1 Corinthians 11:1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. (NKJV)
Yesterday we looked at what leadership is, and who it applies to. Today we will begin to discuss the characteristics of a Godly leader.
A Leader First and Foremost Is Concerned about the Things of God
It is obvious that a Godly leader must first of all be concerned about the things of God. A Godly leader’s faith is not simply a part of his life, it is his entire life and everything else revolves around his faith and emanates from his faith.
While it is true that every Christian should be a “man (or woman!) after God’s own heart,” it is especially necessary when we are in the role or circumstance of leading because we have the added responsibility of our influence on another person.
Acts 13:22 And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ (NKJV)
David was a man after God’s heart. While he made many mistakes, God could look down into the deepest parts of his heart and see that ultimately David wanted to please and obey Him. It is this attitude of being primarily concerned about what God would have us do that God looks for in each of us. Even though we fall well short over and over and constantly struggle with our sin nature, God can look into our hearts and see whether or not what we really want is to please Him and know Him.
No matter how talented or gifted a leader may be, if he is not primarily concerned first about Godliness, his leadership skills will be wasted on self-pursuit. Conversely, a person who is intensely seeking God can take meager leadership ability and, through the blessing and power of the Holy Spirit, have it cultivated to its fullest extent.
2 Peter 3:18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. (NKJV)
Being concerned about the things of God is a personal desire but it must be manifested, grown, and sustained by actions. A Godly leader must grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus. We grow through prayer, Bible study, and fellowship with wise Godly counsel. We grow in the grace of God by dispensing our love, wisdom, and compassion on those whom we lead.
A leader who does not grow will not be a leader long. A leader who does not grow in the things of God will not be a Godly leader long. It is not just about leadership education, it is about spiritual education.
If you are to lead those who God has placed in your path, the greatest blessing you can give to them as a leader is to show them how to focus first on God.
A Leader Must Be Compassionate
Of all the traits that Jesus displayed, compassion was probably the greatest. His entire earthly ministry, and indeed the whole purpose of His incarnation, was based on compassion. He looked down upon His helpless creation and knew that they were hopelessly lost unless He chose to come and save them.
All through the Gospels, we see Jesus looking past the surface and seeing into the heart of those who sought Him. Likewise, a good leader will learn to look past emotions, choices, and behavior to discover the real reasons and motivations of those whom they lead.
1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; (NKJV)
Notice that Peter says “ALL” of us are to be of one mind, not just followers. We are all to have compassion for each other, be tenderhearted, and be courteous. This is even more important for a leader, who must show others how to have compassion for people by their own example. Being compassionate serves two purposes: it allows you as a leader to respond with discernment and see past the surface issues to the real reasons, and it allows you to model the behavior of a Christian so that those whom you lead can learn from your example. Again, we go back to “imitate me as I imitate Christ.”
Mark 1:41 Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” (NKJV)
Here we find Jesus was moved with compassion. While there are times that we will be unable to do something tangible, whenever possible, true compassion is demonstrated by “movement.” In other words, when we are truly compassionate towards others we do not seek to simply comfort them with our sympathy, or absolve ourselves of responsibility by feeling sorry for someone. True compassion is demonstrated and proven by action if at all possible. A Godly leader will not simply show compassion, but will demonstrate it.
A Leader Should Be More Humble Than Anyone They Lead
One of the biggest problems with worldly teaching on leadership is that “confidence” is often used to describe what really is a sense of self-importance and haughtiness. Aggressiveness, arrogance, and a lack of concern is often disguised with the phrase “I’m not conceited, I’m just confident.” I’ve rarely seen anyone, including myself, who uttered this phrase who wasn’t, in reality, displaying a lack of humility.
A Godly leader is truly humble. This is not a cosmetic humility that is simply another way to get people to admire you or for you to use to manipulate them. This is a true humility that understands that we have nothing, and are nothing, that God has not given us. A truly humble leader realizes that those who follow are primarily seeking the same things the leader seeks: love, acceptance, understanding, contentment, and most of all, peace. Whether leader or follower, humans can be boiled down to a handful of primary needs, desires, and pursuits. God calls some people to a greater degree of leadership to help others find the Godly path to these things.
1 Peter 5:5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” (NKJV)
Once again we see the word “all.” This verse is inclusive of both follower and leader. We are to be submissive to one another and do all things with humility. The leader sees and understands that his role is to lead, but that does not make him better than others.
Leadership is a responsibility –
not a statement about human value.
Submissiveness is a responsibility –
not a statement about human value.
Whenever the word submissiveness or humility arises, all the fires of pride begin raging. We mistake submissiveness for value, and humility for weakness. It is the typical result of sinful humankind who never fails to twist, distort, and flip around backwards what God means by these types of terms.
Acts 20:19 serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; (NKJV)
Of course, Jesus was our greatest example of humility and His humility was amply demonstrated by His willing submission to suffer torture and death on our behalf (which was a mere shadow of the agony of bearing our sin for us).
If it could be measured, one could substantially argue that the Apostle Paul has been the greatest Christian who has ever lived since our Lord. You can do no better, other than Jesus Himself, than to choose Paul as your example of a leader. Paul experienced the highs and lows of privilege and poverty, of authority and debasement, and of respect and insult. Through it all, he never stopped leading and he never stopped being humble.
Paul was a man after God’s own heart, who sought first and foremost the things of God. Paul was full of compassion and his writings are threaded with the feelings of concern and love for those he led. Even though Paul had seen great things, experienced great things, and done great things, he always demonstrated his humility by serving those whom God had called him to lead and giving his entire life (after conversion) for the sake of others.
A leader imitates Christ so that those who follow them will become more Christ-like.
Lord God, Lord help us to learn and apply the characteristics of a Godly leader. Help us to seek You first, be compassionate and always humble. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Application: Leadership is not passive. You have to actively work at cultivating Godly leadership qualities. Seeking God, being compassionate, demonstrating humility… these are some of the greatest traits of Godly leadership. Actually they are just traits of being “Godly,” period.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?