Spiritual and church leadership is tough for even the best of leaders. Behind closed doors, every leader will admit being tired, frustrated, angry, depressed, confused and attacked. The Apostle Paul’s protégé, Timothy was about to take up his work he needed to be a leader filled with grace. Paul told Timothy, “You therefore, my son, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:2).
We are only able to lead effectively after grace strengthens us.
Be strengthened by grace, not by your natural talents. Timothy may have certainly been very winsome naturally. He may have been able to articulate naturally. He may have been a fairly good public speaker. He may have had some passion and some zeal in his personality. He might have had some fine, natural gifts. But the real source of his strength was from the grace of God. It is so easy to feel strong on the basis of our own talents and abilities and successes. Strength by grace means that we did not earn or work for our useful qualities.
In fact, the verb “be strong” is passive. Keep on being strengthened. That means it is continually provided for you on your behalf—like a baby who is fed another. Some versions accurately translate it, “be strengthened.” Other translations seem to emphasize “make yourself strong.” In ourselves, we are not strong. We, who were once dead, are now alive, but still weak in our own flesh. We like to think we are strong, but without the power of God, we are weak.
Church planters wrestle with this as much as anyone. They are typically gifted individuals who can start things, inspire others to follow and convince musicians to work on Sunday for little to no pay.
When things get tough, where are you prone to lean? Some lean into angry outbursts to gain control. Some seek approval of others. Some give up and some devise plans and strategies.
Our strength comes from grace that is continually poured out among us (“grace upon grace,” John 1:16). And he “gives more grace” not to the one who thinks he deserves it, but to the humble (James 4:6). This grace enables me and identifies me. “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).
When leadership in the church gets tough (and it will), lean into grace by asking God to provide you with His wisdom, His peace, His endurance and His love for the unlovely. It will sustain you. If you lean into anything else, you will eventually fall.