NOTE: The article below is a little long, but is loaded with powerful insights. Highly recommended.
THE MAKING OF a TRUE LEADER
-by T. Austin Sparks.
We gather from this book of Judges that those who are going to be
instrumental in the Lord´s hands in helping others out of their bad
condition must themselves have shared that bad condition… It is
necessary for a spiritual leader to have suffered in the same trials
as those being led; to have known the same depths of misery, to
have been in the same complicated circumstances, to have passed
through those very problems, and to know what it is to emerge
from a dark, dismal and wretched state. All that makes a leader,
but that also represents the cost to begin with.
The cost of leadership is…
a) …By what course, by what road, is this transition made? Always
through the grave. Before we ever come to spiritual understanding
we shall have all our own understanding pulverized, ground to
powder, so that we do notunderstand anything, and we know it. If
we are asked to explain we can give no explanation. It is not in us
to explain. All understanding has gone. God breaks down the
natural to make way for the spiritual. That transition is through
death, through the grave. Then presently we emerge, and we are
seeing things now from God´s side, we are understanding with a
faculty and capacity that we never before possessed. Somehow
or other a resurrection work has been done; that is, something has
been quickened which we never had before. We are made alive to
that of which we had no knowledge before. We have a new standard
of judgement now, a new standard of values, a new sense of
differences. It is just something done, not something which we
have created or made. It comes, as it were, to birth, and we know
it, and as we move accordingly, in obedience to it, it grows.
There is all the difference between natural understanding and
spiritual understanding, and the difference is between death and
life, and a grave is between. Oh, those dark days, when we lost
all natural understanding and there was no light. It is a terrible cost.
We are not speaking about just understanding certain events. It
may have to do with trials of a certain nature through which we
pass, but it is the general faculty to which we are referring. There
is all the difference between a natural faculty for understanding
things and a spiritual faculty for understanding the things of the
Lord, which cannot be defined, but can be declared as a fact.
That cost is the cost bound up with spiritual leadership.
b) The assurance of understanding
There was a time when some of us were most sure. Oh yes, we
knew, no one could tell us. We were the most sure people. We
could lay down the law to anybody as to what they ought to do.
The Lord has taken in hand and has ground to powder, made pulp
of all that assurance. We have lost all self-assurance. We have
come to the place where we feel that we could question everything
in ourselves, doubt everything about ourselves. We have come to
the place where, when we tell the Lord that we mean to be all for
Him there is something inside which says we meant it, but come
up against the test and we find that we are not that. Peter was a
most self-confident man; “Lord, I will follow thee even unto death.”
I am certain that if we had met Peter later on, after the cross, we
should have found him a man who would never for a moment say
a word about his own certainty or self-assurance. Yet you find the
man marked by boldness; there is nothing more sure than his
statement on the day of Pentecost; but he is a different man. He
has gone through the grave, and self-assurance has been broken
in him and replaced with the assurance of God. There is the full
assurance of understanding of the Lord. It is costly, but it is the
way of spiritual leadership, the way to spiritual values.
c) Active faith
We spoke of active faith. It comes the same way. The time
through which we pass is a time when we lose all. There are
times when we feel that the bottom has fallen out of everything.
What have we to rest upon? Faith. Where is our faith? If God is
not merciful to us it is a poor lookout for us. If this whole thing
depends upon our faith today, the Lord help us!
Yes, these are dark, strange experiences, things you may not
say to the unconverted. They are not bound up with our salvation,
our acceptance before God. It is another side, the side of our
usefulness to the Lord, the measure of our spiritual value to the
Lord for the sake of others. The cost of spiritual leadership and a
faith of this true, pure kind is borne out of a grave. It grows like a
new child; it is quiet, steady faith in God. You have been through
the depths, and you have found the Lord faithful, and you have
had to say, “It was not because of my wonderful faith in God, not
because of my saying I am able to hold on, to persist! God was
faithful to me when I had nothing of faith as far as I was concerned.”
That comes back from the grave. It is the cost of leadership.
This is quite true also in the matter of initiative. Naturally there
was a time when initiative was not difficult to some of us. The
bigger the proposition the more we gloried in tackling it, and
lacked no initiative in these things. Then the Lord took us in hand
and broke all that natural force, or began to break it, and we came
steadily to the place where, so far as we were concerned, the
initiative left us: that is, the natural initiative, the taking of big
responsibility, and we became deeply conscious that we were
needing a divine energy to move in relation to the Lord´s interests.
