My Living Hero Talks About My New Book
For our entire marriage, Patti and I have sought to learn as much from our living hero, Joni Eareckson Tada, as we possibly can. Recently, Joni gifted to us the following reflection, which became the Foreword to my new book for pastors, parents, coaches, executives, stage performers, and anyone else who has been entrusted with the privilege of leading. I pray your heart will be refreshed — and also deeply challenged — by Joni’s hard-fought words that follow…
If ever a book title described me, it’s this one.
Years ago, when I took that fateful dive into shallow water and broke my neck, never did I think that God was honing me for leadership. All I could do was retch at the thought of sitting down for the rest of my life without use of my hands or legs. But slowly over time, God began opening doors and expanding my sphere of influence. I became a leader by default. And no one was more amazed than I.
Yet that’s the way the Bible does things. A Christian’s suffering is always filled with surprise packages. God delights in handpicking people for leadership who are either stumbling bumblers or simply weak and ill-equipped. It’s what he did with Gideon. Right after God tells Gideon that he is to go up against the Midianites, He whittles his army down to a mere 300. Anyone will tell you, that’s no way to win a war. Yet when Gideon crushed the Midianites, everyone knew that God had done it.
Sorry to disappoint you, world. It’s just the way God enjoys getting things done. Consider how the Lord designed His Gospel to go forth. When Jesus was ministering on earth, the twelve disciples – just common folk with ho-hum jobs – sort of half-believed in their Savior. The whole kingdom agenda looked like it was going nowhere.
Now, if I were God, I would have done it differently. I’d pick the smartest men and women to be on my strategy team. I’d draft the world’s sharpest millionaires to finance the operation. My public relations people would be the most effective communicators anywhere. Weak people need not apply. Those with physical defects? Forget it. People who might slow down my progress? Never.
Thank the Lord that I am not running the world… He’s in charge. And He opens His arms to the weak and ungifted, the unlovely and unlikely. He opens his arms to sinners. It’s because of His great love. It’s also because this is the way God does things to bring maximum glory to Himself.
My friend Scott Sauls has written an extraordinary book for people like me. From Weakness to Strength: 8 Vulnerabilities That Can Bring Out the Best in Your Leadership will force you to forget everything you’ve ever been taught about personal power leading to effective leadership. As a psychologist-friend once told me, confidence, charisma, and chutzpah count for little over the long haul. The leaders God chooses are often more broken than strong… more damaged than whole… more troubled than secure. God’s greatest leaders do not rise up from a bed of roses; they rise from beds of nails.
It’s why I thank God for my wheelchair – it is the bruising-of-a-blessing that has made me appreciate my failures and weaknesses. Never would I have dreamed I would serve God as an international disability advocate or an influential author. Never did I dream God would use me to influence the church or special needs ministries. But it’s the dream I am living. All because I have come to realize that God’s most effective leaders don’t rise to power in spite of their weakness; they lead with power because of their weakness.
I encourage you to read From Weakness to Strength slowly and carefully. It’s filled with rich insights and sage wisdom. For Scott understands weakness. He resonates with people to have stumbled and fallen. And his friendship is one of my special joys of being in Christ’s kingdom.
So, grab a cup of coffee and begin turning the pages of From Weakness to Strength – by the last chapter, you’ll be shaking your head and thanking God for your bruised blessings, whether they be failures, botched surgeries, slowness of speech, long-standing losses or maybe even a fateful dive into shallow water.
And may I say, from a fellow journeyman down the bloodstained road to Calvary, thank you for boasting in your weakness, delighting in the insults, and glorying in your suffering. It’s the cast-iron that makes you a…leader.
Joni Eareckson Tada
Joni and Friends International Disability Center
Agoura Hills, California
This essay is Joni’s foreword for Scott Sauls’ new book, From Weakness to Strength: 8 Vulnerabilities That Can Bring Out the Best in Your Leadership. Used by permission from David C. Cook.