FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
CHOOSING SERVANT LEADERS
January 19, 2016
Today’s reading: 1 Samuel 16:1-13
In this episode of the anointing of David, we learn a number of things about God and how He works in our lives, especially in choosing servant leaders.
First, God chooses and calls and anoints. And God is never wrong, because He is perfect. But how come Saul, His chosen and anointed one, failed and was ultimately rejected by Him? “The Lord said to Samuel: How long will you grieve for Saul, whom I have rejected as king of Israel?” (v.1a). God did not make a mistake, but Saul did. He became disobedient and haughty and acted not according to God’s intent but according to His own ways.
We have several lessons here for servant leaders.
- Just because God did choose, anoint and use you does not mean you cannot lose the anointing. You need to keep clinging to Him in humility and obedience.
- You must act according to God’s intent, as His instrument, otherwise you can lose it all, since God has entrusted you with His very own divine work, but you, even with fullness of His grace and equipping, might not be acting accordingly.
- Be always mindful of your nothingness and that everything you are and are able to do is due to God’s grace and mercy. Be very careful of pride, triumphalism, and increasing while God decreases (listen to John the Baptist; John 3:30).
Second, God does have His eternal plan and in that plan, He has decided whom He will use and how. He told Samuel, “I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for from among his sons I have decided on a king.” (v.1c). God continues to work in the world, as we see throughout salvation history. God intends to bring His people back to Himself. In this, God makes use of human instruments in various ways. Perhaps as a prophet who speaks on God’s behalf. Perhaps as a leader who will choose and help form other leaders. Perhaps as someone who has never served God before but is now being called.
We need to know that God does have a plan for us, from all eternity. The key is to be able to discern that specific plan of God for us. Why, God might intend you to be a great missionary, or a great President of a nation. What must we do?
- You must know Jesus and begin to take on his mind and heart. This way, when He does call us to greater service, we can properly discern, and not miss out on the great things God has already planned for us.
- Especially for servant leaders, you must be prayerful, knowledgeable of the Bible, and growing in holiness.
- You must be ready to submit yourself to the will of God, and not insist on your own ideas, preferences and priorities.
Third, God is a God of truth and He does not lie nor deceive. But did God not instruct Samuel how to deceive people about his true mission? “But Samuel replied: ‘How can I go? Saul will hear of it and kill me.’ To this the Lord answered: Take a heifer along and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’” (v.2). This gives us an insight into Jesus’ teaching that we are to be shrewd as serpents but innocent as doves, because we are sheep being sent among wolves. We deal with a sinful world dominated by the evil one. Thus, while lying is a sin, there is such a thing as a “white lie” or a fib.
Now before you all jump on me on this, please allow me to explain to you how you can, or need to, be shrewd as serpents. For that you will have to read Day 23 on “Shrewd as Serpents” in my book “40 Days of Challenge in the Christian Life” (I am sorry but there is no room in this article for that). For now, suffice it to say that the intent is not to deceive for selfish purposes (which is the usual thing with a lie) but to be able to do things according to God’s will while in a hostile world. If Samuel would tell people his true mission, as they would surely ask him why he is in a certain place (see v.4), that he came to anoint a new king, Saul would kill him, and that would have been the end of his mission, even before he got started.
What are some contemporary situations where we tell a white lie for the sake of mission?
- When you smuggle Bibles or religious items into nations or places that are antagonistic to the Christian faith, and authorities would confiscate and destroy such. Thus when the authorities asks, “are you carrying any Bibles?,” it is shrewd to say “No.”
- When you are doing mission in a nation or place where Christian activity is prohibited, and so a priest or a missionary would go under the cover of being, say, a businessman. When the authorities ask, “So you are here on business?,” one should say “Yes.” No need to justify in our mind that yes we are doing God’s business. Rather, we are deliberately deceiving secular powers that are trying to prevent the work of the Lord.
- Note: I give a few more examples in the above-mentioned book, not all connected with the mission of spreading the gospel.
