This sermon is about Christ-centered servant leadership. Mr. Fenchel first defines the terms and then uses the incident of Abigail and David to illustrate his point that it is for everybody.
I'd like to start today with a fill in the blanks exercise, if you don't mind. I'm going to give you a person and you fill in, kind of, the blank of what this person does. All right? It shouldn't be too hard, although there are a couple of tricky ones there.
So, a teacher _________ . Teaches. Okay, I heard a few people say. Okay. I'm not going to ask you to be interactive throughout the entire message – just this first part – so don't worry. All right. So a teacher teaches. All right.
A preacher __________ . Preaches. All right. You're doing very well so far. All right.
A king __________ . Rules or somebody said something funny and I didn't get it. All right. A king rules or governs, maybe. All right.
This one may be a little trickier. There's not necessarily an easy one-word answer. A priest __________ . I told you there would be one tricky one, okay? I had down there things like offer sacrifices, intercedes – you know, we talk about Jesus Christ being our High Priest. He intercedes on our behalf.
A shepherd __________ . Shepherds. Okay, I was looking for a different word. When you think about what a shepherd does with sheep, what does he do? He leads.
Now you probably recognize all these roles of Jesus Christ. You may have also recognized that these are roles in our future. Oftentimes we talk about them during the fall holy days, specifically at the Feast of Tabernacles, where we read the scriptures about becoming kings and priests. And also we talk about being teachers, teaching or preaching. But the Bible, in prophecy, also talks about us being shepherds. David is not only referred to as the future king of Israel, he's referred to as the future shepherd of Israel. That's in Ezekiel, chapter 34, verses 23 through 24. We're not going to go there, but he's referred to as both the king and shepherd – future – of Israel. Of course, Jesus Christ is talked about in the New Testament as being the good, the great and the chief Shepherd. In fact, Peter writes about that ministers today are, you know, subordinate shepherds to the chief Shepherd. In Jeremiah 23 and verse 4, it actually refers to – again it's a prophecy – that God says, "In the future, I will have good shepherds for My people." He's talking about – in specific – for Israel. So that is certainly part of our future.
Let's go to John, chapter 10. John, chapter 10. Now my topic today is not necessarily about being a shepherd. It's what a shepherd does . John, chapter 10 – and we're going to read a few verses here about how Christ describes a good shepherd – in specific, Himself. We'll begin reading in verse 1:
John:10:1-3 – Most assuredly I say to you, "He who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep." Now I'm going to point out a couple of key things that I'd like us to kind of keep in mind as we're going through the message today. "To him the doorkeeper opens and the sheep hears his voice and he calls his own sheep out by name and he" – what? – "leads them." He leads them out. So he leads the sheep. Verse 4:
V-4 – " And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them. And the sheep follow him, for they know his voice." So he goes and gets in front. In other words, he is leading. You cannot lead from behind. You have to lead from in front. He goes before the sheep. And the shepherd is also, we see in verse 4, known by his sheep. Let's drop down to verse 10:
V-10 – "The thief does not come except to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." So that's the outward focus of a shepherd. It's that his sheep are well taken care of. Verse 11:
V-11 – "I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep." There's a certain willingness to sacrifice there. Let's go to verse 14:
V-14 – "I am the good Shepherd, and I know My sheep, and I am known by My own." So the shepherd knows who are his and, also, the sheep know who the shepherd is. Okay, there's a certain familiarity – intimacy, if you will – between the shepherd and the sheep. Verse 15:
V-15 – "As the Father knows Me, even so, I know the Father and I lay down My life for the sheep." So God, in this case – a good Shepherd – God knows a good shepherd and a good shepherd knows God. So that's, obviously, a key element. Then verse 16:
V-16 – "And other sheep I have that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice, and there will be one flock and one Shepherd." The word there for "them also I must bring" could also be translated – is translated in some versions – "them also I must lead ."
Of course, we're familiar with scriptures like Psalm 23. Actually, there are numerous psalms that talk about being a shepherd. Psalm 23 says, "The LORD is my shepherd. He leads beside still waters. He leads me in the paths of righteousness."
Now you may be asking yourself the question at this point, "Okay, that is fine for the future. I understand, you know, part of our calling, part of our future is going to be a leadership role – leadership position – but I'm a nobody. I'm a nobody. I have no leadership position here." Maybe you think, "I'm young. I'm barely…" – not barely here, but, you know, "I don't really know how to lead within, you know, any certain sense." Maybe you think, "Well, I'm a lady and, you know, I do certain things at home, but, you know, what kind of leadership do I fulfill? Why do I need to worry about developing leadership now?"
