Great leaders have come to power throughout history. God recorded several examples of such leaders in the Bible. What leadership qualities do those leaders have in common?
The Bible is replete with examples of individuals God chose to shepherd His people. It shows how God intervened in their lives to develop His character and leadership qualities in them. But godly leaders are not limited to biblical times. Each year, we are reminded of our incredible human potential through sermons, Bible studies and Church literature. God has called us to be leaders in the World Tomorrow! What kind of leaders? We are to become both kings and priests. This awesome future requires that we develop God’s very character to be effective in our service to Him.
One of the greatest leaders in the Bible is King David. God clearly states His approval of King David (2 Samuel 5:10; 1 Kings 11:4; Romans 4:6). Although David made mistakes throughout his life, God molded him into a powerful leader who will be used greatly in the World Tomorrow. Although God was not pleased with David’s mistakes, He was impressed with how David repented and learned from those mistakes. God 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 Bible leader we should study regularly as we grow in grace and knowledge.
Although David’s entire life provides many examples of his leadership, we will focus instead on the end of his life—how he passed the reins of leadership over to his son Solomon. This will show us what God and David felt were some of the most important leadership qualities that Solomon should learn as he took over as king of Israel.
God had promised David 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.
Being a leader over an entire nation is a monumental job. The responsibilities are so heavy that man simply 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.
In 1960, the people of the United States elected John F. Kennedy to serve as their leader. His administration faced some of the most urgent problems this nation has ever confronted. He did not leave behind a perfect legacy, but his leadership successfully guided this nation through some difficult times.
Just prior to his inauguration in 1961, Mr. Kennedy delivered a speech to the Massachusetts State Legislature. He outlined four qualities that he believed his service to the American people would be judged on. These same four qualities were also spoken of by David and God as they prepared Solomon for kingship. Although Mr. Kennedy recognized these vital qualities of leadership, he did not know the proper way to grow in them. Unless we have God’s Spirit, we also cannot fully develop these spiritual characteristics that are fundamental to effective leadership (1 Corinthians 2:13).
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.”
Although God did not call Mr. Kennedy during his lifetime, he nonetheless was allowed to lead one of the nations of end-time Israel during a perilous time. President Kennedy identified four important characteristics we must develop as we prepare for the future. We need to consider the spiritual implications of those four qualities and search out God’s advice to His developing leaders.
Courage is defined as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty. To be brave” (Webster’s Dictionary). Spiritual courage is critical to all Philadelphians! We are Satan’s most sought-after targets. He is full of wrath and knows how quickly he must act (Revelation 12:12). We need courage to stand up to the repeated and increasingly 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 Israel faced certain defeat at the hands of the Philistines, David volunteered to take on the most fearsome warrior the Philistines could muster. Giving an account of his qualifications for this daunting task, David 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, that nobody is as powerful as God.
Understanding the importance of courage, David sought to instill it in his son Solomon. He commissioned Solomon to build God’s house, saying: “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.” Did you catch the condition to receiving these blessings? Keeping 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—or others—do we compare ourselves amongst one another? Or do we compare ourselves to Christ? A person who is wise in judgment will not compare himself with other people; rather he 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 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 that Solomon loved the Eternal and walked in the statutes of his father David. Then Solomon begins to compare the accomplishments of God through David. 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). Finally, Solomon reflected on the magnitude of his responsibility as king of Israel. So what blessing did Solomon ask of God?
“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! “And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing” (verse 10).
God is working with us personally today, just as He did with Solomon. 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 our trials and tests if we are to become those pillars. In Revelation 3, we are told that we will be pillars, or leaders for God, if we keep His word—or truth (John 17:17).
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.” 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 that 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 that 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. God promised David that his nation would prosper and he would always have a successor on the throne. What more could a leader desire? This same promise was offered to Solomon.
“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” (1 Kings 9:4-5). God remembered King David as possessing “integrity of heart.” Solomon was told he must also develop integrity of heart. God required obedience to the law, statutes and judgments—qualities that would come naturally to a man of integrity.
The final quality mentioned by President Kennedy was dedication. This facet of good leadership was also encouraged by God and David. A strong leader is dedicated to his subjects, second only to his dedication to God. Jesus taught us that we must put God above all else in our lives (Matthew 6:24-34). Dedication or loyalty to God is the only way we will truly take on the very nature of God.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, 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 set apart—to become leaders in the World Tomorrow!
We have already looked at Solomon’s request for discerning 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. God commended Solomon’s attitude. “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” (verses 12-14). Remember Christ told us in Matthew 6 that if we put God first in our lives, He would provide 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 the condition to these blessings: Verse 14 reminds us of the importance of keeping the law, statutes and judgments. Without obedience, there are no blessings!
These Qualities Found in All Godly Leaders
In another example, 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 many sermons and read articles admonishing us to become more like the sons of Zadok. These men possessed courage, judgment, integrity and dedication to God! Each of these qualities can be found in successful leaders God used in the past and in those He will use in the future.
President Kennedy was a successful leader to a limited extent. Although John Kennedy was never called, he understood these godly characteristics, which helped him become more successful. If Mr. Kennedy could see the value of these qualities, how much more should we—those 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. He has clearly revealed His law, statutes and judgments so we can develop the qualities of courage, judgment, integrity and dedication. These are not the only characteristics necessary for godly leaders, but they are critically important for us to succeed. God wants to bless us by developing these traits in us, but He requires obedience to His law first. If we submit to God’s training program, we can be certain of our future as pillars in His temple that will never to go out!