Courageous Planning When the Going Is Tough

From One Leader to Another

Robert H.  Pierson is president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists

PAUL  WAS  under  house  arrest  in Rome.  He  faced  possible  death  for  his faith. He was writing a letter of love and encouragement  to  his  favorite  church, the believers in Philippi.  In speaking of his  difficult  circumstances,  the  apostle wrote:  "But  I  would  ye  should  under stand,  brethren, that the  things  which happened  unto  me  have  fallen  out rather unto the  furtherance  of  the gospel"  (Phil.  1:12).  One  scholar translates the word  for "furtherance" as "advancement."  In  the  original  Greek  it  is  a forceful word prokope—used when  referring to the advance of an army or an expedition undertaking some hazardous mission.

The  verb to which the noun is related means  literally  "to  cut  down  in  advance."  The  Greeks  used  it when  they spoke  of  felling  trees,  clearing  away underbrush,  boulders,  or  anything that might hinder  advance.  Today we might compare  it to the work  of  a  giant bull dozer that yields to  nothing in its path. There  must  be  advance under  any  and all circumstances.

Paul  wished  to  assure  his  beloved converts that nothing should  and nothing  would  stand  in  the  way  of  the  advancement  of  the  gospel not  even prisons,  chains,  confinement,  opposition, or obstacles.

So it must be today.  Nothing must be permitted to  thwart the  early  finishing of  God's  work. When there  are tensions around  us  and  we  dwell  in  an  atmosphere  of  frustration,  Satan may  tempt us to  rest  a  while,  or  worse  yet, to pro claim  a moratorium on active soul-winning projects.  Never!

We  must  be  courageous,  dedicated leaders,  worthy  of  the  times,  the  challenge,  and  of  the  people  we  lead.  Our hearts  and  our lips  must be  filled  with faith and fortitude so that those who follow  may  draw  strength  and  courage from  our brave example.

Like  Israel  of  old,  we  may  face  Red Sea  experiences.  There  may  be  times when  we  can  see  no  way through,  and only  frustration  or  defeat  confronting us.  We  must  trust  our  God;  we  must talk  courage,  even  though  our  hearts may be  faint.  If the leader despairs, the cause is lost.

At  times  we  must  plan  when  there appears to  be  no  possibility  of  carrying out  our  plans.  We  are  commanded  by One  who  is  our  Leader:  "Occupy  till  I come"  (Luke  19:13).

As  one  door  closes  let  us be  prepared to move into another field.  If we are unable  to  reach  one  field,  let  us  concentrate  on  those  still  open.  If  there  is  a temporary  retreat  on  one  front,  let  us advance on another. Let us never permit things  that  can't  be  done  to  blind  our vision  to  the  things  that  still  can  be done.

We  dare  not  maintain the  status quo in  troublous  times.  There  is  no  status quo  with  God  and  His  last-day  movement.  Let us  not  only  shore  up  our  defenses,  let us  make  bold  plans to  finish the work.  At times and in places it may be  a  slow,  frustrating advance,  but  advance it must.

I  have  served  in difficult  fields  where response to the gospel was very meager, and  where  there  was war  and  political upheaval.  I  know  the  frustrations  and discouragement  that  confront  the leader. It is not always easy to be strong.

For  years  I  have kept some  challenging words in the front of my Bible. "Man can  shape  circumstances,  but  circumstances  should  not  be  allowed  to  shape the man. We  should  seize  upon circumstances  as  instruments  by  which  to work. We are to master them, but should not  permit  them  to  master  us." —The Ministry of Healing, p.  500.

You  and  I  lead  God's  church  during the  most  crucial,  challenging  hour  in the  history  of  planet  Earth.  What  a staggering responsibility! How much we need  Heaven's  help  and  the  enlightening power of the Holy Spirit.

Let us never forget the words of God's servant:  "Our  watchword  is  to  be,  On ward,  ever  onward!  Angels  of  heaven will go before us to prepare the way. Our burden for the regions beyond can never be  laid  down  till  the  whole  earth  is lightened with the glory of the Lord."  —Evangelism, p.  707.

This  is  the measure  of  our  challenge of leadership in 1976!


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Robert H.  Pierson is president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists

April 1976

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