I’ve always been a sucker for movies that tell a story of an ordinary person accomplishing something normally beyond their ability. As a child, my fascination was with Spiderman. Some scrawny nerd, (much like myself), received supernatural abilities after being bitten by a spider and used these abilities to save entire cities.
These days, my fascination is with The Hunger Games. This movie highlights the journey of Katniss, who grew up fatherless with poverty and tribulation and has had to become the caretaker of her household – forcing her to hone valuable hunting skills. She’s selected to compete in her country’s life or death competition, and uses those skills to eventually win, showering her family with materials they desperately needed.
As I watch characters like this, I’m captivated by their ability to grasp these gifts, or strengths, in a way that leads them to accomplish huge and life-changing accomplishments. Simply put: I want their ability to lead and make a difference, using the abilities they’ve been given.
The problem with this desire, however, is that in my mind, a person worthy of being such a leader, deserving such honor and recognition, only receives this title if their efforts produce success. I mean, how impressed would we be had Spiderman failed to save his city from all the villains? Or if Katniss would have died the moment after the canon went off to begin the games?
Would we still view these individuals as leaders? Probably not, because in our eyes, they failed their mission. This strange idea of a great leader who, though they “fail” in their mission, remains a great leader, depicts perfectly the story of Isaiah the prophet.
Isaiah shares with us that God created Him from the womb to be His servant, a leader for God’s people who God Himself would greatly honor and provide for (Isaiah 49:5). When Isaiah stands before the throne of God, he realizes that God needs someone to fulfill a difficult mission. So, standing there, feeling terrified and unworthy, with what seems like no hesitation at all, Isaiah says, “Here am I Lord, send me!” (Isaiah 6:8).
Though this moment may seem like a heroic moment to us, placing Isaiah into the ultimate leadership role, you eventually realize that Isaiah’s mission from God was to persuade a lost people to return to God. God Himself acknowledged this as being a lost cause, for the people’s hearts were too hard to receive Isaiah’s message and prophesies (Isaiah 6:9-13).
For God, Isaiah was a leader worthy of receiving honor and special strength, not because his efforts would result in a victory, fame, or fortune. Isaiah was seen as a true leader in God’s eyes because he heeded the call to act for God.
What are your God-given strengths? Are you a good listener? Are you smooth with words? Are you good at understanding deep ways of thinking? Are you good at making other people smile and laugh? How are you using these strengths to lead others closer to God?
Every individual is given at least one talent. The question is, will we, like Isaiah, heed God’s calling to lead a life that uses these talents for Him? This will never be a journey without many challenges. Putting ourselves in a position of leading others means leaving ourselves more open to criticism. God teaches us that we may be hated for being His leaders on this earth (Mark 13:13). We might be persecuted by those who don’t appreciate our leadership (1 Peter 3:13-17). We might even be killed by our enemies for leading others to God, though we don’t currently experience this in our country today (Matthew 10:28).
True leadership, in God’s eyes, is not measured by success, but by the courage in our hearts as we set out to fulfill whatever task God sets before us, with whatever gifts He has instilled within us.
May we be leaders for God who recognize that He did not give us “a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” to carry out the work He lays before us, to utilize the individual gifts of leadership within us (2 Timothy 1:7).