Leadership & Conflict

By Thomas Clothier

I am a leader. I am a person of influence. So are you.

I serve the Lord as a pastor. You may be a Sunday school teacher, a youth sponsor, an elder in your church, or a deacon. You may own your own business, work in an office, teach in a school, or minister in a local hospital. You may serve as a police officer or in a local, state, or federal government position. Regardless of your title or responsibilities, you influence those around you. Therefore, you are a leader!

Leaders face many challenges. That is why they're leaders. However, the greatest test of leadership will occur in conflict. God has called me to pastoral ministry. God has also permitted conflict and trials to occur in my pastoral ministry. I neither sought nor desired these conflicts. However, God used these times of testing to make me the godly leader He desires. The same is true for you. I have come to believe that conflict is an indispensable tool God uses to develop godly leadership.

The church I pastor is continuing to rise from the smoldering embers of a "firestorm" which engulfed its ministries, its congregation, and my family several years ago. Unfounded accusations, gossip, manipulation, disobedience to church leadership, and a demonic influence consumed the church during those days. People were hurt, several families left the church, and I was forced to take a leave of absence wherein I relinquished all ministry responsibilities. I could not officiate previously scheduled weddings, funerals, or have any pastoral involvement with anyone from the congregation. My family and I became isolated.

I often feared I would never be able to return to the ministry. What else could I do? Where would my family and I go? Our church, and its surrounding community, had become our home, but in my mind I was damaged goods. I retreated and hid in the sanctuary of my home.

However, through professional and godly mediation, ongoing education and prayer, eventually the church in general and I in particular, arose from the fires of conflict into godly leadership which continually strives to glorify God. It was not easy. Even now there are times when I still find myself on guard when I am around certain people, but the Lord continues to bring healing into my life, my family, and the congregation.

God has given me the privilege of being involved in some facet of pastoral ministry for thirty-plus years. He has chosen to use me as a teacher, Christian education pastor, youth pastor, and presently as a senior pastor. During that time, the Lord has taught me that pastoral ministry remains a vital component to the overall function of the local church. Every pastor is a leader: he may be effective or ineffective, but he is a leader.

Conflict is an often unwelcome companion in life and ministry, but something that God uses to develop godly leaders. As one author has written, "God allows conflicts in order to humble us, test us, and create spiritual growth within us. Christians as well as non-Christians have conflicts; the difference is in the way we (believers) handle them" (Biblical Conflict, par. 6). It is important for leaders to realize that it may not be sinful to have conflict; it may become only sinful when conflict is not handled in a Biblical manner, and the leader learns nothing from the conflict.

Many authors have written significant and helpful books regarding the topic of church conflict. Still others have written volumes on leadership. I have many of them in my office. However, leaders need to understand God's rationale for using conflict to develop godly leadership. In so doing, the leader derives a perspective concerning not only past conflicts, but for conflicts yet to come.

All ministries must be built upon a commitment to biblical truth. To do so is to build one's life upon a solid rock. To do otherwise is to build one's life upon the sand. The decisive moment occurs when troubles come. As Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount, the house (life) built on the rock will not fall "for it was founded on the rock" (The New King James Version, Matthew 7:25), while the house (life) built on the sand will fall. "And great was its fall" (Matthew 7:27b).

As Pastor John Piper writes:

The afflictions of John Bunyan gave us The Pilgrim's Progress. The afflictions of William Cowper gave us There is a Fountain Filled with Blood and God Moves in a Mysterious Way. And the afflictions of David Brainerd gave us a published Diary that has mobilized more missionaries than any other similar work. The furnace of suffering brought forth the gold of guidance and inspiration for living the Christian life, worshipping the Christian God, and spreading the Christian gospel. (Piper 19)

This brief article examines the biblical theme of God's use of conflict to develop men and women to become the leaders He desires. This is taught implicitly, and explicitly, throughout the Scriptures.

At the outset, clear definitions for the terms leadership and conflict are absolutely necessary for a correct understanding of how God chooses to develop leadership through conflict. Therefore, what is leadership?

Leadership expert, and former pastor, John Maxwell explains that "leadership is influence. That's it. Nothing more; nothing less. My favorite leadership proverb is: He who thinketh he leadeth and hath no one following him is only taking a walk" (Maxwell 1).

What makes a godly leader? How does one become a person of influence?

Godly leadership is primarily being a person of character. Character is morality and possessing a good reputation. A leader may be uniquely qualified with multiple degrees, supremely gifted with a dynamic personality, and ably talented as a communicator, but if he lacks a strong, moral character his ministry or career will be superficial and inconsequential at best and damaging at worst. In this culture where "image is everything" the leader must be a person of moral substance. A leader whose character is a mile wide, but an inch deep, is not sufficient for the task at hand.

Concerning a leader's character Pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote, "Let us aspire to saintliness of spirit and character. I am persuaded that the greatest power we can get over our fellow men is the power which comes of consecration and holiness" (Michael 75). Spurgeon believed that a leader must evidence an uncompromising standard of character.

Two definitive biblical passages focusing on a leader's character are found in I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Both passages contain directives specifically regarding a pastor's responsibilities, but the vast majority of qualifications focus on what a pastor must be: a man of godly character. These qualities must not only be found in the godly leader, but also continually developed by the leader cooperating with the Lord. These qualities include being:

