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Honour God's Leaders

Hebrews 13:17
Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. (NIVUK)

Leadership is a fragile commodity. Many, in their homes, work and churches have to lead but find it hard, and all make mistakes. Some who seek leadership do so for personal gain, and some exploit the trust placed in them. However, leaders are necessary. God has given some a gift of leadership (Romans 12:8) and without leadership, God's people will be like sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:34). In the early church, as today, false teaching was certainly a problem; and many of the New Testament letters were written to correct doctrinal error. However, cynicism about leaders and their motivation leads some believers to be too independent and fail to submit to the leaders God has given to them.

This verse urges believers to trust godly leaders, because they are accountable to the Lord. In those days, there was little personal benefit in being a pastor; preaching the apostolic gospel, winning souls for Christ and discipling them in His way would bring them into conflict with religious and civic authorities, risking the same opposition which the apostles experienced (2 Corinthians 11:23-29). Problems in the church were as routine as problems in families, and needed wise handling (1 Timothy 3:4-5). These leaders served the Lord sacrificially, some at the cost of their own lives (Acts 7:54-60), knowing He had called them to guard the church from error and lead them into truth (Acts 20:28).

Therefore, the believers had a responsibility to submit to these leaders who, like the apostles, faced opposition for the sake of Christ. Submission to wise leadership is as essential in the church as it is in military service (2 Timothy 2:3-4). The authority of God's Word cascades over God's people through God's pastor-teachers. Those who refuse to submit to that Word of truth not only impede their own spiritual progress but cause their pastors unnecessary pain. Biblical leadership combined with Biblical follower-ship is a joy to all in the church. Competing with or contesting godly leadership is wasting everybody's time and energy: it is wrong.

Today, leadership is under constant scrutiny. In most places, power is only given to those who deliver what the people want, and withdrawn when they are displeased because leaders are accountable to the people. In the church, they are accountable to God, as are all those they watch over. In all areas, we must learn to accept leadership authority as from the Lord Himself (Romans 13:1-2), even if they do not please us (1 Peter 2:18). That humility is not weakness, but a strong act of faith, empowered by the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 66:2). So, let the Lord lead you through His appointed leaders: because both they and you are directly accountable to Him.

Lord God. Thank You for using godly people to lead me to trust in You. Forgive me for the times I am rebellious and resist leadership I do not like. Please help me to be humble so that I can joyfully submit to those who are accountable to You. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams