There are all types of fear out there. As a leader, you never want the wrong kind of fear motivated (or de-motivating) your actions, decisions, pace, or vision. Some may say that fear has no place in the life of the leader, and in most cases I would probably agree. Yet there is a fear—a healthy fear—that should be present in every spiritual leader if one is going to lead with courage.
The first place that comes to mind in this regard is the first chapter of Joshua. You have probably heard the story. Moses, leader of the people of Israel par excellence, is stepping down and passing the torch to the young Joshua. This wasn’t the time to drop the torch either. On the back side of 40-large in the wilderness, this community was ready for a birth point, and bad. Here are some of the instructions Joshua received in this chapter, which is replete with lessons for leaders:
Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” [Joshua 1:7-9]
I think we say that these instructions could easily be summarized: “Have no fear Joshua!” But there is more here. There is a fear here that is healthy. There is a reverence for God and His word that must animate the life of any spiritual leader. There is a Psalm 1 “delight in the law of the Lord” that has to be present if you’re going to lead God’s people.
Look at the text:
- “Being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded to you.”
- “Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left.”
- “The Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth.”
- “Meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.”
If you are going to lead God’s people, you must fear God and reverence His word. You must saturate yourself in it if you are going to have the courage and strength to lead others in, through, and to it. This is the right kind of fear that is necessary for the leader.
It is in the context of this ‘right kind of fear’ that the leader must move forward with strength and courage. There are countless other things that fight for the fear that the leader should give to God and His word alone. These are “fear suckers” which attempt to displace your reverence. Here are just a few:
- The lack of—or need for—resources
- People: particularly the controlling kind
- Circumstances surrounding your leadership context
- DNA or cultural factors within your context
- The future
- The risks associated with casting vision and sticking to it
- Former failures, or the failure of those who have attempted to do what God is calling you to do in your context
The list goes on. But none of these fear suckers should distract the leader. No matter how noisy the beat of the drum, as a spiritual leader you must stay the course if you are going to accomplish great things for God. Know the word. Lead through and into it.
If you’re struggling with fear suckers, your fear is misplaced. Have you lost your reverence for or saturation in God’s word? Every leader encounters this struggle from time to time. Let me encourage you with a text that encourages me often in this regard. In fact, if I have a “life verse,” this is it. Although I suppose it is more of a life “passage:”
Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.” Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”