It has been said that a good leader goes first and those who follow them go because they trust their leader. Husbands, fathers, mothers, elders, deacons, pastors, teachers, executives, officers, and politicians are called to lead. But without trust, no one will follow. So how does a Christian leader build trust among those he or she is called to lead?
When God called Joshua to lead the people of Israel into the promised land, Joshua was nervous. How do I know? Because if he wasn’t, God wouldn’t have repeatedly told him not to be afraid in Joshua chapter 1. But God admonished him to be strong and courageous, and again, to be strong and very courageous. God sent him to lead the nation of Israel to conquer a land occupied by fierce and wicked Canaanites. Yet the Israelites had a history of running away from difficulties, of complaining, and of failing to trust in the Lord. Joshua had spent the previous 40 years in the wilderness watching God’s children reject the Lord. Indeed, Joshua was one of twelve spies who 40 years prior had gone into the land of Canaan to spy out the land. Only Joshua and Caleb believed that God would give them the land. The other ten spies thought that the Canaanites were too strong and urged the Israelites to turn back, and they did. Israel had no faith in God, and for their unbelief God left them in the wilderness for 40 years until a whole generation had died.
During those forty years the Israelites had worshipped a golden calf, complained time and again about a lack of food and water, and rebelled against Moses several times. God’s wrath had broken out against Israel on more than one occasion, killing many of His people.
I do not believe that Joshua needed God’s courage to face battle with the Canaanites. He had known for at least 40 years that the battle was the Lord’s. Joshua needed God’s courage to lead the Israelites. So as I lead God’s people today, I ponder the words of God in Joshua 1:8, words which have been spoken over me since my childhood. “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” God commanded Joshua to meditate on and speak the words of scripture, and to obey them. And He promised Joshua that if he did this, he would have great success. I am convinced that the measure of a good and Godly leader is the extent to which he or she meditates on, speaks, and obeys the Word of God.
What is the Word of God and why is it more valuable that the best books on leadership of our day? There are some excellent books on leadership written for pastors, and others written for managers, politicians, and parents. But the Word of God is different. Part of that difference is what builds our ability as saints to trust Godly leaders.
God has a very, very high view of His Word. In Genesis 1 we learn that all things were made by the Word of God. Out of nothing God created everything by His Word. All that had to happen for light to come into being was for the Word of God to go forth, “And God said, let there be light. And there was light.”
Before God sent any of the plagues upon Egypt, He sent his Word through the mouth of his servant Moses. God hardened the heart of Pharaoh through His Word, and God upheld His Word when through His faithful servant who proclaimed, “Thus says the Lord”, He sent each plague. This was so that there would be no mistake that God was the One delivering Israel from slavery in Egypt that God might be glorified.
Then we have Joshua, that servant of God who led Israel into the promised land and led them in trusting the Lord to do all that He promised. And what is it that God says Joshua must do to be successful? That’s right, he must meditate on the Word of God and do according to all that is written in it. He must not pick and choose parts of the scripture which are more palatable to him and the people of God. Neither may he look to other sources of wisdom or authority not rooted in the scriptures. It was his dependency upon the Word of God for his guide, His direction, and his authority as a leader which were to guarantee His success.
Lest we think that things have changed, let us ponder what God has revealed about His Word in other places of scripture. Psalm 119 devotes 176 verses to praising God’s Word. Some have declared that those who study, meditate upon, memorize, and revere the scriptures above all else worship the scriptures. They claim that one must worship God and not the scriptures, but Psalm 119 seems to give warrant for an extremely high view of God’s Word. It is not only the longest chapter in the book of Psalms, it is also the longest chapter in the Bible. It is a song to be sung in worship. Why would God inspire a song to be sung in worship praising His Word, the scriptures? One might wonder about it in the Old Testament days and search the scriptures without a certain knowledge of God’s reason for equating worship with His Word. But in John 1 God speaks and gives us the answer to our question.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” And later, in verse 14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
So the reason we are to worship the Word, is because the Word is the Son, who is God! We do not bow down and worship the actual book containing the Word of God, but we understand that in the Word of God we find God Himself revealed. So it is right to praise the Word of God, and indeed, it is right to worship the Word of God, the lamb of God, the Son of God, who reveals the Father, who died to take away our sins, and who rose and is reigning on high! We know Him and fellowship with Him in the pages of scripture. For 1 John 1 tells us that it is through the scriptures that we know the Son, and through the Son that we know God.
Perhaps this is why John 13 commands us to wash one another’s feet, implying that we are to use the Word of God to wash one another. Then John 14 tells us that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through Him. And John 15 tells us that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches, that if we abide in Him and His words abide in us, we will bear much fruit, but that apart from Him we can do nothing. Jesus was careful to tell us how He would abide in us, “if my words abide in you”. We do not have Jesus without having the scriptures within us. They are the power of God which the Holy Spirit uses to conform us to the image of Christ, to transform us by the renewing of our minds, to fight the devil, and to bear fruit of righteousness.
No wonder Paul exhorts Timothy, that young pastor whom some might look down upon, in II Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” The power is in the Word.
So how does a Godly leader build trust among those he or she is called to lead? I believe he or she does it in part by being transformed by the scriptures, living according to the scriptures, and teaching the scriptures. For this is how we develop our relationship with the Lord, and it is how we lead others into deeper relationship with the Lord. Those who follow Christ, the good shepherd and lead others to do the same will find that as they teach the Word of God, God’s sheep follow them in as much as they follow Christ. For Jesus taught us in John 10 that He is the Good Shepherd and that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. If we follow Christ and call others to follow Christ, we will build their trust in our leadership. For they will hear the voice of Jesus in us and will recognize the voice of their beloved Savior.
So, fellow leader of God’s people, let us immerse ourselves in the Word, learn it, obey it, and teach it, that we may lead others to follow Jesus.