Two reasons. In Matthew, chapter 25, you're familiar with the parable of the pounds and one of the three servants who did nothing with what he had. One of the key phrases there in Matthew, chapter 25, is the phrase, "he who is faithful in little is faithful in much." And we're going to touch on that as we go through the message today – "he who is faithful in little is faithful in much." So whether or not we have, you know, recognizable leadership titles or not in the congregation, the community or work, he who is faithful in little is faithful in much.
Secondly, Christianity requires action on our part. We're going to go to a scripture later that says, "Faith without works is dead." Faith without works is dead – without action there. Christianity is a religion of action and does require action. And that does require leadership.
So what we're going to do today is we're going to go through a particular story in the Bible where, in some ways, the real heroes, or the real leaders of the story, are not necessarily the person you would think. Should be. In fact, yes, this person exhibits some – the other person – the third person in the story – exhibits some good traits, but he also kind of blows it at one point. Now some of the things that they did were not that big, but they made a huge difference. And we're going to see how they used the main elements of what Christ described in John, chapter 10. We're going to see how they had God as their center – that God was important to them – and also their motivation to serve others.
Now, a number of years ago – I forget exactly when it started – I'm sure someone could remind me – but we started putting together some materials and starting putting together some lectures, if you will, some actual workshops. And the title of the program eventually evolved to being called Christ-centered Servant Leadership . And we're going to focus a little on that today. But we're going to focus on the leadership aspect. I mean, in some ways, every time we come to services, we talk about being Christ-centered or we talk about being servants. But, perhaps, we haven't talked so much about the leadership aspect. So we're going to focus on that today.
But I do want to touch upon – before we get into the actual story – what does it mean to be Christ-centered and what does it mean to be servant oriented – or, as I tend to put it, neighbor oriented – other people oriented? Because I think it's critical that we establish that, because leadership itself is neutral. You can have good leadership and you can have really, really bad leadership. You can have really, really good leadership. But it can also be very, very bad. And history is full of bad leaders and bad leadership. So we have to have the Christ-centered in front of that – or God -centered – whatever you want to put down – and we have to have servant in front of that, because, again, leadership itself is neutral.
All right. So what does it mean to be Christ-centered? We're going to touch on that just briefly. Again, it's not my purpose today to discuss all aspects of Christ-centered servant leadership. In fact, I think one of the best ways to look at leadership is to look at a good example, which is why we're going to go through that particular story in a minute. But, as my good friend, Mr. Wasilkoff, did, I'm going to keep you hanging just a little bit. All right?
So the first part of Christ-centered servant leadership – the Christ-centered part – speaks to the phrase of who we must be – or speaks to the concept of who we must be. Leadership, over time – even servant leadership – will not endure – will not have enduring effects – unless the person involved is motivated by something bigger than the situation in which he is leading. In other words, who you are – your motivation for life, your purpose for life – has to rise above whatever situation you find yourself in – even if it is something as noble and something as good as helping other people. But still, what's going on inside…there still has to be something even bigger than that. And, of course, for us, as Christians, that something bigger is God – being God-centered and being Christ-centered. A businessman may want to generally serve his customers in the best way possible, but even he will be more effective if his customers can see that there are things even more important to him than that.
Let's go to 2 Corinthians, chapter 13. 2 Corinthians 13. Now to be God-centered – to be Christ-centered – there are two critical elements. I'm just going to basically mention them. We're going to read about them here in 2 Corinthians. But two basic elements: you must know God and you must know yourself. You have to know God, but you have to know yourself. 2 Corinthians 13, verses 5 through 7 – it says here:
2 Corinthians:13:5-7 – Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you, unless indeed you are disqualified. So he says, "You have to know what is going on within yourself." You have to know where there is God in you. I have to know where there is God in me. And you have to be able to see, "Okay, I haven't allowed God in this part of my life yet." That's what he says here: Do you know where Christ is in you? I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified. Now I pray to God that you do no evil – not that we should appear approved, but that you should do what is honorable, though we may seem disqualified.
But the bottom line here is verse 5. Do we know of God being in us? Is that truly our inner motivation for everything that we do? And again, this requires some depth of reflection – knowing where God is, knowing where we are.
Go to Galatians – or if you would, please – turn to Galatians, chapter 2, and verse 20. Galatians, chapter 2, and verse 20.
Galatians:2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life, which I now lead in the flesh, I live by the faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
So throughout the New Testament, it talks about having God inside ourselves – that is our center. And we are grounded. That is our foundation. That is the direction our compass – we have "Compass Checks" at teen camps – that is where our compass is pointed.
Even in the world of leadership psychology, it recognized that the most important elements to a person must extend beyond the current situation. The best leaders are those who identify and whose motivations are superior and actually transcend the next business deal, the next law being passed, the next successful project. If you take a look at the early leaders of our country, they were people who had something greater than even the establishment of the United States. A good number of them were very serious Christians. A good number of them had a very high code of honor to which they held and it was something greater than what they were doing. For us, of course, it must be God.
