Although we may not think about it often, we are all spiritual leaders. If you are a parent, then you are a spiritual leader. At your workplace or in your neighborhood, you are a spiritual leader. At church, teaching, leading, serving, you are a spiritual leader. We all have areas of spiritual leadership. Therefore, how do we lead? We all have one chance – one opportunity. So what does the Bible teach us about being spiritual leaders in our day and in our generation?
As you study the Old Testament of the Bible, you find 42 kings over Israel and Judah. These spiritual leaders, in their day and in their generation, give us a good source of spiritual leadership. In all there were 42 kings who ruled. Their stories are found in 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles. The most well-known and best king of all was a man named David. David was known as a man after God’s heart. He was not perfect, but he loved God with all of his heart and for all of his life. After David came 40 other kings. Only 8 of these are called “good” kings, and only 4 are exceptional – being compared favorably to David. God’s heart is for us to men and women after His heart.
Here are 7 Principles of Spiritual Leadership that we learn from some of these kings:
- Spiritual Leaders pray for wisdom. When David’s son, Solomon, became king, God made him an incredible offer. God said, “Solomon, you can ask me for anything.” And, Solomon, instead of asking for money, long life or death of his enemies, asked God for wisdom. Solomon commented that he was young, and he was not sure how to lead. God was so impressed that Solomon asked for wisdom that God not only granted his request, but also added to wealth and long-life to him as well. Solomon went on to become the wisest and wealthiest man that ever lived.
Maybe you are not sure how to be a great mom or a dad. Ask God for wisdom. Maybe you are not sure how to best lead your employees at work. Ask God for wisdom. Maybe you are not sure how to teach children at church. Ask God for wisdom. Spiritual leaders pray for wisdom every day.
- Spiritual Leaders listen to godly counsel. Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, comes to the throne. The elders and wise counselors suggested that he respond favorably to the people who were worn out from all the hard work under his father. Instead, Rehoboam listened to his buddies – the young men who were arrogant. Rehoboam made a terrible decision in not listening to the wise counsel, and the nation ended up being divided in two.
You need godly counsel around you. Who do you have in your life that provides wise counsel? We all will face difficult decisions in our life. Whether in our relationships, financially, spiritually or simply in general, we need people in our life to provide wise counsel. This is why it is so important to be involved in church, in a small group, have godly parents, and others in our life. Ask God to bring godly people into your life, and then listen.
- Spiritual Leaders develop godly character. When the nation was divided, the Northern Kingdom of Israel chose Jeroboam to be their king. Jeroboam was appointed by God early in his life to be a king. However, instead of trusting God and growing in his character, Jeroboam tried to accomplish God’s will in his own personal way. He never grew in his godly character, so when the opportunity came to lead, Jeroboam failed miserably. His first decision as king was to make idols for the people to worship so that they would not go to Jerusalem. He led out of fear instead of faith, and led the people away from God.
Character is who you are when no one is watching. Developing godly character begins now. It begins with every decision you make. If you are single, but you want to have a goldy marriage one day, then it starts now. It starts with how you treat the women (or men) in your life. It starts with your thought life. It starts with your faithfulness. God is more interested in who you are and not just what you do. Spiritual leaders become people of integrity, grace and love. You grow your character now so that as your leadership capacity grows, you have the depth of character to support it.
- Spiritual Leaders have crucial conversations. Asa became the king at a critical time in Judah’s history. Following 60 years of spiritual decay, Asa stepped in and confronted generational sin. His father and grandfather had been terrible kings. They had led the people away from God and His desires for them individually as well as a nation. In addition, his grandmother was exerting a lot of influence, and she was ungodly. Instead of simply following the bad pattern, Asa had a crucial conversation with his grandmother and stood up to what was wrong. Through his faithfulness to God, he led the entire nation back onto the right track.
All of us will face times when we will have to stand up for what is right. These are not easy times, but these are times that demonstrate leadership. Leaders lead. Sometimes these times come in our family, like they did for King Asa. We must confront generational sin, and not simply allow it to continue through us to the next generation. This could involve crucial conversations with our parents, grandparents and/or children. Also, we may face a time like this at work where we have to speak up for God (even if it costs us a promotion or our job). It is easy to lead when times are easy, but spiritual leaders have to lead in good times as well as tough times. Standing up for what is right is what will define us as leaders.
- Spiritual leaders expect God to do miracles. King Hezekiah was in serious trouble. The Assyrians had conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and they were headed toward Jerusalem. The Assyrians had conquered everyone they faced. Hezekiah went to the Temple to pray. He even sought out the prophet Isaiah to ask him to pray for the king and the nation. God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and answered with a miracle. In one night, the Lord put to death 180,000 Assyrian soldiers. Hezekiah won the battle without ever pulling a sword or shooting an arrow. Hezekiah expected God to do a miracle, and God answered.
There will be times in our life when we are desperate. Whether facing struggles financially, relationally or even with our careers. The odds may seem overwhelming. But, spiritual leaders never forget about God. The fact is, our God is greater than anything we face in this world. Where God is, there is always hope. Spiritual leaders learn to expect God to do miracles. They are passionate about God’s glory, and they never forget that God can and will do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine.
- Spiritual Leaders admit and repent when they mess up. Manasseh was a king that started off terrible. He followed the pattern handed down to him by the generations, and he took to sin and led the people astray. He forgot about God and tried to live life his own way. Yet, when he was confronted by his sin and realized the consequences of his actions, he turned his life around by turning back to God.
We are all human, and we will all make mistakes. Our sin is ever before us. The fact is, we will all sin. The question is, how do we respond when we sin? Do we try to cover up our sin and continue in it? Or, do we admit our sin and turn back to God? Spiritual leaders admit when we mess up and make mistakes. Spiritual leaders are constantly confessing, learning from our mistakes and then moving toward God. Even King David, the greatest king in Israel’s history, sinned in a huge way. Yet, David repented (Psalm 51), and he turned back to God. Even at the end of David’s life, after adultery and murder, David (because of his confession and repentance) was called “a man after God’s heart.”
- Spiritual Leaders know and grow in God’s Word. Josiah was only 8 years-old when he became king. At 16 years-old, he began to seek God (like his forefather King David). At 26 years-old, God’s Word was discovered in the Temple. The Temple had been run down at this point, and when Josiah was having work done on the Temple the workers found God’s Word. They brought the book to Josiah who read it to the people. God’s Word then became the signature of Josiah’s life.
God has entrusted His Word to us. Spiritual leaders succeed because they know the Word of God. As God told the people when they came into the Promise Land, “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8-9). As spiritual leaders, our call is to know God’s Word and grow in His Truth.
God has called all of us to be spiritual leaders. God is for us, and He wants us to succeed. May our God find us faithful to be the spiritual leaders He has called and created us to be in our day and in our generation.