THE UZZIAH SYNDROME
If ever a King of Israel started off well it was Uzziah, just listen to this recommendation of his leadership style: “4 He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Amaziah had done. 5 He sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the LORD, God gave him success.” 2 Chron 26:4-5 Here was a leader who made the most of his training, learned from a seasoned mentor and put into practice what he had seen and heard. He feared and sought God and in return the Lord blessed his leadership with effectiveness. So far so good.
It’s a shame the story doesn’t end there Uzziah’s leadership is ultimately a story of tragedy not triumph. That tragedy is that later in that very chapter which records his early success we read this damming indictment of the same man, “But when he had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall. He sinned against the Lord his God by entering the sanctuary of the Lord’s Temple and personally burning incense on the incense altar.v16″ Since I read that I have been thinking over what happened between v5-v16 why the tremendous potential that Uzziah displayed ended in disaster?
I have an interest in what happened to Uzziah beyond just curiosity. I remember my first day at Bible College in Glasgow we all had to give our testimony and describe what we believed God had called us to. I still remember the passion and desire that my classmates expressed to serve God. The tragedy is that nearly 20 years on few are doing what they said God had called them to and many are actually far from God. Sadly there is nothing too unusual about that group of graduates, I have watched many church leaders, some good friends too, crash and burn, start off so well, so effectively and displaying so much potential for the future only to see them destroy or abandon the future that the Lord seemed to being calling them to.
This phenomenon is what I call the “Uzziah Syndrome” and the main symptom is that failure to fulfil early potential in serving God. Why do so many in the Kingdom of God suffer from Uzziah Syndrome and crash and burn rather than grow and continue to succeed? Why do so many church leaders careers read like action replays of Uzziah’s and for that matter, Solomon’s lives? I suspect that the answer may lay in some wise words from Henri Nowen (did he ever say anything but wise words?) “Nothing conflicts with love of Christ like service to Christ”
That is a tough truth but one I think should be taught continually in every seminary and theological college. The terrible truth is that ministry in the church can undermine the very reason we entered ministry in the first place. I believe that most people enter ministry out a genuine sense of calling born of passion for Christ, well lets face it why else would you? This passion for Christ, fearing and seeking the Lord as the writer of Chronicles describes it, in most circumstances produces a degree of effectiveness. Its here the danger begins for it is so easy to begin to focus on our ministry as an end in itself rather than see it as Christ’s ministry which we participate in out of love for Christ, its not our ministry and not our success. Whenever our focus strays to focus more on what we do than on who we do it for I think the door opens for pride, as it did for Uzziah or for despair as it has done for myself on some occasions. (OK I have been guilty of the pride bit too) Either way once that door is open it leads to places we shouldn’t go both metaphorically and literally, ask Ted Haggard and numerous others.
I am trying to think about preventative medicine for Uzziah syndrome, about how to keep my vision of God more in my focus than my mission for God.