All right. Let's go to the second descriptor. What does it mean to be a servant? What does it mean to be a servant? Now we could discuss this for several different sermons – I realize that – but let's go to James, chapter 2 – let's go over to that scripture I was talking about. Now, for the purposes of the message today, again, I realize we could discuss various definitions and put different things with it. But being a servant means doing the right thing for someone else – doing the right thing for someone else. James, chapter 2, gives a very small example of Christian leadership in action. It's not fancy. It's not spectacular. But most of the time, it is what is needed and that's the way life is. James 2, verse 14:
James:2:14 – What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith, but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace. Be warmed and filled. I will pray for you, you know. May the kingdom come sooner so it goes better for you." I'm being a little facetious. We should pray for people. We do hope the kingdom comes. But God also calls us and says, "Um, okay, but you can solve the situation right here and now. Get in front of it. Do what needs to be done and help the person out." And it says…so I digress – the Fenchel elaboration here: …but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? What good has been done if you can't step out in front?
So, doing the right thing for someone else – that's what it means to be a servant. Now notice, please, I did not say, "Do every thing for someone else." I didn't say that. Sometimes being a servant means not doing something for someone else. Let's go to 2 Thessalonians – we're still talking about food and the need for food – a wonderful topic, by the way. 2 Thessalonians, chapter 3. 2 Thessalonians, chapter 3, beginning in verse 10:
2 Thessalonians:3:10 – For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither should he eat. Now wait a minute. We just read, in James, that if someone is hungry, we should give them food. Now we're reading, in Thessalonians, that he shouldn't eat. Well, I think you understand the context. One is, if somebody is refusing work, and if just, you know, not doing what he could be doing, it's not the case of somebody in dire need or somebody who is unable to work. And he goes on:
V-11 – We hear that there are some who are among…you are busybodies. …we exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.
So, again, being a servant is doing the right thing for somebody. It is not doing everything for somebody. It is doing the right thing.
Now, who are the best servants? Well, I would offer you that the one distinction of those who are really good is they know whom they are serving very, very well. They know whom they are serving very well. If you are a regular person at a restaurant, or maybe a clothing store – and you're kind of a regular – the waiters at the restaurant, or the sales people at the store, they know you coming in. They know your preferences. They may know the type of food you like to eat, or the particular styles that you like to wear. They know you and they are going to help serve you according to what they know about you. Those are the best servants. They know the people and that's, of course, what we need to do as well.
If we are really to serve human beings, we need make sure that we understand where they are. Now fine, we don't need a great deal of understanding, maybe, if somebody is knocking at our door and needs something to eat. We don't have to have a three hour counseling session before we give them food. All right? I'm not saying that at all. But over the long term – in terms of working with people, in terms of us interacting with each other here as a body – we cannot possibly hope to reach people in the best way to really help and serve them if we don't know them. You know, I've often used the example – you've probably heard me use it in messages – telling people who are on drugs that drugs are bad is probably not going to really help a whole lot. In fact, they probably know it. In fact, they could probably give us a lesson and tell us all the ways that drugs are bad. Oftentimes we need to understand, "Okay, why are you doing it?" It's not that they don't understand that drugs are bad, but there's something else going on in their life that they're turning to that, and they feel that is the only way out. So that's the understanding that we need to have. That's what being a servant means.
Okay. So let's go to a quick definition of leadership. And then I promise we are going to get into the story. All right. So, again, we discuss various definitions of leadership. I certainly don't claim this to be the end all, be all definition. But I define good leadership as the courage to get in front of the situation and the ability to make a positive difference. The courage to get in front of a situation with the ability to make a positive difference. Then I'm going to define very good leadership. Very good leadership is the courage to get in front of the situation, the ability to make a positive difference, and to inspire others to want to follow – to inspire others to want to follow. The courage to get in front of the situation – remember what we read about Christ being the good Shepherd – He goes before the sheep – and makes a positive difference – leads them down the paths of righteousness, leads them into good pasture, leads them beside still waters – and inspires others to want to follow.
Again, we discussed earlier that leadership is neutral. It can be used for good or bad. That's why we have the adjectives. We need to be God-centered. We need to be other-people focused.
Now leadership needs both of these components – the courage to get in front and the ability to make a difference. Getting in front of the situation without ability is probably going to backfire on you. It's probably going to backfire. On the other hand, having the ability without getting out in front is, in a sense, shirking responsibility. So we need the courage to get in front. We need to have the ability to make a positive difference.
Now notice under this definition I said, "Ability to make difference." I did not say, "The ability to solve the situation completely." To exhibit leadership, to exhibit Christian leadership, does not mean that we have to be the ones to solve the problem completely. Okay? What we read about in James: the person had an immediate need for food, but that may not solve his long-term problem – you know, in terms of being without – but at least, for the moment, we were able to help in some fashion. Just because we can't do everything, doesn't mean we should not do something. We can do what is within our scope of responsibility and our scope of ability.
