite recently, in one organization I lead, I benefited immensely from a colleague who showed me how to manage my optimism properly. If you are like me, then having a co-worker who sees the other side of the picture is a great blessing that could sharpen our leadership ability.
1. Are you an optimist or a pessimist?
2. Are you able to rally your people when they are down?
3. If you are easily discouraged, what Scriptural passages do you need to meditate upon?