I have been thinking about the difficulties of pastoring in today’s complex society. Every pastor faces tough issues and decisions that accompany the call to pastoral service. It seems to me that having correct situational awareness and accurate discernment is vital for success. This kind of awareness and discernment is a combination of naturally endowed and supernaturally sourced wisdom. It is also a function of experience. I have found it can only be acquired through experience and practice. There seem to be no shortcuts to it. It takes work to be correct (at least most of the time). Success in ministry, then, requires a combination of these naturally and supernaturally endowed elements, along with a good dose of hard-nosed perseverance.
I will be sharing my thoughts on the elements of pastoral situational awareness and discernment with you in four brief essays. Each will deal with one of the vital understandings we need as leaders to make it through the challenges we all face. I will glean these thoughts from looking at King David’s life. He certainly dealt with many unexpected challenges to both his life and his leadership. I hope these thoughts will be helpful. I invite your comments.
First Thought: David Understood His Challenge
If anything characterizes leadership, it is its unexpected challenges. These can be either threats to our well-being or doors of opportunity to our lives, leadership and ministries. In many cases, the threats and opportunities are one in the same. Such was the case when David encountered Goliath. I am sure you know the story, from 1 Samuel, Chapter 17. When David looked into the valley, he saw what everyone else saw – a serious threat, a foreboding challenge. Goliath was giant of a man. He was menacing to behold. How could David manage and overcome such an intimidating, menacing threat? David’s situational awareness and discernment would influence him to either consider himself a victim… or a potential victor! He needed what others there seemed to lack – a correct understanding of the nature of his problem. His brothers and all the others saw the giant as an impossible obstacle. They accepted the inevitability of their defeat, should they confront him. They awarded Goliath his victory before the fight ever began. How often are we tempted to think that way?
Goliath was certainly an enormous threat. He was fully capable of killing whoever chose to come against him. This was a fact. It could not be denied. David, however, had an understanding based on his correct discernment of the moment, and his correct discernment of who He would walk into that valley with. He would not be alone. God would go with him. Yes, David recognized the reality of his challenge was not to be ignored. However, he also discerned that, with God as his Partner, he could find a way to turn this great obstacle standing before him into a giant stepping-stone to success. He knew that with God, all things were possible. The giant could… and the giant would fall!
You can have the same attitude as David, and get the same results with the giants in your life. One thing is sure, God is faithful and He will make a way. Take this attitude with you into the battle and use all He has put within you. Let Him order your thinking and He will order your steps, all the way to good success.