Jeff Christopherson on How to Be Faithful to the End

Image: Photo by Benjamin Lambert on Unsplash

The most difficult person that I will ever have to lead is myself.

That person is a package of impressive strengths mingled with equally great insecurities, wounds, and inconsistencies, all judiciously packaged, as best as we know how, to project the best possible public face. All the while fully aware of the concealed brokenness inside the box. And that brokenness, if not restored, will be our undoing.

We have all watched the lives of public figures unravel as their weaknesses are exhibited in real time across every media outlet that has access to a news truck. Sports figures, television personalities, movie stars, politicians, and, the most salacious of all, religious celebrities are caught on countless cameras doing the “perp walk” while futilely attempting to shield their disgraced faces. There is a beguiling yet tragic patheticness to the whole thing.

Do you suppose any of them envisioned this degrading ending in the promising, beginning days of their careers? Not likely. A finale like this would be far from the thoughts of most. Yet week by week another icon’s collapse is paraded in high definition into the sanctuary of our living rooms.

But what is more tragic and unquestionably more detrimental to the Kingdom of God than the collapse of distant celebrities is the frequency with which trusted spiritual leaders are forced to abandon their Father’s call due to a heartbreaking moral failure.

The ripples of resentment, disbelief, and skepticism radiate from this broken trust for years and, in many cases, for generations. The gift of a promising ministry ends in a jaded legacy of scorched earth.

Surely, no one starts out in ministry with this kind of ending in mind. Yet it materializes with such regularity that the spiritual skeptics seem to have a ready-built case personally supplied by the disgraced Kingdom servants. Money, sex, and power are darkness’s simple tools to entice our gaps and fractures of character into disastrous choices with eternal consequences.

So, how can we protect ourselves from this kind of ending? How can we ready ourselves for a Kingdom ministry that flourishes for a lifetime? With all of our leadership responsibilities, how can we most conscientiously lead ourselves?

Over the next three weeks we will look together at foundational character and how it works itself out over our increasing levels of leadership responsibility. If we fail to master this at a foundational level, the inevitable, tragic results become increasingly far-reaching as our ministry broadens.

Over these three weeks, we will discover three key factors that should inspire us to deeply desire to personally take on the character of Christ. These are: (1) My lowest point of character is my highest point of capacity. (2) The way that I do one thing is the way that I do everything. (3) Personal transformation only grows from intimate transparency.

My lowest point of character is my highest point of capacity. This might strike some as unkind or unfair, but a close look through Scripture or current events leads us to the same inevitable conclusion: My leadership, especially spiritual leadership, cannot grow beyond my lowest point of character.

Picture an antique wooden water bucket made from vertical boards (staves) fashioned together into a cylinder. If those boards were of different lengths, the shortest board would logically dictate the limits of water the bucket could contain. If 15 boards were 12 inches long, and one board was 6 inches, the defining limit of that container is determined by the shorter 6-inch stave.

Our weakest character point always determines our capacity.

Let’s use Peter’s life to illustrate this truth.

When we think of Peter’s most tragic of moments, our minds index quickly to his public and profane denial of his dearest friend and rabbi, instantly punctuated by the crow of a rooster. To conceive that this sentence would ever pass through his own lips would be to Peter unthinkable:
After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter,

“Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. (Matt. 26:73–74)

This uncharacteristically spineless scene seems to be an aberration to the typically masculine persona of this virile fisherman-turned-disciple. If it weren’t for Jesus’ prior prediction of the event, we would be left awestruck, for Peter wasn’t one to cower.

Certainly, there were no hints to foreshadow this breakdown. Or were there?

Much earlier, Jesus gathered his disciples for another opportunity to explain his Kingdom. But on this occasion the tenor of Jesus’ teaching seemed more subdued. He began to explain the necessity of his upcoming crucifixion and resurrection.

This was indeed a twist. Listening to colorful parables and watching jousts with Pharisees were much preferred by his closest of friends.

“From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Matt. 16:21).

This really wasn’t the news any of Jesus’ friends wanted to hear. It really wasn’t right. Jesus was a peaceful Teacher.

His claims of Messiahship come pre-validated with numerous, unmistakable signs and wonders. He hurt no one and helped so many. The righteous indignation began to boil in Peter’s blood until he could hold it in no longer. He must teach the ways of Palestine.

Was Jesus going to take this lying down? Surely not. Stand up, Jesus. Fight like a man.

“And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you’” (Matt. 16:22).

It wasn’t that Peter disagreed with his rabbi on the premise that the religious machine would soon be coming after Jesus, looking to silence him once and for all. There were plenty of indications to see this inevitability. What Peter disagreed with was whether or not the pious bullies would triumph. Jesus had the crowds and the momentum. From where Peter stood, this “victim thinking” would and should never happen, not as long as his strong arms could wield a broadsword.

To most leaders, this declaration of solidarity would be both bolstering and reassuring. But not to Jesus.

In Peter’s words Jesus perceived an enormous character flaw. The Teacher had just finished explaining the “why” and the “what” of his Father’s plan.

It wasn’t something from which He was trying to escape. It was something he must do. Peter was blind to the fact that his self-assured protection was neither wanted nor possible.

“But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man’” (Matt. 16:23).

With stout words Jesus corrects His friend. Peter was thinking from a fleshly perspective planning to use fleshly power. Jesus well knew this was a character pattern with Peter, one that, if not corrected, would devastate his discipleship.

Fast-forward Peter’s story all the way to the Upper Room.

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Source: Christianity Today