No person can lead unless they are already being led by something. For some people, they are led by a lust for money and power. For others, they have been led by their parents or other family members for the entirety of their childhood, so out of those experiences they lead others as well, even their own children. Many are led by their felt need for comfort and an established family, so they work hard every day, especially in positions of leadership, to make life comfortable for both themselves and their family. Almost everyone is led by the desire for companionship, and so we lead a life that is wholly geared towards meeting another person who can fulfill that desire. If you truly think about it, much of what we do is so that we can simply fall in love, because we are led by that desire.
Being led by something, whether it be good or bad, controls what we do and how we act. What leads us gives us purpose, but it also gives us a specific way that we are to accomplish that purpose. Thus, everyone who leads is led by something, because everyone has a purpose. That thing that leads us points us in either a good or bad direction, but at least it points us in a direction. So, some are pointed in a good direction and work to fulfill good purposes, while other strive to achieve bad purposes.
Christian spiritual leaders certainly have good purposes in mind when they seek to lead others, as is taught in Scripture. But what is it that is behind those purposes? What is it that is supposed to lead a spiritual leader? What causes one to lead others in the spiritual realm?
In Scripture, David was unquestionably a spiritual leader; he was the King of Israel! He led millions of people, and, being the ‘man after God’s own heart,’ the direction he led those people was definitely not a bad one. Despite succumbing to some pretty heavy sin, David led a nation to a place in its history that spiritually it had rarely seen. He was in constant worship of his God, as seen in the dozens of Psalms that he wrote. David led the nation of Israel into battle after battle, starting with his defeat of Goliath, pointing to the Lord all the way for each victory. He also led the country into financial success that would climax during the reign of his son, Solomon. In addition to that, he was the only leader of the Israelites to ever fulfill the promise of God to Israel for the boundaries that He had designated for them when they first came out of Egypt with Moses. Through the battles and wars that Israel fought under his leadership, David finally accomplished claiming the entirety of what was previously called ‘the promise land.’ He was an extraordinary leader, who succeeded in a variety of areas, including in how far he and his nation grew in their relations to God.
But what was the cause of all of this great leadership? What led David to be able to excel as a leader in the first place? What was the foundation of David’s leadership abilities?
We find the answer in Psalm 119, specifically in verses 33-40, though the whole of the psalm provides us with the same answer as well. Still, let’s focus in on this spectacular passage of Scripture to determine what David did to be such a successful leader of God’s people:
“Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.
Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.
Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared.
Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your rules are good.
Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!”
-Psalm 119:33-40, ESV
David prays fervently to the Lord in this passage that He might lead him in the path of God’s commandments. David longs desperately for the rules of God, that he might be able to obey Him. He delights in the law of the Lord! He longs for His precepts! David calls the rules of God good!
Now, how often do we feel that the rules that we find all throughout Scripture are good? How often do we delight in the law of our Savior? Have the commands of the Word of God ever been our true delight? Back in verse 14 of this same chapter, David says that “In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.“ In verse 30, we read that he has “chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me.” Again, in verse 48: “I will lift my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.” More of the same in verses 54-55: “Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning. I remember your name in the night, O LORD, and keep your law.” Do you worship God’s commands in a way that they overwhelm your lifestyle, take it over, and become a part of who you are? Do you find that you get more pleasure out of following the rules of God than anything else? Do you love God’s Word, His rules, and His will for your life?
Anyone, but especially one looking to become a spiritual leader, or one who already is a spiritual leader, should, before anything else, learn to love the rules of God. If you are in a position of leadership over anyone in a spiritual sense, and this is not you, then immediately you need to take a hard look at your lifestyle and how you are obeying the will of God in it. Change anything that you see does not honor God’s will, and continue from then on to focus on how you can constantly adapt your life to the commands found in Scripture. Constantly choosing to obey God’s Word will eventually make you delight in the law of our Lord.
Those who are not yet spiritually leading anyone but are preparing to do so need to lie this same thing as the foundation for everything else that they do to be better leaders in the future. Without this, everything else falls apart because nothing else will be genuine. Devoid of a love for God’s Word that rules one’s lifestyle, discipleship is pointless.
If you are not leading people from a love for Scripture and the person of God Himself, what are you leading them from? If you do not delight in God so much that you desperately long to obey his commands for your life, then why bother leading people to what you do delight in?
What leads you to lead others?