Fourth, God has His own standards, which are very different from our human ones. Samuel on God’s instruction invited the elders and Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice. Jesse brought seven sons, excluding the youngest. “As they came, he looked at Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the anointed is here before the Lord.’” (v.6). Perhaps it was because Eliab was the first born, as first-born sons in Israel had a place of prominence. Or perhaps it was just that he stood out from the rest of his brothers (just as Saul stood out above the people; see 1 Sm 9:2). But Samuel, the great prophet, was wrong! “But the Lord said to Samuel: Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him.” (v.7a).
How about us? How do we select leaders? Here are some guidelines.
- It is not necessarily according to worldly standards. The world chooses the one who is intelligent, highly placed in society, personable and sociable, has money, talks well, speaks good English, and so on.
- God can and does use anyone, even the least, at times especially the least. If other good human or social qualities are there, those are just a bonus (if at all).
- Well, how does God select leaders? “God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The Lord looks into the heart.” (v.7b). Look not at the outside but at the inside. Look to such virtues as humility, commitment, zeal and obedience, as well as manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22).
Fifth, God chooses and anoints, but He uses other leaders to “choose” and “anoint” (like Samuel), of course in His name and according to His will. God had told Samuel that he would choose the next king from among Jesse’s sons. So Samuel invited Jesse, who brought his seven sons. They were presented each in turn to Samuel, who rejected them all. “The Lord has not chosen any one of these.” (v.10).
But those were all the sons presented. What now? What would we have done? Would we not have presumed that those were all the sons, given the honor of that invitation from such an important person, as well as just obedience to the prophet’s call? So would we perhaps have gone through each son again, because God already said it would be one of Jesse’s sons? Would we have applied our own criteria, watering these down a bit, in order to be able to make a choice? What should we do in such situations?
- We should go back to prayer, seeking God’s wisdom, asking for His guidance, going beyond our own human limitations to try to tap on to the mind of the Master we are serving.
- We should strive to see beyond what our human eyes can see, to expand our vision.
- We should seek inspiration from the One who sends us to do His work. At that moment that seems to be what happened to Samuel, as he got some interior sense, perhaps a prodding from God. “Then Samuel asked Jesse, ‘Are these all the sons you have?’” (v.11a).
Sixth, God often confounds the wisdom of the wise. God just does not think as we do. Do you wonder why the world is in such a deep mess, even with all the intelligent people around? Well, it is simply because they decide things according to their human wisdom and not God’s. In this case, Jesse did not think to bring his youngest son. Someone had to tend the sheep, and the youngest was the least so he got that task. As to the elders of the city, they knew that Jesse had eight sons, but none of them even thought of the youngest. They all had written off the youngest as not even worthy to be part of the important gathering. But when the young man was brought in, the Lord said to Samuel, “There—anoint him, for this is the one!” (v.12b). Even the Lord got excited!!
It is interesting that in all this time, including the writing of this account, the name of the eighth son was not being mentioned. Even when Samuel asked Jesse if he had other sons, Jesse said yes, there is the “youngest.” It seemed as if Jesse was even dismissive of this son. This son, as we know, was David, who would become the great king of Israel, who was a man after God’s own heart.
In great divine irony, David is left out and he is out “tending the sheep.” (v.11b). In God’s kingdom, among the greatest are those who tend to God’s sheep. Indeed, the lowly servant has become the great leader.
Seventh, God anoints, equips and empowers those whom He chooses. When Samuel anointed him, “from that day on, the spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.” (v.13). Perhaps up to that time, David was just one other man doing a lowly task. He had no experience at all in leadership, much less in being the overall leader. In his family, being the youngest, he was probably the errand boy of all his brothers. When Israel was at war with the Philistines, Jesse’ three oldest sons were part of the army, but David was just a delivery boy of food for his brothers. But God had chosen him, and now God anointed him. Because David was called in accordance with God’s eternal plan, because his destiny was being fulfilled, God equipped and empowered him, as His spirit rushed upon him. Rushed? Even the Holy Spirit was excited!!
Is God calling you, having chosen you to be His servant leader?
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