When it comes to the wind, it can often happen that a gentle zephyr makes its presence felt across the Severn plain; but up on the bare heights of the Malvern Hills, a very chilly hoolie can be harooshing. There’s a good reason for this: looking east from the summit of the Worcestershire Beacon, there is no higher point between us and the Ural Mountains in Russia.
I have long been aware of this, but it feels particularly poignant just now. The winds do indeed blow more strongly at altitude, and not only in the physical realm: what is true in the natural is also true of organisations.
Many of us will have known what it is to entertain high hopes of some upright and passionate person taking on an influential role – only to be disappointed when they appear to be far more cautious, and much less effective and transformational than we had expected.
If you have ever read, or watched, ‘Yes Minister,’ you soon see the sort of constraints and strictures that most ministers have to operate under. This is all too often true at a spiritual level too. In the Church, it is often the case that the ‘higher’ and more public the role, the more pressure there is to toe particular lines, and to avoid making radical pronouncements or being too overt in announcing the supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise God for leaders who refuse to kow-tow to such requirements, and who are willing and able to align their ‘spirit level’ with what the Lord is asking of them, and prepared to pay the cost for doing so.
When we sense that leaders are missing the opportunity to lead more creatively, it is only too easy to pick up a stone and hurl it into the cairn heap of criticism that the enemy is already hard at work directing against them. Let’s take time instead to pray for those in high places. Secular and spiritual leaders alike face many challenges that others do not, especially those who much prefer the comfort of their own arm chairs! Remember how fiercely the winds blow at altitude!
Here’s a simple metaphor: imagine a scaffold board laying on your lawn. Would you have much difficulty in walking along it? Now imagine it tens of storeys high positioned between two skyscrapers, and with very little in the way of guard rails: how about walking along it in this position? The challenge is not that the board is nine inches wide, but that it is nine inches narrow! And even if you could face that, there is the problem of the wind whooshing in teasing gusts, and so much the more strongly at altitude, threatening with every flurry to blow you off.
In much the same way, Satan deploys many of his strongest and most subtle demonic powers against those in leadership positions. As we know, only too many experience very great difficulties and challenges; that is why it is so absolutely vital to pray for them.
In an extensive survey of leaders in the Bible, Dr J. Robert Clinton, professor of leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary, demonstrated that only a minority of leaders end their lives and ministries well. As surely as it is a joy to think of those who continue(d) faithful to the end, most of us will also be able to name many who did not. How sad it is when the men and women of God abandon their first love, and hurt and hinder many others in the process.
Father, all of us are leaders to at least some small extent for You. We pray that we might follow You carefully and serve You faithfully in that capacity. We bring You now those who exercise a far wider sphere and scope of ministry, and pray that You will keep them fervent and faithful for You: in their minds, in their homes and in their inner seeking of You, as well as in their public pronouncements. In and for the protection and the glory of Your Kingdom we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.