Opinion  |  

Through the valley of the leadership challenge

Lucy Gichuhi on the crisis in the federal Liberal party room

In August 2018 I found myself in the midst of one of the most tumultuous weeks I have ever encountered in my political career. Despite intense pressure during the challenges for the leadership of the federal Liberal Party, I knew for sure I could not lean on my own understanding. At such times, I remind myself that the steps of a righteous man or woman are ordered by the Lord. It was a time to be still and know that the Lord our God is Lord.

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I reflected on the story of King Asa in 2 Chronicles 16. Asa was the king of Judah. When Asa found himself besieged by his enemy, Baasha the King of Israel, he made an alliance with Ben-Hadad, causing him to break his treaty with King Baasha. Asa gave Ben-Hadad gold and silver from the temple’s treasuries and his own palace to buy support and allegiance. The seer Hanani told Asa he should have relied on God instead of people to save his leadership. Asa became angry with the seer and had him locked away. He also ran a brutal campaign of oppression against some of the people in Judah.

When I turned my eyes to him, regardless of the storm going on around me, I knew he would lead me through the valley.

I learnt that, as Christians, we are to put God above all else. He alone should inform our next move. You may find yourself in a difficult situation and be tempted to work your own way through. But we risk getting it all wrong, as exemplified by Asa’s actions. The seer reminded Asa that when he had previously relied on the Lord during a mighty battle which he was sure to lose, God provided the victory. It is time to look back and reflect on all those instances where God has directed our steps.

During the leadership challenge week, I found myself in a position where it was difficult to know who to rely on. Everyone seemed confused and under pressure. I came to realise that I could not face the unfolding drama by myself or rely on my own strength. What was happening was out of my control, but the important thing for me to remember and reflect on was all the other times I had faced life’s storms. When I turned my eyes to him, regardless of the storm going on around me, I knew he would lead me through the valley. I chose to reflect on the voice of God instead of the voice of humans and this helped me get through the day.

Scott Morrison honoured the authority of the former prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and put his own ambition aside.

To rely on the strength of God when you feel weak is to honour him. It is the hardest thing to do, but the right thing to do.

The second point is that as Christians, we are commanded to honour and pray for those in authority above us. I understood what this meant for me. Malcolm Turnbull was the prime minister of the day and I was called to honour his authority. Accordingly, I could not sign the petition calling for a challenge.

What does it look like to honour a person in authority? Romans 13:1-5 says that we are all to be subject to governing authorities because all authority comes from God. It means to respect our leaders and allow them to lead with the authority that comes from God. It means putting our own ambition aside so that we can serve our governing authorities effectively.

Honouring God before people means we don’t make any deals that do not glorify God. As soon as we make a dishonourable deal, we are compromised and our independence and credibility are diminished. In short, you become compromised and lose the most fundamental freedoms of all – freedom of conscience – as you soon realise you have a new master and allegiance.

This was the beginning of something dramatic and miraculous.

During the challenge, it became clear to me that our new prime minister did not move against the one placed in authority above him. Scott Morrison honoured the authority of the former prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and put his own ambition aside. I will never forget the press conference where he put his hand on the former prime minister’s shoulder and said, “This is my leader.” It was only when Malcolm Turnbull stepped down that Mr Morrison was able to put his hand up as a contender for the leadership with the full blessing and support of his former leader. This was the beginning of something dramatic and miraculous.

In Philippians Chapter 4, the Apostle Paul encourages the church in Philippi to “not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

It was an example of a week where I could not lean on my own understanding. A week I shall never forget.

Lucy Gichuhi is a Liberal senator for South Australia.

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