David and Absalom: Sin

Sin is a universal reality for all leaders, but the leaders’ response can be as different as David’s and Absalom’s. David’s most well-known sin is his sexual relationship with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah. Absalom has a longer list of sins including the murder of his brother, destruction of personal property, rebellion to authority, and sexual immorality.

David responded as a servant leader while Absalom dealt with sin as a subversive* leader. And the outcomes could not be more distinct. David, in spite of his sin, is known as a “man after God’s own heart.” Absalom paid for his sin with his life. What can servant leaders learn about sin from the lives of David and Absalom?

David declared his sin; Absalom denied sin. David initially tried to cover his sin, attempting to make it look like Bathsheba’s pregnancy was from her husband. Then he had her husband killed. But when the prophet Nathan came to confront David, he quickly acknowledged, “I have sinned against the Lord (2 Samuel 12:13). In his psalm of confession, David says, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge” (Psalm 51:3-4). David recognized that he sinned not only against the people involved but against God.

In contrast, Absalom, after murdering his brother, says to Joab: “Now then, I want to see the king’s face, and if I am guilty of anything, let him put me to death” (2 Samuel 14:32b, emphasis mine). David sinned in secret, but repented openly and cried out to God for forgiveness. Absalom sinned openly but refused to repent. He never acknowledged his sin to God or his father.

All leaders are tempted, like Absalom, to cover their sin. Hiding sin is a natural response and it is easy to conclude that confession will damage our leadership. David demonstrates a better way. Servant leaders acknowledge their sin quickly and openly; subversive leaders cover their sin.

David allowed sin to shape his character; Absalom used sin to shape his leadership. David repented of his sin and said, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 51:10-12). David sinned in a moment of passion, but as he repented his character was shaped by God. The experience of God’s grace made David even more effective as a leader.

In contrast, Absalom deliberately sinned to advance his leadership, by sleeping on the rooftop with his father’s wives. (See 2 Samuel 16:21-22.) He used sin to gain more followers! Absalom had no regard for character; he only desired to be the king. Leadership was his goal, not integrity.

Some leaders, like Absalom, base decisions not on what is right or wrong but on what will advance their leadership. They are willing to compromise integrity for short term gain. Servant leaders allow sin to shape their character; subversive leaders use sin to shape their leadership.

David’s response to sin made him better; Absalom’s response made him bitter. David’s life was shaped by his sin and he drew closer to God as a result. He also promised God that after forgiveness he would, “teach transgressors your ways” (Psalm 51:13). Servant leaders repent of sin and allow their mistakes to make them better. They draw closer to God and experience His grace and forgiveness. As they do, they share what they learned with those who follow. They become more compassionate with those they lead as they recognize their own failings and are able to extend grace to others who sin.

Absalom’s response to sin only drove him to a life of bitterness, revenge, and rebellion. His initial sin of murder and denial of guilt led to rebellion, then sexual immorality, and a life of broken family relationships.

The difference between leaders is not in how we sin but in how we respond to sin. Servant leaders accept God’s grace and allow their sin to make them better; subversive leaders allow sin to make them bitter.

Our response to our own sin will shape our leadership. Servant leaders acknowledge sin and allow God to use it to shape their character and make them better leaders. Do you follow David’s example or Absalom’s?

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

*Subversive means to seek to undermine or destroy an established system. A leader who is subversive intends to overthrow the established authority to take power for themselves.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Read Psalm 51 to reflect on how David responded to his sin. What is God speaking to me through this chapter?
  • How has my own sin changed the way I lead?
  • In what areas am I most tempted to make leadership my goal instead of integrity?
  • Are there currently hidden sins in my own life which need to be confessed?
  • What specific step is God asking me to do in response to this reflection?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2018.

David and Absalom: Authority

Perhaps the greatest difference between the leadership of David and Absalom was in their view of authority. They responded very differently to those in authority over them, and this led to profound differences in their leadership. Their lives illustrate the different ways servant leaders and subversive* leaders see and respond to authority. How did David and Absalom respond to authority?

David recognized authority; Absalom refused authority. How did these two leaders see authority?

