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(Part 54)


October 18, 2013
Today’s reading: 2 Timothy 4:9-17

The task of a servant leader is challenging. You are a leader but a servant. You are the “greatest” but the least of all. You are first but are last. You have authority and power but exercise these not for your own aggrandizement but in service to all. You are the leader of many but often struggle alone. You serve but may be unappreciated, opposed or even maligned.

This was the case with that great apostle Paul.

  • “Demas, enamored of the present world, deserted me” (2 Tm 4:10a). Demas abandoned the ministry for worldly affairs.
  • “Alexander the coppersmith did me a great deal of harm” (2 Tm 4:14a). Alexander strongly opposed Paul’s preaching (v.15b), to the point of blasphemy (see 1 Tm 1:20).
  • “At my first defense no one appeared on my behalf, but everyone deserted me.” (2 Tm 4:16a).
    We see above, first of all, what servant leaders should do or not do.

First, know that Satan has a two-pronged attack. On the one hand, he directly assaults you and causes you pain and grief. On the other hand, he entices you and offers you relief, with the intent that you decide to abandon the struggle and settle for a comfortable worldly life. Your weapon against the first is endurance and perseverance. Your weapon against the second is knowing Christ and that his way of life is often diametrically contradictory to the ways of the world. Fix your eyes on Jesus, know the word, be nourished by prayer and the Eucharist, and thus resist the enticement of the world. By the way, Satan tried to tempt Jesus in the same way, offering him all the kingdoms of the world in exchange for worshiping him (Satan). Know that choosing the world is directly rejecting Jesus himself and opting for Satan, who has dominion over the whole world.

Second, as the writer of the letter to the Hebrews says, obey your leaders and defer to them (see Heb 13:17). In the Church and in Christian communities, there are leaders over you. They are there for your own good. Avoid the temptation of thinking that you are better than them (you might be, or you might potentially be, but reject standing on that notion). Practice active submission. Have a heart that is humble. Be willing to sacrifice for the good of the larger body. Know that obedience and submission are necessary ingredients for a community to have peace and order. Do not grumble. Do not involve others in your grumbling. Do not speak against your elders. Do not form blocs to oppose the legitimate moves or teachings of your elders.

Third, close ranks with your fellow elders. You are there as a team. You work together in order to get the community moving forward in unity and peace. Defend your brethren from unjust criticism, from gossip, from maligning, from false accusations. When someone starts to speak negatively about a leader and is out of place, stop him in his tracks, and tell him to take the matter up with the proper authorities (fellow servant leaders, I enjoin you to do this with boldness; if you remain silent, then you are complicit). Know that loose talk is the work of the devil, who plots to wreak disunity and ultimately havoc, especially among leaders.

Unfortunately, there will still be leaders who will act in wrong ways. There will even be leaders reading this who will dismiss what I say as not applicable to them (to them I say, look not at the splinter in the other’s eye but to the plank in your own). Anyway, in cases where we are the victims of such negative acts, then we too have our own proper attitudes and postures.

One, praise and thank God for the many more faithful servant leaders who are around you. To Paul, those were Timothy, Crescens, Titus, Luke, Mark, Tychicus, Carpus and many others. You must not get weighed down by the infidelities of one or a few, but look to the many others who are good, true, faithful, silently laboring, and know that God is still actively working in the community.

Two, keep focused on the work. There is much to be done. Satan wants to distract you, if not discourage you altogether and get you to quit. Know that there is much good being done by many, which should continue to include you. Crescens was on mission to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia, Tychicus to Ephesus. Mark was helpful in the ministry, Carpus was holding the fort in Troas. Even as you try to address the infidelities of other servant leaders, keep moving on, and do not expend your energy on what is negative but focus on what is positive.

Three, “be on guard against” those who are “strongly resisting (the) preaching” and legitimate authority in the body (2 Tm 4:15). The worst thing you can do is to listen to their grumblings and be negatively affected by these. When they start to speak against, then cut them off. Tell them to take the matter up in the right way, with the proper authorities. Correct and chastise them if they continue to grumble and get others grumbling.

Four, always fall back and rest on the Lord. Even if everyone opposed you, you have Jesus (assuming you are in the right). Jesus is the one who appointed you to your task. By his grace you can endure. “But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength” (2 Tm 4:17a). Always consult Jesus. Always make sure you are acting not according to self-interest but only in order to glorify God. As His servant leader, God will always be there for you. At the moment you might feel alone, betrayed, abandoned, sinking in the mire, with no seeming respite in sight, but God will ultimately give you the victory. God will not allow the enemy, who now unfortunately acts through brethren, to devour you. “And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.” (2 Tm 4:17c).

Five, know that everything works for the good of those who love and serve God according to His purpose, including the afflictions God allows to come your way. They are meant to purify and to strengthen you. They keep you clinging desperately to God. They keep you focused on the work, plodding on with patient endurance. God’s intent, especially to servant leaders of evangelistic and missionary communities, is “that through (you) the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it.” (2 Tm 4:17b). Now that is our work. That is our goal. That is the commission given us by Jesus. We need to be single-minded in achieving what we set out to do.

To all servant leaders who might lean towards acting like Demas or Alexander, stop it. You have lost your focus. You are being counter-productive. You might even be doing the work of Satan. Remember: “the Lord will repay (you) according to (your) deeds.” (2 Tm 4:14b).

To all servant leaders who like Paul are maligned, deserted, abused or harmed by fellow servant leaders, just keep plodding on. Keep your hearts pure. Pray for your detractors or opponents and ask the Lord, “May it not be held against them!” (2 Tm 4:16b). Just keep at your work, just looking to please the Lord and accomplish His purpose for you.

* * *

Discussion starter: Have you spoken against a leader behind his back, or not with the proper authorities who have responsibility for that leader’s service? Be truthful and humbly consider how your action has caused dissension and disunity in the community.

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