One of my favorite Bible characters is Moses. Moses was a great man, and a great leader. Now as great a man as Moses was, we find a Moses who also struggled with sin, struggled with self-confidence _ he struggled with the task of being a leader. And yet to spite those flaws, God used him in a tremendous way.
There’s a scene in Moses’ life that teaches us Six Things Every Leader Must Put Behind Them. The story takes place in Numbers 11. Moses had successfully led God’s people out of Egypt, and they were journeying through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. Now, remember: in Egypt they had been slaves. Moses brought them out of captivity and was in the process of leading them to a land flowing with milk and honey where they could live in freedom and prosperity.
As they were traveling through the wilderness, God provided every day by raining down Manna, literally “bread from heaven”, and every morning the people of Israel would go out and pick up the manna and eat it. In my mind they made Manna Stew, and Manna Cakes, and probably Manna Burgers and Manna Casserole and Manna Surprise and on and on. But guess what? The people got tired of Manna and began to complain: “If only we had meat! In Egypt we had cucumbers and garlic and onions and melons. And now we get nothing but manna!” Moses became frustrated with their attitude and went to God and said, in effect, “Why are you doing this to me? I can’t make these people happy! Why don’t you just kill me and put me out my misery?”
God said, “Moses, you need to change your style of leadership. Choose 70 men and they will help you carry the burdens you’re trying to carry on your own. And by all means trust Me, because I will help you get through this.”
Through the course of this story Moses needed to forget six things that every effective leader, coach, boss, parent, pastor, teacher, and manager must put behind them. Let’s take a look at each one. If you want to be an effective leader you must…
- Forget About Winning a Popularity Contest
In spite of all the great things Moses had done, there were still disgruntled people in the camp. They were angry because they had to eat manna every day. They were focusing on the “good ole days” in Egypt even though they weren’t all that great. These people should have been thrilled with what Moses had done for them instead he was the target of their anger.
That’s the way it goes for leaders. So forget about winning a popularity contest, because no matter what you do there will always be disgruntled people to deal with. No matter how well you do your job, there will be people who complain. And if, in your area of leadership, you begin to go through a stretch of “wilderness”, these people will really turn up the volume and do all they can to make your life miserable and if they have their way replace you. So if you’re hoping to win everyone’s approval, forget about being a leader. No matter what you do, they’ll find something to gripe about. So, forget about winning a popularity contest.
- Forget About Doing It on Your Own
When the trouble makers complained to Moses, Moses complained to God. After he poured out his heart he came to the point where he said, “…the burden is too heavy for me.” (Numbers 11:14)
Every leader must realize that they have been called to be a leader, not a savior. There’s a difference. Salvation is God’s job not ours. Our job is to lead people to God _ not to us. Jesus Christ came into the world and single-handedly paid the price for the sins of the world. He could carry the weight of the world on his shoulders, but he’s the only one who will ever be able to do that. You and I can’t. If you want to be a leader, you have to develop a team mentality. God does His part and we do ours. And it works the same way with people. It takes a group of people to get the job done effectively. Ephesians 4:16 puts it like this: “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
That’s why there are elders and not elder. That’s why we have committees. That’s why we have leadership teams. For example, one person can’t carry the burden of youth ministry all alone. The youth pastor provides leadership for this area of ministry, but he needs a team of volunteers working with him to keep things in balance. So if you want to be a leader, you’ll need others on your team; forget about doing it on your own.
- Forget About Giving Up
As Moses was pouring out his heart to God, he said something very interesting… “If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now…and do not let me face my own ruin.” (Numbers 11:15)
Every leader will eventually face a situation in which walking away seems to be the most attractive option. You’ll catch yourself thinking, “If I could just wash my hands of this mess and get away from it once and for all, life would be so much easier.” That may seem like a viable option, but you’ll be walking away from what God has called you to do. Walking away isn’t worth it. If God has called you to a task, forget about giving up. Stick with it.
- Forget the Word “Impossible”
When God told Moses that the people of Israel would be eating meat until they were more than satisfied, Moses said… “Here I am among 600,000 men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?” The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you.” (Numbers 11:21-23)
Moses was saying, “It’s impossible!!!”God’s response was simple and straight to the point: “When you work for me, the word ‘impossible’ doesn’t exist. There is nothing I can’t do.”
It’s amazing that Moses had to be reminded. After all, he had witnessed the burning bush. He had witnessed the plagues of Egypt. He had witnessed the parting of the Red Sea. And now he was saying, “God, what you’re saying is impossible!” How quickly we forget what God has done in our lives. Instead of forgetting what God has done for us, we need to forget the meaning of the word “impossible” because when God is involved, no situation is impossible.
- Forget About Settling Your Own Scores
When troublemakers rose up against Moses and complained about the food, they made God angry. They were not just rebelling against the leadership of Moses, they were rebelling against God. He, not Moses, was responsible for getting them out of Egypt. He, not Moses, was directing them toward the Promised Land. He, not Moses, was providing for their needs during the journey. When they complained, they incurred his wrath.
The people of Israel went out to gather quail, and began to eat, and the Bible says… “While the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. Therefore, the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah [which means ‘graves of craving’], because there they buried the people who had craved other food.” (Numbers 11:33-34)
The question is, what do these verses teach us in our roles as leaders? That God will kill off the complainers? No, not really. The more important lesson for us to learn here is that it’s not a leader’s job to get revenge _ God will settle his own scores _ God will take care of the situation, you don’t have to. So forget about settling the score _ and yes that includes what you say from the pulpit preachers.
- Forget About Being a Control Freak
Conscientious leaders have to walk the fine line between giving direction and taking control. On the one hand, you don’t want to let those you’re called to lead to stumble without any help on your part. On the other hand you don’t want to become a tyrant.
Moses faced this situation. After he had appointed the 70 leaders, he learned that there were two others, named Medad and Eldad, who also had received God’s spirit and were prophesying among the people. Joshua came to Moses and said, “Moses, stop them!” Moses revealed his wisdom when he said… “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his spirit on them.” (Numbers 11:29) Moses was saying, “My job isn’t to keep these people under my thumb by micromanaging them. My job is to lead so they remain safely in God’s hands.”
Wrapping up… An effective leader must recognize that it’s God’s project, not theirs. Effective leadership is a matter of putting those things that hold us back behind us, and remembering that God has called us, as servant leaders, to move forward in His name and for His glory.