The Bible is replete with examples of God’s intervention in the lives of individuals as He develops His character and leadership qualities in those whom He has chosen to shepherd His people. Each year, we are reminded of our incredible human potential through sermons, Bible studies and Church literature. We know God has called us to be leaders in the World Tomorrow! But what kind of leaders? We are to become both kings and priests. This awesome future will require us to possess God’s very character, if we are to be effective in our service to Him.
King David is a leader we frequently refer to because God clearly states His approval of David as a leader (2 Samuel 5:10; 1 Kings 11:4; Romans 4:6). Though David made mistakes throughout his life, God still worked with him and molded him into a powerful leader who will be used to a greater extent in the near future. God was pleased with David. Not in his mistakes, rather, He was impressed with how David repented and learned from those mistakes. God even said of David, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will” (Acts 13:22). David clearly is a personality of the Bible whom we should study on a regular basis as we grow in grace and knowledge!
We won’t take the time to review the life or accomplishments of David as king of Israel. However, we will examine how he passed the leadership of the nation over to his son Solomon. This perspective will show us what God and David felt were some of the most important leadership qualities that Solomon should learn as he took over the reigns as king. To David, God had promised a fantastic future for both the nation and the throne: “And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever” (2 Samuel 7:16). In order to fulfill this promise, God had to ensure that a high quality leader followed directly in the footsteps of perhaps the greatest leader of all time. Solomon had an incredible future ahead of him, but he had to be prepared by God to handle this awesome responsibility.
To be a leader over an entire nation is certainly a monumental job. The responsibilities are so heavy that man cannot do the job correctly without God. In fact, God tells us that it isn’t even in man to direct his own steps (Jeremiah 10:23). Yet there are some leadership qualities that are obviously necessary to ensure success. President John F. Kennedy was elected by the people of the United States to serve as their leader. His administration faced some of the most urgent problems this nation had ever confronted. He did not leave behind a perfect legacy, yet his leadership successfully guided this nation through some of its difficult times.
Just prior to his inauguration in 1961, Mr. Kennedy delivered a speech to the Massachusetts State Legislature. In his speech, he outlined what he felt were four qualities by which his service to the American people would be judged. These same four qualities were also spoken of by David and God as they prepared Solomon for kingship. Though Mr. Kennedy recognized these qualities, he did not know the proper way to grow in them. Without God’s spirit, we cannot fully develop these spiritual characteristics so vital to effective leadership (1 Corinthians 2:13). So let’s take a closer look at these four qualities.
The President’s Perspective
In his speech, Mr. Kennedy said, “For of those to whom much is given, much is required. And when at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment on each one of us—recording whether in our brief span of service we fulfilled our responsibilities to the state—our success or failure, in whatever office we hold, will be measured by the answer to four questions:
“First, were we truly men of courage—with the courage to stand up to one’s enemies—and the courage to stand up, when necessary, to one’s own associates—the courage to resist public pressure as well as private greed?
“Secondly, were we truly men of judgment—with perceptive judgment of the future as well as the past—of our own mistakes as well as the mistakes of others—with enough wisdom to know what we did not know, and enough candor to admit it?
“Third, were we truly men of integrity—men who never ran out on either the principles in which we believed or the people who believed in us—men whom neither financial gain nor political ambition could ever divert from the fulfillment of our sacred trust?
“Finally, were we truly men of dedication—with an honor mortgaged to no single individual or group, and compromised by no private obligation or aim, but devoted solely to serving the public good and the national interest?
“Courage—judgment—integrity—dedication—these are the historic qualities of the Bay Colony and the Bay State—the qualities which this state has consistently sent to this chamber here on Beacon Hill in Boston and to Capitol Hill back in Washington.”
Though Mr. Kennedy was not called by God during his lifetime, he nonetheless was allowed to lead part of end-time Israel during some perilous times. President Kennedy correctly identified some important characteristics we must develop ourselves as we prepare for the future. We need to consider the spiritual implications of what he spoke about. Now let’s examine each quality more thoroughly as we search out God’s advice to a developing leader.
