Even by secular standards Jesus Christ is the most influential figure in world human history. If leadership is influence, then He certainly deserves the crown. There have been more books written about Him, more lectures about His life, opinions, and teachings than any other person in history. If the Christian enterprise were considered in business terms, it would be considered a global phenomenon. Virtually every city in the world has a company franchise (church – often several) and the book about His life (The Holy Bible) is the number one best selling book in all of history, and has been the best selling book every year for over 500 years (since the printing press was invented). But, how did he gain such a following – such global influence and dominance with His brand? Was He a self-promoting genius? Did He have huge money behind Him–the best publicist; the most incredible team of promotional experts? No. As a matter of fact His style of promotion was totally outside the conventional wisdom of, both His time and ours today. He broke all the rules and maximums of publicity and promotion.
Interestingly enough, even His own followers were clueless as to His real mission, at least until the end of His life. In the New Testament Jesus blew His disciples’ minds when He said in Mark chapter 10 that, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Here is the long awaited Messiah, the very one that they had been taught would come and lead the nation into freedom from outside oppression and into national righteousness – a Mosaic type figure who would re-establish an authentic observation of Mosaic Law and a restored pure Aaronic Priesthood, saying that He did not come to lead but to serve. This must have been scandalous, and so hard for them to process. But that was exactly the case.
The Prophet Isaiah had actually predicted this very different approach in several places hundreds of years before Jesus was born. And in one of his specific predictions recorded in chapter 42, and proven to be Messianic by its application in Matthew chapter 12, we can discover several keys to Jesus’ leadership style, and the promotional genius and ministry effectiveness that the Holy Spirit had embedded in His life and ministry. The passage reveals several fundamental keys to Jesus Messiah-style of leadership and promotion. These Keys should be clearly embraced and lived out in our lives as leaders, and communicated by everything we say and everything we do in ministry.
Isaiah 42: 1-4 NKJV
1 “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold,
My Elect One in whom My soul delights!
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.
2 He will not cry out, nor raise His voice,
Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street.
3 A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench;
He will bring forth justice for truth.
4 He will not fail nor be discouraged,
Till He has established justice in the earth;
And the coastlands shall wait for His law.”
1. Dependence: He demonstrated an extreme dependence on God.
Verse 1, “Behold My Servant whom I uphold.”
As J. Oswald Sanders says in his book Spiritual Leadership, “He (speaking of Jesus) surrendered the privileges of His God-nature and became dependent on His Heavenly Father”(Pg. 24). How far this level of existence must have been from what Jesus had previously known. After all, He was God the Son from the beginning, with all the divine attributes and purgatives. While, according to the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:6 and 7, He knew that it was not robbery to be equal with God, yet he humbled Himself and become dependent on God the Father. I have never met a leader who once they had attained a lofty position of power would (for any reason) lay that power aside and become the servant of an inferior. This is a great condescension to say the least. But Jesus did just that. Jesus gave us an example of Spiritual Leadership in His surrendering His rightful state and humbling Himself to serve those He came to lead.
As a leader, the sooner we understand our dependence on God and embrace all that this reality suggests, the quicker we will find peace in every situation and develop the clarity and focus to lead effectively. This takes faith indeed. But where does this kind of faith come from? In my experience it comes as a result of enduring trials and testing. I once heard Adrian Rogers, the great Baptist pastor say, “a faith that has not been tested cannot be trusted”. This kind of faith in God comes as a result of experiences where our faith has been tested and God has proven Himself faithful. When He does, a calm confidence in God becomes our foundation of leadership and a deep dependence on God results.
Sometimes my dependence on God comes, not so much as a result of my tested faith, but because I have no other obvious alternatives, no other possible solutions, I am desperate. I heard Bishop Joseph Garlington say one time, “Heroes are not born they are cornered.” My grandfather used to say, “Man’s extremity becomes God’s opportunity.”
Whither through bold faith or desperation, God is still pleased when we become totally dependent on Him as our hope, source and solution. Jesus made Himself totally dependent on God.
2. Divine Approval: He cultivated amazing divine Favor and Approval.
Verse 1 “My Elect One in whom My soul delights,”
God is holy, full of justice and truth. His law, which is an expression of His attributes and character, therefore demands perfection. Not in an incompassionate way, but simply because of its perfect standard. In the letter of the law there is no room for mercy, while at the same time keeping its integrity and justice. To practice one, the exclusion of the other is required. If you steal my TV and I simply forgive you, I have been merciful, but in my mercy, justice has been violated. You need to bring it back or get me another one. God is certainly both merciful and yet just. Therefore, to cultivate favor with God, one must keep the Law perfectly. Jesus lived without sin, satisfying the righteous demands of the Law and thereby obtained the favor and approval of God as a man in a legitimate sense. He put God first and foremost in His focus and passion.
3. Humility: He was self-retiring and modest, not seeking to capitalize on personal opportunities to gain a following – He was humble.
Verse 2, “He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to heard in the street.”
Jesus did not try to draw attention to Himself; He put on garments of humility. I say ‘put on humility’ because when you are the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, humility is a choice. The value of Jesus’ humility is demonstrated by the reality that it was optional. He chose to humble Himself and condescend. This type of humility is a virtue that creates great gravity because of its rarity. Jesus would heal someone and quickly say, “See that you tell no one” (Matt. 8:4), yet, the “fame of Him spread through out all of Syria,”a great distance from his humble surroundings in Galilee (Matt 4:24). In His example, I learn that promotion comes from the Lord.
4. Empathy: He loved and had great compassion for the people.
Verse 3 “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench.”
People know when they are truly loved. They also have a way of discerning or sensing when they are being used as a means to an end. Jesus never looked passed someone and to the opportunity their situation presented. He also did not take advantage of someone else’s misfortune to promote Himself. Every encounter was an opportunity to make a difference for the better, to change a life, rescue someone in trouble. His highest purpose was to do the will of God. His greatest impact was to love others and serve.
5. Optimism: He was incredibly optimistic.
Verse 4 “He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth.”
Optimism is perhaps the most important quality a leader can possess. Optimism is defined as hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something. In my mind it is closely connected to determination. In this verse we see that both are associated with the leadership ministry of the Messiah. Optimism and determination are rooted in the attitude of a leader. Attitude is an internal perspective that becomes the motivation for decisions that lead to actions.
While Jesus faced incredible negativity and opposition to His mission and purpose, yet, He was always positive and determined. I believe that His positive perspective and confident determination sprang from His confidence in God. He focused on the will of God and the means of God to produce that will on earth as it was in Heaven.
As a leader too often my confidence has been in me – in my natural abilities and native genius. Sadly, when I face obstacles that I know are beyond the limits of these abilities, I have at times lost hope, became fatigued and burnt-out.
I have learned to say with the King David in Psalms 25, “In you, Lord my God, I put my trust…” V1, “for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” V5
Jesus the Messiah lived in perfect submission to God’s will, His ways and His provision. Consequently, He was always at peace with God’s plan and therefore optimistic about the outcome.