Understanding Divine Empowerment
Luke’s understanding of the Divine Empowerment of Christian Leadership provides critical insight into shaping the values of spiritual leaders. God prepares leaders with a specific purpose and task in mind. Luke, in Acts 2, utilizes the Old Testament to highlight the importance of the divine empowerment of leaders. Acts 2 underscores principles such as Vision, Inspirational Power, and humility. The pages that follow will illustrate the role that Divine Empowerment plays in personal leadership formation for contemporary Christian Leaders.
Luke wrote the third Gospel as an account of Jesus’ earthly life and Acts continues that story. The New Testament divides into two equal sections: The first being the Gospels that tell about Jesus’ life on earth. The second, starting with Romans, concerns the establishment of churches after Jesus left. In the center is the book of Acts. Acts creates the transition from Jerusalem to Rome. With Acts, the New Testament transitions from the history of one man, Jesus, to the new church. The framework for this book was outline by Jesus in Acts 1:8 “…ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Acts follows that outlined: The first seven chapters show the church in Jerusalem, the next five centers on Judea and Samaria, and the rest of the book follows the gospel to the outposts of the Roman Empire.
The Vision of God’s Kingdom At-Hand
Acts records a series of stages through which Peter’s speech in Chapter 2 offers an excellent example of adapting the gospel message to a particular audience. Preaching to Jews gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost, he relied heavily on quotations from the Old Testament. Though his main intent was to tell them about Jesus, he referred to the prophet Joel and David – the Bethlemite sheppard anointed to be King.
“Afterward” in Joel 2:28 is referring to the period beyond restoration. In Joel 2:25 the restoration is from the plague of insects. However, in Acts 2:17 “afterwards” was replaced with “in the last days it will be” to signify the eschatological thought of Joel in that the new covenant does not abolish the old but supersedes it in the sense that through the new covenant the old is fulfilled and its purpose realized. “The last days” began with the first coming of Christ and was fulfilled with his second coming.
Joel’s concept of the outpouring of God’s spirit was quoted by Peter in Acts 2:17-21. Adding the clause “…they shall prophecy” (Acts 2:18) suggests that the concept that Joel prophesied had been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, indicating that God would respond to Jews and non-Jews alike. Paul continues this notion in 1 Corinthians 11:10-11 by referring to the woman’s authority as co-ruler with man. They make the point that God will bestow the spirit upon everyone regardless of age, sex, race, or rank.
Joel 2:30 purports there will be wonders in the form of cosmic events. Blood from war; fire, and pillars of smoke are all signs of God’s presence (Joel 2:10, Isaiah 13:9-10). Acts 2:19 presents a clear spatial distinction between the “wonders in heaven above” and “signs in the earth beneath.” The author immediately follows this distinction by identifying who will be saved in Acts 2:21, “…whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord.” This call to worship includes faith and response rather than merely words while the separation of actions “above” and those “beneath” indicates that those above will witness the wonders of God but only those below will be subject to the devastation.
After establishing that outpouring of the spirit was to be for everyone that called on the name of the Lord, the author of Acts emphasizes that this promise came from the highest authority. “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost…” (Acts 2:33). Paul also testifies “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
A Humble King
Generally, the Old Testament offers little insight into life after death. The apostle Peter portrayed David’s prophetic voice with his recitation of Psalm 16 in Acts 2:25-28 by reconfiguring the text and changing the meaning of the “Holy One” to refer to Jesus. Peter also re-contextualized Psalm 110 to give a deeper meaning to David’s Psalm of God’s Priest-King, “The Lord said unto my Lord” (Acts 2:34). The initial reading of the Psalm, leads us to believe that David is speaking of the coronation of his son Solomon. However, reading it in the context of Acts, the second “Lord” is not referring to a mere descendant but rather someone that would be greater than David himself – the Messiah – and because of Jesus’ resurrection, David and all God’s people would come to new life after death.
