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Courage: The Leader’s Best Friend

Filed under: Leadership — Pastor David Jun 21, 2013 @ 10:36 am

Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities… because it is the quality which guarantees all others.”

-Winston Churchill

Moses is one of the most courageous leaders in history.  He left the quiet desert of Midian and entered into a face to face conflict with the most powerful man on the planet in his time, a man who had an army that was the most trained and skilled army of his time.  Moses led about two million slaves (mixed with different countries but mainly made up of Jews), with only a few days of food and water, into a desert where there were no other visible supports. Then he led them to a shore where they were trapped against the sea while Pharaoh and his powerful military machine were rapidly approaching. He faced the angry millions who accused him of treachery and were heatedly arguing their case. What does a leader do in such cases?  Fear is contagious, and the disease was spreading quickly through the tribes of Israel.

It was in this moment that we see great leadership, a leader functioning in amazing courage.   Some have said Exodus 14 is one of the greatest displays of courage in history!  Notice what Moses does not do.  He does not counter blame the people or engage with them in their arguments. Nor does he excuse himself from blame in any way. He does not answer the slander and venomous words of the people.  He does not sulk or have a pity party. He does not quit! That was certainly an option at that moment, but he did not even consider that as an option!

What does he do? He leads them through those dark and scary moments, filled with uncertainty and anxiety, and he redirects their attention to the cloud and fiery pillar that they had lost sight of which stood among them.  That cloud was the visible symbol of the living Presence of God.  What Moses then said next was immortal, and should be carved into a place of tribute designated just for him!  He said,

Do not fear. Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD (Yahweh) which He will accomplish for you today, for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The LORD (Yahweh) will fight for you while you keep silent.”  (Ex. 14:13-14)

Moses still did not know what Yahweh was going to do, for God had not revealed the plan about dividing the Red Sea yet. But his words were like fortresses behind which every slave could hide in security. The most repeated command in the Bible is “Do not fear.”  It is stated 365 times, one for every day of the year. It is the most needed command and most likely, that is why it is repeated so many times. What gave Moses the motivation to direct everyone to silencing their fears? There was the Presence of God standing right there before them. The silent cloud and fiery pillar uttered not a word but was the booming testimony that their Deliverer was present and ready to act in their behalf against any and all threats to their well-being!   After all, the cloud had led them to this remote beach and they could be sure that God had in His heart and mind to take them to the Promised Land.  He would not forsake them and would never abandon them to the savage will of a tyrant!  These precious Jews were created to worship and serve Yahweh not to build an empire for a pagan king!

The greatest reason we have to not fear is the Presence, Power, and Purpose of God revealed to us in the Gift of His Son. Just look to the cross and Resurrection and be reminded that we have nothing to fear, for nothing is greater than those two events! No greater power, no greater purpose, and no greater love has ever been declared but what God has affirmed to us in His Son. The Presence of God always comforts us when we are threatened by failure, weakness, sin (ours or anyone else’s), selfishness,  Satan, or any other foe!

Moses assured the people that Yahweh would fight for them against this terrifying band of soldiers.  I love that phrase, “Yahweh will fight for you while you keep silent.” Here is something very important to keep in your mind. It is not what we do for God that matters but what He does for us that matters. He accomplishes our salvation and our freedom, our victory, our triumph. What did we do? We kept silent!

What does this mean?  We see that just a few minutes ago the people were saying ALOT of words, and they were ALL bad!  They were ready to give in to the king and return as his slaves. They were so afraid that they were involuntarily trembling and vomiting, and even urinating (the words are very graphic).  The fearful pressure was inducing them to surrender and give themselves back to Pharaoh. But Moses said, “Stand still… be silent.” Do not abandon your new identity as free men and as servants of Yahweh, as the people chosen by God. Fear causes us to forget who we really are and who God is. God is going to fight for you and protect you in what He has done in liberating you. We are asked to trust Him and hold our position as His people, dedicated to living for His honor and committed to doing His will on earth as it is done in heaven.  We are committed to His kingdom and He is King! Hold to your true identity. The pressure is on, Satan roars like a lion and he will devour you. What must we do? Stand still and silently let God fight for us. Point to the cross of Jesus every time these foes come against you.

On a practical level here is what Moses did. He calmed the people and reassured them that they were not alone. They forgot God and His Presence and His promises. The leader reminds the fearful person that God is greater and will fight for us. We will experience Divine moments of His intervention. We will have a story of God working among us, to pass along to our children.

Moses also stayed calm himself and did not get involved in the heated words of his opponents. He did not bicker with them nor blame them.  He stayed objective instead of allowing his emotions to get the best of him. This is called differentiation. It is vital for leaders to stay objective in the middle of a vicious conflict.

Lastly, he did not take what the people said personally. He did not internalize their criticisms. This is what courageous leader do. That way we can guide the people instead of control them. We will provide resources for them and not indulge them just to pacify their anger. We will protect them and defend them instead of smother them or enable them to stay in their fears that confront them. And we will train the people instead of just talk to them or lecture them. Our leadership gains great effectiveness when courage is allowed to shape it. May we respond to God’s call and be courageous men of faith who obey His every wish. Courage will bring His Kingdom to earth.

O Father, we long for Your Kingdom to come to this earth and for Your will to be done on earth as it done in heaven. Fill us with the courage to be such leaders so as to allow Your Kingdom to rule us, and our places of service.  We ask it in Jesus Name,  Amen.