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4 Motivating Examples of Godly Leadership in the Bible

  • Lucas Hagen Contributing Writer
  • 2020 2 Sep
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If you search “leadership books” on Amazon, you will encounter over 10,000 results. There are countless opinions on leadership, and just as many people who have published their thoughts on the subject.

Unfortunately, among these 10,000+ results on Amazon, you will likely not find the Bible as a great book on leadership. This is a shame. There is no book that you will find that can provide greater direction, wisdom, and examples of godly leadership.

Let’s explore what I believe are four of the most inspiring examples of godly leadership found in the Bible.

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bible open to book of numbers

1. Joshua and Caleb (Numbers 13-14)

When the people of Israel, after decades of wandering, finally arrived at the land of Canaan, the Lord told Moses to send a band of spies into the land to scope it out and see whether the people are strong or weak, few or many, whether they have big cities, and to assess the quality of the land. 

The spies concluded that the land was fruitful and valuable. However, the people that lived among the land were strong, of great number, and live in great, fortified cities. So the majority of the spies discouraged the people from taking the land. In fact, all of the spies except for two: Caleb and Joshua. 

The people of Israel rebelled against Moses and Aaron, and did not believe Caleb and Joshua that the land was worth taking or able to be taken. They were afraid, and were unwilling to enter the land. 

However, Caleb and Joshua did not waver. They continually encouraged the people to take courage, and to trust that the Lord will deliver them, saying:

The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them. – Num. 14:7-9

Joshua and Caleb exhibit godly leadership through their courage, and their trust in the Lord’s faithfulness and protection. Joshua and Caleb demonstrate that a godly leader does not live in fear. A godly leader spreads courage among his followers, fostering greater trust and obedience in the Lord—even when facing a deadly and intimidating group of people. Joshua and Caleb stood alone against their own rebellious friends and family.

A godly leader does not allow fear to guide one’s decisions.

A godly leader trusts in the protection and provision of God.

Follow the example set by Joshua and Caleb, and lead courageously!

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two diverse races men in serious conversation

2. Nathan the Prophet, and King David (2 Samuel 12, Psalm 51)

The following example is often-neglected, yet proves to be one of the clearest examples of godly leadership found in Scripture. Nathan the Prophet was a contemporary of King David, the greatest king in the history of Israel. At this time, David was seemingly untouchable, the greatest leader in Israel’s history, and I imagine there was almost no one in the entire nation who would have the audacity to call out David for a mistake, no matter how horrible. 

However, Nathan was among this bold minority. After David’s affair with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah, Nathan was the one who boldly rebuked David for his sin. Nathan approached King David and shared a parable with him, a story of two men, one rich and one poor. The rich man had many flocks and herds, but the poor man had but one lamb. When a traveler came, the rich man did not give him one of his own animals, but he took the poor man’s only lamb and prepared it for the traveler. 

This story enraged David, saying that the rich man deserves to die for doing this horrible act without pity. Nathan did not pull any punches, saying, “You are the man!" (2 Samuel 12:7), followed by: "Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.” (2 Sam. 12:9). 

Nathan did what almost no one would be willing to do, rebuke the greatest king in Israel’s history for his sin, holding David accountable for his actions without fear of the consequences of calling out such a powerful man.

Nathan exhibits godly leadership by holding David accountable despite his high status. Nathan did not fear David, but rather feared the Lord, knowing that he would be held accountable if he avoided confronting David. A godly leader knows that he is his brother’s keeper, and he does not shy away from holding his fellow leaders to a high standard of godly character.

David’s repentance further exhibits godly leadership. Although David abandoned his responsibilities as king by having an affair and killing the husband of his mistress, David’s repentance demonstrated in Psalm 51 shows another essential component of godly leadership: humility. Despite his failure, David recognizes his sin, confesses his sin, and asks for forgiveness.

This is an example that all leaders must follow. We will all fail. The question is, how will we respond to our failure? I encourage you to follow the example of David, who failed in a manner more extraordinary that you will likely ever experience. Humble yourself, repent of your failure, ask for forgiveness, and move forward with your life striving for godly character in every way.

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Bible open to Book of Galatians

3. Paul (Galatians 2:11-14)

Paul exhibits leadership in a similar way to Nathan. Paul demonstrates the necessity of a leader having a desire to please God and God alone. Paul does so by publicly rebuking Peter, the leader of the Christian Church at the time, showing that his allegiance was to God first, and people second.

Paul shares of this encounter:

But when Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?” –  Galatians 2:11-14

Paul noticed hypocrisy in Peter’s life. Not only this, but Peter’s hypocrisy was leading the rest of the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem astray. Paul recognized the toxicity of this, and did not hesitate to shed light. Paul’s concern for the health of the Christians in Jerusalem exceeded his potential fear of calling out such a prominent leader. 

A godly leader does not allow anyone to lead his flock astray. Paul proves himself to be a good shepherd of Jesus’ flock, and does not concern himself with offending Peter. Paul knows the importance of leaders like Peter living a life of Christlikeness, and he ensures that Peter is living with integrity.

A godly leader keeps other leaders accountable, and protects his followers from false teaching and poor examples, regardless of how popular or high-status that leader may be.

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Jesus walking on water

4. Jesus (Luke 5:16)

No list of biblical examples of leadership is complete without including the greatest leader of all time, God Himself. While there are myriad examples of Jesus demonstrating perfect leadership, one that stands out is his intentionality in regard to prayer. There are many examples of Jesus taking deliberate time to pray in isolation. 

One example is found in Luke 5:16, “but Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” This verse is so short and simple that it is very easy to overlook. What this verse describes is a habit. Jesus developed a consistent habit of going into isolated places to spend intimate time with God. 

Do you often withdraw to lonely places to pray? Take an honest assessment of your prayer habits. You may find that your prayer habits do not align with those of Jesus. If so, take action. Take time every day, even if just for one minute, and spend time alone in prayer. The importance of this rhythm cannot be overlooked for Christian leaders. 

Jesus is literally God, and He still made time to pray, surely asking His Father for strength and endurance to remain obedient and sinless. If Jesus needed to spend such a great amount of time in prayer, why would we think that we do not need to do the same? A godly leader cultivates an intimate relationship with God through consistent time of isolated prayer.

If you want to grow as a godly leader, follow Jesus’ example.

While there are many great books that have been written on leadership, there is no book more beneficial for the growth of leaders as the Bible. This list is by no means exhaustive. There are countless more examples of godly leadership found in Scripture. In addition to the above examples, a godly leader consistently engages with Scripture, mining the depths of God’s Word, and applying the principles and wisdom to one’s life and leadership.

Seek Him in His Word, and lead others to do the same!

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8 Wonderful Ways to Bow Down and Worship Like David

9 Essential Qualities of a Godly Leader

What 7 Simple Lessons Are Hard for Leaders to Learn?

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headshot of author Lucas HagenLucas Hagen is a recent graduate from Taylor University with majors in Biblical Literature and Youth Ministries. When he is not writing for Crosswalk, you can find him reading great books, playing guitar, competing in professional disc golf tournaments, and spending quality time with his lovely wife, Natalie, and their fluffy cat, Woodward.