Fear! Every leader experiences it, and every vision is clothed in it.
It’s possibly the strongest emotion in the landscape of leadership. It can cripple growth, paralyze movement and drain hope out of the emotional nervous system of a dream.
But I’ve discovered something else about fear: It can actually embolden action.
Imagine how the apostle Paul felt when he said this: “And now I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead” (Acts 20:22-23, NLT). The Holy Spirit is my Comforter. The Holy Spirit is my Counselor. My Warning Signal? Surely not! Many, perhaps most, leaders would retreat into a cul-de-sac of comfort upon hearing such a warning, especially when the warning comes from the Holy Spirit. But Paul chose a different response:
“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” (Acts 20:24, NLT)
How could Paul assume such a courageous posture when certain suffering awaited him?
I believe this passage reveals two answers:
1. Paul leveraged clarity in the midst of fear.
Paul articulated his mission with extreme clarity: “telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”
Nothing—not even the threat of suffering or imprisonment—could distract Paul from the mission God had called him to fulfill. A powerful truth is at work in Paul’s response: Clarity of mission increases courage in the face of fear.
The opposite is also true: Fear is compounded by the lack of clarity.
2. Paul chose finishing over fear.
Despite the threats, Paul was consumed with finishing what he started. He said, “But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus.”
The world is full of leaders who start. Finishers aren’t so easy to find.
But leaders with character push beyond the glitz and glamour of the start. They finish. They endure. They own the mission’s fulfillment, and all of the pain that comes with it.
To these leaders, the mission is far more important than the fear of failure. They choose finishing over fear. Therein lies another important truth: Leaders exhibit an enduring spirit that pushes through their fears because their mission is simply too important to abandon.
There are no easy answers to fear. But fear will only grow stronger when we lack clarity and when we lose our gritty resolve to push through our fears.
Something greater awaits us on the other side of fear. Let clarity and a deep commitment to finishing push you forward.