Leadership Letters
Leadership Letters

Writings on Christian leadership and leader development by Malcolm Webber

February 2014
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Leaders Are Built Through Fire

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

Leaders are built through fire – like steel is made hard in the fire, like gold is purified in the furnace, like carbon is formed under pressure into diamonds.

Pressure reveals the impurities in one’s life so they can be dealt with. It is far better to put the emerging leader under pressure before he is given significant responsibility and authority than to wait until the time when failure under pressure will destroy both the leader and those with him. Therefore, the leader development process can intentionally put the participants under a certain amount of pressure to squeeze heart contaminations to the surface so they can be revealed, confronted and removed.

Significantly, the formation of diamonds from carbon requires three things: (1) extreme pressures, 100 miles or more deep under the earth’s surface, (2) high temperatures, 2000 °F or more, and (3) time, diamonds are formed very slowly.

Of course, this is not only true for leaders; this is how God deals with all of us. He has always used suffering as a vital part of the Christian life.-

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, (Phil. 1:29)

If we suffer, we shall also reign with him… (2 Tim. 2:12, KJV)

…now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith…may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Pet. 1:6-7)

Please notice that Peter not only refers to persecution here, but to “all kinds” of suffering.

…those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (1 Pet. 4:19)

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1 Pet. 4:12-13)

In particular, suffering is a vital part of leadership. 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.

Paul’s cry was:

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:10-11)

Look closely: Paul said, “I want to know…the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings.” Paul actually desired to suffer with Jesus! This was not because he enjoyed pain in some perverse way, but because he knew that the greatest place of union with God is found in the dark shadows of rejection and suffering. Paul knew that we only find God’s deep presence when we have been united with Him in His sufferings and death. Paul knew that the cross precedes the crown, darkness precedes glory, brokenness precedes true victory, death precedes true life.

If you want to lead well, this is your path!

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