Great Leadership…servant leadership

“In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. They said to me, ‘Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and it’s gates have been burned with fire.’ When I heard these things, I sat down and wept.” Nehemiah 1:1-4

Nehemiah was cupbearer to King Artaxerxes of the Persian Empire. A cupbearer is a very noble and trusted position. Nehemiah was a close confidant and servant to the King. Imagine the kind of man Nehemiah must have been. It is documented that he was a man of action who possessed strong leadership skills. Nehemiah was also known to be a man of prayer. He had been given a noble place and position on earth. In modern times he would be a leading political advisor or cabinet member. How prestigious to be in such noble standing. Nehemiah had what many dream about…prestige and power. There is no doubt people paid special attention to him and treated him special, because he was! So, why would a man of such position request to leave his post to go to a people who were facing hard times and harsh conditions?

Nehemiah understood that God had gifted him, anointed him and called him. He possessed all the leadership and skill that was required to go and help these people, his people, get back on their feet and rebuild their homes. Rebuild their lives. Rebuild their city. Nehemiah was willing to sacrifice his own will and wants to serve others who needed him. I wonder if he had reservation? He was reluctant to ask the King (Neh. 2:2) and though we don’t know, I would venture to believe he probably didn’t want to go. The luxury and comfort of palace life was much more enticing I am sure. He knew his life was about something bigger. He was apart of something bigger than himself. He gave up so others could go up.

“…from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48

Have you ever known someone who was incredibly gifted and talented…successful in a specific field or trade? Have you ever seen someone squander what had been given them?

Last night I watched a movie from the 90's with a few family members. We chatted about the actress in the movie. This particular actress was very popular in Hollywood in the 80’s and 90’s, but then she sort of disappeared from the movie scene. So, we got online and looked her up. Everything we read said that in the early 2000 she had several plastic surgeries and that her appearance became so unnatural looking, she could no longer get jobs. Then, we saw several other stories of actresses of all ages (not just aging actresses, but younger one’s as well) who had ruined their career because of too much plastic surgery. The world loves movies and actors. They have power and prestige and fame. I’m not saying I think the American fascination with Hollywood is healthy, but it is very real. How sad, people who have been gifted to entertain, for theater, for acting, squandered or missed the mark because their focus became too much on how they "look" rather than their art, their skill, their gift and how they can use it benefit others. What these actresses thought would help their career, ended it. I use actors as my example, but how many other examples can we think of? American politicians are another example where people have become cynical because Americans don’t find our political leaders to be believable. It doesn’t matter how much charm they have if no one believes they are looking out for the best interest of the country.

However, the key to Nehemiah’s success, the key to our success, lies in our ability to walk with continual self-reflection and with a repentant heart. We are who we are because God has made us. He gives and He can take away. We do not always understand the ways of God, but we can trust that they are best and he has our best interest at heart. We must continually die to our own wants, desires, ambitions and will to take up his. He cannot use us to attend to the things that break his heart, until we allow him to break our own. Our heart is full of selfishness, that old sin nature. Before Nehemiah petitioned the King to leave and go to Jerusalem, he prayed a prayer of repentance on behalf of himself and his brothers and sisters in Israel. Nehemiah understood what it was to use his gifts, talents and anointing to go where God would send him, and to do what God would have him do and say. He did not concern himself with what others thought, or how he “looked”, or what he wanted personally. He died to himself and his own selfish wants or desires to do what broke God’s heart. Nehemiah understood that to be a great leader you must forfeit your own rights to take up the rights of others. Sacrifice.

Each one of you has a purpose God has planted deep within. God has given you talents, gifts, and life experiences to help shape and cultivate the right atmosphere for those gifts to be used as He would like to use them. Venture to dig deep within yourself to pull out all that He has hidden inside of you. Finding more than you thought you had or could do. To give more than you knew you could give. To become more than you ever dreamed you could become...not for self glory, but for God's Glory. Even if things look good with you on the surface, the really good stuff is down deep. A whole deeper level of greatness God has waiting to unearth inside you, like a hidden treasure to be shared. We must enter His Courts with a humble and submitted heart that first praises Him without forgetting to search out our own heart and pray prayers of repentance and submission to the King. We are all called to lead, but do so in different capacities and levels.  Let us, each and every one, aspire to be a great leader, a servant leader, with a heart of compassion and mercy that is willing to sacrifice ourselves for the better of those God wants us to serve and lead. Together, we can rebuild the “walls” of broken people…just like Nehemiah.

“Change our hearts of God, make us ever true. Change our hearts oh God, make us more like you.” Kenny Carter lyrics