Believe it or not, we all are leaders. Leadership isn’t always about position – it's about mindset! You’re a leader to your friends, coworkers, family, and kids. You might not be the boss, but you’re certainly a leader. In the Bible, we can find many examples of leaders, like us, who may not have been in charge but still led with influence.
Check out a few examples that we can learn from and apply their stories directly to our lives.
1. Ruth: Leaders put others before themselves
In Ruth 1, Ruth faced heartbreak when her husband, father-in-law, and brother-in-law all died within a short period of time leaving her with just her mother-in-law, Naomi, and sister-in-law, Orpah. Amid the tragedy, Naomi saw that Ruth and Orpah were still young and had the potential to live happy lives, so she encouraged them to leave her and remarry.
While Orpah chose to leave, Ruth stayed loyal to her mother-in-law and stuck by her side. She recognized that if she left, Naomi would have a very difficult life living in poverty. Though Ruth knew if she left, she could remarry and live the life she wanted, she chose to put Naomi first by staying and working hard to provide for her. Ruth showed true leadership by looking at the bigger picture and seeing how she could serve others above herself.
2. Noah: Leaders do what's right, even when it isn't easy or popular
Most of us know about Noah – he built a massive ark, filled it with animals, and lived in it for nearly a year while the earth was flooded! Why? In Genesis 6, God looked at the world he created and was incredibly frustrated. People had become sinful, corrupt, and violent. God realized he needed to start over and he planned to wipe everyone from the earth in a flood. Noah had favor with God – he served him faithfully, was righteous, and walked closely with God. God decided to spare Noah, and gave him a mission: build an ark, round up a pair of every animal, and climb aboard with his family and the animals. The Ark took decades to be built. This means that Noah spent a lifetime living differently than everyone around him. He certainly felt like an outcast at times.
Imagine what people must have thought of Noah building a huge boat, gathering hundreds of animals, and preparing for a flood that no one could predict! Although the work was hard and people surely judged him for it, Noah faithfully followed God in building the ark and preparing for the flood. Noah showed leadership when he picked what was right over what was easy or popular.
3. Peter: Leaders don't quit in the midst of failure
No matter how successful you are, part of being a leader is failure. Peter was a devoted follower of Jesus, but Jesus warned him in Matthew 26:34, “I tell you the truth, Peter – this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” Peter promised he would never deny Jesus, but when Jesus was arrested, illegally tried, and beaten, Peter became scared. He was more worried about himself than being loyal to Jesus. Later, people began to recognize Peter as a follower of Jesus, but being so scared, Peter denied ever knowing Jesus three times.
Peter’s heart was broken. He knew he had failed Jesus. He didn’t want to deny knowing Jesus, but when caught in the moment, he froze and made a mistake. But Peter didn’t choose to wallow or quit during his failure. After Jesus was crucified, Peter stood before a crowd in Acts 2 and made the first sermon following Jesus’ death, glorifying and recognizing him as Christ. Peter had surely failed when he denied knowing Jesus, but he didn’t sit in his failure for long. He pushed on and refused to quit.
4. Mary: Leaders know how to prioritize
As leaders, we often find our to-do lists become longer than the time we have to check them off. Part of being a leader is recognizing what needs to come first. In Luke 10:38-42, while Jesus and his disciples were traveling to Jerusalem, they stopped in a town where a young woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. Her sister, Mary, was excited to meet and learn from Jesus so she sat at his feet listening to him teach while Martha prepared a big dinner for Jesus and his disciples.
Frustrated, Martha pointed out to Jesus that Mary wasn’t helping. But Jesus wasn’t worried about dinner. Instead, he pointed out to Martha that although Mary wasn’t helping prepare dinner, she was doing the most important thing she could be doing – learning from him. Mary knew the list of work was long, but she spent her time on the most important thing – growing closer to and learning from Jesus.
5. Paul: Leaders are willing to admit when they are wrong
When you’re a leader, you’re bound to make mistakes. Before Paul converted to Christianity, he was known as “Saul.” Saul deeply hated Jesus’ followers - enough to pursue, torture, and kill them (Acts 26:10-11). Saul didn’t see fault in his ways until he was struck blind by a light from heaven (Acts 9:1-19). Though Saul couldn’t see him, he heard Jesus’ voice speaking directly to him, “Why are you persecuting me?” After three days passed, God healed Saul and restored his sight. At that moment, Saul realized how wrong he was about Jesus and his followers.
A decade passed, and Saul, now known as Paul, changed and began preaching about Jesus! Paul later became an influential leader of the early church and missionaries, was one of the most significant contributors to writing the New Testament, and eventually was jailed and killed for his devotion to Jesus. The change Paul experienced happened as a result of him being willing to admit he was wrong about Jesus and change direction.
Leadership isn’t always easy or comfortable but God has potential for us when we’re willing to lead others in the right way. The Bible is filled with leaders who took small steps and had big impacts on the people around them. We can take those same small steps today to be the best leaders possible to those around us!
If you’re interested in other stories of Biblical leadership follow, check out the stories of:
Moses: Exodus 1-10
David: 1 Samuel 17
Joshua: Joshua 24
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