Thinking about the hard yards of ministry, leadership, follower-ship… those times that you have to tighten your belt, pull up your boots by the straps and press in. Where does the stamina and the mindset come from to “continue to” and to not give up? How do you determine to keep on keeping on?
I’ve been reading through the book of Matthew in the New Testament of the Bible over the last couple of months, coming up on the final days of Jesus life and His incredible sacrifice out of love for all of us. Whether you believe in Jesus as Savior or not, his life and the way he lived give us poignant lessons about how to press in, step up and put others first. As followers of Jesus, the example he gave us on how to live are the plump line; a life of sacrificial giving, passionate love for others and steadfastness.
At the end of chapter 27 (if you’d like to read it, check out the app, YouVersion Bible app), there is a sentence that is easy to pass over and even miss, that give us a lesson on how to go the hard yards.
“Both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting across from the tomb and watching” Matthew 27: 61 NLT
Jesus is dead, having been brutally killed, crucified on a cross. His body has been placed in a tomb (think grave site in the rocky terrain of Israel), a huge bolder has been placed in front of the tomb and here we see two women… sitting, facing the tomb. The story behind the story is that everyone else who followed Jesus, lived with him for three years had all fled… they were afraid, had denied even knowing Jesus. They were hiding in fear of the government, of powerful people who stopped at nothing to persecute an innocent man.
All except these two women. They sat in out in plain site, not fearing what anyone would think, not worried about what powerful people might do to them. What can we learn from them about hard yards and pressing in to difficult seasons or situations?
- Be steadfast. Don’t dismiss the position of “sitting” as passive or conceding. The word here in the original Greek is “Kathemai”, meaning to remain, dwell. Literally to be stedfast, immovable, settled. These two women didn’t have to think twice about what to do, because they had already pre-determined and were fixed on what they knew and believed. 1 Corinthians 15:58 puts it this way, “So my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable…”. What are your core beliefs that keep you moving, pressing in especially when the slope is steep?
- Reject fear as a lie. Fear is a distraction, it pulls our attention from where we should be focusing, to places that render us ineffective. There are times when fear is practical, when it keeps us from danger. But in leadership, fear is the sideways energy that keeps us from doing what we’re called to do. Fear comes in all sorts of disguises; fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of not being good enough, fear of pain, fear of being unpopular (you fill in the blank). These ladies had plenty to fear; in their culture, they were considered second-rate citizens, property or worse yet, with out value if they were single or widowed and they were disciples of Jesus (who the powerful just tortured and killed). But look where they are… sitting right in front, blatantly showing their devotion and courage to everyone. Fear will deceive you into believing that you are less than and will keep you from effectiveness as a leader. Do you recognize fear in yourself when you’re facing giant hills and long yards? How do you press through the fear and embrace truth? Where do you draw strength from?
- Persevere in the press. In order to see the touchdown the hard, long yards afford, you must persevere while you’re in the press. I don’t know much about football, but I’m always in awe of the grit and brut will of players as they press into the last hard yards to achieve the reward of the touchdown. In leadership, this means having the resolution to see it through to the end. To be so firm in your purpose and goal that you endure the temporary struggle or scrimmage for the end result. to persevere is to “persist in anything undertaken; maintain a purpose in spite of difficulty, obstacles or discouragement; continue steadfastly”. The end result, the purpose and the conviction is heavier than the weight of the press. How do you keep you head in the game for the goal, the WIN, the end-in-mind?
We all face scrimmages, mountains and hard yards, whether in leadership, relationships or just plain life. These two women, the two “Mary’s” didn’t allow fear or failure determine their purpose. They embraced the hard yards and by allowing their conviction to empower them. When you’re facing hard yards, keep your eyes firmly fixed, be steadfast, resolved and settled in your purpose and do that thing in front of you.