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And the Philistine said, ‘I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.’ When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.” - 1 Samuel 17:8-11
The true quality of a leader is revealed when he is confronted by a Goliath.
Almost any leader can develop a vision and lay out a strategy for achieving it. Almost any leader can recruit people, motivate workers and supervise a team. The real test of leadership comes, however, when that leader faces obstacles. When resistance rises and adversity threatens success—when challenges loom as insurmountable—what does the leader do? Does he hesitate? Is he intimidated? Does he second guess and back pedal or does he remain firm and undaunted when the going gets tough?
The duty of leadership is to confront status quo and pull the people to a better place. Rosalynn Carter, wife of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, said, “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go but where they ought to be.” In the course of such an act, a leader will undoubtedly face resistance. “Goliath-sized” obstacles will rise to challenge both the leader’s vision and his resolve. How a person responds to Goliath reveals if he or she is a true leader, or just a custodian sporting a fancy title.
Saul had a title, but that didn’t make him a leader. Men may have called him king, but that didn’t give him command. Sure, he could organize the infantry for a march and arrange the chariots for a parade, but when it came to the business of battle—the hard work of overcoming obstacles to success—he fell apart. Rather than meeting the antagonist on the battlefield and inspiring his followers forward, he brought the people to a halt and the ranks became stagnate.
Leadership is ten percent vision and ninety percent overcoming the obstacles that hinder the vision. There will always be obstacles. People will always see some giant standing in the way of their progress. It could be a lack of resources, conflict within the organization, or resistance from outsiders. Whatever the obstacle, the leader’s job is to stand with confidence against it, plot a course to overcome it, and cheer his followers on to victory.
To the contrary, nothing will destroy the credibility of a leader like a spirit of fear. It wasn’t Goliath that paralyzed the Israelite army. They were paralyzed by their own leader who surrendered to fear. King Saul, frightened by Goliath’s challenge, retreated from his post and Israel’s advance was halted. If he had faith, if he had met the challenge with confidence and courage, his army would have followed him like they followed David. When David entered the scene and demonstrated his faith, the Israelites arose and defeated the Philistines. All they needed was a leader who believed God for success no matter how dire the circumstance.
People need leaders who have faith—even those who are critical and defiant. They may say, “It can’t be done; it’s impossible; we don’t have the means or resources.” But, in reality, they are hoping for a leader who will stand with confidence and say “God is able.” They will respond to a leader like young David who declares, “If God is for us who can be against us. Don’t give up; we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.”
Therefore, if there was one thing I could pray into the leaders of my church it would not be a new vision, smart ideas, fancy programs, or even great resources. The one thing I would pray into our leaders would be a good attitude—an attitude of faith.
LEADERS PICK FIGHTS WITH GIANTS
People who achieve greatness think differently than most people. They talk differently, they pray differently, they look at challenges differently. To the man or woman who achieves greatness, challenges are not hindrances; they are opportunities for God to demonstrate His greatness on our behalf. The time has come for us to abandon the safety of the tent and move into a place where we are dependent on the provision of God to keep us secure. The time has come for us to be leaders who don’t just talk about miracles, divine provision, and glorifying God. The time has come for us to experience miracles and get some of our own testimonies of divine provision. But that can only happen if we kick the cowardly Saul who lives in our hearts out of the tent and pick a fight with Goliath.