  • Blameless (I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6) – There must be no valid accusation of wrongdoing made against a pastor.
  • The husband of one wife (I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6) – This literally means a one-woman man. He does not have a roving eye. He guards what he sees.
  • Temperate (I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7) – This literally means "wineless." As a leader, he must possess the ability to think clearly. He abstains from the clouding influence of alcohol.
  • Sober-minded (I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8) – This refers to a disciplined individual. He is serious about spiritual matters.
  • Of good behavior (3:2) – This means "orderly." He does not lead a chaotic life.
  • Hospitable (I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8) – He is to be a lover of strangers. He must demonstrate a willingness to help and assist people.
  • Able to teach (I Timothy 3:2) – The preaching and teaching of God's Word is a pastor's primary responsibility. This is the one of two qualifications alluding to the pastor's job.
  • Not given to wine (I Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7) – The pastor must not have a reputation as a drinker or drunkard.
  • Not violent (I Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7) – This literally means "not a giver of blows." He cannot be a violent man.
  • Not greedy for money (I Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7) – He must not be in the ministry for money.
  • Gentle (I Timothy 3:3) – He must demonstrate patience and understanding.
  • Not quarrelsome (I Timothy 3:3) – He is reluctant to fight.
  • Not covetous (I Timothy 3:3) – The pastor must not focus on wanting something more than what he has and at the same time resenting those who have what he does not have.
  • One who rules his own house well (I Timothy 3:4-5) – He is to have an orderly home. This refers to family relationships.
  • Not a novice (I Timothy 3:6) – A pastor cannot be a recent convert.
  • Having a good testimony among those who are outside (of the faith) (I Timothy 3:7) – He must have an impeccable reputation in the non Christian community.
  • Not self-willed (Titus 1:7) – He focuses on God's will.
  • A lover of what is good (Titus 1:8) – He must have affection for that which is intrinsically and morally good.
  • Just (Titus 1:8) – The pastor evidences behavior which is proper.
  • Holy (Titus 1:8) – He is to be set apart from sin's control and is controlled by God.
  • Self-controlled (Titus 1:8) – A definitive fruit of the Spirit.
  • Holding fast the faithful Word (Titus 1:9) – This is the second occurrence reflecting a pastor's job responsibility. The pastor is to teach and be committed to sound, biblical doctrine.

As a pastor, I am to be a godly leader possessing godly character. This is true because a pastor is in a position of influence. Beyond the title, a pastor uniquely possesses the responsibility to influence God's people with God's truth resulting in godliness. With that God-ordained influence, a pastor must set forth an example of godly character which will glorify God while at the same time resonating with the congregation he serves.

So it is with any believer. I am a Christian who strives to be a godly leader. Your sphere of influence may be a carpool, an office, a construction site, or a classroom. Regardless of who you are, your influence as a leader is significant. People are following your lead.

However, leadership is not just about what we are, but also what we do. Leadership is also being a person of integrity. Integrity is "moral uprightness; honesty" (Oxford 422). Integrity means "wholeness; soundness" (Oxford 422). While character focuses on what a leader is, integrity involves what a leader does. It is the leader's conduct.

Integrity is being consistent with biblical convictions. For a pastor, this is essential for effective leadership. People may not necessarily agree with a pastor's biblical convictions, but more often than not they will respect him for holding to his biblical convictions, regardless of the consequences. For the pastor, or any leader, to do otherwise is hypocrisy.

The Scriptures have much to say regarding the leader's integrity:

  • I Corinthians 10:31 - Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
  • Psalm 15:1-5. "O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart. He does not slander with his tongue, not does evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; In whose eyes a reprobate is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; He swears to his own hurt and does not change; He does not put out his money at interest, nor does he take a bride against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken."
  • Psalm 26:1-2. "Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. Examine me, O LORD, and try me; Test my mind and my heart."
  • Proverbs 11:1-3. A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight. When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.

Pastor Charles H. Spurgeon also believed that pastors must be men of integrity and that it was essential in the work of the ministry. In a letter to young pastors he wrote:

Dear brethren, we must acquire certain moral facilities and habits, as well as put aside their opposites. He will never do much for God who has not integrity of spirit. If we be guided by policy, if there be any mode of action for us but that which is straightforward, we shall make shipwreck before long. Resolve, dear brethren, that you can be poor, that you can be despised, that you can lose life itself, but that you cannot be a crooked thing. For you, let the only policy be honesty. (Michael 84)

Additionally, leadership is discipline. Discipline is "mental, moral, or physical training. It is to "bring under control by training in obedience" (Oxford 233). Discipline is having a sound mind, a self-controlled mind resulting in a self-controlled life.

The Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy to have "a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1.7). Discipline comes from the Greek word sophronismos meaning "making understanding or wise, discretion, and moderation. In 2 Timothy 1:7 the text says God has given a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind which in the context denotes a regulated life. The term has a Hellenistic flavor to it, but here it is understood in terms of the Spirit" (Kittel 1152). Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Believers are to exercise self-control in all things (I Corinthians 9:25). Believers are also to add to their faith "self-control" (2 Peter 1.5-6).

The result of becoming a person of influence, character, integrity, and discipline is godliness. Godliness, or being a godly leader, means "practical Christian piety" (Wycliffe 697). It stems from a proper relationship with God (I John 5:18) evidenced by a "yielded life to God through Jesus Christ (Romans 12:1). Its final goal is the development of a consciousness of God, and of such similar traits as righteousness, faith, love, patience, and meekness (I Timothy 6:11, 2 Peter 1:6)" (697).

I am the sum total of many influences and many individuals' spiritual investments. So are you! God has brought people into my life that mentored me, counseled me, taught me, encouraged me, and corrected me. Most importantly, however, they mirrored Jesus Christ before me by their influence, character, integrity, and discipline. Some of these people were pastors: many of them were not. Many were, and remain to this day, in ministry while others faithfully serve God in the secular world. Regardless, God used both men and women to mold and shape my life as they modeled godly leadership.

There was Eileen who taught me to pray before meals, my pastor who taught me to love good books and to build a quality library, and my friend Don who impressed upon me the importance of expository preaching. There was Wendy who stressed humility and giving God all the glory, Jerry who challenged my thinking, and Jack who displayed a servant's heart and a love for God's Word.

Looking back upon their lives, they must have had their share of difficult days when they were discouraged and disappointed. They must have encountered their fair share of conflict. However, through it all they remained committed to being people of influence, character, integrity, and discipline in spite of whatever conflict they encountered. In short, they were godly leaders. Their impact in my life, and others, is incalculable.

This brings us to our second key word: conflict. Conflict is "a state of opposition or hostilities." Conflict is "a fight or struggle by the clashing of opposing principles." Conflict is a trial. It is a test. It is the process of trying or proving by actual or simulated use and experience. A trial may also be a single complete instance of such testing. Finally, it is a "state of pain or anguish caused by a difficult situation or condition."

Conflict is a particular type of trial. Conflict may be caused by circumstances, but it may also be the result of people's behavior. Conflict is the stress resulting from outward, or inward, opposition. It is not just having a difference of opinion, but rather being attacked by or attacking the person who holds a different opinion.

The Scriptures contain two words for conflict: agon and athlesis. The word "agon" has several meanings: (1) "a place of assembly"; and (2) "a contest of athletes". This idea is used metaphorically in referring to the Christian life as a fight and a race; (3) the spiritual conflict of the soul, which is often the result of an accompanying outward conflict. This definition is explicitly taught in the New Testament and from it we derive the English word "agony."

