rock climbers April 5 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Judges 8, 9

The Perils of Leadership

Rock climbing can be challenging fun, but it is also dangerous. It is best to use the proper equipment and climb with a partner, but you must work around obstacles and avoid loose rock as you try to get a foothold or pull yourself up. Like rock climbing, leaders face obstacles and are in constant danger of slipping. And, if you bring others to the summit, will your triumph last beyond your leadership? Today we will learn how to handle some of the perils of leadership.

Obstacles for leaders often take the form of criticism. We need to expect it. There are always people, even Christians, who do not or who refuse to recognize God working through our leadership.

In our chronological Bible study we are in the time of the Judges—rulers who delivered Israel from the oppression of her enemies. Gideon is the current judge. When Gideon wins the victory over 120,000 Midianites with just 300 men, the tribe of Ephraim is upset because they are not called on to help defeat them. They want credit for the victory. Although this courageous leader could lash back at them, he handles their sharp criticism with clever diplomacy and grace—he honors them and magnifies their accomplishments beyond his own (Judges 8:1-3). His answer defuses their anger and satisfies them.

Second, leaders must expect opposition, even when they are doing God's will. Gideon is in the midst of winning a great war against the Midianites. Already his army has killed 120,000 soldiers, but he continues in hot pursuit of the remaining 15,000. Gideon's army is exhausted, yet the people in Succoth and Peniel are afraid to help them. It is true his army has his enemies on the run, but the odds are still greatly in Midian's favor, and they know how cruel the Midianites will treat anyone who helps their enemies. The leaders in Succoth and Peniel have no faith in God and how he is using this brave leader.

What about us—do we discourage Christian leaders and not help them because the odds seem too great they might fail? We must fight the good fight of faith despite the odds.

Third, when we win, we need to be careful how we handle success. Gideon and his small army pursue their enemy until they are defeated, and God receives the glory. The people of Israel want him to be their king. Gideon knows it is the LORD who won the victory; so he refuses the honor and says, “Let God be your king.”

Unfortunately, after Gideon wins the great victory he gets sloppy in his personal life. As compensation for the triumph over their enemies, he receives gold from the Israelites. From it he makes an ephod (part of the sacred vestment of a priest). Perhaps it is a memorial for the victory, but the people worship it. Gideon forgets that leaders lead and people follow—how do we want them to follow?

People are naturally grateful when led into victorious efforts. If we were responsible for it, how would we respond their gratitude? What if they sought to elevate our position in a very great way? Would we feel humbled, or would we feel we deserved this honor and readily take it? Would we give glory to God or step on the loose gravel of pride and fall to the depths below? Are we preparing others to follow the LORD's leadership or will they let go of the rope of his guidance and fall? We need to be careful how we handle success.

Gideon also makes the mistake of having many wives and concubines (secondary wives with less status than wives). One of the concubines lives in the town of Shechem and bears him a son, Abimilech. After he grows to be a man, Abimilech causes his family much trouble.

Fourth, when our leadership ends, will success continue in the lives of our followers? In Gideon's case it does not; he does not train any godly leaders to succeed him. As soon as he dies, the people go back into idolatry. In unbelievable stupidity, pride and wickedness, the Israelites let the Shechemites choose Abimilech to be king because he is a home town boy. Abimilech then kills all but one of Gideon's seventy sons. What gratitude is that? God punishes the people by causing animosity between their chosen leader, Abimilech, and the people of Shechem. In the end, both Abimilech and the people of Shechem are killed because of their sin of killing or allowing Jerub-baal's (Gideon's) seventy sons to be killed. This is in accordance with the prophecy of Jothan, the one remaining son of Gideon. (For more information on the chronology of the judges, see more...)

Lessons to Live By (regarding the perils of leadership)

•  Expect criticism. You may defuse some of it with diplomacy and grace.

•  Opposition may come even when you are doing God's will.

•  Give support and help to godly leaders.

•  Be careful how you handle success; you are setting an example. Give all glory to God and walk humbly. Seek no glory or position for yourself. Continue to walk with integrity and godliness. Don't let yourself get ensnared by the trappings of success—sex, money, and power. Pride will be your downfall.

•  Prepare godly leadership for the next generation or your followers may fall back into sin.

• The grace which saves you is found in Jesus Christ (more...)

Focus Verses

2 Timothy 2:1-2 (NIV) “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”

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A Look Ahead: It is a common saying, “it is not what you know, but who you know” which will help you climb the ladder of success. Is this always true? Find out in our Next Lesson, Right Connections and Right Choices.

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