Why we must avoid nonessential encounters to stay true to our calling
So who would win in a fight—Goliath or Bathsheba? Actually a better question might be, “Which of them would pose the greatest threat to a king?” King David would think the question is a no-brainer. He would say, “A giant on a battlefield is far less dangerous than a bathing woman on a rooftop—because kings weren’t made for rooftops in times of war.”
Countless preachers have unpacked the sordid details of David’s affair with Bathsheba, inevitably highlighting the fact that David never should have encountered her in the first place. The poignant tone of 2 Samuel 11:1 instantly warns us that something is not right when it says, “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men. ... But David remained in Jerusalem” (NIV).
In addition to its moral lesson, this story contains two leadership principles that are essential for our long-term success as pastors and ministry leaders.
First, kings need to do what kings are supposed to do—when it’s time to besiege Rabbah they need to be besieging Rabbah, not lingering in Jerusalem. Second, fighting the wrong fight can be deadly. Our giants can fall because giants are supposed to fall, but Bathshebas should not even be encountered. She is a nonissue if we’re too busy doing what kings are supposed to be doing: fighting and winning the right battles.
What are the right battles for you? What are the key ministry areas that God has specifically fashioned and equipped you for? What parts of your job description must be handled exclusively by you? If you’ve identified these priorities, then how well are you living in them?
Evaluating these questions can be one of the wisest, most proactive things we can do to ensure our long-term ministry health and success. David wasn’t the first leader (or, unfortunately, the last) to learn the hard way that kings need to do what kings are supposed to do. Recognizing that our individual priorities vary based on our assigned positions, let’s remember Jethro’s concluding advice to Moses after he observed him courting burnout in the early days of his ministry. Jethro’s counsel was simple as he appealed to Moses to limit himself to just four ministry priorities:
Intercession. Moses was Israel’s advocate before the Lord.
Teaching. Moses was to teach the statutes, the laws, the way and the work. That is, he was to teach the standards for godly conduct, the ways of God, and the principles for successful living; and he was to cast a compelling vision of the work that God had called them to do.
Leadership development. Since the crushing weight of a million people could never be carried by one person (church experts today tell us that one person really can’t effectively pastor more than 100 people on their own), Moses was to identify and place leaders over 1,000s, 100s, 50s and 10s. After installing these leadership teams, Moses was to relate generously with them, helping them process the weightier matters of the nation.
Training the generations. Reaching out to Joshua, the next generation’s emerging and young leader, also topped Moses’ priority list. In Jethro’s summary statement he said: “If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied” (Ex. 18:23).
Isn’t that our goal? In a profession in which people finish poorly more often than any other field, isn’t it our dream to thrive amid the “strain” and have the people whom God has entrusted to us “go home satisfied”?
Let’s do it—fight Goliath, live in our priorities and leave Bathsheba for someone else to deal with.
Chris Jackson is senior pastor of Grace Church in LaVerne, Calif.
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