Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
No one is immune to crisis. It is triggered by accidents, health issues, relationship conflicts, financial shortfalls, poor judgment and sin . . . and on and on. It sneaks up on us no matter where we are: at home, at work, at leisure and yes, even at church.
Early on in my pastoral ministry, when I was still somewhat naive about the perils that lurk under the pews, in God’s providence, I was the recipient of some crucial crisis management advice. It came in the form of a teaching on that topic given at a pastor’s conference. It was presented by a man named Charles Simpson whom I greatly admired both for his skill as a Bible teacher and also for his wisdom as a seasoned pastor. The conference was hosted at his church for the national network of churches to which our church belonged and of which he was the prime leader.
The approach he took in preparing us for crises was somewhat unusual in that his focus was on things we must believe rather than things we must do. I did not fully grasp it at the time, but my experience has confirmed it in the ensuing years, in times of crisis the issue of right belief is as important as right action. In fact, right belief is often the prerequisite for discovering and taking right action.
Right belief in a Christian context is faith in God. The priority of seeking first to maintain an attitude of faith in the midst of crisis is a basic Bible presupposition. Consider these words of the Apostle John. “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:4) The key to victory in crisis, is faith.
Reverend Simpson, using illustrations from the Israelite’s forty year wanderings in the wilderness, distilled his principles for crisis management down to four carefully crafted statements. I was so impacted by his message that I wrote the four principles in the back of my Bible. Little did I know that I would need to refer to them frequently and that they would prove to be my sustaining grace in times of crisis over the next three decades of ministry in two pastorates.
To God’s glory, here is an abbreviated litany of crisis perils from which God delivered us: the threat of division over doctrinal issues, being saddled for seven long years with an unusable, unfinished building, the shock at the fall of key leaders through moral failures, being bilked out of thousands of dollars in a “Christian” ponzi scheme and the pain at seeing our first church plant self destruct.
In addition, crisis faith carried us through mourning the loss of dear people who died untimely deaths, who left the church over irreconcilable differences or simply with no explanation or who returned to a life of sin.
In all these crises God’s faithfulness not only sustained us, but also minimized the fallout, gave us wisdom as to how to proceed, build our faith in His faithfulness and unified us in His purposes as never before.
As I began to draw on the crisis management principles in my ministry and share them with our leaders I discovered that the four phrases from the often quoted Proverbs 3:5-6 passage aligned perfectly with Simpson’s four principles.
So here they are – the four “right belief” principles of crisis management with those scriptures.
1. Beyond the crisis God has a sovereign plan. Even though you can’t see it, God is in control and He is writing the script. Cultivate a long term perspective. The last word of the scene you are in has not yet been written so trust God to compose a good outcome. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” (Proverbs 3:5a)
2. Our trust and confidence is not in knowing how but that God will deliver us. Do not get bogged down in trying to figure it all out or how God is going to get you through the crisis. Faith does not need to know how problems will get resolved, just that God will resolve them. “Lean not to your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5b)
3. Keeping the right attitude will keep you moving in the right direction. Don’t let unbelief, discouragement or a complaining spirit get the best of you. Stay hopeful and fight to keep a positive attitude. Gratitude determines attitude. “In all your ways acknowledge Him.” (Proverbs 3:6a)
4. Our job is not to get out of the crisis but to be the kind of people God can lead out. Crises are opportunities to grow in our reliance upon God. The qualities God is looking for in those He can readily lead are dependence, humility and a teachable, responsive heart. To all those, the promise is: “And he shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:6b)
Do you have any crisis management faith stories? Please share them.
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