Values of Divine Empowerment
When God sent Samuel to Bethlehem to find a replacement for Saul, each of the sons of Jesse was rejected, except David – the youngest whom Samuel is told to anoint (1 Samuel 16-17). 2 Samuel 7:12-16 states that God was so pleased with David that He promised that the Davidic line would endure forever; Therefore many believed that the Messiah would be a direct descendant of King David.
When most people imagine empowered leaders, they envision leaders such as Presidents and Prime Ministers or leaders of great armies. History is filled with strong personalities, but none more familiar than King David. We can only image the confidence that David felt when he had been chosen by God to lead. The Old Testament gave numerous examples of the Divine Empowerment of King David. When we think of David we see the young man who left the battlefield at Shochoh to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem but later returned to defeat the Philistines, not with a mighty army but with a sling and a stone. We see David on a roof top, lustfully gazing down at Bathsheba. We hear David’s suffering as he cries to God for the life of his infant child. We see David as he danced before the Lord with all his might and as he stumbles out of Jerusalem, pursued by his rebellious son.
The Old Testament does not describe David as a perfect character or as a perfect model of strength and confidence. He had striking weaknesses, yet he appeals to us as a leader who survived a dozen crises by maintaining a passionate trust in God. Living by faith is not easy, nor was it so for David. Though the bible offers no magical formula to solving everyday problems, it does speak to the formation of principles for contemporary Christian Leaders. Specifically, Acts 2 suggests that Christian Leaders have been given the Divine Empowerment of Vision, Inspirational Power, and Humility.
The Fundamental Quality of Leadership: Vision
Merriam-Webster defines vision as a supernatural appearance that conveys a revelation or the power of imagination. All effective leaders have a vision of what they must accomplish. That vision becomes the energy behind every effort that drives the organization. In Psalm 110, David’s prophecy of the coming of Jesus as the Messiah confirmed the reign of Jesus as Lord and Savior but is also validated the teachings of the disciples. When asked to describe the ideal leader, nobody ever stated that he should be a great planner. The quality they identify in the ideal leader is vision, the enhanced ability to describe the present situation and the desired future in a way that inspires action. Vision involves insight, foresight, and wisdom.
Insight is empowering to the leader who has it. The leader with insight believes that not only what he envisions can be done, but that it must be done. “There will always be a point where the environment changes, the competition changes, something critical changes, and you must realize this and take the leading role in meeting change.” (Farkas and Wetlaufer, 1998, p. 122). Insight includes optimism, trust, and hope. Before people trust your insight, they must believe in you – they must you know that you care. Maxwell (1993) believed you should “Let them see your heart before they see your hope” (p. 154).
Foresight involves the leader’s ability to visualize the end result of the policies and methods he advocates. The leader looks to understand how the policies will affect future generations. “[Foresight] is a clear picture of what the leader sees his or her group being or doing” (Maxwell, 1993, p. 149). This implies nothing about how the understanding was obtained but, under the banner of vision, one would expect that this knowledge was obtained through the leader’s wisdom.
Wisdom gives the leader balance and helps to avoid recklessness. Maxwell (1993) maintained “A vision should be greater than the person who has it” (p. 148). Wisdom helps the optimistic leader to be realistic, it gives insight into the heart of things, and adds foresight to ordinary reasoning and experience. The vision must be defined by the leader’s wisdom. But it is the subordinates who must define the objectives that move the organization toward the desired outcome. “[Vision] accomplishment must be the result of many people bringing many resources to the job” (Maxwell, 1993, p. 148).
If knowledge comes by study then wisdom comes by the Holy Spirit. Paul’s prayer for the Christians at Colosse was that they “be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Colossians 1:9).
The Authority of Leadership: Inspirational Power
God’s leader is marked by the power to inspire others into service and sacrifice. Spiritual leadership requires spirit-filled people. The book of Acts is the story of people who establish a church and led the missionary enterprise. In Acts 2 God tells us that even the lay persons shall be filled with “my Spirit; and they shall prophesy” (Acts 2:18). A person can have excellent managerial skills but without spirituality he or she is incapable of spiritual leadership. This power of inspiration is obtained through prayer and moral courage.