Now probably one word you've noticed that we haven't used at all during these setting up of definitions is, in Christ-centered servant leadership and Godly leadership, there is no self . There is no ego. There's no hidden agenda. There's no side-by-side agenda. There's no moving up the ladder. There's no proclaiming whatever title we may or may not have. There's no self-seeking. There's no posturing. There's none of that in Christ-centered servant leadership. Christ-centered servant leadership is because of God in us. We live to help others with their God-given potential and what God is calling them. We're there to help in whatever way we can. We get in front when we have something to contribute.
The title of today's message – now that I'm half way into it – is Christ-centered Servant Leadership – or I just use CSL – The Youth, the Lady and the King . The Youth, the Lady and the King. Now from some of you ABC people, I want to know, honestly, if you know the story already that I'm going to use just with that. So you can tell me afterwards. But be honest with me.
All right. Let's go to 1 Samuel, chapter 25, and we're going to spend most of the rest of the second half of the message in here. 1 Samuel, chapter 25. So we're going to take a look at this story and, again, I think when we talk about, especially, Christian leadership, I think one of the best ways to learn it is to see it in action. And we're going to see that in action with this story of David, of a youth and of Abigail. So let's begin in 1 Samuel, chapter 25, and we're going to read and set up the scenario in 1 Samuel 25, verses 1 through 12. We can actually begin in verse 2 – this is after the time, in verse 1, that Samuel had died.
1 Samuel:25:2 – Now there was a man in Maon, whose business was in Carmel, and he was very rich. He had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats, and he was shearing his sheep in Carmel. The name of the man was Nabal and the name of his wife, Abigail. She was a woman of good understanding and beautiful appearance, but the man was harsh and evil in his doings. He was of the house of Caleb. When David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep – so this is – just to give you a little background – this is during the time when David is on the run from Saul, so he has, obviously, been anointed king – probably several years prior to this, but Saul is still alive and he's, basically, on the run from Saul. So when David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep, David sent ten young men, and David said to the young men, "Go up to Carmel, go to Nabal, and greet him in my name." And thus you shall say to him, who lives in prosperity, "Peace be to you, peace to your house, and peace to all that you have! Now I have heard that you have shearers. Your shepherds were with us, and we did not hurt them, nor was there anything missing from them all the while they were in Carmel. Ask your young men, and they will tell you. Therefore let my young men find favor in your eyes, for we come on a feast day. Please give whatever comes to your hand to your servants and to your son David." So when David's young men came, they spoke to Nabal according to all these words in the name of David, and waited. Then Nabal answered David's servants, and said, "Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse? I haven't heard of him. There are many servants nowadays who break away each one from his master." So, obviously, this is a little bit of a dig, because David used to be in Saul's household and serving him. "Shall I, then, take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers and give to men when I do not know where they are from?" So David's young men turned on their heels and went back – you could put in there, maybe, empty handed – and told him all these words.
Now, at this point, David has, obviously, exercised good, basic leadership. He has, you know…first of all, he looked out for the shepherds that were not his. He didn't have to do that, but later on we will see the language actually says that he protected Nabal's herds. He protected Nabal's men. Obviously, David is looking out for his own men. He's looking out to make sure that they have something to eat. They're on the run. They're looking to…they probably don't have a lot of stores available. From a leadership perspective, this is just simply known as leadership in a simple context. David clearly knows what is the right thing to do. It's relatively easy to implement and everybody's on board.
Let's go to Romans 15 – every once in a while we'll go to a different scripture, so…. I didn't bring anything to keep my place there – I'll use my cell phone. That's my only watch. And it's not working, so we'll just forget it. Romans 15. The watch is working. Don't worry. I'm not going to take you overtime. It just doesn't work very good as a bookmark. Romans 15 – here is what David is essentially practicing. Romans 15, verses 1 through 3:
Romans:15:1-3 – We, then, who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak – or, of the needs of the weak – and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. For even Christ did not please Himself, but it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on Me." And we'll get to that a little bit later in the message. But it talks about that the strong have a responsibility to bear the weak.
Now what's interesting – and you can go ahead and go back to 1 Samuel 25 – what's interesting is that, if we consider how life goes, we are not strong in every situation. I don't care how young and strong and fit that you are, or, maybe, older and wiser – okay? – none of us is strong in every situation. None of us is weak in every situation. The point is that we all have opportunities where we are the strong and could and should bear the infirmities of the weak. And we all have opportunities where we need somebody to lift us up. We need to be helped. So part of our opportunity as Christians is to recognize, "Okay, when am I strong? Where does my strength lie, if you will? And where can I use that to help? When can I use that to help?"
