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Opinions of Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Columnist: Dag Heward-Mills

Leaders are masters at overcoming their handicaps

A handicap is a disadvantage that usually makes achievement difficult. A handicap is any disadvantage that makes success more difficult. A handicap is something that severely limits you! A handicap is something that makes you different from others! A handicap is a physical or social disability that makes your participation in ministry or any vocation more difficult!

Some handicaps are a part of your make-up. However, sometimes a handicap can be imagined. Whichever one it is, you can overcome it. The snake, for instance, is able to overcome its handicaps and wield amazing success.

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

Matthew 10: 16

When you are as wise as a serpent, you will be able to master all your handicaps and turn them around for your good. Snakes are the most severely handicapped animals on earth because they do not have limbs. Snakes have poor eyesight, and so have heat sensors that can pick up vibrations. Snakes have no moveable eyelids. Snakes also have no external ear openings. They are deaf but they have mastered this handicap and are able to sense things. Snakes can pick up vibrations from the ground.

In spite of these handicaps, snakes have become the most successful predators on earth. They live and flourish where no other wild animal can live. They have worked around their handicap of not having legs and are able to go anywhere. They can climb trees, swim, they can even fly. Snakes can move equally well on the ground, under the ground, in thick undergrowth, on trees and in water. What a wonderful success story this is! In spite of not having legs, arms or ears, snakes have been able to do what other wild animals cannot do. Most ministers of the gospel are handicapped in one way or the other.

Most ministers of the gospel are limited in one area or another. Remember that a handicap is a limitation that makes it more difficult to be successful. Every minister of the gospel is limited by his colour, his continent, his money and his lack of resources. These handicaps or limitations present themselves to everyone. Your duty is to be as wise as a serpent and overcome your handicap.

A leader can have varied handicaps. Youthfulness can be a handicap of a leader. Leadership can be viewed as the preserve of the old. It can also be seen as possible at different ages – which is what it is. All through my ministry, I have been despised because I was younger than most other ministers. I used to resent being so young. I tried to grow a beard so that I would look older. I bought glasses that I would wear to make me look like an older bespectacled man. But one day, I realised that being young was actually an advantage. I began to notice how older people fell asleep helplessly during church services. I found out that there are many jobs that could only be done by young people. I found out that Old Testament priests were supposed to minister from the age of twenty-five to fifty.

“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, This is it that belongeth unto the Levites: from twenty and five years old and upward they shall go in to wait upon the service of the tabernacle of the congregation: And from the age of fifty years they shall cease waiting upon the service thereof, and shall serve no more: But shall minister with their brethren in the tabernacle of the congregation, to keep the charge, and shall do no service. Thus shalt thou do unto the Levites touching their charge” (Numbers 8:23–26).

I became empowered when I found that young people had a great place in the work of God. That is why Paul said, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Today, I am excited about being young, having young church members and preaching with a youthful style. I consider it an advantage and not a handicap.

You will agree that serpents are some of the most hated animals on earth. In some parts of the world, the only response by people to the appearance of a snake is 'kill it'. Serpents use the fact that they do not have legs to hide effectively. That is why a snake can live near you and you will never know. Serpents have developed special techniques for legless movement. The feared black mamba can move as fast as a hundred metre sprinter. Imagine that! The handicap of the serpent has been turned into its greatest advantage. A leader must actually use his limitations to his advantage. The wisdom of the serpent is to refuse to succumb to the handicap you face. The application of the wisdom of the serpent is to turn your handicap to your advantage.

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