Prayer can help us focus our spiritual life on what God is willing to offer us in our times of need. These prayers open us to God’s free and loving grace. We can be made aware of God’s peace in the midst of fear and God’s forgiving love in the midst of resentment. These prayers help us bring faith into every aspect of our lives and relationships. We cannot pray without faith, faith that God exists and that it pays to seek Him. Spitzer (2000) asserts “Faith and prayer can help bring about the higher viewpoints” (p. 156). Faith is not the feeling that something is going to happen in answer to our prayers but rather the obedient response on our part of who God is. This obedience requires that we open our hearts to God daily.
The obedient response of faith and prayer is what gives Christian leaders the moral courage to lead without conviction. White (1986) argued “the Holy Spirit is always ready to show us what needs to be dealt with and will never ignore us” (p. 22). Moral Courage is that quality of mind which enables people to encounter danger or difficulty without fear or discouragement. Paul admitted to knowing fear, but it never stopped him. “I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling” (1 Corinthians 2:3). However, the key is that he did not stay home out of fear for the journey. Moral courage is an important virtue in various areas of life, including religion, faith and ethics. It is called for during times when doing the right thing goes against the status quo.
The Hallmark of Leadership: Humility
Humility is the least admired leadership quality. When we think of leadership presence, we think of confidence and charisma – not humility. However, humility is the trademark for Christian leadership. A humble person is generally thought to be unpretentious and modest: someone who does not think that he or she is better or more important than others. In Psalm 110, David demonstrated exceptional humility in acknowledging that it would be his descendant that would rise to the right hand of God and not himself. Humility is not thinking highly of yourself nor is it thinking lowly of yourself. Humility is simply not thinking of yourself at all. Among the outcomes of humility are the inherent qualities of integrity and sincerity.
Integrity is being what you claim to be and doing what you promise to do. It would be easy for leaders to say what others want to hear instead of what they honestly feel or believe. We are all faced with conflicting desires. No one, no matter how spiritual can avoid this battle, integrity and sincerity is what determines which desires prevail. In 2 Corinthians 2:17 Paul wrote “For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.” Paul is referring to false teachers who had infiltrated the Corinthian Church – themselves insincere and dishonest – presented themselves in a persuasive manner with the chief interest of making money. Paul, by contrast, had preached the gospel with integrity and sincerity, and free of charge. Paul spoke of his failures and successes with an openness few of us are prepared to duplicate. However, the two leadership qualities of integrity and sincerity were part of God’s law (Deuteronomy 18:13). God wants His people to show a transparent and open character.
Christianity is often referred to as a race (Ecclesiastes 9:11, 1 Corinthians 9:24, Hebrews 12:1). If this be the case, then Christian life should be viewed as a long-distance race rather than a short sprint. Some Christians are tempted to drop out of the contest because of persecution, others because the conflict between the flesh and the spirit is too demanding. However, a good runner always begins a race with the last lap in mind. Just as the runner considers the finish line, Hebrews 12:2 directs Christian leaders to “look unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” By constantly looking to Jesus, their thoughts will strengthen holy affections. Acts 2:42 demands that we continue “stedfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking bread and in prayers.” These verses emphasize the purpose of Christian determination in remaining focused on what Jesus taught – especially those with the Divine Empowerment of leadership.
Wisdom, Foresight, and insight come together to provide the leader with a vision which is the fundamental quality of Leadership. Moral courage is to speak out for what is right when superior forces desire alternative actions. And it is humility that gives God the clear view into the heart of Christian Leaders. From God, to Jesus, to the first disciples, we stand in the direct line of inheritance of Divine empowerment to embrace, encourage, and enlighten. Christian Leaders were blessed with Divine Empowered when they received the Holy Spirit from Jesus – “Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21).
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