Day 8: Faithful Leadership

It is reasonable to expect that leaders in God’s Kingdom will be faithful to him. Faithful leadership is a major theme in the book of 1 Samuel, and the prophet described both negative examples (Eli and Saul) and positive examples (Samuel and David) of leadership.

Let’s try to learn from the experiences of a leader who was not faithful. King Saul, like many of us, was a master of “selective obedience.” At times, Saul was a devoted worshiper and even traveled with prophets. Yet Saul often disobeyed God when he thought he had a better idea than God—or when he thought his plans could enable him to achieve something he wanted. For example, he claimed that he hadn’t killed the Amalekite livestock as God had commanded so his sacrifices to God would include the very best offerings. However, Saul’s claim of wanting to exalt God with prime sacrifices has to be weighed against the fact that Saul had just built a monument to himself—hardly a God-oriented focus of attention.

In 1 Samuel 15:22-23, Samuel drives home an essential biblical principle:

“…Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” – 1 Samuel 15:22-23

Obedience is a person’s primary offering to God. Obedience expresses our submission to God’s authority; while disobedience denies His authority to command our lives. Obviously, we don’t practice the Jewish sacrificial rites under the New Covenant, but we do follow religious practices that reflect our relationship with God. As important as participation in the practices of the church are, God is more interested in our properly motivated obedience. Thus, the old adage: going to church is not the same as being the church. Godly leadership must be understood in terms of faithful obedience to God’s word.

Obedience is a person’s primary offering to God.

How do we apply Samuel’s great principle that obedience surpasses sacrifices (a principle that is repeated in the biblical books of Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Micah, Matthew, Mark, and Hebrews) in our daily lives? Faithful obedience involves trusting God in all types of situations in life—routine tasks and emergencies; calm days and stressful times. It is important to learn to trust God in the “small things” rather than to try to manufacture trust amid a full-blown crisis. It is essential that we trust God even when we think we have “better ideas” that violate his commands. Trust and faithfulness develop as a person matures spiritually.

Prayer is a vital tool to develop growing trust and faithfulness. In these moments of communication with God, we need to confront the things in our lives that challenge our trust in him. We need to confront those issues that entice us to move away from faithful obedience. God’s enabling power through the Holy Spirit gives us strength to overcome those challenges and enticements so we can fulfill our Kingdom leadership potential.

Written by Dr. Ralph Swearngin, Point University trustee and former professor