The Perilous Struggle for Control in a Season of Uncertainty

Staying Connected to What We Know

by Cath Tallack

[5 minute read]


The impact of COVID-19 is broad and multi-faceted for leaders everywhere. We’re all feeling it in different ways and in varying doses. One of the ways I have been struggling is in feeling the drain and the fatigue of being so far out of control with such uncertainty. There is too much pencil in my calendar and not enough pen, and it this unknowing, this uncertainty that has me on edge a lot of the time.  

Luke chapter 7 tells the story of Jesus entering Capernaum, having just delivered what would become the most famous sermon in history. When he entered the town, he is met by a small group of Jewish elders with an urgent request. There is a Roman centurion whose servant is on his deathbed. The centurion had asked these elders to go to Jesus on his behalf to see if Jesus might be willing to heal his servant.

It’s important to note the unusualness of this request. Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers were not friends. Feeling the obvious oddness of the request, one of the elders quickly added, "He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” And so, Jesus heads off with them to the centurion’s home.

As they neared the house another group of friends intercepted them. There was a brief huddled conference with the elders. There were hushed earnest voices. The elders seemed confused and concerned. Some observers thought the servant must have died. Then a representative of the intercepting group stepped over to Jesus and said respectfully, “Teacher, I have a message for you from the centurion. He says,

“Lord do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore, I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man under authority with soldiers under me, I tell this one “Go”, and he goes; and that one “Come”, and he comes, I say to my servant, “Do this, and he does it.”  

Jesus is thoughtful - this man was a Roman soldier, a representative of Israel’s enemy. Luke says Jesus was ‘Amazed’ (vs 9) for the centurion understood what these Jewish elders didn’t yet grasp. Jesus says, loud enough for everyone to hear, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”

I love this story of the centurion’s faith. This Roman soldier is a true leader. He is a leader in his ability. The strength of the mighty Roman Empire essentially rests on the shoulders of the centurion leaders.  He is a man with authority over one hundred soldiers. When the Empire appointed centurions they weren’t looking for the best fighter or the biggest, most intimidating presence. They were looking for leadership, wisdom, decision making capabilities and loyalty. This centurion is a very proficient leader, and he’s used to being in control, he’s used to having people do what he tells them to do.

If we look a little deeper however, this centurion is also a leader of great character. Firstly, this is a servant who is sick, a slave, someone who by Roman law, could be disposed of and discarded like any broken tool or weapon a soldier owned. But the centurion seeks help and healing for this person in his household.

Secondly, he cares about the city and the people of Capernaum. The elders are very quick to let Jesus know that this centurion is responsible for building the synagogue. He believes in the people and is supportive of their culture.

And finally, he is humble. He is a powerful man, with all resources and authority at his disposal and yet he realises what he cannot do and turns his faith to the one who can.

This picture of leadership has become an important one for me in this season of uncertainty. As a leader who is very used to holding control, having resources and authority over most of my circumstances, I have been humbled. I have had to, on so many occasions, hand over the reins of control, to the one I know can do what I can’t – my Saviour – Jesus.

I think the story of the faithful centurion helps us connect with two important points:

1. Know Who You Are

The centurion is confident in his abilities. He knows he is a leader. He knows he has authority. He knows those for whom he is responsible.

Too often in the past few weeks I’ve forgotten how God has crafted and called me specifically to be a leader. COVID-19 doesn’t change my gifts, talents or abilities and it doesn’t shift the call on my life. When I’m struggling with how well I’m doing in my job, as a mum, wife, friend, when I’m berating myself for dropping the ball on projects and not fitting enough into the day, when the anxiety of not knowing is suffocating my gift of leadership – I need to stop, and rest on the simple truth that I am a leader, I have been called in this season (and the next) and who I am is created, saved and purposed by God.

2. Know Who God Is

The centurion is confident in his own authority, yes, but he is also confident in the ability of Jesus to bring healing and save his servant. He shakes off cultural differences, judgement of others, societal structures and appropriateness and humbles himself to ask for help from a Jewish teacher who has been teaching, ministering and rumored to have healing power.

In a season like the one we’re in, too often we can find ourselves desperately grasping at any control we can get our human hands on and our fleshy minds around. On finding myself in this heart wrenching effort to gain control, I have been challenged to remember who has ultimate control over the world, our circumstances, those we lead and are responsible for and ultimately… everything!

God is still God. He has the same power, the same love, the same kindness and the same grace today that he had yesterday, last year and when you very first believed in Him.

Being a Christian leader is about leading with faith-filled actions and lives. John Piper once quoted Billy Graham, saying “God will not reward fruitfulness, He will reward faithfulness.” I’m pretty sure the centurion was a faithful man. And I have no doubt the centurion was faith-full. I want to be like him in this season – what about you?