So, David, in this case, had taken care of Nabal's men, had taken care of his flock – had done that. All right. Now let's go back to the story. 1 Samuel 25 – and this is where things go a little bit south for David.
1 Samuel:25:13 - Then David said to his men, "Every man gird on his sword." So every man girded on his sword, and David also girded on his sword. And about four hundred men went with David, and two hundred stayed with the supplies. Now you can probably guess David's intention, but we're going to read about David's intention. Jump down to verses 21 through 22.
V-21-22 - Now David had said, "Surely in vain I have protected all that this fellow has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belongs to him. And he has repaid me evil for good. May God do so, and more also, to the enemies of David, if I leave one male of all who belong to him by morning light." So David wasn't going out to hunt turkeys. Okay? Or, maybe you could say he was going out to hunt one big turkey. All right? No, he was after revenge. Obviously, this is not the way to show leadership. This is revengeful. This is spiteful. This is not keeping God at your center. This is not looking out for even the welfare of the people that he was leading.
Let's go back to Romans. Back to Romans – this time, chapter 12. So obviously, he was upset. Maybe he had his ego wounded. He felt insulted. He was exhibiting leadership. Four hundred of his men were all following him. They would follow David no matter where he went or how he went, but, obviously, this was not good. So Romans 12, verse 17:
Romans:12:17 – Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. This is only possible if we are keeping God at our center and we're looking to do what is right for someone else. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather, give place to wrath, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine. I will repay." So let's keep that in mind as we go through the story. But David was not applying this. Therefore, if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink. In doing so, you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
So this harkens back to what we read in James. If someone comes to us who is in need, the question should not arise, "Is this person my friend or not? Is this person my neighbor or not?" You know, "Oh, this is the person who did me wrong back on so and so – you know, drained my pool, flattened my tires, and sent fireworks across my lawn. Am I going to help him now in his time of need?" Well, that's what the Bible says. It doesn't matter who it is. If somebody is in need, that's what we do. That's who we help.
All right. So let's go back to the story. We're going to leave David for a minute. And we're going to go to one of whom I consider the heroes of the story. 1 Samuel 25 – and let's go now back to verse 14. We had kind of skipped ahead for a moment to see what David's intentions were, but let's go to verses 14 through 17.
1 Samuel:25:14-17 - Now one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal's wife, saying, "Look, David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master; and he reviled them. But the men were very good to us, and we were not hurt, nor did we miss anything as long as we accompanied them, when we were in the fields. They were a wall to us both by night and day, all the time we were with them keeping the sheep. Now therefore, know and consider what you will do, for harm is determined against our master and against all his household. For he is such a scoundrel that one cannot speak to him." Now notice who this person is. This is just a young man. This is just a servant in the household. It was obviously a wealthy household and this was one of many servants. Yet he fulfilled the definition of Christ-centered servant leadership. He got in front of the situation. He did what he could. Now, it wasn't much, but he at least brought it to the attention of somebody who could do more.
Now this was a rather complicated situation. The big boss had caused the problem. The big boss was known as, as the Bible calls him, a fool – a scoundrel. Even the young man called him a scoundrel. Okay? He was courageous. Right? Now his immediate boss, Abigail…now maybe she would listen, but, you know, he's taking a bit of a risk here. There wasn't much he could do on his own. But he knew something needed to be done, because there was an immediate threat.
Now leadership is not always big. It's not always spectacular. More often, it is simple things. But in the end, the servant did what was right, even though it was not in harmony, necessarily, with the wishes of his boss. Because, in the end, he had something inside of him that was bigger than just the immediate situation of even pleasing the big boss. He was actually looking out for the big boss's life – in the end – even though Nabal wasn't a nice guy. So he was just a servant, but he showed what he was made of. He showed he had God inside and he showed he was willing to step out and do what he could do. His desire to do the right thing trumped his rather lowly position in the household. Now he didn't try to gather the food for himself. He did not try to correct Nabal. He brought it to the attention of the next person. And in his part of the relay, he passed the baton and he went forward. Just because he could not do everything did not stop him from doing something.
If you look in the Bible, there are various other instances of people who are in servant roles exercising and demonstrating very good leadership. We have the example of Eleazar, the servant of Abraham when he went out to seek a wife for Isaac. In the story of Naaman, who is the king of Syria, when he had leprosy, it was really servants and a little girl who are the ones who got out in front of the situation and really facilitated a solution.
I think, if we think about it, we have many opportunities each day to get in front of something and to make a positive contribution. And that's what this young man did. He got in front of something – didn't have to – but he got in front of something – got in front of the situation – and made a difference. All right. Verses 18 through 20.
