READ: 1 Samuel 25-27, Psalm 89, John 21, Philippians 4
When we follow Jesus it is easy to follow men. David was chosen and anointed and would be established by God (Psalm 89:18-24), but before his exaltation there was trial. Those in leadership before David were threatened by him (Saul), and those who opposed his ascent to responsibility insulted him (Nabal). David had no trouble realizing that he should not strike Saul, for he had the good sense to know God would either kill Saul, or Saul would die in battle, or Saul’s day would come (1 Sam. 26:10). David’s passion, however, blinded him to the same reality from fools. Abigail steps in and saves the day, and David responds by saying: “Blessed be the Lord who sent you (Abigail), blessed be your advice, and blessed be you” (1 Sam. 25:32-33)! We need to realize there is no reason to strike out at those above us or those below us – no matter how shamefully we are treated – for “God will beat down our foes” from wherever they arise (Psalm 89:23).
In the end it does not matter what others do, nor what they do to us — we must simply follow Jesus (John 21:19, 22). In the end it is not about leading, it is about following. When we follow hard after Jesus, others will be called to follow along with us. The ambition to lead is common to most men and it is not without godly impulse. We must remember, however, that the best leaders are those who follow Jesus. Our authority over others is sourced in our submission to Jesus. Only the submitted are spiritually fitted to lead. This is, in part, what Paul refers to in Philippians 4:9 when he says: “I know how to be abased and I know how to abound.” The context refers to contentment being poor or having plenty or resources, but can also apply to leading and following – both are sources of contentment for they are indivisibly linked. We can only lead well when we follow hard after Jesus. If there is a dearth of popular support or if we are lauded to the heavens, we discount them both for the point is not our elevation or demotion by men; the point is our proximity to Jesus. When we follow hard after Jesus, we are oblivious to both praise and scorn; we have one fixation – staying on Jesus’ heels.
There is something magnetic about those devoted to following Jesus. Those who follow hardest after Jesus most naturally lead. Their lives say with Paul’s that “the things you learned, received, heard, and saw in me, these do” (Phil. 4:9). When we follow Jesus, it is easy for men to follow us. If you have been given natural leadership abilities, if you have a godly desire to lead, the best thing you can do to cultivate that gift (and leadership is a gift God gives) is to devote yourself to following Jesus. Position and influence will follow those who follow Jesus. The worst thing you can do is pose and posture and strive for recognition. Those with the selfish ambition to lead lose the desire to follow, and losing the desire to follow you lose the authority to lead.