What is the Character of a Gospel-Driven Leader? Part Five

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

5. A Church Leader Should be Able to Suffer Like Jesus Christ

“Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus”
(2 Tim. 2:3)

One of the greatest testimonies of faithfulness is a man’s ability to withstand suffering for what he believes and still come out honoring God and loving one another. Jesus is the greatest example of this. While He was being murdered for His message and mission, He died asking His Father to forgive those who were in the very act of killing Him. Absolutely stunning. Amazing! That friends is real faithfulness.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, you’re in His army. That means you’re one of His soldiers. You don’t work for yourself. You don’t fight for yourself. You don’t battle for yourself. It’s all about Jesus Christ and His message…His mission. This is why Paul tells Ti
mothy in verse 3 of 2 Timothy 2, to take his share of suffering as a good soldier of Jesus. “Take it like a man!” “Suck it up and keep on going!” Those are the sort of “manly” phrases that come to mind here.

God prophesied through Ananias to Paul that his journey in life would be filled with much suffering for the sake of the gospel (Acts 9:16). Undoubtedly, this must have been more true of him than it was for the other disciples. Regardless though, Jesus told all His disciples to expect it and not be surprised by it all.

"If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? 'A slave is not greater than the master.' Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me. They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin. Anyone who hates me also hates my Father. If I hadn't done such miraculous signs among them that no one else could do, they would not be guilty. But as it is, they have seen everything I did, yet they still hate me and my Father. This fulfills what is written in their Scriptures*: 'They hated me without cause.’ I have told you these things so that you won't abandon your faith. For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God. This is because they have never known the Father or me.” (John 15:18-6:3, NLT).

Do you hear that loud and clear? Hear specifically that part about Jesus telling us this so that we won’t abandon our faith when it happens to us. Basically, Jesus is telling us no uncertain terms that we must expect to suffer for Him. The faithful leader of a local church simply must not ever be surprised when he is attacked, persecuted, slandered against, gossiped about, or talked about behind someone’s back. He must have gospel-thick skin, able to take whatever people dish out in hatefulness, while still loving fervently. Here’s how Paul described it to the Corinthian church.

“Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love” (1 Cor. 16:13, 14, NLT).

There were false teachers at the church in Ephesus. That much is clear from a summary reading of 1 and 2 Timothy. They taught false doctrine and upset a lot of people’s lives. They trapped weak women. They lusted after money, power, and sex. There were legalists. Bottom line, Satan had in fact proven Paul’s point true when he told the Ephesian elders during his farewell speech,

“I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock. Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following. Watch out! Remember the three years I was with you—my constant watch and care over you night and day, and my many tears for you” (Acts 20:29-31).

The wolves had already crept their way in their midst by the time Timothy was sent there to minister and lead. Knowing this in advance, Paul wanted to make sure Timothy knew what he would be encountering and facing, and to do so with the strength that is had by means of the grace of Jesus Christ. That was the only way he would be able to suffer like a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Suffering like a bad soldier is not being faithful with the message and mission during persecution. Loving your enemies and continuing to press on ahead is what faithfulness as a good soldier looks like. In short, Paul would say to Timothy: “Be strong in grace. Be faithful with the message. Suffer on the mission.”

I wonder how many real men we have here today who want to be local church leaders. Real men are those who expect suffering of any and every kind, and who maintain grace in the midst of it all. Stephen was one of those men. You remember him…one of the first deacons of the church, as well as the first martyr. He died a faithful, competent, good soldier of Christ just like Jesus did, praying the same thing Jesus did, probably for some of the very same people as Jesus did! Are you able to be like him? Are you able to do what Paul told Timothy to do? Only if you are strong by the grace of Jesus Christ.

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