Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.
Many people want to be in charge, and very few want to follow. The price of power is steep, and leadership comes at a cost—often an expensive cost. Transformational leaders are acquainted with the consistent toll fare called sacrifice. Sometimes the sacrifice is material, while other times they may be more abstract—time, health, aspirations. The costs that leaders bear can be painful and sometimes devastating, but they would say that these sacrifices are worth it. For the athlete, abstaining from the Big Mac is well worth it to obtain the gold medal. Soldiers forego certain dalliances and distractions in hopes that these exercises in discipline will lead to victory. In essence, the sacrifices are worthwhile when they are tied to an end goal.
For Christian leaders, our end goal is to please the one that commissioned us—Jesus Christ. Christ’s redemptive sacrifice is sometimes referred to as the great exchange. He sacrificed his life so that we might live eternally. However, we sometimes fail to realize that there is another part of the bargain—an exchange of wills. The perfect exchange therefore was Christ’s life for ours, and our will for his.
Transformational leaders are purpose driven, always seeking to fulfill God’s will. Life can bring distractions, and in some seasons, it can be challenging to lay aside our desires in exchange for God’s ultimate mission. Sometimes we can even deceive ourselves into thinking that Christianity is exclusively about our happiness, our preferences, and what feels comfortable. Nevertheless, transformational leaders must rise above the temporary discomfort and remain resolved in pursuing God’s best. In fact, we must take it further and encourage those that follow us to embrace a life of sacrifice. One day, as Jesus was talking with his disciples, he encouraged them to join him in the transformational work of the Kingdom. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). As a transformational leader, Christ understood the necessity of teaching his disciples to have a “stake in the game.” If they had been excluded from the opportunity to have buy-in, they would never have had ownership of the victory that he sought to give them.
The path to victory is sacrifice and temporary discomfort. If we don’t learn how to adequately deal with these moments, we will never experience the true joys of reigning. If we don’t teach others how to join us in sufferings, their thirst for success will never be satisfied. Many people want to lead and do great things, but who is willing to sacrifice in pursuit of God’s end game?
Lord, today we praise you not only for your sacrifice, but also for the opportunity to be co-laborers. When the path to victory seems to be overtaken by the pain of sacrifice, remind us of your will. Give us a single eye to remain committed to your will. In Jesus’s name we pray, Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: Cultures Can Persist for Generations (2 Timothy 1:1–2:13; 3:10–17)
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