A Leader’s Priority

But now your kingdom must end…because you have not kept the Lord’s command (1 Samuel 13:14). 

How tragic! 

Saul, as the first king ever of Israel, could have set the standard. He could have raised the bar high. He could have been the measuring stick by which every other king in Israel’s history was judged. But he missed out on all that.

It was not only tragic but short-sighted too. The prophet Samuel told Saul, “How foolish! You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.” 

Saul’s priority was about appearances. Saul’s priority was about betting on a sure winner. Saul’s priority was about working his agenda.

A mark of a godly leader is one who has made obedience to God’s Word his first priority. 

The psalmist tells us some of the benefits—

  • God’s Word keeps us pure
  • God’s Word keeps us from sin
  • God’s Word is the key to God’s blessings
  • God’s Word strengthens us
  • God’s Word preserves us
  • God’s Word does us good
  • God’s Word keeps us from going astray
  • God’s Word lights our path

Make God’s Word your first—and highest—priority! 

This is part 22 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts on this topic by clicking here.

Appropriately Proactive

Saul realized that his troops were rapidly slipping away… (1 Samuel 13:8).

The men of Israel saw what a tight spot they were in; and because they were hard pressed by the enemy, they tried to hide in caves, thickets, rocks, holes, and cisterns. Some of them crossed the Jordan River and escaped into the land of Gad and Gilead. 

Meanwhile, Saul stayed at Gilgal, and his men were trembling with fear. Saul waited there seven days for Samuel, as Samuel had instructed him earlier, but Samuel still didn’t come. Saul realized that his troops were rapidly slipping away. So he demanded, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!” And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself.

Saul stayed … Saul waited … and as a result, Saul sinned.

Saul ended up being inappropriately reactive, and thus committing a sin. His reaction to his men slipping away, hiding, and defecting was to act in a way that was inappropriate for anyone but the priest.

It’s been said that action has killed its thousands, and reaction has killed its tens of thousands. But if only Saul would have proactively sought God, or proactively formed a battle strategy, or proactively spoke an encouraging word to his men, or proactively moved out with his troops—anything(!) but just sit still—perhaps his legacy as king wouldn’t have been so short lived.

When leaders aren’t appropriately proactive, they risk becoming inappropriately reactive.

A mark of a godly leader is one who is appropriately proactive.

This is part 20 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts on this topic by clicking here.

The Prophet Almost Blew It

Jeremiah 33-3Samuel had anointed Saul to be the first king of Israel, but Saul’s disobedience led to God’s rejection of him as the king. God dispatched Samuel to anoint the next king of Israel, and that’s when Samuel almost blew it.

God knows what He’s doing. He has a purpose and a plan, and He invites us to be a part of it. So when God sent Samuel on his mission, He gave him very specific instructions, “I have chosen one of Jesse’s sons to be king. I will show you the one I have chosen” (1 Samuel 16:1-4).

That seems clear enough, but Samuel’s mistake is often our mistake: we think we can figure out what God is doing, and then we rush ahead of Him.

When Jesse’s oldest son Eliab appeared, he was a tall, handsome man. Samuel knew that the next king would be one of Jesse’s sons, and when he saw Eliab he thought to himself, “Surely this is the one” (v. 6). One problem: Eliab wasn’t the one.

God told Samuel, “You are looking with your eyes and can only see the things on the surface. I don’t look like you look; I see the way things really are” (v. 7). In other words, God has a discernment that we don’t have.

Here’s great news: God wants to give us His discernment! But we need to ask Him for it—

Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. (Jeremiah 33:3, emphasis added)

One thing that stands out to me in this story is how many times it says, “The Lord said.” God is always speaking to us, but are we listening? If not, we’re missing out on His vital discernment.

There is an important link between reading the Bible and getting God’s discernment. That’s why the Bible is more than a Book to read, it’s a Book to pray! A.W. Tozer said it this way—

“To think God’s thoughts requires much prayer. If you do not pray much, you are not thinking God’s thoughts. If you do not read your Bible much and often and reverently, you are not thinking God’s thoughts.”

