Day 291

The Life of a Leader

Wisdom Psalm 119:57-64
New Testament 1 Timothy 3:1-16
Old Testament Jeremiah 38:1-40:6


Good leadership is vital at all times, in all places and in all areas of life. But what is good leadership?

‘Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.’ These are the words of General Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of the coalition forces in the Gulf War of 1991. Character is what really matters. It is the only thing that counts in the end.

We make a distinction in our church between those in positions of leadership and those ‘on their way in’. We welcome everyone regardless of their lifestyle. We have a big front door. Everyone is welcome. The church is not a museum displaying perfect people. It is a hospital in the traditional sense of the word – a place of hospitality and restoration. It is a place where the wounded, hurt, broken and injured find healing. It is a community of sinners.

On the other hand, we do not put people in positions of leadership if their lifestyle is in direct contrast to the New Testament. Leadership is not only functional, but also involves a responsibility to live as an example to others. Leaders are models for the rest of the congregation. Of course, no one is perfect. You do not have to be perfect to be an example. However, we try to ensure that the lifestyle and character of our leaders is in line with the New Testament.


Psalm 119:57-64

ח Heth

57 You are my portion, Lord;
   I have promised to obey your words.
58 I have sought your face with all my heart;
   be gracious to me according to your promise.
59 I have considered my ways
   and have turned my steps to your statutes.
60 I will hasten and not delay
   to obey your commands.
61 Though the wicked bind me with ropes,
   I will not forget your law.
62 At midnight I rise to give you thanks
   for your righteous laws.
63 I am a friend to all who fear you,
   to all who follow your precepts.
64 The earth is filled with your love, Lord;
   teach me your decrees.


Worship leaders

‘The real test, in these days’, as John Wimber put it, ‘will not be the writing and producing of new and great worship music. The real test will be the godliness and character of those who deliver it.’

The psalmist was a worship leader who walked in a close relationship with the Lord: ‘Because you have satisfied me, God, I promise to do everything you say’ (v.57, MSG).

The worship leader who has sought the face of the Lord with all their heart (v.58) is in a position to lead the congregation in praise of God. The psalmist is really careful to keep to God’s ways, ‘I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes’ (v.59).

Even in real difficulties, do not forget God’s law: ‘Though the wicked bind me with ropes, I will not forget your law’ (v.61).

Inspiration sometimes comes in the middle of the night: ‘I get up in the middle of the night to thank you; your decisions are so right, so true – I can’t wait till morning!’ (v.62, MSG). It is vital to be part of a worshipping community: ‘I’m a friend and companion to all who fear you, of those committed to living by your rules’ (v.63, MSG).

Here is a worship leader who has a deep appreciation of God’s love: ‘The earth is filled with your love, O Lord’ (v.64). God’s love for you should be right at the heart of your worship.


Lord, I seek your face today with all my heart. Be gracious to me just as you have promised (v.58).

New Testament

1 Timothy 3:1-16

Qualifications for Overseers and Deacons

3 Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

8 In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

11 In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.

12 A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. 13 Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

Reasons for Paul’s Instructions

14 Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. 16 Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:
He appeared in the flesh,
   was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
   was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
   was taken up in glory.


Church leaders

In one sense of the word, every Christian is a leader. If leadership is about influence, all of us have influence at school, in the workplace, at home and in community. But this passage is specifically about leadership in the church.

The church should be like a home. It is ‘God’s household’ (v.15). Leading a church is like leading a big family. Paul asks how anyone can lead a church if they can’t lead their own family (v.5).

Good leaders should be capable of running their own households (vv.4,12) (the same Greek word is used as for God’s household – the church). They should be capable of guiding and nurturing their own family with wisdom, love and faithfulness.

It is interesting that almost all of the qualities needed to be an overseer are just the same as those encouraged in terms of godliness for all Christians. The Scottish minister, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, once said, ‘My people’s greatest need is my own personal holiness.’

The list of characteristics is extensive (v.2). Leaders should be ‘well thought of’. They should live in such a way that no one can find good grounds to accuse them of wrongdoing.

If they are married they need to be faithful to their marriage partners. Faithfulness, loyalty, trustworthiness is key to leadership and it starts with faithfulness in marriage.

They need to be ‘sensible’ (v.2, AMP). Being a Christian does not mean abandoning common sense. Quite the opposite. Much day-to-day decision-making simply involves godly, spirit-filled leaders prayerfully using their common sense.

The word for ‘overseer’ is sometimes translated ‘bishop’. It is not wrong to desire to be a bishop, ‘Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task’ (v.1).

I find it interesting that one of the differences between a bishop and a deacon is that the bishop ‘must not be a recent convert’ (v.6). This does not apply to deacons. Sometimes people criticise putting those who are new to faith into positions of leadership – such as leading small groups on Alpha. My reply, always, is that we are not asking them to be bishops, only to serve as hosts in an Alpha small group!