And now to some extent we do know that energising of God in
relation to His interests. When we have no natural energy, when it
does not spring from ourselves, and if it were left with us, we
should not do it, we would not move, but just lie there, refuse,
decline, and yet we know that for the Lord´s interests there is an
energy which we have not got. We lay hold of that divine energy,
and the initiative of God is appropriated by faith, and there are
There is all the difference between that natural go-ahead attitude
in the work of God, and that energising of the Holy Spirit; that
initiative which is of the flesh, and that initiative which is of the
Holy Spirit. You have to pass from the one to the other in a deep
experience, when all that is of nature is broken down, and you
come on to the ground where it is all and only of God. It is a new
creation in Christ Jesus, where all things are out from God, as
manifested in the Lord Jesus Himself.
e) Humility and dependence
The same law holds good. We may have been very independent
or self-dependent, or dependent upon others. The Lord has dealt
with all that, or will deal with it in us, and bring us to a place
where every other kind of support is removed, where all our
independence is dealt with, where our self-dependence is
destroyed, where our dependence upon others is cut away. And
we come out to a place, through trying and painful experiences,
where our dependence is upon God.
Paul is an outstanding illustration of this. There is no character
more self-confident than Saul of Tarsus. In the long-run there is no
one more dependent upon God, and confessedly so. He said:
“We despaired of life.” The sentence of death was upon him, so
that he should not trust in himself, but in God who raises the dead.
The way through is a deep, dark, and painful way, but this is all
the way to spiritual leadership. It is all that is involved in the
transition from the natural to the spiritual, and it all leads to values
Your value to others in the Lord entirely depends upon your own
measure of knowing the Lord for yourself as your very life, your
wisdom, your strength.
There may be a little weakness in what we have been saying, that
we have dealt with positives rather than negatives. Some are not
in much danger of strong, natural, go-ahead-ness. Perhaps some
are lacking altogether in any kind of strength like that, and may
be saying, “Well, I do not have to be broken down very much,
therefore I cannot come through to very much for the Lord.” Do
not say that, because your painful experience will probably be
from a negative to a positive, not from one positive to another
positive. We mean this, that some timid people will go through
an agony when God brings them out to take initiative. It is an
agony for reticent people to be made to stand on their feet and
take responsibility. They would sooner shrink into a corner, but
the Lord will not let them get away with that. In effect He says,
“You have got to be of value, you have got to count; it is no use
your hiding in a corner, I want values in you for My people.” Then
comes the agony of perhaps having to talk to someone, having to
take initiative for the spiritual help of somebody, when you would
rather be somewhere else, doing something else. It is the
transition from the natural, whatever the natural is – whether
positive or negative – to what is spiritual. It is costly, but it is the
price of leadership, and after all, it is that the Lord should have
His full measure in us, “…each several part in due measure”
(Eph. 4:16). There is a “due measure” from each several part.
The cost of leadership is always loneliness. When you are going
through a thing in the hands of God, your one sense is that no
one has ever been through this before. The Lord sees to it that
you do not escape by having someone come along who has just
been through it so that you may throw yourself on them and they
carry you. The Lord allows isolation. But, however it is, it is
always loneliness. That is bound up with leadership. It is as
though you were pioneering and no one has ever gone this way
before; you are alone. It is part of the price, but it must be. No
doubt you have longed for somebody who has been that way to
be alongside of you while you are going through, but the Lord has
not allowed it. We say in effect, “If only we had t heir experience
in this thing to appeal to!” But somehow or other the Lord cuts it
all off from us, and takes us through with Himself alone. If we
refuse to go through with Him alone, we are going to miss the Lord´s object.
So often accompanying the loneliness is misunderstanding, and
that is the more bitter side. It is the more positive or active side.
Think of Nehemiah. He had to take the lead, the initiative. But it
was not long before not only in his loneliness, but in
misunderstanding and misrepresentation he discovered the cost
of that leadership. All around things were being said: “He is
building this thing to make himself a name! He is going to appoint
prophets to preach about him! He is starting a new movement!”
All the things which were said were lies, false; it was
misrepresentation, misunderstanding. That is simply because a
man or woman has come to know the will of God as it applies to
them, and they are going on in that way of God.
It is strange how people will very rarely give another credit for
walking with God. Others always seem to interpret their
movements as though they had been captured and led astray.
They never give them credit for really walking with God
themselves. They blame someone else, and then blame them for
getting into the hands of someone else. It is a part of the price.
It is necessary when counting the cost of leadership to be
selfless and disinterested in the matter. Leaders may labour for
perhaps another generation, for others to enter into their labours,
and they may never see the fruit of their own labours.
Look back over the history of all who have really been used of
God in the lives of His people. Very rarely has their life borne fruit
until they have gone. They have laboured, and other men have
entered into their labours. It means that there is to be no present
glory, nothing for self, no present reward. It is a Moses leading
through the wilderness, up against the real hard, tough side of
things, and then passing out without seeing the fruit. That is the
price of leadership so often; selfless disinterestedness, being
willing to labour, to give one´s life, to suffer, to come to a place of
value for others and never see the full result of it.
That is all we shall say for the time being. It has all come out of
that expression of Deborah: “For that the leaders took the lead in
Israel”. That is the explanation of such deliverance, of a mighty
emancipation, of glorious victory, the changing of the whole face
of things from servile slavery, depression and oppression, to
ascendancy, liberty and progress…