During the years that David was fleeing in the desert from King Saul, he consistently referred to the king as “God’s anointed.” David recognized that authority is established by God and that Saul was the legitimate king, even when he was not a good leader. David saw authority as legitimate.

In contrast, Absalom told people coming to see David, “There is no representative of the king to hear you” (2 Samuel 15:3-4). He talked as though there was no legitimate ruler in the land. And he spoke these words within walking distance of King David’s palace! Absalom refused to recognize David’s authority as legitimate.

All leaders exercise authority and all leaders are also under authority. Many leaders expect others to recognize their authority but do not respect the authority of those over them. Servant leaders recognize authority; subversive leaders refuse authority.

David submitted to authority; Absalom subverted authority. How did these two leaders respond to authority?

Because David recognized authority came from God, he was able to submit to the authority of Saul even when the king was trying to kill him! Although he knew he was called by God to lead, he steadfastly refused to take matters into his own hands.

One time his men urged him to kill Saul. The men said, “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way (1 Samuel 24:4-7).

Absalom responded very differently. Not only did he refuse to submit to the authority of King David, he actively rebelled against the king. David submitted even to a bad leader; Absalom refused to submit to a good leader.

Many leaders think that if the person over them would be a good leader, they would have no trouble submitting. But servant leaders learn from David and Absalom that the attitude of a leader towards authority is not determined by the one in authority. Every leader chooses how much they will respect and honor the leaders above them. Servant leaders submit to authority; subversive leaders undermine authority.

David inspired loyalty; Absalom incited rebellion. How did these two leaders influence those under them to see and respond to authority?

David’s view of authority inspired loyalty from those who followed him. They did not attack King Saul. Later, they were willing to risk their lives for David and stayed with him even when it was not clear if he would remain in authority.

Absalom’s refusal to recognize and submit to authority seemed to work at the beginning. He was able to quickly gather people around him who were eager to see him become the king. But Absalom’s followers scattered quickly and left him to die alone when the rebellion failed. “They took Absalom, threw him into a big pit in the forest and piled up a large heap of rocks over him. Meanwhile, all the Israelites fled to their homes” (2 Samuel 18:17).

Leading a rebellion is a quick path to leadership since many people have rebellion in their hearts and are attracted to a leader who rebels. As with Absalom, the momentum builds and soon a new leader is recognized. But those who gain influence through rebellion soon find themselves leading rebels! Disrespect only breeds disrespect.


Leaders are influencers and their view of authority will be passed on to others. When servant leaders see rebellion in their followers, they first look closely in the mirror. Servant leaders inspire loyalty to authority; subversive leaders incite rebellion.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler


*Subversive means to seek to undermine or destroy an established system. A leader who is subversive intends to overthrow the established authority to take power for themselves.


For further reflection and discussion:

  • Who are the persons in authority over me in my family, community, church, vocation, and nation? Do I recognize them as legitimate leaders or do I refuse to acknowledge them as my leaders? How is this respect, or lack of it, expressed in my words or actions? Is my attitude towards them more like David or Absalom?
  • Is there any way in which I gained my position or influence by rejecting authority? In what way has this impacted the way I lead?
  • What view of authority do I see in those who follow me? What does this reflect about my own view of authority?
  • What steps is God inviting me to take in response to this reflection on the way David and Absalom viewed authority? When will I take these steps and who should I allow to hold me accountable?

Copyright, Global Disciples, 2018.

David and Absalom: Power

All leaders have power, but not all leaders handle power the same way. David and Absalom demonstrated two very different ways that leaders gain and use power. They saw the power of the kingship in very different ways.

David accepted power; Absalom sought power. The difference between how David and Absalom came to power could not be more distinct. David was a shepherd who was busy tending his sheep when he was anointed to be the next king. He accepted the call of God to leadership, but he never sought power. When he was in power, he marveled that God chose him for that position. Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said: “Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?” (2 Samuel 7:18)

Absalom’s intention from the beginning was to get power at any cost. He grew up in the palace as a child of the king. But he wanted to do more than be close to power; he wanted to be the king!