Don’t make the mistake that Samuel almost made. Read the Bible, pray the Bible, and you will be amazed at how much discernment God gives to you.

I will be continuing our series on prayer—If You Will Ask—this Sunday, and I hope you can join us!

Cry Before You Confront

As a pastor, one of your responsibilities is to point out what may be harmful in someone’s life. We have a word for that: confrontation.

Handled correctly, confrontation can lead to restoration and newfound maturity. Handled incorrectly, and, well, let’s just say it can get very ugly!

I just heard the story of a pastor who felt like he needed to confront one of his board members. I don’t really know this pastor, nor do I know the board member; I don’t know what was said in their meeting, but I have heard about the outcome, and it’s ugly.

Samuel was going to be sent by God to confront King Saul about the sin he had committed. Look at this passage —

Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: “I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from Me and has not carried out My instructions.” Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the Lord all that night. (1 Samuel 15:10-11)

Did you catch how Samuel responded? He cried out to the Lord all that night.

Perhaps if we, as pastors, cried before we confronted the results might be more healthy.

Nehemiah was another pastoral/prophetic figure that was going to confront the inhabitants of Jerusalem about their sin.

When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said: …I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. (Nehemiah 1:4-6)

Before Nehemiah confronted the sins of the people, he tearfully took a hard look at himself, and then asked for forgiveness. Jesus shared this same concept with these words —

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

So before you confront your brother, let the Holy Spirit confront you. Then, if it’s needed, confess your sin and ask God’s forgiveness. Let the Holy Spirit remove things in your life so that you can see clearly how to lovingly confront your brother.

Cry before your confront. Cry over your sin. Cry over the sinful state of your brother or sister. Plead with the Lord for this time of confrontation to lead to restoration and maturity.

How A Leader Should Bring Correction

It’s one of the toughest jobs for those in leadership, but it’s a responsibility that cannot be delegated or ignored. In order for correction to be effective, it must not be too light or too heavy. Unfortunately, many of us have experienced far too many of the ineffective forms of leadership correction.

I read a great example of how to properly correct in the life of Samuel. In 1 Samuel 12, the people had gotten off track, and Samuel lovingly and effectively brought them back into line. Here’s what his example teaches us on how to correct followers:

1.  Shared History (v. 2). Samuel reminded them of what had happened in their history, and even what they had experienced together. “Newbie” leaders need to be cautious about bringing correction that violates an organization’s established culture.

2. Integrity (v. 3). Samuel’s words and lifestyle lined up. That doesn’t mean he never made a mistake, but it does mean that he was willing to acknowledge and repair his mistakes. Nothing is worse than a leader who says, “Do as I say, not as I do!”

3. Common Ground (vv. 6-11). A leader needs to get everyone on the same page. Find something somewhere on which everyone can agree, and then move forward from there.

4. Just Say It (vv. 12, 13). Don’t beat around the bush; don’t try to bring correction through a parable; don’t soften the blow. Just say it: “This is where I believe you made a mistake.” Far too many leaders talk too much and leave their followers saying, “Huh?” If you are going to bring correction, make sure your followers know exactly what it is you are correcting.

5. Give The Remedy (vv. 14, 15, 20, 21). Samuel pointed out the error, and he just as clearly told them how to get back on track. The remedy should be as clear and simple as possible.

6. Remove The Fear (vv. 20, 22). Don’t let the corrected follower be afraid of you! Fear will never reestablish trust. Samuel couldn’t have been more clear on this. He literally said to the Israelites, “Do not be afraid.”

7. Demonstrate Servant Leadership (v. 23). At the close of the meeting Samuel said he would do two things: “I will continue to pray for you, and I will continue to teach you.” In telling them this, Samuel was really saying, “Let’s walk through this together.”

If you lead your family, your church, your company, or your team, you are going to have to bring correction at some point. When you need to do this, take some time to review this list and bring correction the way Samuel did… lovingly and effectively.

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