Leading Despite Setbacks by Pastor Mark Dolphens

Leading Despite Setbacks by Pastor Mark Dolphens

Sometimes a setback is simply a set up. We know that, but it can be hard to live it. The Bible tells us that David was anointed to be king at a party he wasn’t even invited to. His father had thrown a party when the prophet Samuel had stopped by. He gathered all of his sons except David and presented them to Samuel. Yet, Samuel called for David to be brought in from the fields, and he was anointed king over Israel. After he was anointed, he spent the next nearly thirteen years running from Saul, who repeatedly tried to kill him. This was a huge setback! Yet that setback allowed him to enter a cave where he formed an army of 400 mighty men that helped him seize Hebron, Jerusalem, and other cities.

Sometimes when we’re going from where we are to where we need to go or feel like God is leading, it looks like we’re going backwards, but we’re not.

Isaiah 55 says God’s plans are higher than ours, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Our job is to trust God. If we walk in trust with faith, then we know God can work any situation out for our good. But trust is hard. Faith can be a little easier from a pastor’s standpoint because that’s what we’re geared to do. Still, we have to have trust that we know God is leading us, and because He’s leading us, we can lead the people we are in charge of.

Setbacks actually help us hear God’s voice. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” When we have a setback and are in tune with God, it’s a time to ask the Lord, “Is this the direction you want me to go?”

We bought our downtown campus building in the county and fought us for two year for permits and other things. Many times I asked God to show me if we missed it. We prayed about it; we were excited about it. But the Lord was waiting for some things to happen so we could be debt free, and I didn’t know it at the time. He created ways for the floodgates to open so we could be 100% debt free. What I thought were setbacks was God saying, “Be patient, son.”

Setbacks help us find our goals. We have to know if our goals are from God or from ourselves, our ego. We have to search this with humility, asking, “Does this glorify God? Does it glorify my ministry? Is it going to glorify the person I am? Am I okay with someone else standing on the platform, preaching from the pulpit, or does it always have to be me? What does the ministry look like if God takes me out or moves me somewhere else?” We have to understand what our goals are and know for sure that they are God-inspired.

Setbacks help us reset momentum. Any athlete must reset every now and then. They may have to take a week or a couple of days off from training. Jesus went away and prayed. That was a reset. He was teaching us that it’s okay to reset our momentum. It’s not a setback at all. It’s a time for us to figure a few things out. In life, we hear a lot of noise, chatter. At different times in my ministry, someone would say, “Pastor, you’re doing everything,” and a day later someone else would say, “Pastor, you’re not doing anything.” You have to remove the chatter and just focus on the end.

Sometimes the Lord allows us to have setbacks so we can reset our momentum. This time can give us a clean, fresh start as to where He wants to take us. We hear His voice again. We reset our goals. We redefine our objectives. And then we understand things anew. Fresh start, fresh momentum – like a second wind.

There is a success at the end of every setback if we will allow it, if we don’t abort the mission, if we don’t negate what God has for us. If we just take the opportunity to see our setback as a setup, there will be success and God will be glorified.

I’m sure you’ve heard people hailed as “an overnight success.” That person would say, “Yeah, but it was more than one night,” and that’s true. Everyone, every person, has had setbacks. Every successful businessperson has had setbacks. Every successful pastor or church has had setbacks. No one escapes them!

What sets people who go through setbacks apart is that the successful ones used their setback as a setup for success. Some have walked away; some have bailed out. Some have said, “It’s too tough. It’s not right. I’m going to move on.”  But others kept going through their setback season and experienced the success waiting for them on the other side.

What will you do with your setback? Will you give up or give in? Or will you choose to make the most of your season and watch it propel you into greater success than you imagined possible? It’s your choice!