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Leading Against the Current

Written by Chuck Olson

Athletic Freestyle Man 87831 (1)It was my day off. And it couldn’t have started better.

I headed out from the home a tad earlier than normal because beating the morning traffic in LA is both art form and big-league accomplishment. After clocking a few miles on the 110 freeway, I arrived at Redondo Beach for a time of solitude just as the skies gently ushered in a new day.

As I soaked in the salt-filled air, I began to inventory my surroundings. Seagulls darting playfully as they scored their morning bread. Larger-than-normal waves rolling to the shoreline, releasing a crashing clap. Sweat-browed, cardio-minded runners pounding the soft sand. And wet-suited surfers bobbing on their boards scoping out their next ride.

While immersing myself in the setting, something caught my eye. About 100 yards offshore, I spotted someone swimming. Seriously swimming. Steadily moving across the horizon—albeit slowly. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. This guy was working hard. And unlike the surfers who could ride the momentum of the wave, he was swimming cross-current. Nothing easy about it. Impressive, to say the least.

“Okay,” you say. “I’ve got the picture. What’s the point?”

The point is this: Tucked away at the top of the leader’s job description is the responsibility to lead “cross-current”—turning down the temptation to go with the flow, armed with a core conviction that God’s calling is to lead in a different direction.

At the top of the leader’s job description is the responsibility to lead “cross-current”…to lead in a different direction.

And mark it down, inarguably “God” and “different direction” fit comfortably into the same sentence.

That is to say, if you desire to step into the footprints of the Almighty, you’ve already had to reconcile yourself with His indisputable track record of modes of operation that are at times a bit different. Or shall we say, unorthodox? Or how about, unconventional?

God has an indisputable track record of modes of operation that are at times a bit different.

Just ask Moses about his assignment to high-tail it out of Egypt by splitting a body of water in two. (Do what?!).

Or interview Joshua about conquering a city by sponsoring a walkathon, handing out horns, and telling everyone to yell at the top of their lungs.

Or query Gideon about prepping for battle by DOWN-sizing his infantry—considerably. (Won’t read that one in The Art of War.)

The list could go on. And does.

And just to be clear. And fair. No mystery here. No punches pulled. God Himself calls it out: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways.” No need to read between the lines here. No need for video replay.

This whole notion of God’s extraordinary strategies is captured well in Henry Blackaby and Claude King’s must-read book, Experiencing God:

When your life is in the middle of God’s activity, He will start rearranging a lot of your thinking. God’s ways and thoughts are so different from yours and mine they will often sound wrong, crazy, or impossible. Often, you will realize that the task is far beyond your power or resources to accomplish. When you recognize that the task is humanly impossible, you need to be ready to believe God and trust Him completely.

Has God ever asked you to lead “cross-current”? Has He ever asked you to do something that sounded wrong? Or crazy? Or impossible?

You see, as leaders, it is at this very point that God has us right where He wants us. No alternate route. No plan B. The only available option is to choose the open door of invitation to follow Him.

Trusting that He not only knows the way, but He has made the way.

Trust God that He not only knows the way, but He has made the way.

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  • Daniel Hardy Jr says:

    Powerful as ALWAYS brother Chuck.
    Solitude is calling my name. You get revelation-knowledge like this when you spend time with Papa…
    Thank you for refocusing us with sobering truth! I love you bro and am very grateful!

  • Roger Craig says:

    Ohhh so right Danny. I think about the retirement thing and wonder where in that does Kingdom calling fit? If retirement means more time, then I want to have more time FOR the Kingdom of God.
    I certainly need to be re-fired and probably a little re-treaded for the final laps!

  • Jeanna Isham says:

    Thank you Chuck. I needed so much to hear that this morning.

  • Randel Horton says:

    Thanks Chucks,
    This is a Gut-Buster.
    I could have used this
    At my Life Group meeting last night.

  • Phil says:

    It is certainly true that as a church leader there are times when I feel I am swimming against the current. And there have literally been times when I have doubted my calling as a pastor because of it. Thank you for the reminder that we have to daily focus and follow His leading, His call, and the doors He opens.

  • John says:

    You have certainly swum against the tide many a time in church leadership. I have admired and respected you for many many years. Keep at it Chuck!

  • Lee Sebastiany says:

    Right on Chuck! My prayer is that I am leader that continuously makes choices based on things that sound wrong, crazy, or impossible.

  • John Jemelian says:

    Chuck, I can really relate to your comments especially as I think of my days in the military and the secular workplace. The temptations were great, but God was faithful and strengthened me.

  • Joe Vlcek says:

    I consider my walk with God like getting in the boat and rowing upstream. If your not rowing your drifting and that will lead you into the world -thanks for the article

  • Paul Sailhamer says:

    Thanks, Chuck, for staying after your stuff. It is encouraging to look out at the horizon and see you getting in your strokes…still at it. You’re a shot in the arm, my friend!
    psailhamer
    proverbs 27:17

  • Hal Sacks says:

    Thanks brother Chuck!!! SPOT ON!!!

  • Danny Matsuda says:

    Thank you Chuck for so eloquently describing the plan and route that God has laid out for me…so “against the current” — at least by what my ears hear from other’s ideas and plans for retirement. Even in the midst of the continual blessings that God bestows, I sometimes need the re-confirmation and re-affirmation to stay in the battle and be re-FIRED (not re-tired) for the Lord. I do love and cherish that He had no plan B.

    • Roger Craig says:

      Ohhh so right Danny. I think about the retirement thing and wonder where in that does Kingdom calling fit? If retirement means more time, then I want to have more time FOR the Kingdom of God.
      I certainly need to be re-fired and probably a little re-treaded for the final laps!

    • Chuck Olson says:

      Danny — You are such an encouragement. You are living this out. Not always easy. But right!

  • Pete says:

    Lots to think about in this write.
    I tend to want to play it safe and opt for the easy solution of going with the familiar way.

    • Chuck Olson says:

      Pete — The temptation to opt for the easy solution is always present. Keep seeking how God would have you lead.

Chuck Olson

As founder and president of Lead With Your Life, Dr. Chuck Olson is passionate about inspiring, resourcing and equipping Kingdom leaders to lead from the inside out.  To lead, not with the external shell of positions, achievements or titles, but from an internal commitment to a deep, abiding and transparent relationship with Jesus. Serving as a pastor and leadership coach for over forty years, Chuck has a track record of building these truths deep into the lives of both ministry and marketplace leaders.

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