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Resilience, A Leader’s Reward

Updated: May 1, 2019

Resilience is the reward of correct leadership tension management. It is produced from the pain endured in the life of a leader. The Oxford English Dictionary defines resilience as “(1) the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness; (2) the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.”[1] Resilience is a rare character trait among self-proclaimed leaders today. Barna research states that “80 percent of pastors leave the ministry within five years.”[2]


The issue is not whether a leader will have an opportunity to be resilient but whether he or she will be resilient when the opportunity comes. Every leader faces crucibles of development. All leaders journey through seasons of sifting. Through this process in the life of a leader, resilience emerges. Resilience cannot be purchased or given; it must be earned, grown, and developed from the friction, tension, and pain that result from taking the helm of leadership. Pastor and leader Wayne Cordeiro addresses the sifting process this way: “The process of sifting, coming to that moment when our strength is spent, is how God builds our faith. It is a process that forms new character, tearing away old perspectives and putting fresh truth in its place. Former habits are discarded and wrong tendencies abandoned.”[3]


The process that leads to a leader’s resiliency is necessary. The journey is fraught with failure, disappointment, and struggle, especially in the beginning. However, the leader must keep in mind that all is working toward the formation and creation of the leader himself or herself. “The truth is that you will fail. You simply won’t have what it takes when you begin. You may have the calling, the zeal, the energy, and the support. But when you begin you won’t have what it takes to finish.”[4]


So how does a person achieve resiliency? Cordeiro explains the internal process that produces a leader’s resilience:

What’s missing (in the beginning life of a leader) is that inner core, the tensile strength of faith that is revealed only under strain. It is a quality of character that is tested not in port, but in the open seas. And it is this testing that ratifies your calling … it is something that can only be acquired through failure, learning your limits, and learning not to trust in yourself but in the God who has called you.[5]

The process of tension, friction, and pain producing resiliency in the life of a leader is marked all throughout scripture. Noah built a boat on dry ground waiting for rain that did not come for 120 years. Abraham, the “father” of God’s people, and his wife Sarah suffered with infertility. Joseph’s dream from God led him into slavery and prison before the palace. Moses grew up in an epicenter of civilization only to be shelved for years in the desert. Daniel lived his entire life in exile, serving pagan governments and regimes. Even Jesus himself was criticized, condemned, and crucified by those he was called to save. The point is this: it is through the tension, friction, and pain that God works. Charles Spurgeon said, “The worse thing that can happen to any of us is to have a path that is made too smooth. One of the greatest blessings the Lord ever gave us was a cross.”[6]



[1] Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “resilience,” accessed December 12, 2015, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/resilience.


[2] Fuller Institute, George Barna, and Pastoral Care Inc., “Why Pastors Leave the Ministry,” The Free Believers Network, July 21, 2009, accessed December 12, 2017, http://freebelievers.com/article/why -pastors-leave-the-ministry.


[3] Wayne Cordeiro, Sifted: Pursuing Growth Through Trials, Challenges, and Disappointments, With Frances Chan and Larry Osborne (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 10.


[4] Ibid., 31.


[5] Ibid., 32.


[6] AZ Quotes, “Charles Spurgeon Quotes,” 2015, accessed December 14, 2015, http://www.azquotes.com/author/13978-Charles_Spurgeon.



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