A note to our loyal readers: Hello, my name is Richard Collins. I write most—but not all—of the blog posts on our Living Leadership website. Next week, from 30 Jan to 1 Feb, we’re holding one of our Pastoral Refreshment Conferences at High Leigh Conference Centre in Hertfordshire. I will be there. If you’re a regular reader of our blog, please find me at the conference. I would love to thank you for being one of our regular visitors to the website. Thank you. Here is this week’s post.
There’s a cost-of-living crisis.
This is not news. You already know this. The cost of living has spiked severely over the past few months. The war in Ukraine hasn’t helped and nor did the mini-budget late last year, but let me stop here for a moment before I enter the political sphere and become devoured by those on both sides of the aisle.
Let’s just start with the simple truth that many are struggling.
On Wednesdays, I volunteer at a food bank. Each week, I sit at my computer and greet our guests, who come to us with manifold different needs. We prepare a food parcel for them, and yet we are barely scratching the surface of their need. To those on the outside, we are helping people who are struggling with the cost of living.
In truth, we are helping people with the cost of surviving.
They’re surviving, and when all your focus is on surviving, it’s hard to focus on living.
Surviving is not living. It’s, well . . . surviving. Here are a couple of definitions from the dictionary.
To endure or live through.
To remain or continue in existence.
Not “live” but “live through.” So, not really living, but continuing in existence while you pass through something. That’s not much of a life, is it? It’s not supposed to be that way. So, to my first point.
In these straitened times, think carefully about how you can support those who are just surviving. I have written previously about the subject of social action. Re-read one of my posts here. Has anything changed since I wrote these back in 2020? The basic principles are the same, but the sheer number of people struggling has increased considerably. Churches cannot hand out money, but they CAN find ways to help the cold and hungry. This is a mandate, not a possible option, and it often requires sacrifice. For leaders, it may also involve stepping out in faith, calling on people to serve who don’t normally serve.
But that’s the cost of living.
In Genesis, after creating the first humans, God gives this command.
God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’
- Gen. 1.28
Be fruitful. Increase. Fill. Subdue. Rule over. These are the words not of surviving but thriving. Another word might be “flourish.” Humans are to flourish on this earth. We are to live before the Lord in a manner which brings him glory, and when we flourish, we thrive.
And yet . . .
Cost of living. That’s where I started. If living means thriving, then that can be achieved in an almost infinite number of ways. We can create beautiful works of art, build cities, businesses, families, care for people, protect people, solve problems, explore the earth, the list could reach to the moon. However, for all those who follow Jesus, all of these activities are submitted to the Lord. And all our desires and goals are offered to him for his glory, and should be performed according to his ways, to his will. When we do this, we thrive.
And yet . . .
Cost of living. To truly live, there is a cost. It puts me in mind of this wonderful quote that has been attributed to William Wallace.
Every man dies. Not every man really lives.
As you may know, William Wallace was the inspirational leader of a ragged band of Scottish warriors back in the 13th century, leading his men to victory in several engagements against the English. For him, living meant sacrifice, and if necessary, the ultimate sacrifice. Which, as you may know, he paid. When we watch a movie like Braveheart, it is impossible not to be reminded of the Lord Jesus, especially when the filmmaker decides that his main character, once captured, will be brought into a castle with outstretched arms, as though on a cross.
For our God, “really living” requires sacrifice. To live, we must die. Jesus said it best.
Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
- Matt 10.38-39
Whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
That is the cost of living. That’s what it costs to live. Truly live. And to do that, sacrifices must be made. We must be brave and bold, like William Wallace. We seek to follow Christ, who faced the ultimate sacrifice, and though he agonised in the garden, submitted to his father in heaven.
When you consider the phrase “cost of living,” I wonder if you’re challenged. Have you “gone soft?” Do you always play it safe, or do you step out in faith? Is your eye on what others think, or will you follow the Lord’s leading? There are no formulae here. There is no “one-size-fits-all” that I can offer, except to point you to Jesus. His life, his example, and most importantly, his Spirit who leads you, and whom you are called to obey. That one applies to us all, and it especially applies to leaders, because surrounding all leaders are voices demanding, complaining, pestering, urging, pulling, pushing.
The one sure thing is that the leader who seeks to please all people will please no one.
Leadership requires conviction, wisdom, courage, and faith. Because that’s the cost of living. It’s the cost of thriving. If we want to thrive, we must be ready for sacrifices, and when they’re demanded, we must be ready to obey. We must be ready to die to ourselves, for by so doing we are joined to Christ in his resurrection. St. Paul writes,
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.
- Rom 6.5
We have been united with him in a death like his. If you’re a believer, you have swapped death for life, and are called to die each day to your old life. Your life no longer belongs to you, but to God, who will raise you up on the last day.
For he alone has shown us the true “cost of living.”
Christ himself paid that cost at Calvary, in order to give us life. His cost, the ultimate price, has been paid and we are the beneficiaries. Give thanks today for the life you’ve been given by your kind and loving God, who gave up his Son so that you might live.
Then go and die for his sake, so that you might express his resurrection life in yours.