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I Am Not Rocky Balboa

And retreating from a fight doesn’t always mean defeat.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Rocky. Who isn’t encouraged to face obstacles head on when watching Rocky stand up to giants bigger, stronger, and faster than him? Of course, Rocky takes many blows, but after each one he rises to fight on—even if his pace slows a little. As I sit in my comfy chair, watching him continue to get back up on his feet, I’m always inspired. But I’ve also come to realize an important fact: I’m not Rocky Balboa.

There are times in our leadership when we take blow after debilitating blow. Hits may come in different forms, but they all cause damage, and that makes it incredibly hard to get back up. And when they strike one right after another, the odds of us ever winning the fight seem to be against us.

I imagine King David felt this way when Absalom, his own son, conspired against him. God had called David to this leadership position. Yet here he was, facing a challenge he never expected to encounter. Absalom intentionally caused great dissention: Many people questioned David’s leadership, and others condemned his actions.

When the odds weren’t in his favor, David fled. This great king took his family with him and left his home. He’d had enough: “David walked up the road to the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went. His head was covered and his feet were bare as a sign of mourning” (2 Samuel 15:30).

David was clearly distraught as he retreated. To make matters worse, a man named Shimei came out of his house for the sole purpose of cursing David, throwing stones and dirt at him (16:13). One translation describes David as being “showered with dirt.”

As a shower of dirt and rocks fell around him, David didn’t care enough to fight back. Simply put, David was tired—tired of the drama and tired of the problems. Tired of the insults from people he didn’t even know. Tired of people loving him one day and hating him the next. Tired of people saying he was a great leader yesterday, and conspiring against him today.

Maybe you can relate.

As leaders we often simply keep fighting, jumping back up after yet another blow. Other times, like David, retreating seems to be the only option—but that might be a good thing.

As David fled, he was not just physically exhausted, but also spiritually and mentally drained. So they stopped and took a break as they traveled (2 Samuel 16:14). When we choose to retreat, we often find that God meets us, providing exactly what we need to face the challenges ahead. When we have time and space to rest, think through our situation, and ask God for wisdom, we—and our ministry—are better for it.

To make the most of my time away, I’ve learned to consider two things when my heart screams, “Run!”

1. Timing is everything.

I once became so overwhelmed with the demands of ministry that I made an about-face right in the middle of a battle. I definitely needed time with God, but the timing of the retreat was not ideal. Battles can affect your heart, so resist reacting immediately. In addition to choosing the right time to get away, decide how much time away to take. Maybe a weekend getaway is in order, or maybe all you need is a prayer-filled 20-minute walk around the neighborhood. Before retreating, determine if it’s the right time for you and those you lead. This will help you enter your time of refreshment without worrying about what may happen while you’re away.

2. Focus on the result, not the reason.

If we’re not careful, we can let our anger, confusion, and frustration about our circumstances distract us from the goal of retreating. One time I let myself get so focused on the blows from battle that my time of retreat wasn’t fruitful. I spent the entire time complaining to God about my situation and begging him to fix it. In order to make our time away productive, let’s ask ourselves this question: What is my desired result? Whatever you need most from God—wisdom, rest, comfort, strength, assurance—he promises to provide.

I’ve stopped trying to be like Rocky. I’m still a huge fan, but holding myself to that ideal only left me depleted. Even Rocky needs a break now and then! The result? Physical, spiritual, and emotional renewal that overflows into the vibrant ministry God has placed in my heart.

Have you been facing one obstacle after another in your ministry? Has the latest punch left you struggling to fight back? You’re not alone. Like David, a retreat into God’s presence could be just the thing you need to get back on your feet. God refreshed David, and he’s ready to shower you with refreshment too, giving you the endurance to fight on.

Kristine is a writer, dramatist, and former school teacher. During her 15 years in education, she worked in various campus leadership positions while serving alongside her husband in ministry. You can learn more about Kristine’s non-profit ministry, More Than Yourself, at www.morethanyourself.com.

August31, 2015 at 8:00 AM

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