The Book of Daniel is a prime example of leadership under pressure. It is difficult to pick out just one chapter to support this; Daniel 6 is just one example. Read the whole book! Charles Spurgeon puts it this way: “… these are times when we need to be as firm and resolute as [Daniel] … occasions will come to every one of us before we win our crown, when we shall need to put our foot down firmly, and be steadfast and unflinching for the Lord and His truth.” (Charles H. Spurgeon) Spurgeon goes on to talk about Daniel’s devotion to prayer, his action under trial, and his secret support.
Daniel is a Jew in captivity. He was carried off to Babylon in 605 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar, the Assyrian, but he was still living when Assyria was overthrown by the Medes and Persians. In spite of the “captivity” of the Jews, Daniel enjoyed the highest offices of state at Babylon, but he was ever true to Jerusalem. He would not bow down to the king of the land, but continued to prayer three times a day on his knees facing Jerusalem. He was given a position of leadership under Nebuchadnezzar, but those who were passed over went for the jugular, which was Daniel’s religion. Daniel stayed true to his God. He continued to pray.
This does not mean our prayers are always answered as we would like. We need to pray for God’s perspective. Daniel was persecuted, thrown in the lion’s den, and had to watch his friends get thrown into the furnace. Still he stayed true to the Lord; he continued to pray and trust God. He performed his duties faithfully to the king. He did not give in to the pressure to disobey God.
Daniel’s secret support was the living God! Our secret support is this same living God! We get too complacent in the world we live in now. Our hard times are not even “relative” to the hard times Daniel went through, or the persecution experienced by other brothers and sisters in Christ in third world countries. We need the Lord’s perspective to guide us and help us stand firm under the pressures of leadership.
How often do you pray throughout the day? Do you go to prayer first before acting?
Father, teach us to come to You first in prayer when we feel the pressures of leadership starting to weigh us down. Help us to stand firm and steadfast.
Whenever we feel under pressure, it is only natural for us to want to get out from under it. The word “perseverance” in verse three is “hupomoné” in the Greek, which means “remaining behind, a patient enduring.” When our faith is tested, God wants us to remain under the pressure. Don’t try to squirm out from under it. He says to “let the perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (v. 4). God wants us to rely on Him, and He promises to give generously to those who don’t doubt Him.
The question to us might be: Do we want comfort more than we want character? The easy life passes away like the flower, says James. “For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business” (v. 11). The things that God builds in us will never fade away. If we can maintain our trust in Him while we are under pressure and remain there, He will reward us. James says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (v. 12).
How can we be examples of strong leadership if we bail under pressure? Our brothers and sisters are looking to us, especially the younger generations. Society puts so much pressure on our youth (yes, and us too) to try to fit in and conform to its ideals. We need to know what the Lord’s Word says to us about what is important and how to live a godly life. As Christian adults, we need to know His Word, believe it and live it. Because when pressure comes, and it will, we will be able to show others how to weather up under the pressure. We will be able to patiently endure the tests and trials.
What is your first reaction to being under pressure? What are some reasons why you might try to bail on God’s maturing process in your life?
Father, help me to bear up under the pressure and remain where I am that You might do the work in me that You have in mind.
The most important thing to keep in mind when feeling the pressure of leadership is that you are not alone. Jesus definitely felt it each day of His life here on earth. We have a Savior who can sympathize with our struggles.
Here in Philippians, Paul tells us to have the mind of Christ—the same Christ who was fully God and fully man. “[He] emptied (or, stripped) Himself of His glory by having taken on Him the form of a slave and having been made (or, born) in likeness of men. The ‘glory’ is the ‘glory which He had with the Father before the world was’ (John 17:5; cf. Philippians 1:14), clearly corresponding to the Shechinah of the Divine Presence. Of this He stripped Himself in the Incarnation, taking on Him the ‘form (or, nature) of a servant’ of God.” (Charles John Ellicott) This is the very genesis of servant-leadership. Jesus was able to maintain that servant-leadership even under pressure.
We are to have this same mind of Christ in the form of humble, servant-leadership. When we feel pressure, that is not the time to start dictating and “lording” power over those who look to us for guidance. It is a time for prayer and humility and a willingness to die to ourselves; i.e., go to the cross. “His whole life was a life of poverty and suffering. But the lowest step was His dying the death of the cross, the death of a malefactor and a slave, exposed to public hatred and scorn. The exaltation was of Christ’s human nature, in union with the Divine. At the name of Jesus, not the mere sound of the word, but the authority of Jesus, all should pay solemn homage. It is to the glory of God the Father to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; for it is His will that all men should honor the Son as they honor the Father.” (Matthew Henry)
We cannot remove love from leadership. A self-denying love is a mark of a great leader. May we have the mind of Christ as we lead through the pressures of life.