The reason Paul gives for why an overseer must not be a recent convert, is that they ‘may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil’ (vv.4–6). The devil fell through pride. There is a danger for all Christian leaders of falling into spiritual pride.

The test for deacons is very similar to overseers. A deacon literally means ‘a servant’. Originally, they were people set aside to serve at tables (Acts 6:1–7). Jesus provided the model for servant leadership (Mark 10:35–45). Albert Einstein once said, ‘Only a life lived in the service to others is worth living.’ If service is beneath you, then leadership is beyond you.

These servant leaders and their marriage partners (1 Timothy 3:11) need to be people of strong and proven character. This is why any good selection process for married church leaders should involve both partners. They should be worthy of respect, sincere, not prone to drunkenness, honest, full of faith, trustworthy, and faithful in marriage (vv.8–12).

Above all, leaders are to be people of godly character. In fact, the sole quality in the list that is not directly linked to our character is being ‘able to teach’ (v.2). Church leaders are to be Christians of good character who are able to teach.

Mark Twain quipped, ‘To do what is right is wonderful. To teach what is right is even more wonderful – and much easier.’ The task of Christian leadership is to align our life and character with our teaching. That is a challenge for all of us and will be a lifelong process of becoming like Jesus who is the model of ‘godliness’ (v.16).

Of course, before anyone (bishop or deacon) is put in a major position of leadership they need to be ‘tried and investigated and proved’ (v.10, AMP). A faith that has not been tested cannot be trusted. We are tested by difficulties, disappointments and desert times. Hopefully these mature us, developing our character and make us ready for leadership.


Lord, help me by your Spirit to live up to your high standards and be above reproach.

Old Testament

Jeremiah 38:1-40:6

Jeremiah Thrown Into a Cistern

38 Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur , Jehukal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malkijah heard what Jeremiah was telling all the people when he said, 2 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague, but whoever goes over to the Babylonians will live. They will escape with their lives; they will live.’ 3 And this is what the Lord says: ‘This city will certainly be given into the hands of the army of the king of Babylon, who will capture it.’”

4 Then the officials said to the king, “This man should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin.”

5 “He is in your hands,” King Zedekiah answered. “The king can do nothing to oppose you.”

6 So they took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern of Malkijah, the king’s son, which was in the courtyard of the guard. They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud.

7 But Ebed-Melek, a Cushite, an official in the royal palace, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern. While the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate, 8 Ebed-Melek went out of the palace and said to him, 9 “My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet. They have thrown him into a cistern, where he will starve to death when there is no longer any bread in the city.”

10 Then the king commanded Ebed-Melek the Cushite, “Take thirty men from here with you and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.”

11 So Ebed-Melek took the men with him and went to a room under the treasury in the palace. He took some old rags and worn-out clothes from there and let them down with ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern. 12 Ebed-Melek the Cushite said to Jeremiah, “Put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your arms to pad the ropes.” Jeremiah did so, 13 and they pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard.

Zedekiah Questions Jeremiah Again

14 Then King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah the prophet and had him brought to the third entrance to the temple of the Lord. “I am going to ask you something,” the king said to Jeremiah. “Do not hide anything from me.”

15 Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “If I give you an answer, will you not kill me? Even if I did give you counsel, you would not listen to me.”

16 But King Zedekiah swore this oath secretly to Jeremiah: “As surely as the Lord lives, who has given us breath, I will neither kill you nor hand you over to those who want to kill you.”

17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “This is what the Lord God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, your life will be spared and this city will not be burned down; you and your family will live. 18 But if you will not surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, this city will be given into the hands of the Babylonians and they will burn it down; you yourself will not escape from them.’”

19 King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Jews who have gone over to the Babylonians, for the Babylonians may hand me over to them and they will ill-treat me.”

20 “They will not hand you over,” Jeremiah replied. “Obey the Lord by doing what I tell you. Then it will go well with you, and your life will be spared. 21 But if you refuse to surrender, this is what the Lord has revealed to me: 22 All the women left in the palace of the king of Judah will be brought out to the officials of the king of Babylon. Those women will say to you:

“‘They misled you and overcame you—
   those trusted friends of yours.
Your feet are sunk in the mud;
   your friends have deserted you.’

23 “All your wives and children will be brought out to the Babylonians. You yourself will not escape from their hands but will be captured by the king of Babylon; and this city will be burned down.”

24 Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “Do not let anyone know about this conversation, or you may die. 25 If the officials hear that I talked with you, and they come to you and say, ‘Tell us what you said to the king and what the king said to you; do not hide it from us or we will kill you,’ 26 then tell them, ‘I was pleading with the king not to send me back to Jonathan’s house to die there.’”

27 All the officials did come to Jeremiah and question him, and he told them everything the king had ordered him to say. So they said no more to him, for no one had heard his conversation with the king.

