Can you be a lone wolf in the kingdom of God? What about at home? At work? The truth is everybody is accountable to somebody. CEO’s are accountable to a board of directors. Board of directors are accountable to the owners or shareholders. Children are accountable to parents and parents to God.
Attending a local church means that you are accountable to elders, elders are accountable to each other and accountable to God. The Bible is clear that God expects us to respect and honor those in authority, in society, church, home and work (Romans 13:1, Titus 3:1, 1 Peter 2:13-14).
Nehemiah was an amazing leader, probably one of the best in history, yet he recognized and respected the authority that God had put in his life. He was a cup bearer to King Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 1:11), in a land far away, in one of the most important positions in the king’s administration. A position of trust. A position that allowed him direct access to the king and the ear of the king.
In Nehemiah we see a bold, sensitive, diplomatic and prepared leader. Nehemiah 2:1-8 is very revealing. Nehemiah had been fasting and praying for some time, to the point that it showed on his face. He was sad and the king saw it.
It was not good for one of the king’s closest confidants to be visibly sad. But he could hide it no longer. Then the question from the king. “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart.”
Fear grips the leader
Nehemiah’s heart must have raced to the point of hyperventilating. Nehemiah’s response was “then I was very much afraid” (verse 2).
I love this about Nehemiah as a leader. He is real. He is afraid and he is not afraid to admit it. Leaders are supposed to be courageous, infallible, boldly going where no one has gone. Not so with Nehemiah. He is human and experiences the emotions we do, fear being uppermost.
What causes the most fear?
Think back on your life, especially in areas of leading. What caused you to fear the most?
For me it was, and still is, the exact moment Nehemiah finds himself in. Facing someone with position, authority and power, and having to make an emboldened request. Or, having to share bad news about failing to meet the business targets for the month. What about going to a group of elders and asking for their support in a new ministry that God has put on your heart?
It is important to realize that the best leaders are also great followers.
As you face those inevitable moments where you need the support of leadership in church, business, home or society, what can you and I learn from a godly leader like Nehemiah.
- Show respect. Nehemiah showed his respect for authority in his approach and his words. “May the king live forever” were the first words from his mouth (verse 3).
- Explain why. So often I forget the why and jump immediately to what and how. Nehemiah started with the why. He was sad because his ancestral city was in ruins (verse 3). Show your concern, passion and excitement.
- Pray in the moment. No, I don’t necessarily mean drop to your knees and pray. Nehemiah didn’t have time for that in that moment but there is always time to ask for God’s help. “So I prayed to the God of heaven” (verse 4). God helped him in that moment.
- Be prepared and specific. It was obvious that Nehemiah was well prepared. The king asked what he needed. Nehemiah was ready with the answer. He knew what, when, who and where. He knew how long he would be gone. He knew he needed letters and building materials. He might have even had a project plan pulled together. God can use planning and expects us to plan (verse 5-8, Luke 14:28).
- Be grateful. “The king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.” How could the king refuse? (verse 8). I’m sure Nehemiah left the king’s presence with a smile.
Godly leadership in our churches, businesses and homes requires boldness, diplomacy and planning. It requires a recognition of the authority that God has placed in our lives. None of us is a lone wolf.
This event in Nehemiah’s life also reminds me to approach my heavenly Father with the same respect, preparedness, boldness and confidence (Hebrews 4:16). Our Father is always willing to hear and answer our prayers.
Next, we will look at the identifying the (“see for yourself”) leader.
Follow the whole series: