Who’s In Charge Here? (Lessons on Leadership from Ezra, part 13)

Three Big Ideas

For the last twelve weeks, I have been sharing various lessons on leadership that can be drawn from the story that takes place in the book of Ezra. It is a relatively short book, with ten chapters, that tells a 2-part story. The general story involves the fulfillment of the prophecy found in Jeremiah 29, when God foretold the return of the people of Israel to Jerusalem. Chapters 1 through 6 describe the return of a remnant of Israelites specifically for the purpose of rebuilding the temple, and chapters 7 through 10 – which take place a number of years later – describe Ezra’s role in leading religious leaders back to Jerusalem to restore the spiritual culture of the people. In essence, it is a story of restoration by God, the restoration of His house and His people. Along the way, there are a great number of lessons that are applicable to the task of leadership for the Christian in today’s world, and those lessons are what I have been attempting to draw out from our study. One of those lessons emphasized the importance of seeing the big picture, so allow me to do that here, by zooming out above the whole story of Ezra to identify three of the overarching ideas for us.

1) One of the most important “big picture” lessons to learn from the story of Ezra – the lesson that represents the overall theme for the book – is this: God’s sovereignty operates in conjunction with man’s responsibility, in the context and for the purpose of restoration, resulting in relationship and purpose. Therefore, in the application of leadership, it is vital that we begin with an understanding that God has a plan and a purpose, that He is actively involved in the events of our lives, but that we also have a responsibility to act.

2) A second big picture lesson is the realization that the work of leadership is hard, and it is not for the faint-hearted. There are decisions to be made, problems to be addressed, challenges to be solved, tensions to be managed, conflicts to be resolved, tasks to be completed, and numerous other responsibilities that ultimately have an impact on many people. And add to that the work of leading and managing people, who are imperfect and operate in the context of a fallen world. For the Christian leader – regardless of whether you are a school leader, church leader, ministry leader, or a Christian leading in a secular industry or organization – it can be even more challenging as you seek to reflect Christ in all you do.

The good news is that successful and effective leadership is a skill that can be learned, but it requires intentional effort. In today’s world, there are a multitude of valuable resources available for helping you in your development of leadership, however many of those do not address the spiritual context for the leader who is a follower of Jesus, which is just as important (if not more so) for Christian leaders. So where can you go to get help for understanding leadership principles and practices within a biblical context? This may seem to be an obvious answer, but ironically it is one that is often overlooked by leaders: look to examples of leadership in the Bible.

3) This takes me to the last “big picture” idea I would like for us take away from this study: the Bible is not an archaic text with no relevance to modern leadership and living, but is, rather, an incredibly practical source of principles, wisdom, and guidelines that can be applied to leadership in order to help you become more effective. The secret is in understanding that God, the Creator of man and of this world and therefore the source of greatest knowledge and understanding of man, life, and relationships, has revealed Himself to us in the Bible. Therefore, when we can see into the stories and the history with that lens, we can identify the ideas that apply to successful and effective living today.

You see, application is the connecting of one idea or principle or truth or concept to a practice; sometimes it is a closely related practice (narrow), sometimes it is not (broad), in which case it reflects a general, simple truth that applies to multiple scenarios or circumstances. There are principles that apply specifically to certain fields, but there are also ideas that are general and can be cross-applied because they are either 1) examples / representative of principles, or 2) core truths that apply across a spectrum. A leader needs to be able to think abstractly enough to make cross-application, to see ideas and identify how they illustrate lessons, while also being wise and discerning enough to identify and implement specifically related principles. The Bible, as the greatest source of wisdom at our disposal, is filled with illustrations and lessons that can be applied and cross-applied to leadership today.

My hope is that you learned and/or grew from the variety of lessons that I drew from this study of Ezra, but it is also my hope that you learned that you also can draw lessons from the Bible that will help you be the best leader you can be. The Bible is a valuable (and valid) source of wisdom, so I would encourage you to become intentional about seeking wisdom from it.

This is the final installment in an ongoing series on leadership lessons that can be learned from the book of Ezra.

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