FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
FACING THE ENEMY
January 21, 2016
1 Samuel 18:6-19:7
For the past few days, we have been seeing how we are to trust God for our service and as we are engaged in spiritual warfare. This is crucial, as we face a formidable enemy, but in addition, we at times also have the enemy within. All assault us in some way. “My foes treat me harshly all the day; yes, many are my attackers. O Most High, when I am afraid, in you I place my trust.” (Ps 56:3-4).
Now we should not mind engaging the enemy, that is, the evil one and his minions. But what of the enemy within? Those who are brethren and co-workers? This is happening in many different ways in our Church.
- The liberals/progressives bash the traditionals/conservatives.
- Some Church organizations and associations speak ill of other Church orgs or groups.
- Some parish ministries put down other parish ministries.
- Some in Christian community speak ill and malign their leaders.
All the above are of course wrong. Those who do such things will be held accountable by God. But these things have been happening since time immemorial, and will continue to happen. We are not in control of others. But the one we can speak for is ourself. What are we to do?
- We place ourselves in God’s hands and look to His mercy. “Have mercy on me, God, for I am treated harshly; attackers press me all the day.” (Ps 56:2).
- We put our trust in God, basing this trust in His expressed word, the Bible. “I praise the word of God; I trust in God, I do not fear.” (Ps 56:5a).
- As we put our trust in God, we are ready to endure whatever assaults human beings can bring upon us. “What can mere flesh do to me?” (Ps 56:5b).
- We do not retaliate nor act in the wrong ways that they do, but we bring our case to God and let Him decide what to do. “They are evil; watch them, God!” (Ps 56:8a). Now vengeance is the Lord’s. We trust in His right judgment and right timing. If He wills, then evildoers will be punished. “Cast the nations down in your anger!” (Ps 56:8b).
- We know God is on the side of the upright, and that God will protect and defend us. “My foes turn back when I call on you. This I know: God is on my side.” (Ps 56:10).
- We continue doing good, fulfilling our promises to God, living our covenant, persevering in service. “I have made vows to you, God; with offerings I will fulfill them” (Ps 56:13).
Now as servant leaders, we not only not speak against others, including leaders over us, but we must desire the good of others, especially our co-workers and comrades-in-arms — those we serve, those we serve under, those who serve with us, those who serve under us.
In particular, a servant leader raises up other servant leaders, so that the work will continue beyond him. In fact, he should desire that his subordinates even surpass him in doing good things for the Lord. He should not be threatened by good servant leaders. He should not protect his position by putting emerging leaders down. He should not be envious of those who are better than him, but rather rejoice in such a case.
This was not the case with Saul in regard to David. When David was becoming more popular than him due to his battle accomplishments, “Saul was very angry and resentful …. Saul kept a jealous eye on David.” (1 Sm 18:8-9). The problem with this is not just the obvious sin in resentment, jealousy and putting down others. The bigger problem is opening ourselves up to the work of the evil one. “The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul” (1 Sm 18:10a). Now God does not inflict evil on us, but what this means is that God somehow withheld His merciful and protective hand on Saul, so that the enemy that is always lurking looking for an opening did find one, and immediately rushed in. Even Saul realized later that the Lord “had turned away from” him (1 Sm 18:12b).
What was the result? Saul “raged in his house.” (1 Sm 18:10b). His envy brought him deeper into the mire. Now he tried to kill David (1 Sm 18:11). He plotted against David, even using his daughters Merob and Michal as pawns. His aim was to get David killed in battle (1 Sm 18:17,21,25). The more Saul plotted, the more David became prominent and admired. Through the various military campaigns, David’s “name was held in great esteem.” (1 Sm 18:30b). “So Saul feared David all the more and was his enemy ever after.” (1 Sm 18:29). How tragic. Saul despised David who was his best warrior, his loyal servant, his son-in-law. Saul persecuted David and plotted to take his life, engaging even his own “son Jonathan and with all his servants.” (1 Sm 19:1a).
The work of God is very important to Him. The spiritual war is very real, and even if the evil one is already defeated, he still takes many souls with him to hell. So God depends on His warriors, His servant leaders. Since this war will rage until the end of time (though we are in the end times, it could be another millennium), God wants to have orderly succession in His army. Leaders need to raise other leaders, caring for them and forming them. Among subordinates are those whom God will raise to be great leaders. If one is emerging but a leader, out of envy or any other invalid reason, tries to put down that person, this is very displeasing to God and a great sin. “They are evil” (Ps 56:8a).
We are all lowly servants. Only God is the great King, Master, Commander-in-Chief. We must have the posture of David, especially as we face honor and renown. Being offered Saul’s daughter as his wife, David declined and said, “I am poor and insignificant.” (1 Sm 18:23). While Saul would do anything, including murder, to retain his power and position, David rejected these. It is ironic that David succumbs much later to this evil when he in turn is the king, as he in effect murders Uriah to hide his adultery with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba. Beware of lust, and lust for power and position!
So servant leaders, always look to God. When God works in and through you, maintain your humility (after all, we can only succeed because of God). When maligned, assaulted or plotted against, do not retaliate in kind, but rather keep your trust in God. And never fear the enemy, whether without or within. “In God I trust, I do not fear. What can man do to me?” (Ps 56:12).
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