Leading in the face of opposition

Leading in the face of opposition

Written By Dr. Kevin Ezell

Leading in the face of opposition

If we live our lives in a way that points people to God and we seek to constantly move closer to Him, there will be opposition. We don’t have to look any further than the New Testament to see that. Jesus faced opponents at every turn. And he warned that a servant is not greater than his master and that since He faced opponents, we too can expect to face challenges.

As you step out in faith and move into the opportunities God gives you, you will find that those moments of great potential almost always come with significant opposition.

The Apostle Paul writes about this very thing in 1 Corinthians 16:8-9. He plans to make his way to Macedonia to spend extended time with the believers there, but first, he says he will stay in Ephesus “because a wide door for effective ministry has opened for me.”

That all sounds great until you read the end of the sentence where Paul adds, “—yet many oppose me.”

Paul sees the opportunity even in the face of opposition. In fact, he calls it a “wide door for effective ministry.”

You see, Paul had learned that when opposition accompanies opportunity, it should not necessarily be viewed as a barrier or setback. Sometimes, it should be seen as an indication that this opportunity really is of God and is worth pursuing.

We must be cautious here. I am not suggesting that we skip steps to confirm that our plans are indeed lining up with God’s. Also, what we might interpret as “opposition” could just be godly brothers and sisters expressing genuine concerns. We need to slow down, take the time to consult Scripture, lift the matter up in prayer, and seek wise, godly counsel to be sure what we view as a good opportunity is truly of God.

But if Paul had viewed opposition as a reason to stop his efforts to advance the Gospel, we wouldn’t have a New Testament filled with his writings. In fact, his name might not even have warranted a mention. Paul knew opportunity and opposition go hand-in-hand.

This is a great paradox of our Christian lives. We serve a loving God who desperately wants to reconcile humanity to Himself, and He makes us to be partners in that effort. But this great story takes place amid a brutal war with an Enemy who seeks to obstruct anyone from taking a step toward God.

Sometimes, this Enemy opposes us by stirring up nonbelievers to oppose our efforts. At other times, he succeeds by stirring up needless division that hampers unity among believers.

Knowing that opposition like this is assured, how should we proceed? Paul says, “Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong,” he says in verse 13. In other words—expect resistance. Be on the lookout for it. But when it happens, move forward with courage, and stand strong in your faith.

For me, that means I must keep my focus on the opportunity, not the opposition. If we give outsized attention to the resistance we’re facing, it will dominate our time and thinking. Don’t allow that.

Instead, keep your eyes on what God wants to do, the people who will come to faith in Him, and the lives that will be changed for eternity.

And finally, don’t overlook Paul’s very important words in verse 14: “Do everything in love.”

When Paul says do everything, we must assume that applies to our efforts for bringing people to salvation. But he is also pointing to the way in which we face detractors. Neither Paul nor Christ gives us another option. We have to be driven by our love for people and our desire to see them reconciled to God.

When people oppose us, we must do our best not to respond harshly. This is a high bar we are destined to miss at times as imperfect people, but it is our calling and goal in Christ.

Are you faithfully pursuing ministry opportunities through doors God has opened? Be ready for conflict. Expect opposition. But move forward, standing strong in your faith and assured that any movement toward God will always encounter opposition.

About the Author

Dr. Kevin Ezell
President, North American Mission Board

Kevin Ezell has served as the President of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) since September, 2010. He provides strategic vision, direction and leadership as NAMB works to help Southern Baptist churches send the hope of the gospel to North America.

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