THE POINT OF NO RETURN

Despite what you have read in management and leadership groups from previous generations, it is okay for leaders to make mistakes. It is okay for leaders to be vulnerable. History has shown us that there many leaders with enthusiastic followers and team members even though they are clearly incapable and inexperienced. The truth of the matter is that even though most people can be critical at their leaders, they are also quite forgiving when it comes to the mistakes and inequities of these leaders.

But there is one mistake that makes the situation unrecoverable. There is a point of no return – a point that once you have made this critical mistake, you cannot win back the trust of the people you lead. We are talking about quitting. Once people know you have given up, they too will be ready to give up on you and your leadership.

The problem of course that as leaders, there are so many times that we want to give up! When people fail, when we fail, when people are not supportive, when the conditions are not prime for us to succeed; all these things make us want to let go of everything and just go away. How many of us just wish for just one meeting, just one event, when somebody else could make the decisions instead of you?

Well, here’s the thing. We can make mistakes. We can ask for a break. But we cannot quit. We cannot let our people think that we are quitting. Because quitting is the point of no return. There are many failure and mistake specialists in the Bible and yet our God of grace keeps showing us his unfailing love. But for some people, they never had their redeeming endings. Not because they are more horrible than the other ones, not because they were in a more difficult situations. They fail because they quit. Because when you quit, there is no turning back.

NUMBERS 13.25-33

“After exploring the land for forty days, the men returned to Moses, Aaron, and the whole community of Israel at Kadesh in the wilderness of Paran. They reported to the whole community what they had seen and showed them the fruit they had taken from the land.

This was their report to Moses: “We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces. But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak! The Amalekites live in the Negev, and the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country. The Canaanites live along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and along the Jordan Valley.”

But Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. “Let’s go at once to take the land,” he said. “We can certainly conquer it!”

But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!” So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: “The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!””

FEAR IS INFECTIOUS

The former slaves were already afraid. God took them from their home for the last 400 years straight into the wilderness. And now, after having to worry about dying of thirst and hunger, they have to worry about being killed by giants in an impossible war.

Now you and I, we are reading this story thousand of years in the future. We also know how this story would end – how God would come through for his people just like he had done before and will do again today. It is easy for us to look at these guys and chastise them for being afraid. Again!

But what if we’re in their place? Former slaves in the wilderness about to go fight a war we know we have no business to be in let alone winning? Wouldn’t we be afraid too?

And here’s what people don’t understand: fear is infectious. Scientists cannot agree whether or not human beings can literally smell fear but they do agree that strong emotions carry from one person to the next in large group setting. So even though you’re a faithful person, even though you are a courageous person, there is a big possibility that you would surrender to fear just because everyone around you have infected you with their fear and lack of faith.

LEADERS INFLUENCE OTHERS

But here’s the thing: some people in the group have more influence than others. And the ones with the most influence are the leaders. Leaders set the tone. Leaders influence others with their words, their enthusiasm, their character, their personality, their energy, and even with their non verbal communications. So when leaders surrender to fear, when they are ready to quit, the people can sense that before they even say a word.

This is why God punished these spies. Their job as leaders is to help their people to follow God. Their job was to report to Moses the lay of the land so that Moses and the leadership could prepare the people for the battle ahead. But instead of keeping faith and supporting Moses, they undermined the whole enterprise by spreading fear among the people under their leadership.

This is the lowest point of leadership. When the leaders fail to inspire others and allow their fear to paralyze the ones around them as well. There is no space for these leaders in God’s Kingdom.

DO NOT QUIT

We have mentioned that quitting is the point of no return. Once your people sense that you’re giving up, then it is over. Why is that? Why is giving up such a big problem?

Because when you give up, you have lost faith. That’s a problem when you’re a Christian. Our whole existence in this life and the next is based on the grace that God has given us. And the only thing he asks from us that we believe in him; that we have faith in him. Faith that he can change things; faith that he cares; faith that he hears our prayers. When we quit, we are saying with our actions that we no longer have faith in him.

In this church, we believe that God can change people. God’s word changes lives. That is why we don’t care where you’ve been but we care where you’re going. We believe that if you have faith, God will take you from where you are to a better place. But only if you have faith to keep going. If you quit, if you refuse to keep going, if you do not believe that God is going with you and will be with you on the other side, then you have failed.

God’s leaders do not need to be perfect. We can make mistakes here and there. But we do not quit. Let me say that again: we do not quit. Because we are people of faith and people of faith do not quit. We deserve leaders who do not quit as well.

LET YOUR HOPE BE INFECTIOUS

So here’s what I want you to do. Instead of spreading fear and insecurity to others, we need to let our hope infects the people around us. Just like fear is infectious, hope is infectious too.

Does that mean we hide our fears? Do we have to fake it to make it? That’s not what I’m saying at all. Remember, people can sense your true emotions no matter what you say verbally.

Actually, I want to encourage you to share your worries. Tell others why you’re struggling. Explain to your team why things are difficult. But at the end, you need to remind everyone that you still believe. Don’t stop with your fear, tell them why you are still hopeful. Tell them why you still have faith. Remind them of the God who has done it all before and will do it again. Explain to them that the reason you do not quit is that you have hope and let that hope infect others.