Gideon: Shaping Potential

In the last issue, we examined how the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and called him a “mighty warrior.” Gideon was just beginning to see his potential to be a leader. But that potential was not yet shaped. Servant leaders can learn how to shape their potential by observing the next steps in Gideon’s leadership journey.

17 Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. 18 Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.” And the Lord said, “I will wait until you return.” 22 When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he exclaimed, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!” 23 But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.” 24 So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord Is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. 25 That same night the Lord said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old. Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. 26 Then build a proper kind of altar to the Lord your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.” 27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople, he did it at night rather than in the daytime (Judges 6:17-18; 22-27).

 Potential is shaped by deepening intimacy. In his interaction with the angel, Gideon realized that he was actually in God’s presence. He was terrified, but the angel spoke words of peace to him. This deepening relationship with God was the foundation of Gideon’s leadership. Gideon worshipped before he worked. He learned to know God as One who is peace.

Servant leaders recognize that leadership begins with intimacy. They acknowledge that their relationship with Jesus is all that distinguishes them from other leaders. This intimacy gives the strength needed for the difficult challenges ahead. Gideon realized that true leadership begins with worship.

Potential is shaped by dealing with fear. Gideon struggled with fear. He was afraid of God’s presence, his family, and the townspeople. Gideon’s leadership is best known for the way he placed a fleece before the Lord and asked twice for confirmation that God would use him as a leader. (Read the story in Judges 6:36-40.)

All leaders have to deal with fear. They may fear failure or that no one will follow. They may fear shame or embarrassment. These fears keep many leaders from developing their potential. Servant leaders learn from Gideon that the best way to deal with fear is to deepen intimacy and to bring their fears to God. Then they learn to have confidence in God’s ability, not their own.

Potential is shaped by deliberate obedience. God gave clear instructions to Gideon about the next step. God chose Gideon to save the people from the Midianites, but the first step to shape his leadership potential was to lead at home. Gideon obeyed and took his first leadership action. He was afraid to do it during the day, but at least he obeyed at night! His leadership would become bolder with time and there would be mistakes along the way. But his potential could only be shaped as he stepped out in obedience.

Leaders develop in the field, not in the classroom. Leadership potential is shaped by action. Servant leaders learn to wait on God’s instructions before acting. Then they move in confident obedience. As they obey God, their potential is shaped and grows over time.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What happens if I try to lead before deepening my intimacy with God? What steps am I taking in my daily leadership journey to strengthen this intimacy?
  • What are the greatest fears I have as a leader? In what way do these fears keep me from fully developing my potential? What can I learn from Gideon about these fears?
  • How has my own potential been shaped by actions I have taken as a leader? Are there additional steps of obedience that God is calling me to take now?
  • Gideon’s story suggests that shaping potential is a balance of God’s responsibility and the action of the leader. What is God’s part in shaping my potential? What is my part? What happens if I try to do God’s part? What happens if I expect God to do my part?

In the next issue, we’ll examine how Gideon shared his potential with others.

Copyright, Global Disciples, 2018.


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