Conflict involves a "striving for the goal." It involves exertion and a concentration of one's forces. Little reference is made to antagonists, but obstacles and dangers have to be faced. Martyrdom is the final conflict.

In Philippians 1:29-30 the Apostle Paul explained that conflict is a part of being a Christian. He shared that for the Christian, suffering was to be expected. He expressed the same thought in his other epistles. The overall content of his writing reflected the experiences of his life and God's truth.

Philippians 1:29-30 says, "For to you is have been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and how hear to be in me" (The New American Standard Bible, Philippians 1.29-30).

In examining these verses in greater detail, we see that Paul begins with the statement "For to you..." (Philippians 1:29a). Paul was writing to believers residing in Philippi who were members of the Philippian church. Consequently, what he said to believers then is pertinent to believers today.

What did the apostle explain to them? He wrote that it had been "granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake" (Philippians 1:29).

The word "granted" means the believer is a recipient of God's active involvement. The word charizomai means to freely bestow, to graciously give, or to do a favor. The idea here is that God has granted the sinner two main benevolent blessings or favors.

The first favor God gives is the ability to believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. This is known as the doctrine of faith alone. To believe presently, actively, and infinitely is the God given gracious ability to commit, depend, trust, and worship Jesus Christ on the basis of not only who He is, God in the flesh, but also in His substitutionary atonement accomplished on the cross.

Be exercising this God given faith, received through the preaching of the gospel and by monergistic regeneration provided by the Holy Spirit, the sinner is born again in order to believe and to be converted. At the precise moment, the sinner becomes justified, redeemed, and receives the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ unto salvation.

However, not only has God granted the sinner the ability to believe unto salvation, but also the privilege to suffer for Jesus' sake. This is the second favor. The word pascho refers to the God given gracious ability to experience and to undergo a bad situation or plight. Within the immediate context, the word refers to suffering presently, actively, and infinitely. At the outset, this may not seem to be all that great a truth for the believer to acknowledge. However, what greater good does God have in allowing and directing that the Christian encounter suffering?

The answer is found in the last part of verse 29. "For His sake" refers the believer to Jesus. This means in or on behalf of Christ. The believer who not only receives the ability to believer the gospel, but also encounters conflict and suffering does so with the awareness that God has ordained both of these favors to occur for the purpose of the believer becoming more identified with and known for increasingly possessing the character of Jesus Christ.

This is God's goal for each sinner converted by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. That this is the case is supported by Paul's statement in vs. 30. Paul acknowledges that the same grace God gave the Philippian church and believers today, He gave to the apostle. God not only gave Paul the ability to believe the gospel (see Acts 9) but also the privilege of encountering conflict as an apostle of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This resulted in Paul not only becoming more like Christ in his personal character, but also to become an influential leader within the church. The same may be said for the church today.

Additionally, the Apostle Paul expressed an inner conflict for the Colossians in his desire to encourage them. In Colossians 2:1 he stated, "What a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts may be encouraged..." "The goal is not just our salvation but also that of others." Paul struggled "for" the church and understood the crucial discipline of prayer. "The gospel brings conflict to the entire Christian life, but as we pray and stand together the sign of the cross is a sign of victory" (Kittel 21).

The second word for conflict, athlesis, refers to combat and/or a contest involving athletes who engage in competition or conflict and it from this word we derive our English words athlete, and athletics. It is used in the Book of Hebrews when the author stated, "But recall the former days which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings" (Hebrews 10.32).

Paul used the word in 2 Timothy 2:5 when he wrote to his young, spiritual son and likened all ministries to an athletic contest, wherein the rules must be obeyed. 2 Timothy 2:5 suggests the need for exertion, sacrifice, and discipline. In Philippians 1:27 and 4:3, synathleo carries the idea of striving, suffering, and working together. The word athlesis in Hebrews 10:32-33 evokes the image of public struggle in the arena.

Leadership and conflict go hand in hand. They are inseparable companions. No one who aspires to be a great leader will fail to encounter great conflict. Leadership is uniquely embodied in the person and ministry of a pastor. God-ordained conflict develops qualities of leadership – influence, character, integrity, and discipline – in a way nothing else can. The result is godliness.

Contrary to popular Christian belief, God accomplishes more through conflict in the pastor's and believer's life and ministry than success and prosperity ever could. Unfortunately, many in the ministry would rather exchange the refining fires of conflict for the deceitful dross of ease and comfort. What they fail to realize is that what they have in comfort pales into insignificance when compared to the greater wealth of Christ-likeness acquired through conflict.

This idea is not new. It is as old as the Scriptures. In fact, throughout God's Word men and women became the leaders God wanted them to be by the conflict God brought into their lives. This is a consistent theme. Both the Old and New Testaments provide numerous examples of people who became godly leaders through the conflicts God permitted to occur. There is valuable information to be discovered in the Scriptures concerning the indispensability of God ordained conflict in the development of godly leadership. It is to God's inerrant word that our attention is now focused upon one such leader: King David.

Profiles in Conflict:
David's Heartfelt Commitment to Uphold God's Glory!

How often does the public evaluate successful leaders by outward circumstances rather than inner character? More often than not, the world's prevailing perspective concerning leaders is that image is everything. If things are looking good, and the leader gives forth an appearance of success, then everything must be okay. Even if things are not as they ought to be or appear to be, the so-called leader has a slew of public relations people who will put a positive spin on every situation.

For many, character, integrity and discipline have become a commodity. It is viewed today as an article of trade. The only remaining question is at what cost? Magazines, newspapers, movies, and television emphasize the beautiful, the best and the brightest. Talent, ability and integrity give way to money, success, and celebrity. However, character is a mile wide and an inch deep.

One wonders how the Chief Executive and Chief Financial Officers of Enron, Tyco, and WorldCom are now viewed by the public in the wake of scandals, bankruptcy, and prison sentencing. Kenneth Lay, Dennis Kozlowski, Mark Swartz, and Bernard Ebbers respectively are to many the poster children of greed and avarice.

