Monday Morning Leadership Devo
(Originally published on April 20, 2009)
Leading From Suffering
I have a dear friend named Steve. He is currently serving as a pastor at a church in northwest Arkansas. Steve and I have worked together on the same staff in the past and he has functioned as a sort of mentor to me. Few people know as much about ministry and the church as my friend and brother Steve. Well, Steve called me the other day and asked for prayer. He had gone to his eye doctor for a routine exam, and about halfway through the visit, the doctor stopped and told Steve he needed to see a specialist. “Something” is going on in there. Of course, Steve is like most of us and his mind began to gravitate toward the worst-case scenario. What if he were to go blind? Here’s what I love about Steve: his mind was already at work developing a contingency plan for functioning as a blind pastor! How many of us would just hang it up if we were told we were going blind? Now Steve is FAR from being diagnosed with something this extreme, but as I said, you know how the mind works. When I think of my friend Steve, I think of a real leader. Real leaders do not allow anything, and I men anything, to deter them from their vision and calling. Even blindness.
As I have been preaching and studying through the Book of Galatians, I ran across an interesting section which focuses on Paul specifically. It is generally agreed upon by scholars that Paul suffered some sort of major physical ailment. He never just spells it out as to the nature of this ailment, but it is clear something is chronically wrong with Paul. He talks about his thorn in the flesh.
I think Paul had some sort of eye problem. At the end of Galatians, Paul emphasizes to the readers that he has written the letter with his own hand and that he was using large letters. It was very common for people in Paul’s position to dictate all their letters via a secretary. This is certainly how the majority of Paul’s letters were written. But not Galatians. Paul wanted to write this letter himself because he felt so strongly about the message and the ones receiving it. But Paul had to write with large letters. And then he has this interesting note in the book about himself:
Passage for Reflection: Galatians 4:12-15
It is clear that as Paul was on his missionary and church planting journeys that he never intended on stopping in the region of Galatia to plant a church. BUT something catastrophic happened to Paul physically and he had to stop. He was so moved by the care of these people that he bonded with them. But being Paul, he did not allow his physical problems to keep him from his vision and calling. He preached and planted churches throughout the whole region. He notes that these people would have given their own eyes to Paul because they loved him so much. This is why I think Paul had a pretty serious eye and vision problem. But Paul did not allow this amount of suffering to stop him. He led from his suffering. He led through his suffering.
That’s what my friend Steve is doing as well. That’s what leaders do.
“Lord, thank you even for my suffering and may I see it as a sign of strength and not weakness. Amen.”