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Leaders: They Take A Licking and Keep On Ticking


“It takes a licking and keeps on ticking”

Way back in the day when I was growing up, this was the slogan for Timex watches. Commercials starring sports celebrities showed Timex watches being subject to various kinds of “torture tests” to demonstrate their durability, shock resistance, and superior waterproofing. The point of the ads was to show that no matter what Timex watches went through, they kept doing what they were supposed to do.

Strangely, I couldn’t help but think about this slogan as I was contemplating our Leadership Lesson for this month. (Sounds scary doesn’t it?) What’s the lesson?

Well, it’s pretty simple and straightforward: At some point during your leadership, someone that you are leading is going to give you a “licking”.

They are going to rebel against your authority.

They will look you in the eye and challenge your qualifications to be a leader.

Someone may stage a coup and try to remove you from leadership altogether.

You’ll hear phrases like:

“Who do you think you are to tell ME what to do?”

“You think you’re better than the rest of us don’t you? Well let me tell you, you’re not!”

“How can you call yourself a leader and act the way you do?”

There may come a time while you’re a leader that someone will start a smear campaign against you. They will use any proof they have to destroy you, your reputation, and the work you’re leading. If they can’t find any proof, they will make up lies which will actually spread faster than the truth ever could.

If you’re very lucky, this type of treatment will come from someone who doesn’t know you very well, but simply covets your position. Unfortunately, if you’re like most leaders, at some point you’ll experience this type of betrayal from someone you thought was a friend. In that moment, when you feel like you have just endured a “torture-test” that was intended to kill you, what are you going to do?

If you’re a godly leader, you’ll follow the example of the Timex watch, and keep on doing what you’re supposed to do. You’ll keep on ticking.

You’ll keep following God. Keep leading in the direction He wants you to go.

You’ll turn the other cheek, avoid seeking revenge, do good to those who hurt you, and continue doing what God has called you to do.

Why? Because you’re the leader.

At this point you may be thinking, “Well, this is depressing. Are you sure this is really a part of leadership and not just something you’re saying is common to everyone because you’ve experienced it in your own life?”

My answer is an unfortunate “No”. I really wish it wasn’t true; but this leadership lesson is a basic fact that all leaders will face at some time.

Still not sure you believe me?

Well, then I guess it’s time to look again at the life of Moses and watch and learn from this great leader how he reacted when his leadership was challenged. (To be honest, this happened so often to Moses that it was difficult to decide which passage to choose.)

We’ll start by looking at Numbers 16 where Moses’ and Aaron’s leadership was challenged by a group of the other leaders in the community.

Numbers 16:1-3 “Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?”

Now let’s look at another instance in Numbers 12:1-2. Notice that this time it isn’t the opposition isn’t coming from jealous men who wanted Moses’ place of leadership, but rather, from his closest comrades, his brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam.

“Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. ‘Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?’ they asked. ‘Hasn’t he also spoken through us?’”

These are just two instances where Moses became the target of people’s jealousy, anger, frustration, and rebellion toward the way God was leading the people through Moses. If you continue reading the Pentateuch you’ll find many more stories that will demonstrate that it’s pretty common for people who are in leadership to “take a licking”.

However, that’s only half of the lesson. The real lesson that you and I as leaders need to learn is how to “Take a licking and keep on ticking”. Again, let’s look to Moses to see how he handled these attacks.

  • He didn’t fight his own battles, but instead, he allowed God to fight for Him.

Whenever Moses’ leadership was questioned, he didn’t try to defend himself or his right to lead. Instead, he always exercised humility and let God fight his battles for him.

This truth is demonstrated in Numbers 16:4-7, “When Moses heard this, he fell facedown. Then he said to Korah and all his followers: ‘In the morning the Lord will show who belongs to Him and who is oly, and He will have that person come near Him. The man He chooses He will cause to come near Him. You, Korah, and all your followers are to do this: Take censers and tomorrow put burning coals and incense in them before the Lord. The man the Lord chooses will be the one who is holy. You Levites have gone too far!’”