Webster’s Dictionary defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty. To be brave.” Spiritual courage is critical to all Philadelphians! We are Satan’s most sought after target. He is full of wrath and knows how quickly he must act (Revelation 12:12). We need courage to stand up to repeated and more violent attacks from Satan as we grow into our leadership roles with God. God allows these attacks to sharpen and develop our character so we can lead His people in the future!
King David was a man of courage. When the nation faced certain defeat at the hands of the Philistines, David volunteered to take on the most fearsome warrior the Philistines could muster. As David requested permission to battle this threat to the nation, he recounted his personal fight with a lion and bear (1 Samuel 17:34-37). Notice his unwavering words of courage in verse 36: “Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.” David’s faith in God was the true source of his courage! God had taught David, through various experiences in his life, that there is nobody as powerful as God.
David realized the importance of courage and tried to instill it in his son Solomon. As David commissioned Solomon to build the house of the Eternal, notice what was required: “Only the Lord give thee wisdom and understanding, and give thee charge concerning Israel, that thou mayest keep the law of the Lord thy God. Then shalt thou prosper, if thou takest heed to fulfil the statutes and judgments which the Lord charged Moses with concerning Israel: be strong, and of good courage; dread not, nor be dismayed” (1 Chronicles 22:12-13). David asked God to give Solomon wisdom and understanding and then quoted God’s words to Moses: “be strong, and of good courage.” More importantly, did you catch the condition to receiving these blessings? These qualities would be added to Solomon if he kept the law, statutes and judgments.
The same holds true for us today. If we obey God’s laws, statutes and judgments, then we too can be blessed with wisdom, understanding, strength and courage, if we ask for them.
President Kennedy spoke of judgment—judgment with regard to mistakes made by us as well as by others. He mentioned the need to use wisdom to admit what we did not know, and then learn from it. Do we possess the humility and discernment to fairly judge ourselves and others as we strive to improve our character? Webster’s defines judgment as “a formal utterance of an authoritative opinion, the process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning and comparing—discernment.”
When we form an opinion of ourselves and others, do we compare ourselves amongst one another or do we compare ourselves to Christ as we ought to? Gossip is a character flaw we can so easily obtain. A person who is wise in their judgment will not compare themselves with other people, rather they will look to the Philadelphian standard. There is a major difference between judgment and gossip. A solid leader will not be caught up in petty gossip about those whom he rules over. He will form his opinions or make his judgments by comparing the actions of individuals and himself to the character of God as detailed in the law, statutes and judgments.
In 1 Kings 3:3-10, we read the account where God asked Solomon what blessing he would like to request of Him. Verse 3 tells us of that Solomon loved the Eternal and walked in the statutes of his father David. Then in verse 6, Solomon begins to compare the accomplishments of God through David his father. Notice that the comparison was between Solomon and God (or what God had performed through a man). Solomon drew attention to God and the blessings David received because David “walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart” (verse 6). Next, Solomon reflected on the commission which was before him—to become the leader of Israel. So what did Solomon request? “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?” (verse 9). Solomon asked for discernment between good and bad (understanding of God’s law, statutes and judgments) so he could fairly judge God’s people! Verse 10 goes on to state, “And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.”
We know God is working with us personally today, just as He was with Solomon back then. Do we want to please God as we draw closer to the time when we will be made kings and priests for Him? Of course we do. Our prayers for understanding and judgment are also dependent on our obedience to the law, statues and judgments.
Are you willing to stand up for God and His ways? Are we “men who never ran out on either the principles in which we believed or the people who believed in us”? To be Philadelphian requires us to be pillars of strength and dependability (Revelation 3:8, 10, 12). We must keep God’s Word and patiently endure the trials and tests we go through if we are to become those pillars. God’s Word is truth (John 17:17). In Revelation 3, we are told that we will be pillars, or leaders for God, if we keep His Word—or truth. Paul shed further light on this word of truth in Ephesians 1:13: “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.” We are sealed to become pillars in God’s temple if we keep the word of truth—the gospel—or more plainly, the law, statutes and judgments. We can read the same message in Malachi 4.