V-18-20 - Then Abigail made haste and took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep already dressed, five seahs of roasted grain, one hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs, and loaded them on donkeys. And she said to her servants, "Go on before me; see, I am coming after you." But she did not tell her husband, Nabal. So it was, as she rode on the donkey, that she went down under cover of the hill; and there were David and his men, coming down toward her, and she met them.
Does anyone know what the first thing Abigail did right here was? She listened. She listened! She listened to the young man. She heard what he said.If she hadn't listened – she had simply ignored him – "Ah, you don't know what you're talking about" – pushed him aside, obviously, the situation would have ended up as David had originally intended. But she listened, even if it was a lowly servant. She paid attention to the message. She did not worry about who the messenger was. Obviously, the young man had done his part. He was able to influence her in a right way.
You know, sometimes situations require immediate leadership and immediate action. There are no meetings. You do not form a committee or a task force. You staunch the bleeding when it's happening. This is known as leadership in a chaotic context – which this was certainly a chaotic context. You may remember the story of Phineas stopping the plague upon Israel when Israel was committing adultery with the women of Moab. He didn't form a committee. He didn't gather a task force. He just simply and demonstrated what should be done. I'll let you read about that and look that up. There are plenty of other instances about that, as well.
Now, we could probably discuss this sentence here – "she did not tell her husband, Nabal." We could probably discuss that sentence until the cows come home. I don't plan to do that – or, the sheep and the goats, I guess I should say, come home. But again, clearly she was God-centered and he was not. She was of a servant mindset and he was not. She knew that this was the right thing to do and she knew that, really, for the household to be saved, it just required action. And she stepped out and she did it. And she didn't tell him at this point.
I'd like to go to another example in the Bible. This one is in Acts 23. I'd like to show you another example of somebody in a very high-up leadership position who took time to listen to somebody kind of way down the line. Acts 23, beginning in verse 12, kind of sets the stage.
Acts:23:12 - And when it was day, some of the Jews banded together and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. A bunch of them had gotten themselves together and said, "We're going on a hunger strike until Paul is pushing up daisies." All right. Let's go verse 16:
V-16 – So when Paul's sister's son heard of their ambush – so I guess it would be Paul's nephew – he went and entered the barracks and told Paul. Then Paul called one of the centurions to him and said, "Take this young man to the commander, for he has something to tell him." So he took him and brought him to the commander and said, "Paul the prisoner called me to him and asked me to bring this young man to you. He has something to say to you." So again, kudos to the young man. He stepped out in front and did what he could. Then the commander took him by the hand, went aside, and asked privately, "What is it that you have to tell me?" In this situation, the commander did what needed to be done, but notice how he did it. Here is a young boy. He was coming to the barracks – you know, a bunch of soldiers. He was probably a little intimidated, to say the least. He was probably scared. And the commander had presence of mind enough to say, "Okay, let's just go aside here," and took him by the hand, "everything's going to be okay, and let's just you and me talk privately." He set up the scenario that the young man – the boy, in this case – that the boy could do what the boy came to do. He enabled the boy to help out. And then the boy went on and told him. But the commander made it easy for him. He set up a good situation so a solution could be accomplished.
All right. Let's go back to our story. So Abigail has – in this case she has – taken action – immediate action. She knew that there was a crisis on hand and she has taken action to avert that crisis. Let's take a look at another aspect of who this lady was. Verse 23:
1 Samuel:25:23 - Now when Abigail saw David, she dismounted quickly from the donkey, fell on her face before David, and bowed down to the ground. So she fell at his feet and said: "On me, my lord, on me let this iniquity be! And please let your handmaiden speak in your ears, and hear the words of your maidservant." Abigail, here, was showing, obviously, a lot of humility.
We discussed earlier that in Christ-centered servant leadership – or in God-centered servant leadership – there is, really, no room for self. There is, really, no room for arrogance. She was willing to humble herself here. Humility has to be at our core, because a) we have something greater than ourselves inside of us – and that's God – and b) we're willing to esteem others better than ourselves (Philippians 2, and verse 5). So humility has to be at the core. She bowed to David's feet. She called David, "Lord." She called herself, "David's handmaid." Abigail realized this was not about Abigail. This was not about Abigail. This was about Abigail serving God's purpose for all the people around her, including her husband, including her household and including David.
Let's continue – verses 24 through 25. So verse 24 again:
V-24-25 - So she fell at his feet and said: "On me, my lord, on me let this iniquity be! And please let your maidservant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your maidservant. Please, let not my lord regard this scoundrel Nabal. For as his name is, so is he: Nabal is his name, and folly is with him! But I, your maidservant, did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent." And in verse 28:
V-28 – " Please forgive the trespass of your maidservant. For the LORD will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord fights the battles of the LORD, and evil is not found in you throughout your days."
