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Characteristics of a Godly Leader

“Those are unfit and unworthy to rule over men who are not willing that God should rule over them.”

Matthew Henry

At times it’s easier to discern what something is by comparing it to what it’s not. King Saul in I Samuel 15 is an example of this, as he demonstrates what an ungodly leader looks like. God asked Saul to destroy ALL the Amalekites and all that belonged to them (verse 3). Saul spared King Agag and the best of the sheep, cattle, the fat calves and lambs (verse 9).

God appoints leaders and expects them to obey His voice. He understands that as leaders go, so go the people they shepherd. If the leadership is holy and obedient then their followers will more likely be as well. God entrusted Saul with being a king and likewise, God entrusts those in leadership. Be careful how you as a leader follow God. Others will imitate your steps of obedience or disobedience, holiness or sin. Godly leaders possess a healthy dose of reverence and love for the Lord.

God’s response to King Saul’s disobedience was regret (verse 11). When God places us in positions of leadership, we give back to Him our devotion and obedience. The godliest leaders are the best followers of Jesus. They do what pleases God, not what pleases man or themselves. Godly leaders care more about grieving God’s heart than preserving their own reputation.

God holds leaders accountable for their sin. Initially, Saul doesn’t take responsibility or ownership for his disobedience. Instead, he passes the blame onto the people and justifies his wrong action (verses 15, 21). Rationalization is the beginning of a downward spiral into sin. Godly leaders acknowledge and repent of their sin.

“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (I Samuel 15:22). Obedience, submitting your will to the Father’s will, is better than any ritualistic, non-will involved sacrifice or offering. Obedience speaks of the heart. Do you love God more than you love yourself? If so, you will obey Him.

Godly leaders follow and obey God. Their obedience gives God pleasure. They hold themselves accountable to God and when they sin, they take responsibility for it and repent.

“God is more glorified and self more denied by obedience than by sacrifice.”

Matthew Henry