Leadership Letters
Leadership Letters

Writings on Christian leadership and leader development by Malcolm Webber

October 2001
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He Demonstrated the Way of the Cross before His Leaders

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

Jesus was the greatest Leader-Builder of all time. We continue to study how He built His emerging leaders.

5. Jesus demonstrated the way of the cross before His leaders.

Suffering is 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)

…now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials [not only persecution, but “all kinds” of suffering]. 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)

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

In particular, suffering is a vital part of leadership. Godly leaders know that sufferings produce 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.

Thus, Jesus showed the way of suffering to the leaders He was building. He personally demonstrated sufferings to them:

a. 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)

b. 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)

Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered (Heb. 5:8)

c. 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 men 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 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.

In our next Letter, we will continue to examine Jesus’ model of leadership building.

This month’s recommended website: Christian Book Summaries. Great source of summaries of some excellent books. It’s free too!

This month’s recommended book: I Saw the Welsh Revival by David Matthews. Classic eye-witness account of a powerful revival.

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