Leadership Checkpoint: Do you have the stamina to defend and stay in the trenches?
Though he is no longer with us, the words of Howard Hendricks stay with us and challenge us to live full and faithful lives in service to our Savior. The below article originally appeared in the pamphlet “Wisdom from ‘Prof’” and remains startlingly relevant to our mission today.
Having been asked about reasons for my long tenure at Dallas Seminary, I found myself rattling the cage. To explain myself to myself, I have to admit that early on I questioned my assumptions about the Christian life. Discarding my fantasies, I faced the hard truth that Christ commissioned me for battle. I had to develop an eternal perspective that would keep me in the trenches.
"If you go against the grain of the universe, you get splinters," said H. H. Farmer. He was right, but much better to keep getting and removing earthly splinters than to ignore the chafing weight of His eternal cross. For many students, the first experience in my classroom causes severe intellectual tremors, if not agitation. But my most exciting moments have come when a student's eyes light up and he or she exclaims, "Oh, I see."
Seminary-even ministry-looks positively do-able when reduced to simple paragraphs in the catalog. Job offers sound promising and apartment leases look friendly. Students bound into the first semester with high hopes. But assignments often smother outside activities. Health, finances and family may distract from the real purpose of being there. That's when the perceptive instructor makes a critical difference. He keeps their eyes on the prize. And their dependence on the One who called them.
Christians who win accept unvarnished reality. Winning comes with discernment, anticipatory thinking, walking with the wise (Proverbs 13:20), and thoughtful assessment. The content of the Book must be absorbed into the core of the learner to energize his complete lifestyle. He must strip down to durable essence.
Above all else, I want students to feel the friction of true education. Weddings are easy, delightful celebrations; but marriages, the long-term fusion of two into one, are difficult. We must grapple with the grandeur of God's Word and the contrition it demands of its disciples. No one who is whole is self-sufficient.