I love the Bible for its honesty, warning us against making the same mistakes these leaders – all significant leaders for God’s people – made:*
- ADAM: neglecting one’s family responsibilities. This conclusion is admittedly based on silence in Genesis 3, but we can only wonder why Adam did not speak up before Eve ate from the forbidden tree. His failure as a steward of creation and a leader in his marital relationship brought disaster to creation. My guess is we need not elaborate on the stories of leaders who have lost their homes through neglect.
- MOSES: ignoring the commands of God. The Hebrews had no water, and God told Moses to speak to a rock to bring forth water (Num. 20). Instead, Moses spoke harshly against the rebellious people and did what he had done in the past – he struck the rock. His sins were probably several, but the bottom line is clear: he chose to follow God according to his own terms. Frankly, a leader’s frustration with rebellious followers often leads to his own sin.
- JOSHUA: not seeking the counsel of the Lord. Joshua 9 tells the tragic story of God’s people being deceived by the Gibeonites. Not only did the Hebrews succumb to the deception, but they also did so without having first prayed to seek God’s insight and direction (9:14). That’s always a risk for leaders who let down their guard, act first, and then pray second.
- DAVID: relying only on training and experience. Study the story of David as a shepherd boy, and you find a youth thoroughly trusting God to fight his battles for him (1 Sam. 17). Study David as king, though, and you discover a warrior seeking to determine the strength of his armed forces (1 Chron. 21). That happens sometimes – the young man who trusts God comes to trust in self when he has gained leadership training and experience.
- JAMES AND JOHN: wanting the best seats in the kingdom. Likely thinking wrongly that Jesus was going to establish an earthly kingdom, the brothers sought seats of honor in Jesus’ kingdom (Mark 10:37). Little did they realize that kingdom living for them would mean servanthood and sacrifice rather than position and prestige. Too many leaders make the same mistake today as they seek honor without humility, titles without trial, and power without prayer.
- SIMON PETER: speaking for both God and the devil. It was Simon Peter who best stated who Jesus was: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” (Matt. 16:16). In this case, the apostle spoke the words God had given him. It was also Peter, though, who rebuked Jesus when He spoke of His coming death in Jerusalem. Jesus strongly condemned him for speaking the words of Satan this time (Matt. 16:23). It happens to us, too, you know. Leaders at times speak both God’s word and the devil’s words – sometimes in the same conversation.
- THE APOSTLES: being overconfident. Simon Peter is best known for his promise of faithfulness to Jesus when He spoke of his impending death, but don’t miss the last part of Mark 14:31: “And they all said the same thing” (emphasis added). None of the apostles kept his word when the danger level rose. Overconfidence led to trouble for them, and it does for us, too.
Help all of us avoid these dangers. What steps have you taken to keep from making these same mistakes?
*a version of this post first appeared at www.thomrainer.com.