Webster’s defines integrity as “an unimpaired condition. Soundness. Firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values. Incorruptible, honest and undivided.” After reading that definition, we can easily understand why this quality is so necessary in God’s leaders. A pillar is sound and incorruptible if it is founded properly. The definition speaks of a moral code which is firmly adhered to. Spiritually speaking, do we know what that moral code is for us? Plainly, it is God’s law. To be a person of integrity in God’s eyes, we must firmly adhere to the law which God has set before us!
In Psalm 7:8, David asked God to judge him according to his integrity! Do we have the courage to make the same request of God? David was asking God to judge his obedience—honest and undivided—to the laws of God. We need to arrive at such a point in our character development that we can comfortably make the same request.
God’s promise to David was probably the best thing you could promise any ruler. He was promised that his nation would prosper and there would never fail to be a successor to the throne from his family. What more could a leader desire? This same promise was offered to Solomon. Notice in I Kings 9:4-5: “And if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep my statutes and my judgments: Then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever, as I promised to David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel.” King David is remembered by God as possessing “integrity of heart.” Solomon was told he must also become a man of integrity of heart. In addition, God required obedience to the law, statutes and judgments—qualities that would come naturally to a man of integrity.
The final quality mentioned by Mr. Kennedy was dedication. This facet of good leadership was also encouraged by God and David. A strong leader will be dedicated to his subjects, second only to his dedication to God. In Matthew 6:24-34, Jesus taught us that we must put God above all else in our lives. Dedication or loyalty to God is the only way we will truly take on the very nature of God.
According to Webster’s, dedication is “an act or rite of dedicating to a divine being or a sacred use. A devoting or setting aside for a particular purpose. Self-sacrificing devotion.” The Bible teaches us that we are sanctified with the ultimate potential of becoming members of God’s ruling Family. “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Hebrews 2:11). God is pleased to welcome us to His Family if we are fully devoted to the very purpose for which we have been sanctified or set apart—to become leaders in the World Tomorrow!
We have already looked at Solomon’s request for judgment in 1 Kings 3. Let’s go back and see how God fulfilled this request and more. Remember, Solomon requested wisdom to discern between right and wrong. He wanted to be as good a leader as his father David. His attitude was commended by God. In verses 12-14 it says, “Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days. And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days.” Remember Christ told us, in Matthew 6, that if we put God first in our lives, He would provide for all of our needs. Here is a perfect example. Solomon merely asked for wisdom so he could be more godly in judgment, and God added all of these other blessings! Again, notice there was a condition to these blessings. Verse 14 reminds us of the importance of keeping the law, statutes and judgments. Without obedience to them, there are no blessings!
These Qualities Found in All Successful Leaders of God
In another example God’s leaders, the sons of Zadok were sanctified because they were obedient to God, even when all the other priests went astray (Ezekiel 48). We have heard sermons and articles admonishing us to become more like the sons of Zadok. Truly, these men possessed courage, judgment, integrity and dedication to God! As we have learned, each of these qualities will be found in successful leaders God has used in the past and will use in the future.
President Kennedy was a successful leader to a limited extent. Surely, God has been involved in protecting this nation and allowing various events to affect this nation in both positive and negative ways. John F. Kennedy was a fallible man, but he was able to put his finger on a few godly characteristics which helped him become more successful. If Mr. Kennedy could see the value of these qualities, how much more should all of us who have been sanctified to become God’s leaders in the World Tomorrow see them?
National leadership is a heavy responsibility. Yet God is preparing us for that very job now. He has clearly revealed His law, statutes and judgments to us so we can develop the qualities of courage, judgment, integrity and dedication. These are not the only characteristics necessary, but they are critically important for us to succeed. God wants to bless us with them, but He does require our obedience to His law. If we submit to God’s training program, we can be certain of our future as pillars in His temple, and never to go out!