Additionally, major league baseball took a public relations hit during the 2005 season with the revelation by, and subsequent punishment of, several players discovered to have taken steroids, or performance enhancing drugs. The Baltimore Orioles Rafael Palmiero told the United States Congress, under oath, that he never took steroids, yet it was later discovered he had indeed taken a banned substance. What consequences await him has yet to be determined. Has the so- called "national pastime" been tainted beyond repair? Even the New York Yankees Alex Rodriguez has confessed to using steroids.

Former President George W. Bush found his popularity falling, according to several pollsters, because of his apparent inaction in responding to the Hurricane Katrina crisis in New Orleans, Louisiana and the United States military involvement in Iraq. One full-page ad in the USA Today branded the president, former Vice-President Chaney, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell as liars. Many people, especially the group known as The People for the American Way, perceived these men as leaders who lacked character.

Several years ago, Promise Keepers hosted a pastor's conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. One of the keynote speakers was noted author and pastor, Chuck Swindoll. The title of his message was The Heart of a Great Leader, and his text was Proverbs 4:23-27.

Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you. Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right of the left; remove your foot from evil.

Pastor Swindoll told those assembled that the most important component of their lives as leaders was their heart. He concluded that "it takes great heart to be a great leader."

The Old Testament Hebrew word for heart is qamay and it refers to a human's "feelings, intellect, and the most interior center of an individual. It may also refer to courage and understanding."

Concrete meanings of qamay referred to the internal organ and to analogous physical locations. However, in its abstract meanings, "heart" became the richest biblical term for the totality of man's inner or immaterial nature. In biblical literature it is the most frequently used term for man's immaterial personality functions as well as the most inclusive term for them since, in the Bible, virtually every immaterial function of man is attributed to the "heart". In many contexts, it expresses the totality of a man's nature and character, both inner and outer (TWOT 466).

The Greek words for heart are kardia and psuche. While kardia may refer to the chief organ of physical life, both kardia and psuche describe the inner being of man including "feelings, desires and passions." W. E. Vine explains that kardia "came to stand for man's entire mental and moral activity, both rational and the emotional elements." Gerard Kittel states that psuche speaks of the "soul or life."

Proverbs 4 indicates that godly leaders must guard their hearts above all else. They do so by guarding what they say, what they watch, where they go, and what they do. Why? Honestly, it is because out of the heart "proceeds evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man" (Mark 7.21-23).

The Bible instructs believers that leaders should believe God with all their heart (Acts 8:37; Romans 10:10), serve God with all their heart (Deuteronomy 11:13), and keep His statutes with all their heart (Deuteronomy 26:16). In addition, godly leaders are to trust in God with all their heart (Proverbs 3:5-6), love God with all their heart (Matthew 22:37), and do the will of God from the heart (Ephesians 6:6). Believers are also to sanctify God in their hearts (I Peter 3:15), and love one another with a pure heart (I Peter 1:22).

Therefore, it is not surprising that the Lord, in I Samuel 13, commanded Samuel not to look upon the physical appearance of a man as a qualification to be the King of Israel, but rather to look on the heart. King Saul, Israel's first king, disqualified himself from holding the position because of his disobedience and unlawful sacrifice. In I Samuel 13:13-14, Samuel told Saul following the incident, "You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue."

Who would succeed Saul as king? Samuel left no doubt when he stated, "The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you (Saul) have not kept what the Lord commanded you."

Who would be this man after God's own heart? The Lord told Samuel to go to the home of Jesse, who lived in Bethlehem. God told Samuel that one of Jesse's sons would be Israel's new king. God further told Samuel his reason for selecting one of Jesse's sons in I Samuel 16:7. "For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." David was God's choice to king. He was a man after God's own heart, whom Samuel anointed to be King of Israel.

Several authors have written books about David. He is a significant biblical character, inspiring gifted writers to meditate about his integrity, leadership, and devotion to God. Several of these books are best sellers and grace the shelves of pastors and parishioners alike. Therefore, great care must be exhibited in examining David's life. What else can be written that has not already been stated?

David's walk with God consumes a significant volume of the Old Testament, along with many references to him in the New Testament. What specifically should be included and what should be left out in this examination concerning David's leadership?

Let us focus only on two incidents in David's life where he encountered conflict. These were not the only times he faced trials, but these two situations are not only well known, but they also show the significance of conflict in developing godly leadership and the terrible price when a godly man falters. The incidents referenced are David's commitment to uphold God's glory in his battle with Goliath and his moral failure with Bathsheba.

The Bible initially mentions David when he is seemingly a forgotten man: forgotten by his earthly father, but not his heavenly Father. The immediate context is found in I Samuel 16:1-13. The Lord instructed Samuel to fill his horn with oil and go to the home of a resident of Bethlehem named Jesse, because God had selected "a king among his sons." God rejected Israel's first king, Saul, because of his rebelliousness and disobedience.

Upon his arrival, Samuel invited Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice God instructed the judge to perform using a heifer. Samuel looked at Jesse's son Eliab and concluded that the Lord's anointed was before Him. However, in I Samuel 16:7, the Lord said, "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

Jesse made seven of his sons, including Abinadab and Shammah; pass before Samuel to see which one would be the Lord's anointed king over Israel. However, God chose none of them.

Finally, Samuel asked Jesse, "Are all the young men here?" Jesse responded that "there remains the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep." As with Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, God favored the least noticed and the youngest. The shepherd boy would become a mighty king. David would foreshadow the King of Kings: Jesus Christ.

Samuel instructed Jesse to bring his youngest son to him. Jesse's youngest son was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good looking. The Lord told Samuel, "Arise, anoint him, for this is the one." Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.

God's choosing of David to be Israel's next king had nothing to do with his appearance. God selected David because he was a man whose heart was dedicated to Him. This would soon be seen, not only by King Saul, but also by a Philistine named Goliath.

It was shortly after David's anointing that he began to serve in the palace of King Saul. When the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, a distressing spirit from the Lord began to trouble him. Saul's servants implored the king to allow them to find a musician, "a skillful player on the harp who will play it with his hand when the distressing spirit from God is upon you, and you shall be well." Saul agreed and David was selected. Saul's servants described him as one "who is skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the Lord is with him."

David was a faithful servant to the king. In fact, the Bible says that Saul loved David greatly and he became his armor-bearer. Whenever the king became distressed David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would leave. Israel's future king is growing in privilege and responsibility. However, he is an anointed king poised to encounter severe conflict.

