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-- © GodSpeak International 2005 --
-- Do not republish without written permission from <copyright@godspeak.org> --

Author: Rodney Hogue <rodhogue@aol.com> http://www.icgrace.org
Editors: Teresa Seputis, Earlene Bown
Transcribers: Sharon Farris, Rita Joyce, Erma Kummerer, Fred Pekkonen

Prayer-School Course #32

Grace and Christian Values

By Rodney Hogue

Lesson 14
Initiative And Leadership

We have been talking about leadership and character in our past couple of lessons. We discovered that character is extremely important to God and that God will spend a long time developing it in the lives of each of His children. He will spend an even longer time developing it in the lives of those who He calls to any sort of leadership role in the body of Christ.

There are three main things I want to say about leadership and character. We already talked about the first two in the previous lessons: integrity and intention. My third point is that leaders should lead with initiative.

The word "initiative" means the power or ability to begin or to follow through energetically with a plan or task. It means enterprise and determination. It's a beginning or an introductory step in an opening move. For example, you took the initiative in trying to solve a problem.

The person in the Bible to me that best illustrates initiative is Jonathan, the son of King Saul. It says in first Samuel that there was a war going on with the Philistines. The Philistines came against Israel, and you have to understand that there were a lot of Philistines coming against Israel. In fact it would describe them in I Samuel 13 as having 3,000 chariots with 6,000 horsemen and that they would have as many people as the sands of the sea. It was so many that you couldn't count them. They're all coming against Israel. You have to also understand that at that time nobody in Israel had any weapons. In fact, the only people that had weapons were Saul and Jonathan. Each of them had a sword and that was all the weapons that there were.

They were coming against Israel and so Saul called forth an army and they started grabbing whatever they could to fight with -- sticks and farm instruments, and they were all afraid. They gathered together and they were waiting for the Philistines to come to them. You'll find in chapter 14 that Jonathan got up and grabbed his armor-bearer and said, "Let's go find some Philistines today." His armor-bearer said "Okay." The passage says that he was young and maybe that is why he was willing to tag along. I don't know what kind of armor he was bearing, but he was right there behind Jonathan.

They walked out there and looked around, trying to find an outpost, and they said, "Let's go cross over to those pagans." Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, "Perhaps the Lord will help us, for nothing can hinder the Lord. He can win a battle whether He has many warriors or only a few." And his armor-bearer said, "Ok, let's go!" So they went over and got close to a Philistine outpost, and he looks up and there they are on the top. Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, "Let's get up into that crevice up there. Let's expose ourselves to them. If they say to us, 'Come on up,' then we will know that God has given them into our hands."

So the armor-bearer again said, "okay, let's do it." So they get up there and they're standing there exposing themselves. Of course, the Philistines looked down and said to themselves, "Why don't we just tell them to come on up -- that we'd like to talk to them? Then we'll get them." So the Philistines call down to Jonathan and his armor-bearer to come on up, and the armor-bearer told Jonathan that they had them now. So they climbed up and as soon as they got there, they killed twenty of the Philistines. It scared the entire army. The Bible says then that an earthquake shook, and then the Philistines began fighting each other.

What you have in this story is Saul, who has gathered his army, and he was waiting for things to come to him. But there was one person (Jonathan) who said, "Let's not wait, let's go find them." So he got his sword out, grabbed his armor-bearer, went to where the enemy was, and killed twenty people. Then God jumped into the battle by bringing an earthquake and confusing them so that they began fight each other. The end result was that they were defeated and scattered because of the intitiative of one man who had faith in God.

We can't underestimate the power of obedience and the power of taking initiative. We look at the odds and we say, "That will never happen," or "That's too impossible," or "That's too great." What happens is that we get disabled by it, and we don't even want to get started. But God says, "If you just get started, I will come through."

The promises of God are always conditional. They're conditional on our obedience and conditional on us taking the initiative. II Chronicles 7:14 states, "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray, seek My face and turn from their wicked ways then will I hear from heaven..." God is going to come through and do all those things when we do our part. The promises of God are conditional on our obedience. If we are sitting back and saying, "I'm waiting on God to come through," we should be aware that God is saying, "I'm waiting for you to get going."

The leader has to be the person who leads the way and says, "I'm going to take the initiative." It's always easier to move a car that's moving and steer it in the right direction. If you're just sitting in your car, it's hard to steer. But if you get it moving, you can steer it. Or like a boat -- a boat has a rudder and it only works when the boat is moving. You say, "I don't know the right way. I don't know where to begin." And God would say, "Just get started and I'll guide your steps. Just get off your tail and get working."

There are many times that we don't do that because it seems too risky. Was it risky for Jonathan? He understood that God can win this thing because He's not limited. It also required Jonathan to be vulnerable. He had to expose himself in order to get going. And it's risky. But God honors risk. God honors initiative. God honors it as we just get going. That scripture says, "Let us cross over. Perhaps the Lord will ..." As we get going, God will come through. He will come through because He is God.

We think we don't know where to begin. Most of us have enough beginning spots that we already know about to start taking care of. We can start with our relationships. We can start with our marriages. We can start with things at work. Maybe it's our time with God. I'm just saying that there are so many things that we can get started with already. But just get started. Just start obeying with what you already know to obey. You will find that God will empower that. And God is always "as you go." As you go, He will come through. As you go, He will walk with you.

So that's what leadership is about. Leadership is about character. And when the character is there, trust is built. People can only follow effectively when there is trust. They can follow because of manipulation, or they can follow because of force or position; but that's not God's way. Jesus was God, but He led His disciples.

God has not called leaders to be ranchers; He's called us to be shepherds. What's the difference between a rancher and a shepherd? Ranchers drive cattle. Shepherds lead sheep. And as a leader, God has called you to walk in such a way to be in front of the people. That's how Jesus chose to lead His disciples. He never turned to them and said, "Don't you know I'm the Son of God and you better do what I tell you to do?" He loved them. They followed Him because He proved Himself and His character, and they gave themselves totally over to Him. People follow character. They follow other things, but they do follow character.

So if God is calling you to be a leader, He's going to build character in your life. You're going to go through trials. You're going to go through hardships. It is not because God is mad and you and He just wants to whip on you, but He's trying to build something in you. He's trying to expose everything in you that's not of Him, so that only what is of Him will remain. You just want to cooperate with that. If you fail from time to time, God just wants to use that to teach us and equip us so that we won't fail again.

The truth is, all of us have stuff in our history. All of us have stuff in our past that we're ashamed of. Most of us have stuff back there that we think disqualifies us, because some of that stuff can even be really horrendous. But God takes care of that and brings us to a new place. I look at David. He did some horrendous things -- he committed adultery and he murdered someone -- but God still used him. The difference between David and Saul was the way that they handled it when they failed.

When Saul failed, he covered it up. Samuel gave him this thing to do and told him to wipe out the city and kill the king and kill all the animals. Then suddenly Samuel says, "What's this? I hear all these goats and animals over here. And who is this guy right here?" And Saul said, "Oh, I thought we'd just ..." He tried to cover his disobedience up. But David responded differently when God confronted Him; David repented when he was busted. Notice the difference. David became a great leader.

This lets us know that our past doesn't disqualify us. It's all about how we deal with the past to equip us for the present. God is going to do what He can to build that into you because He has plans for you. And how you respond to Him will determine your effectiveness in walking out those plans.

-- © GodSpeak International 2005 --
-- Do not republish without written permission from copyright@godspeak.org --

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