The journey of a leader is often a long one, filled with both many joys and also difficult challenges along the way. Pressure comes with the leadership territory and the greater the pressure, the more vital the leaders character becomes. In truth, it is character that paves the way for lasting leadership, or the failure of it. Sadly we hear stories all the time of leadership failure because the foundations of integrity, often dating back to unresolved issues early in their leadership journey. Not only does it severely affect their own influence and legacy, it can leave others devastated and disillusioned.
I have recently been reflecting on Moses – one of the great leaders of Israel who led the nation out of slavery in Egypt. Often when we think of Moses, we think of the post wilderness or post-Exodus Moses – the great leader Moses. However there is an interesting passage in the book of Hebrews that provides us with a unique insight into the development of Moses as a young leader in Egypt, long before his great leadership feats. We read this in the ‘faith honour-role’ in chapter 11
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. (v24-27, NIV)
Before Moses could lead the people of Israel out of slavery and into freedom, he had to make his own personal journey from slavery to freedom. He had to confront the challenges and choices of temptation before God could use him as a great leader to courageously lead millions. There was a formation of character that provided the vital foundations for the immense pressures that were to come. In this unique perspective, we see that Moses had to pass through three key decision crossroads – pleasure, possessions and power.
Firstly we read that he chose to identify with the persecution and suffering of his own Hebrew people rather than enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin on offer in Egypt. Growing up in the palace, Moses had access to everything – all his comforts, desires and needs were met in that context, but profoundly he understood that all of this was temporary compared to the covenantal promises made to God’s people – even if that meant denying himself of pleasure. Not only does he turn from sinful desire, he also chooses disgrace for the sake of Christ as more valuable than the wealth that was on offer in Egypt. His hope was in the One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:9-12) rather than that of Pharaoh. And finally Moses ultimately rejected the power and status afforded to him being a man growing up in the palace. Moses understood that there was a greater power – One who held true, absolute power. It is why he refereed to in Numbers (12:13) as the most humble person on earth.
Moses made his choices based on faith – in a future that he could not yet see. That is leadership. He was walking towards freedom and in doing so he brought a whole nation caught in slavery with him. The choices we make at the crossroads determine whether we stay enslaved or find true freedom.In many ways the choices that Moses was confronted as a young man are they same for us today. Sex, Money and Power could be articulated as the vices for a modern generation – vices in various forms that can ultimately enslave. As I pastor and mentor young people and young leaders in our current generation, I see the significant challenges that are faced in each of these. From the demands of digital technology, to sexual temptations, to the comforts of instant gratification, to the pressures of life leading to anxiety and depression. There are so many issues and pitfalls in our current culture that can leave us feeling stuck, unable and lost.
We need a new generation of young leadership who can also see the future in a new way. A future based on the liberating life and freedom founded on faith in Christ. And it is Jesus Christ who shows us how to walk in true freedom. Jesus shows us how to walk in freedom because he confronted the same choices we face today. In Luke 4 we see that Jesus, at the very beginning of his leadership ministry is tempted by the Devil in the wilderness. At the end of his forty-day fast, Jesus also has to confront choices around pleasure, possessions and power – and each time He responds by pointing to Scripture. Jesus knew who He was and He know His purpose for being. His character and identity was secure – the foundations were laid for lasting leadership.
In Moses and in Jesus we see a model for how young leaders are to build foundations for lasting leadership. The choices we make now, choices to pursue trust and faith in God in our surrounding culture, will determine whether we can stand up to the inevitable pressures that leaders face. Young leaders, let me urge you to build foundations now for lasting leadership. Future-proof your leadership by making wise choices around the significant idols and temptations facing your lives – finding freedom that will enable you to lead others to freedom. Find the help you need in the right mentors and friends. You will be blessed by it. You will bless others because of it.
This year’s neoLeader Conference is all about equipping young leaders for lasting leadership. I am really excited about the caliber of experienced leaders who will be coming to speak and invest in the emerging generation of leaders!
Make sure you are there! 22 September | Riverlife Baptist Church
By Andrew Sercombe