As I Samuel 17 unfolds, the armies of Israel and the Philistines were ready to fight against each other. Encamped northwest of Bethlehem, "Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together... in battle array against the Philistines." With a valley between them, each army stood prepared for battle on a mountain.

However, the Philistines had an advantage: a man named Goliath. Goliath was a champion, from the Philistine city called Gath, and stood approximately nine feet and nine inches tall. He wore the following hardware: a bronze helmet, a coat of mail weighing 125 pounds, bronze armor on his legs, and a bronze javelin between his shoulders. He also had a spear, which weighed fifteen pounds. He was an intimidating presence.

In I Samuel 17:8-10, Goliath made a proposition to the Israeli army:

Why have you come out to line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and you the servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us. And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.

The reaction from the Israeli army was fear; they were scared. The Bible says in I Samuel 17:11 that "when Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid." Israel was confused. They did not know what to do and were paralyzed with fear. This included King Saul.

Saul and his army encountered armed conflict before, but there was something about this one man, taunting an entire army, which stopped them in their tracks. What was it? It seems that Israel in general, and King Saul in particular, was more concerned with outward appearances and was also influenced by the fear of men.

It was a nightmare that continued for forty days and nights. For over a month, both morning and evening, Goliath made his proposition to Israel. He continued to taunt and intimidate, and no one took him up on his offer; neither King Saul, nor any other seasoned soldier.

Conflict can do this. It can render a normally competent and confident leader incapable of making a decision, confronting a situation, or handling a difficulty. Often the response is fear, accommodation, or flight in the mistaken notion that inaction will make the conflict just go away. However, this will not happen, then or now. Was there no one who would join the battle and engage the Philistine in combat?

For David, the day he fought Goliath began just like any other day. As the youngest son of Jesse, he would occasionally leave the palace of King Saul and return to feed his father's flocks. Not only that, but he would also run errands for his father; such was the case that fateful day.

Jesse told David to take about a bushel of grain and ten loaves to his older brothers at the camp of the Israeli army. The brothers who went off to war were Jesse's three eldest: Eliab, Abinadab, and Shammah. In addition, David took ten cheeses to the captain of their thousand. Jesse also wanted to know how David's brothers were doing. David got up early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, and took the things and went as Jesse had told him.

David arrived at the army's camp when the army was going out to fight. The Philistines and the Israeli's were ready to engage in conflict. David came to greet his brothers and as he talked with them, he heard Goliath give his ultimatum. Goliath's conditions were clear, the stakes were high, and everyone, when they saw the man, fled from him and were afraid.

It is at this point in the narrative that some rather interesting information is made known. Apparently King Saul offered a reward to the man who would battle Goliath and kill him. If so, Saul would give that man great riches, his own daughter as a wife, and furthermore, he would exempt the man's father from paying taxes in Israel. It was a pretty sweet deal, but alas, no takers. No one wanted to face the giant.

Whether David was interested in the reward is suspect, but David certainly disdained Goliath and repeatedly stated "who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God" David's demeanor and statement did not sit well with Eliab, his older brother.

Perhaps feeling the sting of being rejected as king in favor of his younger brother, or reflecting his own jealous heart, Eliab angrily lashed out at David. He said, "Why did you come down here? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle." David reacted in total surprise and stated, "What have I done now? Is there not a cause?" David's mind was on the giant and the conflict at hand.

Eventually, Saul sent for David. David told the king, "Let no man's heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight this Philistine." Saul was incredulous! He said, "You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth, and he is a man of war from his youth." What Saul said was true, but what he did not say, and which was equally true, was that there were thousands of Jewish men, including King Saul, who were men of war but who fled from the sight of Goliath. Only a shepherd boy was willing to face the conflict facing a nation. While outwardly only a youth, inwardly David's heart was dedicated to fight for God.

When a leader faces conflict, it is of little importance what his physical stature may be, or even his level of responsibility. What matters is his desire to do what is right. His need to do the right thing supersedes the circumstances around him. It does not matter if those circumstances are found on a battlefield, or in a boardroom. This was David's perspective. This must be ours.

David replied to the king that he had faced many dangers as a shepherd. He had encountered wild predators attacking the flock. He fought them, defeated them and rescued the endangered lamb from them. Goliath would be no different.

However, David was not solely relying upon his experiences as a shepherd in facing the giant; he was relying upon God. In I Samuel 7.37 he says, "The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said to David, God and the Lord be with you."

David's desire to honor God, along with his dependence upon God, displayed his heart centered leadership for God. Regardless of the challenge, David bravely faced Goliath, trusting in God to deliver him. David would not accommodate conflict: whether it was a lion, a bear, or a giant. Rather, he would boldly face the conflict in full assurance that God would be honored and glorified through His servant.

When conflict occurs, people have many ideas on how to face it. Rather than depending upon God for deliverance, people often look to man-made means to accomplish what only God can do. Consequently, often man's means violate the moral standards of God's Word revealing a lack of trust in God and His truth.

A couple of years after I became a senior pastor, the church began a building program. The need was great and the time was right for such a venture. It was decided to enlist the assistance of an evangelical stewardship organization to provide direction concerning the raising of funds for the project. Many of the ideas the company representative provided were wise and insightful.

However, when it came time to challenge the congregation concerning their sacrificial giving to the project, the company's representative strongly directed me to publicly reveal what my family and I were giving in order to challenge the families in the church to give proportionately more. This I would not do. Not only did I believe such counsel to be in violation of the principles outlines in 2 Corinthians 8-9, but I also believed it smacked of pragmatism.

Upon my refusal to comply, the stewardship representative chided me for not following his counsel. He warned that were the church to not follow his advice, then the proposed project giving would be less than what he projected the church was capable of providing.

With unwavering support from the church board and the congregation, I did not conform to the representative's counsel. I brought the proposed cost of the project to the congregation, explained the need, challenged the people to give and led the church in prayer for God's blessing and guidance.

What happened then was pretty awesome. The proposed financial goal was met. Pledges were collected, giving was faithful and the structure was completed. Additionally, the church's ministry giving did not suffer. Within seven years of dedication, the church mortgage was paid off and the church remains debt free. As was the case with us, so it was with David.

Saul sought to outfit David with all manner of armor and equipment. "So Saul clothed David with his armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail." However, when David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, he could not. David said to Saul, "I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them. So David took them off."