What is Abigail doing here? What is she doing? Abigail is not just getting in front of the situation, but she is assuming responsibility and taking over responsibility for the situation. She is looking for a solution. She is trying to find the best way for a solution. She's not looking to place blame on Nabal. She didn't say this is all Nabal's fault. I mean, she did call a spade a spade. All right? Sometimes you have to do that. Nor did she try to exonerate herself. She wasn't saying, "Please David. This is not my fault at all, but please accept my gift." No, she took over responsibility.
Now sometimes you need to clearly identify the party responsible. In many cases, though, that's not necessary. Good leadership is trying to find a solution as soon as possible in helping the affected party to see that solution. She didn't have to take responsibility. She didn't have to ask forgiveness from David. It wasn't her fault. But she is taking on the responsibility from the situation and, by doing so, trying to diffuse David's anger towards her husband. It's a very wise technique. She was looking for three solutions. She had to find three solutions in this situation: first of all, food for David's group; secondly, she had to make sure that her husband lived to see another day; and thirdly, as we're going to see, the other solution she wanted to have is to prevent David from doing something wrong – to prevent David from doing something wrong. Now that's different from Nabal living. Those two are separate. She wanted to prevent David from doing something wrong and we'll see that here in a minute.
Now, in verse 25, like I said, sometimes you have to call a spade a spade. Good leadership does not mitigate the situation – does not try to minimize if there is a problem. We don't need to get out of control with our emotions, but sometimes, we have to call things for what they are. And that actually builds trust with those with whom you're leading.
Now, can anybody think of somebody else from the Bible who took responsibility for a situation that wasn't his fault? And actually took on…well, if I say that, it will give too much away. Think of Jesus Christ. Okay? Did He not take on responsibility – I'm not saying, "take the blame – but did He not take on the responsibility for our sins and say, "Put the penalty on me – the penalty for these people's sins should go on me?" He did that and, in a sense – obviously, not in exactly the same way, but in the sense – Abigail is doing this as well.
All right. Let's continue on in verse 26.
V-26 – " Now, therefore, my lord…." Now this is the part of the story…well, actually, every part of the story, but this especially is the part of the story that I'm reminded of what one of my professor's told me at college. He said – and I've probably mentioned this in sermon's as well – "We read the Bible too fast. We read familiar scriptures, sometimes, way too fast and we don't catch exactly what's going on." This section of the story, we really have to catch what's going on. All right. Verse 26: "Now therefore, my lord, as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, since the LORD has held you back from coming to bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hand. Now then, let your enemies and those who seek harm for my lord be as Nabal. And now this present which your maidservant has brought to my lord, let it be given to the young men who follow my lord. Please forgive the trespass of your maidservant. For the LORD will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord fights the battles of the LORD, and evil is not found in you throughout your days. Yet a man has risen to pursue you and seek your life, but the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with the LORD your God; and the lives of your enemies He shall sling out, as from the pocket of a sling." Verse 30:
V-30 - And it shall come to pass, when the LORD has done for my lord according to all the good that He has spoken concerning you, and has appointed you ruler over Israel, that this will be no grief to you, nor offense of heart to my lord, either that you have shed blood without cause, or that my lord has avenged himself. But when the LORD has dealt well with my lord, then remember your maidservant."
Do you see what she has done here with David? You know, leadership is often defined as the ability to influence. In my opinion, in our age, there is a lost art to diplomacy, to exhibiting humility, to entreating, to appealing to a person's reason, the ability to diffuse emotions rather than ratchet them up, to look first to understand and then be understood – with due respect and kudos to Steven Covey, who coined that phrase. Humans are tempted with two extremes, usually, when confronted by a situation – say nothing or attempt to ramrod their point through. Now there are times when staying silent is the right course of action – I'm not going to say that – and there are times when being forceful may be the right course of action, but can we not do, sometimes, what Abigail just did here for David? If you look very closely at how she worded this, she got to his sense of reason. She got to his sense of calm. She got to his sense of "what, David, you really are. And this, David, is not who you really are. You are not some vengeful fool-chasing person. You have a tremendous future. Israel needs you as God has called you. Israel doesn't need you as some hot-headed person, chasing after every person who insults you." She is appealing to David's best side. She is appealing to Christ living in David. She is carefully showing what the results would be if he actually went out and killed Nabal and what the results would be if he did not, carefully reminding him of what God is doing for David, including taking care of David's enemies. And you probably noticed one other thing that she did here. She takes no credit for herself. She says, "I am thankful God has prevented you from taking Nabal's life."
