What do you think causes God to promote some people into positions of leadership and not others?
To answer that question, consider these questions: If you were looking for leaders, what would you look for?
What would be the main qualities that would catch your attention?
If you were God, would you choose someone like you?
To answer these questions, you must look further at Joshua 1:1. It reads, “Now after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord it came to pass, that the Lord spake unto Joshua, the son of Nun, Moses’ minister....”
I want you to particularly notice the last part of the verse, which says, “...The Lord spake unto Joshua, the son of Nun, Moses’ minister....” Here we find a tremendous key that reveals why God chose Joshua: because Joshua was Moses’ minister. Other translators have rendered the word “minister” as associate, assistant, disciple, or servant. This is very important because it shows that one of the marks of a great leader is his willingness to obediently and faithfully follow those who are in authority over him.
Moreover, by referring to Joshua as “Moses’ minister,” this verse reveals that Joshua wasn’t an unknown, mysterious figure when God chose him to replace Moses. Joshua had been around for a long time, and he had a proven track record. For decades, Joshua had faithfully served as Moses’ associate, assistant, disciple, and servant .
Periods of serving are testing grounds that prove whether or not an associate has the strength of character to be a leader himself. During Joshua’s time as an associate, he’d probably done many menial and unnoticed tasks, and occasionally he may have even felt used by Moses. Moses was a busy man with many responsibilities. Therefore, Joshua — like most associates or assistants of strong leaders — probably did a lot of dirty work and received very little glory. But that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Periods of serving are testing grounds that prove whether or not an associate has the strength of character to be a leader himself.
If a person can’t follow, he isn’t ready to lead!
Furthermore, when you serve in a subordinate position, you’ll usually have to wrestle with fleshly feelings of being neglected or unappreciated by others. Yet God will use this internal wrestling match to expose the right or wrong motives in your heart. He’ll find out why you are really serving the Lord.
Do you serve Him to obtain glory in the eyes of others?
Or do you serve Him with pure motives in your current capacity, simply because that’s what He has asked you to do?
One of the most important things for any associate or employee to discover is the condition of his or her own heart. Many times the best way to do this is by serving in a position that doesn’t gain any recognition.
Those who work under strong leaders can find it very difficult at times. However, the Holy Spirit will help them through their challenges by encouraging and teaching them how to develop humble hearts and minds. Leaders who have learned how to maintain an attitude of humility have made many mistakes in the past — and they will no doubt continue to make many more in the future. Yet because these leaders’ hearts are right toward God and men, God will guide them through every calamity or obstacle, instructing them in their error and giving them the grace and favor to continue and succeed.
A strong example of this principle is found in the life of King David. David made many mistakes throughout his reign as king, some of which were major errors. But he maintained an attitude of humility and submission toward God — and that profound humility gave David a stature of greatness that far exceeded all the other kings of Israel.
In First Peter 5:5, the apostle Peter wrote about the importance of humility and submission in the Church, exhorting, “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.”
Submitting to authority is always a big test, and it’s an especially vital one for leaders. A person serving under a leader may be tempted to think from time to time that he’s been asked to do something that is beneath him. Perhaps he thinks the task at hand is too basic and menial for someone as greatly anointed, talented, or intelligent as he is. If so, that person needs to remind himself that those thoughts are just the complaints of his flesh, and then he should tell his flesh to shut up!
Some scholars suggest that when Peter admonished us to “be clothed with humility,” he was remembering the Last Supper when Jesus Himself took off His own outer garment and stooped down to wash the feet of His disciples. Think about it — the Lord of Glory was willing to wash the dirty feet of His disciples right before He died for them!
Since Jesus was willing to do that, we should always make it our aim to “be clothed with humility.” This means we are to faithfully serve those whom God has called us to serve, even when we think the task at hand is menial or boring.