Today we start a new Sunday Series on leadership. Leadership is an important topic no matter what you do in life. The principles that we find in the Old Testament Book of Nehemiah, give us some solid concepts to build upon. In this series I am not going to write out the Scripture here, but will reference the chapter where I am drawing this from. I trust it will encourage you in whatever you are doing in life.
Nehemiah 1 – Leadership Begins with the Heart
Part 1 – A Heart Connected to God
1. Nehemiah has a close connection with God, seen in the reaction he shows to the news he hears. He immediately sits down to weep and pray before God. This is his natural response to a heart breaking situation showing he has spent significant time with the Almighty God.
Leadership Principle # 1 – Make sure you are connecting with God everyday. A vital, personal relationship is essential to quality leadership.
2. Nehemiah understands his position before a Holy God. His prayer gives us a glimpse at how he views himself and how he views God. He praises God immediately for His character. “O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God,” (Nehemiah 1:5) Even in his confused and distressed state he understands that the God he prays to is able to handle it.
“Jesus called his disciples to follow him. They became leaders only after Jesus empowered them to lead; he empowered them by insisting they follow him first” – Jesus on Leadership by Gene Wilkes
Leadership Principle # 2- Take time to stand in awe of God each day. This is key to avoiding looking at your position and abilities as greater than they actually are.
3. Nehemiah remembers God’s faithfulness. This becomes very important as he later runs into opposition. To know what God has promised, coupled with what He has done, helps keep perspective in the trenches of ministry. Nehemiah knows the promises of scripture so well that he prays them back to God. He begins with praises calling God great and awesome in one sentence. This comes from personal experience, not just from what someone told him.
Leadership Principle # 3 – Celebrate the faithfulness of God so that you never forget what God promised and accomplished in the past. This will help keep you from losing hope as you provide leadership in difficult circumstances.
Part 2- A Heart Burdened by God
1. Nehemiah hears about what is going on in Jerusalem. There has been a lack of real leadership and any spiritual element that existed had been dissolved under Solomon’s leadership. Despite all of that, God has effectively broken the heart of Nehemiah. “He is empty-handed, but not uninvited. He knows the threats and the promises of Scripture well enough to make a strong, not a tentative, plea” (Revival in the Rubble by John Kitchen). God has stirred the heart of Nehemiah, which will soon give birth to action.
Leadership Principle # 4- Leaders need to discern different burdens of their heart. If you pay attention, you will soon discover what areas God has made you passionate about. Understanding those will help you lead effectively.
2. Nehemiah has a realistic view of the situation. He says, “I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.” (Nehemiah 1: 7)
Leadership Principle # 5- Leaders are able to move beyond the emotional strain to recognize the reasons for the problem at hand. In Nehemiah’s case there was no legitimate excuse for the way the people lived and so he didn’t try to smooth it over. Instead, he realizes the sin and confesses it to God.
3. Nehemiah is driven to an even deeper level of prayer in this crisis. This is a significant piece of the heart shaping going on in his life. He understands the this is God’s calling for him and that he needs to do something. However, he also has wisdom to stop and pray for direction to proceed.
“Notice the fervency of his prayer. He was knocked off his feet. He sobbed. His heart was turned inside out with grief. He lost track of time, even missing meals as he lingered before God. All of this over something going on 800 miles from where he lived. This was his response to conditions in a place he’d never even visited” (Revival in the Rubble, by John Kitchen).
Leadership Principle #6 – A leader given a burden from God will naturally spend time praying through it. Prayer is necessary for the shaping of the heart to the shape God desires it to take.
So, if we were to look at a leader’s life we would notice a connection to God that leads to action. This sounds a lot like what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. We are to daily connect with God and follow Him. As you worship God today, might you be encouraged by His work in you and how He might shape you into the leader He has created you to be.