Leaders who humbly accept power can use their influence for the good of others. They can identify with the powerless and those with no voice. Leaders who are in positions of authority because they want to have power tend to abuse those they lead. They take advantage of the poor and weak. It is not wrong to desire to have influence or lead. But servant leaders guard their hearts against the temptation to be motivated by a desire for power. Servant leaders accept power; subversive* leaders seek power.

David waited for power in God’s timing; Absalom wanted power in his own timing. David waited for years on God’s timing to become the king. He was anointed as a young man and knew his destiny. But for years King Saul sought to kill him. Twice David had a chance to kill Saul and gain power quickly. Both times, David refused. “As surely as the Lord lives,” he said, “the Lord himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish (1 Samuel 26:10). As David waited, God developed his character so that he became a man after God’s own heart.

In contrast, Absalom couldn’t wait to become king. He didn’t wait for his father to hand over power or die; he wanted power now! Absalom waited only for as long as it took to build enough influence to overthrow his father’s authority. Instead of using this time to develop his gifts and relationship with God, Absalom used the time to develop a following.

Leaders who wait for God’s timing to bring them to positions of power develop character that shapes their leadership. As they wait, they also develop skills which they can later use to influence those they lead. Those who are in a hurry to become leaders substitute charisma** for character. They desire power over others before they have learned to lead themselves. Servant leaders wait for God’s timing to gain power; subversive leaders work to get power as quickly as possible.

David shared power with others; Absalom seized power for himself. David saw himself as a steward of power. As king, he recognized that God gave him a position of influence to use for God’s purpose. His power was a gift to share, not something to keep for himself. So David developed other leaders. He raised up many giant killers (2 Samuel 21:18-21). David developed a team around him to accomplish God’s purposes for the nation.

Absalom desired power for himself. He used people to make himself look good, not for the good of the nation. “In the course of time, Absalom provided himself with a chariot and horses and with fifty men to run ahead of him” (2 Samuel 15:1). He used people only to increase his power, and those who did not help him accomplish his dreams received his wrath. When Joab would not respond to his request, Absalom burned his fields (2 Samuel 14:29-33).

Leaders who seize power for themselves see their position for their own advantage. They focus on what they will get by being a leader and they use others for their own goals. But godly leaders recognize that their position is a gift from God, given to be shared with others. They focus on what they can give to those they serve. They develop others for the common good. Servant leaders share power; subversive leaders seize power.

Servant leaders learn from the examples of David and Absalom to handle power carefully, as a gift given to them by God to serve the good of others. There is power in your leadership, use it well!

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

*Subversive means to seek to undermine or destroy an established system. A leader who is subversive intends to overthrow the established authority to take power for themselves.

**Charisma is focusing on personal giftedness to win favor with others.

For further reflection and discussion:

•             Did I come to my current role as a leader because I was seeking power or because I accepted the call of God and others to lead? How does that shape my leadership?

•             Did I wait for God’s timing on my own leadership journey, or did I rely on my own plans to gain power? Am I currently willing to wait on God’s timing to have more influence, or do I seek to make it happen on my own?

•             Do I primarily see my position as an opportunity to share power with others or as a way to gain power for myself? What leadership decision have I made in the past week that illustrates this? What leadership action should I take to share power with others?

In the next issue, we’ll examine how David and Absalom used influence differently in their leadership.

Copyright, Global Disciples 2018.

David and Absalom: Intimacy

David is a servant leader that we admire in many ways. He is known as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). And David led well. “And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them” (Psalms 78:72).But David’s son Absalom provides a very different picture of leadership.

Absalom was the third born son of David and his name means “father of peace.” But his leadership was not peaceful! Absalom was a subversive* leader, working to undermine the authority of the king and take power by force. Absalom killed his own brother, Amnon, and for some time was separated from his father as a result. Later, he plotted to undermine his father’s authority as a king and led a rebellion that forced David to flee from Jerusalem. Absalom’s life ended on the battle field where he was killed by David’s men. His story, found in 2 Samuel 13-19, provides the context for this series.

We will consider the differences between David and Absalom’s leadership in six different areas. First, let’s examine the difference in their intimacy with God, expressed in how they worshipped.

David pursued intimacy in worship; Absalom pretended to worship. David, as a man after God’s own heart, danced in worship and pursued a relationship with God (2 Samuel 6:14-22). Absalom, as a young boy, likely witnessed this event. But in the story of Absalom there is no indication of any intimate relationship with God.