David took a shepherd's tools; equipment he knew best and which God would bless. He took his staff, selected five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd's bag. The shepherd's tools would be sufficient for God's work.

I Samuel 17.40 states that David "drew near to the Philistine." Facing his conflict, using the equipment God gave him, and depending upon the Lord in correctly using the tools, David was ready for battle. Any leader must meet conflict head on with the same perspective. He must never accommodate conflict, he must use the equipment God has chosen to give him, and he must depend upon the Lord by using those God given tools righteously and honorably. These tools include God's Word, prayer, wise counsel, and an unflinching commitment to glorify God.

As David drew near to Goliath, the giant "began drawing near to David, and the man who bore the shield went before him." Goliath was ready to meet David on the field of battle and was utterly confident he would be victorious, indicated by his open disdain of his opponent. In I Samuel 17:43 he said, "Am I a dog that you come to me with sticks?" In addition, Goliath cursed David by his gods. He said to David, "Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field."

David's response revealed his heart. Rather than being intimidated by the conflict, or trusting in his equipment, he trusted in the Lord. He told the Philistine that God would deliver him into David's hand. The giant would die and the result would not only be victory for Israel, but glory for the One, True God. David understood then what leaders need to understand today; the battle is the Lord's.

The resources an influential leader draws power must not be his own, but rather God's. Three times David invokes God's name declaring to Goliath that by the Lord he came to him, the Lord would conquer him, and the Lord would give Goliath into Israel's hands. That is exactly what happened.

David took a smooth stone, slung it from his sling, and struck the Goliath right between the eyes. The giant was killed. David was victorious. God was glorified. David defeated the "giant" conflict facing him. Furthermore, Israel routed the Philistine army. Israel experienced a great victory and witnessed the emergence of a great leader who would become king. David would not accommodate Goliath, as many previously had, and the result was that God delivered the giant into David's hands.

Godly leaders must never accommodate those creating conflict. Israel accommodated Goliath for more than a month and, instead of leaving, he became bolder. Today, those creating conflict must be confronted, as Goliath was, by a leader dependent upon the Lord, as David was. The result: God is glorified as He works through His chosen leader who readily takes up the battle and confronts the enemy. Nothing else is acceptable.

Sadly, 2 Samuel 11-12 records that David's life would not stay on this righteous path but take a tragic turn when he would compromise his heart's integrity for a moment of lustful pleasure with another man's wife. David's conscious compromise did not end with one evening of adulterous passion, but degenerated into deception and ultimately murder. David forfeited God's unique blessing for the rest of his life and his family encountered multiple tragedies as a result. How could this happen to a man after God's own heart? Simple, David failed to guard his heart. He accommodated his lust and compromised.

The seeds for David's compromise occurred long before he gazed upon Bathsheba. The Scriptures record in 2 Samuel 3:2-5 and 5:13-16 that David was a polygamist who had multiple children by multiple wives. Wherein these marriages reflected treaties between Israel and other nations, this was in direct violation of Deuteronomy 17:17 where God commanded Israel's future kings to refrain from having multiple wives, "lest his heart turn away." David disobeyed God's law, resulting in disastrous consequences.

David's tragic accommodation occurred subtly. 2 Samuel 11:1 says, "It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem."

Notice the almost casual statement: David remained at Jerusalem. It was unusual for David to stay home from battle. He should have been with his army, but chose instead to relax at home. This was his first mistake.

So it goes with leaders today. A seemingly insignificant choice can produce devastating consequences. Often these consequences are neither anticipated nor considered. However, they are real. A casual glance, an ignored discipline, or a neglected decision can bring incalculable misery. This is where the damage begins, but not where it ends.

"Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king's house." David saw a woman bathing. Within the context, the word saw means "to gaze." David did not take a casual glance but rather gazed for some time. Lust was rising up within his heart. Numbers 15:39 states "Remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes."

The text continues by saying that "the woman was very beautiful to behold." Notice the adjective "very." This woman was extraordinarily beautiful. The word "behold" means "to look upon an appearance."

Additionally, she was bathing. She was without clothing. She was naked. There was not much left to David's imagination. He was aroused. He wanted her. David did not guard his eyes.

This is one of the most important lessons a leader can learn when working or serving with the opposite sex. Guard your eyes! Always be consciously aware of any instance when your eyes begin to wander. It takes determination to be this disciplined. However, the rewards are huge if you do. Likewise, the consequences are just as huge if you do not.

What followed was a disintegration of righteousness which happened with such abandon that David's brazenness is shocking. He sent for the woman (2 Samuel 11:3), found out she was married (11:3b), he had sex with her (11:4), and she became pregnant (11:5). Along with not guarding his eyes, David did not guard his steps.

A roving eye can lead to roaming feet. What is initially considered can lead to consummation. What David did not consider, and what leaders must always recognize, is that what we think is what we are: or what we become.

David's character became irrevocably shattered. The tragedy was that he was the one responsible for shattering it. He ceased to be a man of integrity.

Unfortunately, this was not the end of David's downward slide into accommodation. David perpetuated his sin by seeking to cover it up. He called for Bathsheba's husband, Uriah the Hittite, to come home from the battlefield. Feigning interest in the military conflict, David was only concerned in manipulating Uriah into spending the evening with Bathsheba. Therefore, the pregnancy would naturally be attributed to him.

However, Uriah did not comply. When David asked why, Uriah replied, "The ark of Israel and Judah are dwelling in tents, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open fields. Shall I then go to my house to eat and drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing." David did not guard his mouth from deceit or his lips from perversity.

The leader's failure to guard his eyes leads to failure to guard his steps and this can lead to him failing to guard his mouth. He attempts to dismiss what happened. He may deny anything happened. He may lie about what happened.

Uriah's integrity is outstanding while David's pales in comparison. Rather than follow Uriah's example, David continued to manipulate by getting Uriah drunk in the hopes that the honorable soldier would cast off restraint and be passionate with his wife. This Uriah would not do.

Therefore, David continued his downward slide by hitting rock bottom. He arranged for Uriah to be killed in battle. David would now be able to marry Bathsheba and no one would be the wiser. David failed to remove his foot from evil.

When the leader does not confess his sin, it leads to more sin. When he chooses to not see his sin as God sees it, then the leader will continue his downward spiral until he crashes. For David, lust led to lewd behavior. This led to lying. It resulted in premeditated murder.

