Leadership expert and author John Maxwell says that “the pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” Great point. Many circumstances are beyond our control. But our response to them is up to us.
A Bible search for terms such as “adjust” or “adapt” may leave us thinking that the scriptures have nothing to say on this subject. But important biblical principles aren’t always presented in modern terms. Consider the leadership experiences of some men who “adjusted the sails.”
When Moses led the people of Israel out of slavery, he expected a quick march to Canaan and an immediate dispossession of its inhabitants. But the wind blew. The people lost confidence in God. Instead of invading the Promised Land, they wandered in the desert for four decades. And so Moses adjusted the sails. He wasn’t the general of a victorious army but rather the shepherd of a great flock of straying sheep and stubborn goats.
After Saul died on Mount Gilboa, David expected to be king over all Israel. But the wind blew. Israel’s general Abner appointed Saul’s son Ish-bosheth to reign in his father’s place. And so David adjusted the sails. He did become king – but only over the tribe of Judah. After an extended military campaign and the assassination of Ish-bosheth, David finally began to rule over the entire nation.
The apostles expected to reign with Jesus in a political kingdom headquartered on earth. But the wind blew. Jesus would reign in our hearts. His subjects are his true disciples. Those who long to be great in the kingdom of heaven must be servants of all. And so the apostles adjusted the sails. They finally understood that the path to glory began at the cross.
Life happens. Things don’t always turn out as expected. So what do we do when the wind blows? Do we grumble and complain? Do we hope without good reason that our situation will improve on its own? Or do we adjust the sails – make the best of difficult circumstances, resolve to learn from our mistakes, and grow in adversity?