The only time it is recorded that Absalom worshipped is when he asks his father to go to Hebron to worship. David agrees, not knowing that the plan of Absalom is not to worship but to rebel. “While Absalom was offering sacrifices, he also sent for Ahithophel…, David’s counselor, to come…. And so the conspiracy gained strength, and Absalom’s following kept on increasing” (2 Samuel 15:12).

Absalom only pretended to worship. It made him look good. But he was filled with hatred. He was estranged from his earthly father and it appears that he had no relationship with God as father. Absalom used worship as an instrument to gain power; David saw worship as a gift of God’s presence.

Servant leaders don’t worship to look good; they worship because God is good. Servant leaders pursue intimacy in worship; subversive leaders only pretend to have intimacy.

David surrendered pride in worship; Absalom sought power in worship. David understood that in true worship surrender is required. Worship is not to manipulate God to do what the leader wants, it is to surrender the heart of the leader to what God wants. David says, “Let him do to me whatever seems good to him” (2 Samuel 15:26).

Absalom used worship to get power. He only wanted God to grant him what he wanted. Servant leaders surrender to God’s will in worship; subversive leaders seek power in worship.

David exalted God in worship; Absalom exalted only himself in worship. When David worshipped he exalted God. “David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. He called on the Lord, and the Lord answered him with fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering” (1 Chronicles 21:26).

In contrast, “During his lifetime Absalom had taken a pillar and erected it in the King’s Valley as a monument to himself, for he thought, “I have no son to carry on the memory of my name.” He named the pillar after himself, and it is called Absalom’s Monument to this day” (2 Samuel 18:18).

Servant leaders exalt God; subversive leaders exalt themselves.

Intimacy with God, or the lack of it, shapes how every leader leads. Servant leaders, like David, pursue intimacy with God in passionate worship, surrender of self and a genuine desire to exalt God through their leadership. Like David, they become leaders after God’s own heart.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

*Subversive means to seek to undermine or destroy an established system. A leader who is subversive intends to overthrow the established authority to take power for themselves.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Read the entire account of Absalom’s life in 2 Samuel 13-19. What do I learn about leadership from his life?
  • In what way am I tempted to pretend to worship? What happens to me as a person when I do this? What impact does it have on my leadership?
  • Do I pray to get from God what I want or do I pray to hear from God what He wants? How does this impact my leadership?
  • When I report what has happened through my leadership, do I exalt God or draw attention to myself? Are the monuments I spend my life building devoted to God or self?

Copyright, Global Disciples, 2018.

Gideon: Sabotaging Potential

We have followed the story of Gideon from the time he was hiding in fear until he led the people to a great victory. It is exciting to watch as Gideon sees his potential, begins to shape it as he grows as a leader and finally how he shares this with others on his team. But sadly, his story does not end well, as we see in Judges 8:22-28.

22 The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” 23 But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.” 24 And he said, “I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.” (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.) 25 They answered, “We’ll be glad to give them.” So they spread out a garment, and each of them threw a ring from his plunder onto it. 26 The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels, not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels’ necks. 27 Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family. 28 Thus Midian was subdued before the Israelites and did not raise its head again. During Gideon’s lifetime, the land had peace forty years. (Judges 8:22-28)

Gideon had heard God call him a “mighty warrior.” Now others were calling him a “mighty warrior.” When God calls you “mighty warrior,” be encouraged; when others do, beware!

To Gideon’s credit, he resisted two temptations. The people invited him to “rule over them.” He was offered a good position. He declined and pointed them to God’s leadership over them. He also refused to use his leadership victory to promote his son, a common temptation for leaders.

But in other areas Gideon failed and like many leaders he did not finish well. He sabotaged* the potential God gave him by replacing his gifts of leadership with counterfeits.

Potential is sabotaged when income replaces influence. Gideon refused to take a permanent position but he asked to benefit financially from his leadership. While it is not wrong to be paid for work done, Gideon felt like his influence should be rewarded, not in a small way but with the huge sum of money he collected.