Honestly, I think this is one of the hardest lessons for leaders to learn—but if we are going to be godly leaders we’re going to have to learn it fast. When someone challenges your leadership or attacks you personally, our first reaction is to defend ourselves. We want to prove that we’re right and they are wrong. We want to be vindicated and we want our attackers to be exposed for the frauds that they are. However, a godly leader doesn’t give in to this desire. Instead, a godly leader refrains from fighting back or seeking revenge, and instead, chooses to leave the job of defending themselves to God.

Romans 12:17-19 says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.”

That’s one of the key components in this leadership lesson: When you are attacked, do not launch a counter offensive. Instead, keep following God and allow Him to defend His choice to make you a leader.

  • Moses always took the high road and followed God’s Laws.

If we continue reading Romans 12, we see that it takes more than just refraining from revenge and allowing God to defend us to fully obey God’s commands. No, God requires His people and His leaders to go even further and take the high road of doing good to those who hurt us.

“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.

On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

We see that Moses followed this principle when dealing with his accusers. Let’s look first at Numbers 12 where Aaron and Miriam were speaking against Moses and saying “What? You think you’re the only one God has called?”

Fast forward a few verses and you’ll see that Moses did not have to defend himself because God held Aaron and Miriam accountable for their sin. As punishment, Miriam was instantly afflicted with the leprosy (one of the most dreaded diseases of that time.)

How did Moses respond?

Did he jump for you and say, “Yes, I was vindicated!”?

Did he lord it over Aaron and Miriam saying, “I told you so”?

No, instead, we see Moses taking a totally different approach in verses 10-13:

“When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous—it became as white as snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had a defiling skin disease, and he said to Moses, ‘Please, my lord, I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.’

So Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘Please, God, heal her!’”

This is where leaders can learn a very important lesson from Moses. Are you ready for this one? Here goes?

You know those people who are giving you a hard time right now?

Someday, they are going to need something from you.

There will come a day when tragedy would strike, an emergency would happen, they’ll need a favor or prayer or something else, and you’ll get a call (or an email or a message). This moment will be a true test of your leadership. How will you respond?

If we’re going to be honest, we’ll all admit that there will be a part of you that will think, “Are you kidding me? I can’t believe they had the nerve….”

But that part is going to have to die quickly and take a back seat to the godly leader inside of you that needs to come shining through. As a leader, you have to be the bigger person, take the high road, and choose to follow God’s commands to “Turn the other cheek, do good to those who hurt you, and pray for those who despitefully use you.” (Matthew 5:38-48)

Need more convincing? Read the rest of Numbers 16 and see how Moses responded by standing in the gap between God and the people even when the entire nation turned on him for what God does to Korah and his followers.

It’s what godly leaders do---they take a licking and keep on ticking. They keep following God’s commands, living by God’s principles, and leading the people in God’s ways even when that means doing the right thing toward those who have wronged you.

What’s our motivation for doing this?

That fact that Jesus took the punishment for our sins that He didn’t deserve, so that He could offer us what we didn’t deserve---grace, mercy, and the opportunity to have a relationship with God. We follow the example that He set as the Perfect Leader and walk in His steps.

So let’s summarize: This month’s leadership lesson is:

  • All leaders face opposition. If you’re a leader, accept that this will be a normal part of your life.

  • When faced with opposition, a godly leader will not defend themselves or seek revenge, but they will leave their vindication up to God.

  • A godly leader will follow Jesus commands to pray for their enemies, turn the other cheek, and do good to those who hurt them.

This is what sets the godly leaders apart from ungodly leaders: their commitment to following God’s principles no matter what or who comes against them. In the end, it’s this commitment to doing the right thing that will stand against lies or schemes that come against you. If you just keep moving forward doing what God has called you to do practicing the principles of God’s Word, no evil tongue or attack will stand a chance of proving true.

As Titus 2:7-8 says, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” (ESV)

That’s how a godly leader takes a licking and keeps on ticking?

Are you ready to rise to the occasion?

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