When we're traveling and on a schedule, unexpected detours cause discouragement and distraction. That happened to me one recent Sunday morning when I was to speak at three services at a Houston church. I set my GPS and left in plenty of time to arrive early. But unbeknownst to me—and my GPS—an entire stretch of the freeway was closed that day. I had to exit and find another GPS that could recalibrate the trip and give me an alternate route. It was an unexpected detour.
The same thing happens in life. We have dreams of doing great things, and then disruptions happen that cause us to lose sight of fulfilling those dreams. We find ourselves journeying far from the path we thought God had for us. We get the wind knocked out, and we lose our vision and hope.
Unexpected detours and disruptions can be especially discouraging for leaders, as we carry the burden of responsibility for those who are following us and trusting us to lead them. The discouragement can distract us from our intended destination, and focusing on our disappointments can lead to disillusionment. During these times, it's important to remember that God has a plan and a purpose far greater than the temporary circumstances that plague us.
Perseverance in Moments of Challenge
Oxford Living Dictionaries speaks of perseverance as "doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success." To persevere in leadership, we need persistence, staying power, purposefulness, patience, diligence and commitment. One of my life mottos is "Our desire to win (succeed) must be greater than our moments of challenge."
I was reminded of this when, while driving in unfamiliar territory that Sunday morning, I passed a billboard with the words "Uncommon" and "Uncompromising." When confronted with unexpected detours, uncommon and uncompromising men and women rise up in greatness for the moment. We see this every time we come into communities that have experienced major disasters. People who suffer so much themselves choose to rise to the moment and sacrificially serve others. We see pastors who lose homes and churches, yet their concern is for their communities.
"'Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, says the Lord, and be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong all you people of the land, says the Lord. Work, for I am with you, says the Lord of Hosts. According to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you. Do not fear" (Hag. 2:4-5).
God exhorts us here with four powerful reminders to help us navigate through life's unexpected detours:
Be strong ... work ... for I am with you.
Remember His promises.
Do not fear.
His Spirit remains with us.
Three years ago, when I was battling cancer, God spoke to me that my healing was in my calling. During that time, I was very busy facilitating major prayer gatherings in several states across the country. Instead of cancelling and slowing down, I persevered through my commitments while also being responsible to take care of myself.
Our unexpected detours are not a time to shrink back, but a time to press in. There is a time to be strong and work, to remember the joy of our salvation. And as we stand fast in the Word and on His promises over our lives, we enter into a moment of greatness.
Purpose in Divine Interruptions
The apostle Paul experienced many unexpected detours while serving the Lord, but he realized God was directing them for His greater purposes. They were often divine interruptions to take the gospel to places that would otherwise be left out.
When Paul was a prisoner, shipwrecked on Malta and bitten by a poisonous serpent, he did not despair or abandon the vision of his destination. Instead, he allowed God to use him to heal everyone on the island who was suffering from a disease. When Paul's work on the island was done, God took him to Rome (Acts 27-28).
Likewise, when I was on my journey through cancer, I spent a lot of time in M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Each time I went, God opened doors of ministry to other patients, caregivers, medical professionals and guests—each of them experiencing a desperate time in their lives. If I had not been willing to see God's hand in that life detour, His divine interruption, I would have missed opportunities to bring God's love, truth and comfort to so many hurting people. Even now, people going through personal difficulties and illnesses seek out my wife, Lisa, and I for prayer and solace because they know we can relate.
Partnership With Our Good God
When we experience tragedy, sudden loss or even temporary setbacks, we must stand on the goodness and faithfulness of God and continue to declare His Word over our lives.
In 2 Chronicles 6:17, Solomon prayed,"'And now, O Lord God of Israel, may Your word be confirmed which You have spoken to Your servant David.'"
Solomon knew the word of God spoken over his father, David, and that word carried the promises for his own life. Now Solomon cried out to the Lord to let that word come true, that he might see it come to pass in his own lifetime.
We, too, must pray earnestly for the purposes of God to come to pass in our lives. We are not to sit idly by, waiting to see what will happen. God invites us to become partners with Him.
"Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10).
God's nature is unchanging. He is faithful to His Word. As a leader, keep your eyes fixed on Him as He leads you to your destination.
Doug Stringer is founder and president of Somebody Cares America and Somebody Cares International, a global network bringing hope and healing to communities through prayer initiatives, compassion outreaches and cooperative efforts. He is author of numerous books, including In Search of a Father's Blessing and Leadership Awakening: Foundational Principles for Lasting Success.
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