Position often leads to privilege. Every good leader will be tempted to think, “I’ve done well and deserve good compensation as reward for my effort.” Servant leaders ask God to keep their hearts focused on influencing others towards God, instead of on the income their leadership will bring.

Potential is sabotaged when religion replaces relationship. Gideon took the earrings and set up a place of worship. This was in direct violation of God’s instructions. His actions became “a snare to Gideon and his family.” Gideon began his leadership in a relationship with God but at the end of his life he allowed a religion of works to replace a relationship of intimacy.

Leaders love action and will be tempted to focus on what they do instead of intimacy with Jesus. Their acts of leadership quickly become a religion based on works. Servant leaders seek a continually growing intimate relationship with Jesus.

Potential is sabotaged when leisure replaces legacy. “During Gideon’s lifetime, the land had peace forty years.” Peace is great! But although Gideon served his nation for a moment, he did nothing to equip leaders for the future. He allowed leisure to replace his legacy and Gideon’s impact lasted only for his lifetime. After his death there was leadership chaos.

Servant leaders seize every moment to prepare the next generation. They share potential with others, not for one battle, but for a lifetime of leadership.

Servant leaders learn from Gideon’s mistakes and seek God’s power to continue to develop their own potential.


Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler


*sabotaged means destroyed, damaged, or ruined


For further reflection and discussion:

  • In what way do I feel like I deserve privileges because I am a leader? How can I avoid allowing these to replace God’s call on my life to influence others for Him?
  • In what way does my leadership keep me so busy that I don’t have time to strengthen my intimacy with Jesus? What do I need to change?
  • In what way am I using the present to prepare for the future? Who will lead after I am gone? What can I do today to help prepare them?
  • Which of the three mistakes that Gideon made is the greatest temptation for me? Are there other temptations that would keep me from fully utilizing my potential? What can I do to avoid them?

Read the account of the chaos that resulted after Gideon’s death in Judges 8:29-9:57. What do I learn from this story of Abimelech, one of Gideon’s illegitimate children? How can it help me to build up or shape my own legacy now?


Copyright, Global Disciples, 2018.

Gideon: Sharing Potential

God helped Gideon to see his potential and he began to shape it with his first leadership action, demolishing the altar of Baal. But God’s calling for Gideon was to deliver his people from the Midianites. Reaching this goal required Gideon to share his potential with others. So he called men around him to go and fight the Midianites. Gideon was beginning to share his potential with those that God called him to lead. He needed a team around him.

1 Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained….

17 “Watch me,” he told them. “Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. 18 When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon.’” 19 Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. 20 The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 21 While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled (Judges 7:1-3; 17-21).

At this point in his leadership journey, Gideon was beginning to share his potential with others. Servant leaders learn from Gideon that they cannot fully reach their own potential until they are helping others reach theirs. God gives potential to leaders so that they will share it with others.

Potential is shared by choosing others to join. Gideon chose others to be on his team. He called them to join his cause and to follow the vision he had just received from God. A few days before, these men were at their homes afraid to do anything. Gideon helps them to see their potential as God helped him to see his own. By choosing them, he communicates that “If God can use me, He can also use you!”

Servant leaders choose others because they see potential warriors. Gideon first accepted all who were willing. But he followed God’s instructions and finally reduced the number to only 300, the right people to be on his team. Servant leaders realize that while numbers are important, size is not the measure of success; obedience is. All leaders select others; servant leaders allow God to guide them in the process of choosing their team. They share their potential by choosing others to join with them.

Potential is shared by calling others to act. “Watch me,” he told them. “Follow my lead.” Gideon was not being arrogant or proud, he was simply calling others to act. He shared his vision with them and now calls them to join in the action. His vision becomes a shared vision.

Gideon’s first leadership action was alone; now he shares his potential by inviting others to act. A “mighty warrior” can act alone but a mighty leader calls others to action. Servant leaders share their potential by calling others to act on the shared vision.

Potential is shared by challenging others to grow. Gideon calls the men to an attack in the middle of the night, a difficult assignment. He shares potential with others by giving them challenging assignments that will help them grow and develop confidence in their own abilities. Servant leaders deliberately give assignments to others to help them develop their own potential. And together they win the victory! God called Gideon a “mighty warrior.” Now Gideon calls forth 300 mighty warriors. Servant leaders are not just called to be warriors, but to raise up other warriors. They share their potential with others.

