Leading When it Hurts

For several years now this special session of General Conference has been covered in prayer by people on all sides of the issue, from all theological and cultural stances. Chances are the most common prayer shared by ALL sides has been, “Your will be done, oh Lord.” But that desire isn’t evident in our responses nor does it reflect how many of us have lived and led through this.

John chapter 19 describes the events of Jesus’ crucifixion. Take a moment to read verses 28-37.

The Jewish leaders were so focused on their own agenda that they couldn’t see the fulfillment of God’s plan right in front of them. They knew God’s word. They knew the prophecies, but because this messiah didn’t look, act, or teach like the King they had designed in their own hearts and heads, they rejected Him.

How many of them prayed for the fulfillment of God’s promises? How many prayed for God’s will to be done? Then when He was right in front of them, they rejected Him.

People on all sides of Jesus’ crucifixion were hurting and confused that weekend. That Passover feast was less joyful than in previous years. Jesus had tried to prepare the disciples. He had told them He would raise this temple in three days. But, even they hid themselves in fear and grief.

Friends, we’ve been praying for God’s will to be done, but that isn’t what we’ve prepared ourselves and our congregations to receive. Over the last several years and recent months most of us, on all sides, have prepared our congregations for success in seeing our will done or exiting if anything else happened. Some are preparing even now to continue to fight for their will to be done believing that it is the true will of God.

“Who is this who questions my wisdom without knowledge?” (Job 38: 2) If you haven’t read Job chapters 38-40 recently, beware, it will humble you.
Who are we to question God? When we were praying for God’s will to be done, we were believing that God’s will was our will. Yes, every one of us.

I was searching for an image of the Lord’s Prayer for a bulletin cover last week. Of the images which pronounced certain words in various ways, I could not find one which made the words “your will” more distinct. In fact, most of the time these were the smallest words. Isn’t this what we do most of the time? We reject God’s will and attempt to assert our own as greater.

There are many individual and collective ways that Jesus’ disciples are asked to submit to a will that is different and greater than our own every day. We must learn to do this ourselves and then lead our congregations to do so as well, even when it hurts and doesn’t seem to make sense.

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:12-13) As leaders in God’s church, as we enter this Lenten season, let us repent and take the next 40 days to do the hard work of wrestling with God’s will for us, “with fear and trembling”. I pray that God will teach each of us how to lead His flock to accept and follow His will even, and especially when it doesn’t match our expectations.

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