As leaders in the kingdom, you and I are on stage. Others are watching. We can do our part well, building up the entire audience. Or, when trials assault us, we can ad-lib by acting out our resentments, bringing dishonor to the Playwright. The choice is ours.
It’s something I remember not only when I’m in public, but even in a casual setting with close friends. God has placed me in a position of leadership, and I can either safeguard that sphere of influence, or squander it through thoughtless words and careless actions. As a leader, I need to remember that God’s reputation is at stake in everything I say and do. The cosmic stakes are that high!
It’s why I keep an old, faded letter a Christian brother wrote me decades ago. He handed it to me when I was just beginning to step onto the stage of leadership. Here’s a portion of that letter:
“So, Joni, when you’ve got to speak ten times in one week, when your jaw gets a little tired from smiling at well-wishers, when your back aches, when you’ve got a secret inner urge to be on your feet but feel you can’t express it because folks around you would take it wrong, when the Bible seems boring, when you find sinful thoughts and attitudes creeping into your head, when you’re tempted to run mental movies of your success – in short, when you feel like carrying a smooth cross and slipping a bit, even ‘just for today’ – don’t. Don’t do it. And don’t feel the hassle is in vain, because you honestly have got to be one of the mainstays in my life when it comes to setting an example when I feel like quitting.”
Whether speaking at conferences, writing books, or advocating for people with disabilities in the halls of government, these words have served as a prudent guide for many years. Having just turned 67, I know the Gospel has accrued a great deal of respect through my life and witness – and, God help me, I just want to finish well.
This was on my heart when I recently penned the following devotional for my new book A Spectacle of Glory. If you are a leader in Christ’s kingdom, I pray these words will strengthen your resolve to finish well, too:
“Joni, God knows he can trust you with suffering. He knows your character; he knows you’re a strong person and that you’d respond well to hardships.” I say quite the contrary. I think God entrusts hardships to me because he knows that I know I can’t be trusted. I fully accept that I am the least likely candidate to handle affliction well. Honestly. I know how weak and stubborn I can be, how peevish and irritable. And this is why I run to God daily for help! Oh, help me, Jesus; I can’t face another day of quadriplegia! When I go to God with that attitude, he lavishes upon me grace upon grace – all because I’m quick to recognize my weakness, his strength, and my utter dependency on Christ. If you desire the favor of God, be swift to appreciate how out-of-favor you’d be apart from Jesus. If you want the strength of God, be fast to realize how feeble and needy you are without Christ. When it comes to dealing daily with suffering, it really is all about Jesus.”
The spotlight is on you, my friend. As a Christian leader, you have center stage. People you don’t even know are observing the way you respond to trials. Do your part well. Build up those in your sphere of influence. Bring honor to the King, for the choice is yours.
Joni Eareckson Tada is the founder of Joni and Friends, an organization accelerating Christian outreach in the disability community that numbers 610 million people worldwide. This organization operates out of the new Joni and Friends International Disability Center located in Agoura Hills, California. Joni is not only an international disability advocate but an artist and the author of numerous bestselling books, including her latest, A Spectacle of Glory (Zondervan 2016).
It’s October 31, 2016!
Last day for EXTRA savings – Outcomes Conference 2017