It is ironic that the young shepherd boy who would not accommodate a giant Philistine warrior representing unrighteousness lost his own personal integrity as king by accommodating unrighteousness within his own life. David's experience shows leaders that while conflict often occurs from outside sources, the man of God must always be aware of the conflict within his own soul.

The incident concludes with this statement: "But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord." David may have thought he had gotten away with murder, but God was watching. He was watching David. He is watching us.

"Then the Lord sent Nathan to David." God's name had not occurred throughout David's sordid affair. It does now in 2 Samuel 11:27 when God confronts David with his sin.

Nathan was a prophet of God during David's and Solomon's reign. I Kings 4:5 records that two of Nathan's sons served in King Solomon's court. 2 Chronicles 29 states that Nathan developed temple music and wrote an account of David's and Solomon's respective rule.

In 2 Samuel 7:1-17, God told Nathan that Solomon would build the temple, and not David. In I Kings 1:5-48, God used Nathan to ensure Solomon's succession to the throne upon David's death. David forfeited his integrity, but God had Nathan.

In 2 Samuel 12:2-4, Nathan came to David and told a simple story about two men. One was wealthy: the other poor. Wealth was often determined by how much livestock an individual owned. The wealthy man had many flocks and herds. The poor had but one, little ewe lamb. The lamb was more a pet than a possession. It was like a member of the man's family.

One day, a visitor arrived at the rich man's home. It was an appropriate custom to provide the rich man's visitor a feast as a display of hospitality. However, rather than kill one of his own animals for dinner, the rich man took the poor man's ewe lamb and slew it instead.

Upon hearing the story, David was incensed and pronounced a judgment of death upon the man in question. He also proclaimed that the guilty party would also 'restore four-fold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.'

David's righteous anger is striking. He had no idea that Nathan meant him. Nathan's response to David was calculatedly cold: "You are the man."

The Scriptures do not tell us what David's initial reaction was, but we know that Nathan did not stop with this single pronouncement. He unloaded both barrels expressing God's anger. He spoke to David about all the privileges God had given him: the wealth and the wives. If that had not been enough, God would have given him more. Yet David spurned God's generosity and plunged himself into immorality, deception and murder.

Nathan was not finished. After expressing God's displeasure, he then announced God's judgment. Violence would never leave David's family. In fact, David would face insurrection and revolt emanating from his own children. Additionally, what David did in secret would happen to him publicly. He would be shamed, humiliated and hunted. Finally, the four-fold judgment David pronounced would fall upon his children. Four of his offspring would die.

The word "adversity" is from the Hebrew (ra') meaning "evil, affliction, calamity, displeasure, and misery." God would bring judgmental adversity and conflict into David's life, for the rest of his life, as a consequence of David ignoring the conflict of sin within his soul.

David acknowledged his sin in response to Nathan's confrontation. David said, "I have sinned greatly against the Lord." However, the adversity Nathan spoke of would soon come when Nathan said, "The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die." What a heavy price to pay by failing to confront conflict within one's own life.

The irony here is that the shepherd boy who would not allow a pagan giant to blaspheme the name of the Lord became a king who would perpetrate such sin as to cause God's enemies to blaspheme His holy name. O, how great was David's fall!

Why did God not prevent David from his consummate slide into accommodation and sin? Why did God permit David to sin resulting in judgment, not only upon himself, but also his family? What did God not intervene sooner?

Perhaps the answer lies in God showing not only David, but future leaders, the devastating consequences when a leader accommodates conflict, especially his soul's battle with temptation and sin. Perhaps the answer is that God will always raise another leader to confront the sin of His anointed: be it a king, priest, or pastor. Nathan the priest was just such a man.

David's victory over Goliath, and his crushing defeat with himself, offer valuable lessons yet today on a leader's development; lessons which must not be ignored. These are lessons that remain timeless truths regarding what it takes to have the heart of a great leader.

  • Watch out for the small, seemingly insignificant accommodations to temptation.
  • One compromise with temptation and sin can lead to further compromises with temptation and sin. The cycle will continue.
  • The leader must always be prepared and never let his guard down. To do so can not only be dangerous, but deadly.
  • Once character has been compromised, even a little, it is hard to retrieve. The fallen leader lives with his shame for the rest of his life. There is no escaping it.

Conflict and trials are the dark sides of greatness. Loneliness is the continuing companion of one who holds great responsibilities. Loneliness often follows a leader in the aftermath of the noisome crowd. My heroes are those who stood tall in the midst of conflict. They serve as an example of the indispensability of conflict in developing godly leadership.

How ironic that the leaders we most admire are those who have endured the greatest pain, sorrow, and difficulty. It is through the crucible of conflict that individuals, such as Abraham Lincoln, ascended the pinnacle of power and influence to become leaders for the ages.

Donald T. Phillips provides a primer on leadership in a small paperback book entitled Lincoln on Leadership. He structures the book into four major areas concerning President Lincoln's leadership: people, character, endeavor, and communication. Regarding character, the author cites numerous anecdotes and refers to Lincoln's archival letters which communicate his ideology regarding honesty and integrity, not acting out of vengeance or spite, having the courage to handle unjust criticism, and being a master of paradox.

The aforementioned ingredients of great and godly leadership seldom appear in the modern, marketing strategy of multi-million dollar companies, conglomerates, or even churches. We want our leaders' well scrubbed, smartly dressed, with clear complexions, a full head of hair, and no skeletons in their closets. We do not inquire as to the hardships suffered or lessons learned which thereby solidify a leader's qualification to lead. We often emphasize and gravitate to the superficial rather than the substantial: the surface of a man rather than the depths of a person. How shortsighted.

The Apostle Paul knew this to be true and he knew it well. The truth of leadership developed through conflict would frame his final thoughts. As Paul neared the end of his life, he wrote a final letter to his young protégé, Timothy. His words were passionate, poignant, and personal to his young son in the faith. They would become part of the biblical canon. They are found in 2 Timothy 3:10-15:

But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra - what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3.10-15)

Paul began the paragraph with the word de which is translated as the coordinating conjunction "but." This indicates a contrast between what the apostle had previously written within the immediate context and what he was about to say regarding godly leadership. What Paul stated in 2 Timothy 3:1-9 was that immediately prior to the return of Christ there would be perilous times characterized by perilous people. These people would be "lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power" (2 Timothy 3.2-5). Commentator William Hendrickson writes:

Accordingly, Paul's words here in 2 Timothy 3:1 are best interpreted as meaning, Timothy, constantly realize that in these last days - this lengthy dispensation - in which we are now living there will be grievous seasons. These seasons will come and go, and the last will be worse than the first. They will be seasons of ever-increasing wickedness, which will culminate in the climax of wickedness. (Hendrickson 282-283)

Paul commented that these individuals would 'resist the truth' and additionally be 'men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith' (2 Timothy 3.8). However, the apostle indicated that they would not progress in influence, but rather their 'folly will be manifest to all' (2 Timothy 3.9).