Are you familiar with servant-leadership? How do you or will you demonstrate that kind of leadership in your daily life?
Father, I want to have the mind of Christ. Give me what I lack in humility and love that I might be a devoted leader and follower of You.
2 Corinthians 4:7-9
I am a jar of clay. A broken jar, I might add. I handle pressure better today than I did when I was younger. God’s power within me is the treasure Paul is talking about here that will give me what I need to stand and not bail out of my circumstances when I feel pressure.
We are hard pressed on every side. I don’t believe there’s ever a time when there is no pressure on us. It’s when the pressure goes out of kilter that we feel it most. When pressure is applied from one direction more than another, that’s when our metal is truly tested. But His promise is that we will not be crushed, not despair, not be struck down nor destroyed.
Last Christmas my dear friend and her daughter were staying with me for a few days before heading home across the country. She had a medical emergency, and I ended up having to call 911. She was supposed to fly home the following day, but she was in no shape to do that. I found myself having to step up in this scary time for her and her daughter. I got on the phone and called the number for her flight insurance, rental car, and airlines. That was all within the first few hours of her arriving to the hospital. I didn’t even know what was going on with her yet, but I did know she would not be able to fly out for the next few days.
I surprised myself by how much I did under pressure. I knew it was God’s power within me supplying all my needs. I did not feel abandoned and certainly didn’t want my friend or her daughter feeling that way. I did feel hard pressed, but God gave me what I needed to be there for my friends. I broke down later. I’m only human, but when it counted, I kept my cool and kept my eyes on Jesus for guidance and comfort.
His all-surpassing power is kept in this very broken clay jar. He keeps it there. There is nothing that I can do to keep it. His grace is sufficient.
What kind of pressure have you been feeling lately? Is it the normal amount or is it out of balance? What will you do to address it?
Lord, I want to rely on Your all-surpassing power when I am feeling perplexed, persecuted or abandoned. You will see me through if I keep my eyes on You.
Acts 27:1-44; Acts 28:1-10
Paul, now near the end of his life, has already survived a few shipwrecks; and this one is one more that he will survive as he has been told by an angel of God: “Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you” (v. 24).
Paul had tried to tell shipmates not to sail, but they would not listen to him. So everyone on board had to deal with the storm and the loss of goods. Sure enough. They ran the ship aground and had to rely on the kindness of the people living there.
Leadership under pressure may mean that others won’t listen to you. It may cause more hardship to be endured than necessary. But God is still your excellent refuge to run to. The victory is already ours as believers in Christ Jesus. Whether our trials are in life or result in our death, it is a win/win situation. “To live is Christ and to die is gain,” Paul says in Philippians 1:21. “No storms or tempests can hinder God’s favor to His people, for He is a Help always at hand. It is a comfort to the faithful servants of God when in difficulties, that as long as the Lord has any work for them to do, their lives shall be prolonged. If Paul had thrust himself needlessly into bad company, he might justly have been cast away with them; but God calling him into it, they are preserved with him.” (Matthew Henry)
Paul never loses his cool. He does not bail. He prays! He hears from God (in the form of an angel), and he trusts. “He sets aside, with clear presence of mind, mistaken plans (vv. 27-32); he encourages dispirited minds (vv. 33-38); he acts with the fidelity of a pastor to the souls he feels committed to his care.” (E. Johnson) It is my heart’s desire to be seen as a leader like this. There will be others with me and watching me. May I be a comfort to them in times of intense pressure as Paul was to all those with him.
What is something from Paul’s example of leadership under pressure that you can implement in your life?
Lord, remind me to run to you first and foremost. You are my safe harbor. You will help me remain steadfast under the pressures of life and leadership.
- Charles H. Spurgeon’s quote is taken from his sermon on June 14, 1868, “Daniel’s Undaunted Courage,” and can be found at https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/daniels-undaunted-courage#flipbook/
- Charles John Ellicott’s quote is taken from Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers and can be found at https://biblehub.com/commentaries/philippians/2-7.htm
- Matthew Henry’s quote in Wednesday’s devo is taken from Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible and can be found at https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-concise/philippeans/2
- Matthew Henry’s quote in Friday’s devo is taken from Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible and can be found at https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-concise/acts/27.html
- E. Johnson’s quote is taken from his sermon, “The Example of Paul in the Storm,” and can be found at https://biblehub.com/sermons/auth/johnson/the_example_of_paul_in_the_storm.htm