As I write this, I am conscious of a significant sense of anxiety. I’m leading a church with hundreds of people looking to me for inspiration and security. I’m leading dozens of people who are expecting me to be strong and to know the way. I’m attempting to pioneer a movement of discipleship, offering hope to churches and individuals who are looking for support that I feel ill-equipped to offer.
At the same time, for whatever reason, I have a number of opportunities to speak in a variety of different places. All those invitations are expecting a ‘yes’. And the ones I respond positively to are assuming I will ‘knock it out of the park’. I have a wife I love and four adult daughters who all need me to be Dad. A family who need me to provide for them, physically, spiritually, emotionally and financially (I am gnawingly aware of a potential wedding bill). I’m pretty sure that I have a wasp’s nest in my attic … and then there is this book that I’m trying to write on leadership.
It may well be that I’m doing too much. But feeling troubled, and leaning towards anxiety and fear is a constant and significant temptation. And here is the thing. I have every reason to lean towards anxiety.
As a leader, there will be many times when you have every reason to lean towards anxiety. You may occasionally think there has never been stress like you are experiencing now, there has never been pressure like that which you are under at this moment, there has never been opposition like you are facing. And then, every news bulletin, every twitter feed, every parenting headache, every pastoral conundrum, every strategic decision has a stress value attached to it, and someone in your care is probably looking to you for help to deal with their mounting stress. You will either have to grit your teeth and deal with it, or run away crying.
Leader, anxiety is going to be a strong temptation. Jesus says, don’t be anxious.
So, John 14.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told that I’m going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14: 1-4)
In John 13 we learned that Jesus knew who he was, that he was from the Father and he was returning to the Father. Jesus knew he was a son. Jesus knew he was a son and this gave him the security he needed to humble himself, to wash feet, to care for others, even knowing all that lay ahead for him.
Now Jesus starts to teach his disciples. He has told them he is about to go away, and the disciples are about to experience the most disturbing and violent events of their lives. The temptation to feel not only troubled, but abandoned, let down and orphaned, must have been overwhelming. They had every reason to lean towards anxiety.
So Jesus provides an antidote for anxiety in leadership and life. He says trust me: “believe also in me.” Not just “believe what I said” but in me, in who I am, in who I say I am, in who you have come to know me to be.
He says: “You believe in God, believe also in me.” Put the whole weight of your life on me. I won’t abandon you.
The antidote to anxiety is to believe. To believe his teaching, yes, but more than that, to believe in him. The son. To believe in who he is, what you know him to be like, who you have come to know him to be. Believe in him, and trust him. It’s a choice. It’s a decision. It’s an act of faith.
Enter with me into this passage – can you hear the whisper of Jesus? Don’t be anxious, don’t be troubled, it’s going to be ok, there is another way.
See, there is a Father.
Jesus is reminding the disciples of something that could easily be forgotten. He is reminding them that this God – the One that you have known as being the power source in the universe, that One that you have known to be the Lord of the Angel Armies, the One that you have to revere, the One that you have to worship – He’s your Father.
And He cares.
Even about the details.
You don’t have to be troubled or anxious or upset because He’s got your back, He really has. He really knows your situation – He knows about the book deadline and the speaking invitations, He made the wasps in the attic, He understands the neighbour’s cancer, He knows the heartache, and He knows the kids, all about the kids, because He’s a father.
All the power and the competence, all the capacity, all the resources of the Creator of the Universe come in the form of a father. He is perfectly able and perfectly relational. He cares about your anxiety and your upset. He empathises with your situation because he’s experienced it. He understands the heartache because he’s a Father. He’s the Father and he’s your Father. And he is bigger than anything that you currently face.
Taken from ‘Lead’ by Karl Martin, available from Christian bookshops and www.muddypearl.com, priced £12.99.