Many firefighters today are suffering. They are not ill, or suffering from a physical malady but they are suffering in their heart. What is this great suffering that I speak of? It is the suffering of a dedicated individual in a poisoned environment. It can be likened to a crop struggling to grow in contaminated soil. Their roots are desperately trying to draw the nourishment it needs to survive but they are continually fed with negativity instead of nutrients.
At every turn, it seems their efforts or achievements are ridiculed, targeted, and or persecuted for their good works. In many cases, firefighters have mentioned how the culture is actually rewarding and encouraging many to be ‘unethical.’ So one must pose the question: How does a passionate, devoted, and dedicated individual not only survive in such a climate but thrive?
Let us ask ourselves, where does our motivation come from?
“It would be no surprise, if a study of secret causes were undertaken to find that every golden era in human history proceeds from the devotion and righteous passion of some single individual” (Richard Ellsworth Day-Filled with The Spirit).
Many times, we as leaders look upon leadership with envy of their successes without thought of their suffering. We look upon the outcome of a lifetime of dedication, devotion, and sacrifice and forget that this was a human being who struggled and sacrificed greatly. We look upon their bold speeches and courageous moments but never think of their moments of loneliness, their moments where they felt betrayed, and when they contemplated giving up. The next time you are with one whom you greatly respect as a leader and ask them to tell you about their struggles as a leader. Their wisdom can be defined as one who understands knowledge because of the blessing and survival of personal tribulation.
A quick historical look into our past allows us to gather insight on the tribulations of our past leaders:
In the beginning God called Noah to build an arc to save his people. Imagine the ridicule he faced by those around him while he build this massive arc in the middle of dry land. Yet because of his faith, he prevailed and God saved him and his family. God called a man by the name of Abram to leave his country and his family to go to a foreign land. Abram left everything to follow God. Imagine the thoughts he must have had as began his journey yet he trusted God and God was faithful to him. Especially after all that he had been through and God blesses him with a son in his old age but then came the test of his faith. God instructs Abraham to take Isaac up on a mountain and sacrifice his son to God. Imagine Abraham’s pain as he bound his son, placed him upon that altar, and stretched out his hand to slay his only son. But God intervened! God saw that Abraham’s faith was genuine and provided a lamb in the place of Abraham’s son.
May we consider what God has done for us all?
He sent His one and only Son Jesus Christ into the world. He loved in spite of the hatred of the world. He forgave where others condemned. He held those accountable who refused and abused God’s grace. He endured persecution, betrayal, and was crucified for a crime He did not commit. Throughout all this He never wavered, never responded with hate, and never quit. And God laid His only Son on that cross and did not intervene. He allowed Jesus to die for our sins, pay the debt we could not pay, and then showed the entire world that sin and death did not have the final word by resurrecting Jesus on the third day. As we struggle to grow in the poisoned soil, may we draw our strength from our true source of encouragement: God’s word!
May we also realize as we struggle that many have gone before us and kept the faith in spite of great opposition. Many have endured persecution and in the end prevailed. Many great achievements, passionate movements, and powerful changes have all been accomplished because one individual trusted in God and the call that was placed upon their own heart. They “leaned not own their own understanding” (Proverbs 3:4a) and when they were hurt and falsely accused they remembered:
We are not alone: “Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him and be firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9).
Our struggles are not in vain: “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).
We will overcome: Jesus said “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).
Only from the mountaintop can we see the beauty of the valley:
When we are in the valley we feel overwhelmed and often feel like giving up…
When those around you ridicule for taking the high road of honesty and integrity…
When your efforts and achievements are sabotaged…
When you are falsely accused…
When you are betrayed…
When you suffer for doing what is right…
Remember the struggles of those who have gone before us. Remember that every leader who embraced the calling within their heart has faced the fiery arrows of the devil. We are not the first and will not be the last. However, we are to remain strong by trusting in our true source of strength. We are to have joy because we know the end of this story. We are know that God will use all of these things for good and we will not give up! We are not alone and we will not quit!
God Bless you all,
Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries