Leaders are built through fire. Godly leaders know that sufferings can build spiritual maturity, brokenness and genuine faith in God; thus, they do not shy away from the cross in their lives.
Accordingly, Jesus showed the way of suffering to the leaders He was building. He personally demonstrated sufferings to them:
- The sufferings of rejection as He was scorned and rejected by the religious leaders:
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Is. 53:3)
- The suffering of His human struggle with obedience to God:
…My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will. (Matt. 26:39)
In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. (Heb. 2:10)
Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered (Heb. 5:8)
- The suffering of the cross as He was lifted up from the ground and hung before them:
But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. (John 12:32)
Paul also demonstrated the cross before the people he raised up as leaders:
You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings – what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. (2 Tim. 3:10-11)
Today, many Christian leaders are offered the temptation of power without suffering. In fact, in the Western world we devise entire theologies to justify our lack of suffering and our love of pleasure. “If you have enough faith you will never suffer.” “If you just believe and confess it, God will deliver you from adversity and suffering of every kind.” However, when Peter tried to talk Jesus into such a theology, he was sternly rebuked:
Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men. (Matt. 16:23)
Jesus refused a “cross-less” leadership. He knew there is no true authority without sacrifice. There is no true spiritual maturity without suffering. There is no true leadership without the cross.
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. (Matt. 16:24-25)
This was the kind of leadership Jesus taught His disciples: a leadership born of brokenness, produced in pain, forged in the fire of suffering. He taught this and modeled it to them – and to us. This is the path of true leadership.