Let's go to 1 Corinthians, chapter 9, beginning in verse 19. Paul writes here:
1 Corinthians:9:13 – For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all that I might win the more – that's service oriented; that's people oriented; that's God-centered. He said, "I have made myself a servant for the purpose of helping them spiritually." He said:
V-14 – To the Jews I became as a Jew that I might win the Jews. Okay? This speaks to understanding where people are and where, in the end, they really want to go. …to those who are under the law as under the law that I might win those under the law; to those who are without the law as to being without the law (not being without the law toward God, but under the law toward Christ) that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak that I might win the weak. So Paul was able to put himself in somebody else's shoes in order to best help them. I have become all things to all men that I might by all means save some. And he was under no illusion that he was going to save every single person with whom he came in contact with. Okay? (With whom he came in contact – you can drop the last with .) Okay? But he said, "You know, I may be able to save some and therefore, I'm going to try to understand where they are – what they're really thinking – so I can do that. And that's, essentially, what Abigail did. She appealed to David's better side, not to his worse side.
All right. Let's go back to our story – beginning in verse 32. Now, we saw good leadership from David, we saw poor leadership from David, and David's going to turn it around one more time and do what is good and what is right. 1 Samuel 25, beginning in verse 32:
1 Samuel:25:32 - Then David said to Abigail: "Blessed is the LORD God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! And blessed is your advice and blessed are you, because you have kept me this day from coming to bloodshed and from avenging myself with my own hand. For indeed, as the LORD God of Israel lives, who has kept me back from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, surely by morning light no males would have been left to Nabal!" So David received from her hand what she had brought him, and said to her, "Go up in peace to your house. See, I have heeded your voice and respected your person."
Now David very clearly, very publicly and very correctly recognizes here who has really saved the day – God working through Abigail. Good leadership is recognizing good leadership, no matter who it comes from – no matter what situation it comes in – and accepting it, even if you're the senior person involved. In this case, David was clearly the senior person, but he recognized who had really, you know, kind of saved the day – who had really practiced what God says to do. A person who is practicing good leadership realizes he or she does not always have to be in the lead – gives God the honor and recognizes that Abigail is the conduit.
Now notice in verse 35 that there are four things here to note that David recognized that Abigail had accomplished. They go in order from least to most important – at least, in my opinion. One, in verse 35, David accepted the food that she had brought. That's one thing. He said to her, "Go in peace." In other words, "Go in peace of mind. Go in security and confidence. Nothing's going to happen." The third thing is, he said, "I have heeded your voice. I accept fully." In terms of great leadership, Abigail had been able to accomplish great leadership because David wanted to follow what she had advised him. He wanted to follow. And then fourthly, he said, "…and respected your person." That could be interpreted as David saying, "You know, I count you as a worthy counselor. I count you as a worthy person to give advice, to give guidance, to give help." He says, "I have accepted you." That's very high honor. He accepted her as a person of character, as a person of integrity, as God-fearing, as a person of wisdom.
So…well, there's an epilogue – verse 36 through 38.
V-36-38 - Now Abigail went to Nabal, and there he was, holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. And Nabal's heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk; therefore she told him nothing, little or much, until morning light. So it was, in the morning, when the wine had gone from Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became like a stone. Then it happened, after about ten days, that the LORD struck Nabal, and he died.
So the epilogue, in this particular case, is that God did what God was supposed to do. God did what God was supposed to do – what is God's privilege to do. In appropriate time, Abigail told Nabal everything she had done. She did not try to hide it, but she wanted to make sure it got done. And God fulfilled what was His prerogative to do. David did not have to do that.
Of course, the lesson here is that sitting and waiting for God to do everything is certainly not what God wants us to do. On the other hand, there are certain things that only God has the privilege to do – has the prerogative to do – and we need to recognize those, in terms of our journey, as we heard about in the sermonette, to the Kingdom of God.
So, brethren, being a Christian requires us to demonstrate a certain level of leadership. If we are going to help those in physical need, we must lead. If we want to save a brother out of a spiritual ditch from time to time, we must lead. If we're going to be a light of good works, as we are told to do in Matthew 5, it means we have to lead. If want to give and be able to give an answer for the hope that lies within us, that means we have to get out in front of the question and make a positive contribution. If we want to use our spiritual gifts, as we have heard about several times here in the last number of months, it requires us to lead. If we're going to build up the body of Christ, only we can use the gifts that we have been given and it means we have to get out in front and do what we can.
We have seen, in this story with the youth, the lady and the king, it does not matter who we are. It does not matter how great our abilities may be or, maybe, how small our abilities may be. It doesn't matter whether we have some title or not. There are times for us to follow and there are times for us to lead. It does not matter if you are a youth or if you're an adult. It does not matter if you are a woman or if you're a man. It does not matter if you are a king or a subject. It does not matter. Do we have the courage to get out in front of the situation? Do we have the ability to make a positive difference? Can we influence others to follow in that positive difference?
Christ-centered servant leadership means God is at our center. We know Him – or we must know Him – and we must know ourselves. We have to let God get to know us. Our motivation is to serve others. To serve them well we have to know them well. It's not about us. We must have the courage to step in front and then make a positive difference. That is our calling in the future and that is, also, our calling now.