By David Faust
Successful leaders do hard things that others avoid. They take necessary actions for the overall good, even when those actions are unpleasant. No one enjoys wading into complicated situations where solutions are hard to find and criticism is sure to come, but that’s part of a leader’s job description.
The book of Proverbs highlights several hard but necessary actions that mark the way of wisdom. Each one requires courage and self-discipline.
The Willingness to Delay Gratification
“The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down” (Proverbs 21:20). It’s a mark of immaturity to live only for the moment. Mature individuals think ahead and sacrifice immediate pleasures for the sake of long-term benefits.
The better choice is to wait patiently for God’s timing although our impulses cry out for immediate gratification. Advertisers say, “Buy now,” but wise shoppers save up for purchases instead of paying years of credit card interest. Our culture says, “Go ahead, everyone is doing it,” but a young couple will be blessed when they postpone sex until marriage.
The Boldness to Face Overwhelming Challenges
“One who is wise can go up against the city of the mighty and pull down the stronghold in which they trust” (Proverbs 21:22). Human nature shies away from danger, but faith triumphs over fear. Where does the fruit grow on a tree? Out on a limb. Where will you find a fruitful life? Out on a limb.
By faith we can “go up against the city of the mighty” and pull down Satan’s strongholds, tackling challenges too big for human strength alone.
Faith-inspired boldness? It’s Moses telling Pharaoh to let God’s people go. It’s Gideon facing the enemy hordes with a downsized army, David going head-to-head with Goliath, and Jesus setting his face toward Jerusalem and the cross. It’s Paul standing in the shadow of the Parthenon telling Greek philosophers the true God doesn’t dwell in manmade temples. It’s today’s church planter or missionary establishing a beachhead for the gospel in a heavily populated and unevangelized city. It’s a Christian facing cancer with confidence in God.
The Courage to Confront Troublemakers
“Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife; quarrels and insults are ended” (Proverbs 22:10). Most human organizations contain quarrelsome, negative-minded individuals who harm the rest of the group. Instead of engaging in hard conversations, too often we allow these problems to go unaddressed; but then, like an infection that worsens unless removed or treated with antibiotics, the spiritual problem grows worse.
It’s an act of necessary courage to confront a divisive church member whose contentious spirit is harming the body of Christ. And to correct or remove an unproductive employee who’s hurting his coworkers’ morale. And for a coach or players to call out a teammate whose bad attitude is dragging down the rest of the team.
In a speech delivered at Rice University on September 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” When by faith we undertake hard tasks, we discover that nothing is too difficult for God.
1. What hard but necessary actions are you currently avoiding?
2. How will you demonstrate courage this week?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
THELOOKOUT’s Bible Reading Plan for September 2, 2012
Isaiah 9, 10