Share your potential with your team, whether that is a handful in your family, a small group that you lead, employees in your business, a church or community group. Choose them, call them to act and challenge them to grow. With God’s help, your team will accomplish the dream together.


Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler


For further reflection and discussion:

  • Do I most often act alone or empower others to act? What is the result of my leadership?
  • Who is the ‘army’ God is calling me to develop? Do I see the potential in others as God saw potential in me? What hinders me from seeing the potential in others?
  • Have I chosen the right people to be on my team? Have I followed God’s guidance in the process or only relied on my own wisdom?
  • In what way have I shared my vision with the team that will help us carry it out? Have they accepted it as their vision?
  • Is there a specific person whom I should call and challenge to grow? When will I do this?
  • Gideon’s first leadership act was at night because of fear. Now he calls his team to a nighttime attack. What is the difference in these two times and what does it show about Gideon’s growth as a leader?


Copyright, Global Disciples, 2018.

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.


Gideon: Seeing Potential


The Book of Judges tells the story of a difficult time in Israel’s history. “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit” (Judges 17:6).

In this context God raised up a series of leaders to deliver the people from their enemies. When the Midianites oppressed Israel, God called Gideon. Servant leaders can learn many things from Gideon’s example, but we will focus on his potential as a leader. We will examine how Gideon saw his potential, how he shaped it, how he shared it with others, and finally how he sabotaged his potential.

11 The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” 13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” 14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” 15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” 16 The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive” (Judges 6:11-16).

At the beginning of his leadership journey Gideon had potential to be a leader but couldn’t see it. From his story servant leaders learn what is required to see their potential.

Seeing potential requires God’s perspective. God looked at Gideon and saw a “mighty warrior.” Gideon didn’t see himself as a warrior and certainly not a mighty one! He was hiding in a winepress threshing wheat. He looked around and saw the oppression of the enemy. He looked within and saw that he was from a weak clan and was the least in his family. Gideon looked at himself from his own perspective, not God’s. God sees more in Gideon and calls it forth with a new name “mighty warrior.”

Servant leaders do not look at their background or credentials to see their potential. They look for God’s perspective. What does God see when He looks at you? What is His name for you?

Seeing potential requires God’s power. God says to Gideon, “Go in the strength you have…” Gideon doesn’t see himself as a man with strength or power. But God wants him to recognize that He has already placed within Gideon a unique personality, gifts and strengths that were designed to accomplish God’s purposes.

Many leaders, especially young leaders, don’t see their own unique strengths and the power that God provides to them. Servant leaders see God’s power in their own lives and acknowledge it as a gift from Him. In what way has God uniquely empowered you to accomplish His plan for your life?

Seeing potential requires God’s presence. At the beginning the angel says, “The Lord is with you” and at the end, “I will be with you.” But in this passage, Gideon wrestles to accept that God is with him. He sees the enemy but can’t see God’s presence.

Leaders who don’t acknowledge God’s presence in their lives will never see their potential. Servant leaders recognize God’s presence with them and because of Him they are able to see their potential. What can you accomplish since God is with you?

When you think about yourself, what do you see? God sees in you a “mighty warrior.” See the potential God has given you and become the leader God has called you to be.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler


For further reflection and discussion:

  • In what ways have I seen myself as Gideon did in this story? What factors in my life cause me to see myself as incapable of accomplishing great things for God? If God showed up this afternoon, what words would I hear Him say to me? What name would He give me?
  • As I reflect on my own life, what are the unique gifts, personality, and life experiences God has given to me? In what ways do these strengths prepare me for the work to which God has called me?
  • Do I regularly acknowledge God’s presence with me in my leadership journey? If so, what difference does it make in how I see my potential? If not, what hinders my awareness of His presence?
  • In this story, God used an angel to help Gideon see his potential and call forth the leader he was created to be. Is there someone around me that God wants me to call forth? If so, how and when will I do that?

In the next issue, we’ll look at how Gideon shaped his potential.


Copyright, Global Disciples, 2018.