What kind of godly leaders should Christians be in the midst of increasing ungodliness and conflict? Paul does not leave his young son guessing, nor later readers for that matter. The apostle encourages leaders to realize several things about being a godly leader in the midst of conflict.

First, they are to remember Paul's example. They are to "carefully follow" the apostle's life and ministry. This means to "investigate carefully and to follow what has been grasped" (Kittel 34). What areas of Paul's life and ministry are open to personal examination and investigation? Paul lists nine items for scrutiny: the doctrine, the manner of life, the purpose, the faith, the longsuffering, the love, the perseverance, the persecutions, and the afflictions. It is noted that in the Greek text the definite article prefaces each of the items. What do these categories mean?

  • Doctrine. This is didaskalia, which means teaching. What a leader communicates. It is what a pastor preaches.
  • Manner of Life. This is from the word agoge. It means conduct or behavior. It refers to a consecrated walk of life (I Corinthians 4:17). A leader is to demonstrate unselfishness in his life wherein he strives to give God all the glory.
  • Purpose. (prothesis, prosthesis) means God's purposes. The goal of the leader's life is in total harmony with his teaching. There is no contradiction and no hypocrisy.
  • Faith. Pistis in the context means Paul's personal faith in God.
  • Longsuffering. This is from the word makrothymia meaning patience.
  • Love. Agape means self-sacrificial love of the will.
  • Perseverance. Hypomone means endurance under pressure. When life's conflicts are the toughest, the godly leader perseveres.
  • Persecutions. Diogmos refers to what Paul passively endured.
  • Afflictions. This is pathema and means to suffer. These sufferings were for the cause of Christ and are recounted in 2 Corinthians 11:21-33. Paul refers to what he suffered at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra in verse 11.

Paul's encouragement to godly leaders is that since as he demonstrated holy living and endured a variety of conflict, so should they. They should expect conflict, grow from conflict, and always emulate godliness and a commitment to biblical truth throughout conflict.

Second, leaders are to remember Christ's faithfulness. Christ delivered Paul from all of his persecutions and afflictions. This truth of God's deliverance reverberates throughout the Scriptures. See Psalm 34:4-6, 19; Psalm 37:40; Psalm 91:2-6; Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 43:2; Daniel 3:17; Acts 26:16-17; and 2 Corinthians 1:10. It should be an encouragement to godly leaders today.

Third, leaders are to realize that conflict will occur. The apostle stated that 'all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution' (2 Timothy 3.12). Conflict is going to happen. God is providentially stating such is the case. The context dictates that this persecution will come from the Christ-rejecting world, but they should expect that conflict will also come from within the church. Therefore, believers must expect it and determine to be godly leaders when it occurs.

Fourth, conflict is not going to get any easier. Paul states that 'evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived' (2 Timothy 3.13). Evil, from (poneros), contains the sense of 'bad, harmful, unserviceable, or useless' (Kittel 913). In the moral sense, and used as an adjective, evil refers to humans who contrast God's holiness (Matthew 10:18), who are morally reprehensible (Matthew 7:11), and ultimately oppose God (Matthew 12:34-35).

The word imposters, (goes), means magician. In the context of 2 Timothy it 'can denote any 'charlatan' referring to the confusion and delusion of idolatry or hypocritical or sensual conduct. The only New Testament usage is in 2 Timothy 3:13, where the sense is the figurative one for the person who entices others to impious actions by pious words' (126).

Paul is telling godly leaders that evil men and imposters are a reality and they will continue to grow worse and worse. They not only will continue to deceive but will also continue to be deceived. Their deception, both given and received, finds its source in Satan. The godly leader must realize that he will encounter conflict in ministry. There is no discontinuance from the conflict God sovereignly permits in the ministry where He has called the godly leader to serve.

Fifth, godly leaders are to remain faithful. Godly leaders must continue in the things they have learned and from whom they have learned them. Principles gleaned and examples evidenced from the Scriptures and experiences must never be forgotten. Godly leaders must remember their heritage.

The Lord continues to challenge me with the fact that God ordained-conflict is indispensable in developing godly leadership qualities in me. Conflict is a fact of life in the ministry and for a leader. It seems occasionally to rear its head when you least expect it. However, the question is never "Will there be conflict?" but rather "How will I handle conflict when it comes and what type of godly leader am I, not only in the midst of the conflict, but also in its aftermath"?

William Cowper (1731-1800) was no stranger to conflict and trials. He battled depression throughout his life and even lived for a period of time in an insane asylum. However, his poetry reflects God's sustaining character and grace. I submit one of Cowper's most familiar hymns as an encouragement to godly leaders encountering the refining fires of conflict.

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

'Great privilege! Great pain! God's design! This is God's way: to take the privilege of faith and strengthen it with trials so that we worship and witness with a greater passion for God' (Piper 179).

What legacy are you preparing to leave your children? Mind you, I am not speaking about finances, or property. Rather, I am referring to leaving the lasting heritage of character, integrity, and discipline resulting in godliness. This inheritance is beyond measure and is the refined result of God's benevolent mercy in bringing conflict into the leader's life and the leader responding appropriately.

May we continue by God's grace to strive to leave family and friends the legacy of a godly husband, father, grandfather, and friend and pastor whom God refined into the character of Jesus Christ by the crucible of conflict. May we resolve to be an individual of faith who is convicted by God, committed to God, trusting in God, dependent upon God, and worshiping God. May this legacy be said of all who claim the name of Christ as Savior and Lord.

May every leader's legacy be of counting it all joy in the midst of trials and finding God's grace to be sufficient. Soli Deo Gloria!


Thomas Clothier, "Leadership & Conflict"

© Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals Inc, 600 Eden Rd, Lancaster PA 17601 USA.

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