28 And Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard until the day Jerusalem was captured.

The Fall of Jerusalem

39 This is how Jerusalem was taken: 1 In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army and laid siege to it. 2 And on the ninth day of the fourth month of Zedekiah’s eleventh year, the city wall was broken through. 3 Then all the officials of the king of Babylon came and took seats in the Middle Gate: Nergal-Sharezer of Samgar, Nebo-Sarsekim a chief officer, Nergal-Sharezer a high official and all the other officials of the king of Babylon. 4 When Zedekiah king of Judah and all the soldiers saw them, they fled; they left the city at night by way of the king’s garden, through the gate between the two walls, and headed toward the Arabah.

5 But the Babylonian army pursued them and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho. They captured him and took him to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath, where he pronounced sentence on him. 6 There at Riblah the king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes and also killed all the nobles of Judah. 7 Then he put out Zedekiah’s eyes and bound him with bronze shackles to take him to Babylon.

8 The Babylonians set fire to the royal palace and the houses of the people and broke down the walls of Jerusalem. 9 Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard carried into exile to Babylon the people who remained in the city, along with those who had gone over to him, and the rest of the people. 10 But Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard left behind in the land of Judah some of the poor people, who owned nothing; and at that time he gave them vineyards and fields.

11 Now Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had given these orders about Jeremiah through Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard: 12 “Take him and look after him; don’t harm him but do for him whatever he asks.” 13 So Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard, Nebushazban a chief officer, Nergal-Sharezer a high official and all the other officers of the king of Babylon 14 sent and had Jeremiah taken out of the courtyard of the guard. They handed him over to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, to take him back to his home. So he remained among his own people.

15 While Jeremiah had been confined in the courtyard of the guard, the word of the Lord came to him: 16 “Go and tell Ebed-Melek the Cushite, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I am about to fulfill my words against this city—words concerning disaster, not prosperity. At that time they will be fulfilled before your eyes. 17 But I will rescue you on that day, declares the Lord; you will not be given into the hands of those you fear. 18 I will save you; you will not fall by the sword but will escape with your life, because you trust in me, declares the Lord.’”

Jeremiah Freed

40 The word came to Jeremiah from the Lord after Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard had released him at Ramah. He had found Jeremiah bound in chains among all the captives from Jerusalem and Judah who were being carried into exile to Babylon. 2 When the commander of the guard found Jeremiah, he said to him, “The Lord your God decreed this disaster for this place. 3 And now the Lord has brought it about; he has done just as he said he would. All this happened because you people sinned against the Lord and did not obey him. 4 But today I am freeing you from the chains on your wrists. Come with me to Babylon, if you like, and I will look after you; but if you do not want to, then don’t come. Look, the whole country lies before you; go wherever you please.” 5 However, before Jeremiah turned to go, Nebuzaradan added, “Go back to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon has appointed over the towns of Judah, and live with him among the people, or go anywhere else you please.”

Then the commander gave him provisions and a present and let him go. 6 So Jeremiah went to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah and stayed with him among the people who were left behind in the land.


Prophetic leaders

Faithfulness to God and good character do not guarantee prosperity and a pain-free life. In fact, for Jeremiah, the opposite was the case.

Jeremiah was a prophet whose life and character is a fine example for us. He remained faithful to God. He continued to hear God’s word and to speak it out. This was in spite of the fact that he suffered a great deal for his pains.

Over and over again, he was threatened, beaten, locked up, put in an underground dungeon and then thrown into a muddy cistern to be left to starve to death. Yet he continued to listen to God’s message and spoke it out courageously.

On the whole, the people were unresponsive. He was completely misunderstood (38:4). He was condemned for destroying morale and actually causing harm to the people he was trying to save. You should not be surprised if you receive the same treatment.

Once rescued from the cistern, Jeremiah was brought before King Zedekiah for the fourth time. Zedekiah was a man with a wishbone rather than a backbone. It was out of cowardice that Zedekiah disobeyed the law (v.19). He was afraid of the people – rather like Pontius Pilate who condemned Jesus.

Four times God had spoken to Zedekiah to try and save him from the consequences of his actions. Each time he had weakly refused to obey. In chapter 39, we read of the consequences. Jeremiah is finally vindicated (40:1–6).


Lord, please bless and strengthen the leaders of our churches today. May their lifestyles and characters inspire us all to lead good and fruitful lives.

Pippa adds

1 Timothy 3:11

‘In the same way, wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.’

Now there’s a challenge!

Verse of the Day

Psalm 119:57–58

‘O LORD… I have sought your face with all my heart;
  be gracious to me according to your promise’



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James Charlton (ed), The Military Quotation Book (St Martin’s Press, 2002), p.83.

Robert Murray M’Cheyne, quoted in Tony Sargent, The Sacred Anointing (Crossway Books, 1994), p.128.

John C. Maxwell, Developing the Leaders Around You: How to Help Others Reach Their Full Potential (Thomas Nelson, 2005), p.62.

Mark Twain, quoted in John C. Maxwell, The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential (Center Street, 1960).

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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