by Jeff Curtis
An effective leader is respected because he has cultivated his natural abilities and shown himself to be dedicated, trustworthy, and loyal. In the Old Testament, Nehemiah became known as a capable leader after he was appointed governor by King Artexerxes I and was commissioned to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall. However, he had already proved his ability as “the cupbearer to the king” (Nehemiah 1:11). This was an important and influential position. He had access to the king and had to be absolutely trustworthy. The king’s life depended on the cupbearer’s skill and loyalty. If he were not loyal, the king might be (and sometimes kings were) poisoned by their enemies.
The book doesn’t tell how Nehemiah came to have this position. We do know that other Jews before him (specifically Daniel and his three friends – Daniel 1:9), (Mordecai – Esther 8:2) had attained positions of authority and influence in the governments of Babylon and Persia. We might assume that Nehemiah was from a wealthy and influential Jewish family in Babylon (Neh. 5:14-19). Maybe, his ability in school or business caught the attention of the king or his advisors. In all that he did, he must have shown competency and integrity. That is the only way one could have become cupbearer to the king. To continue in this role, his service had to be outstanding.
The king paid tribute to Nehemiah for the way he had conducted himself by noticing that, for the first time, his cupbearer was sad in his presence (Neh. 2:2). Apparently, one job of the cupbearer was to be an encouraging companion, and Nehemiah had always fulfilled that function.
In the church today, capable individuals are needed to be leaders of God’s people. God’s choice of Paul shows that men of great ability are needed to lead His flock. The need to be a “capable” person (1Cor. 6:5) to be a Christian leader may be reflected in the requirement for to have “a good reputation with those outside the church” (1Tim. 3:7). Also, it is necessary for a preacher to be “an example of those how believe” (1Tim. 4:2).
One who would desire to be in a position of leadership today must first “be on guard for” himself (Acts 20:28). He should be known to others as one who is trustworthy and reliable. He must strive to develop and use his talents, take advantage of his opportunities, and seek to succeed at whatever he does. The old saying “if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing right” is a good motto for an aspiring leader to remember. For a would-be church leader, being a “capable person” means being a faithful Christian who is always trying to reach his highest potential spiritually.
Of course, not everyone can be a leader in the sense that we are using it here. Not everyone has the talent of leadership. The church has room for all kinds of people. As Christians, we don’t all have to be alike in ever way. We have different backgrounds and personalities.
All Christians have a few things in common, however. We have been given abilities by God, and we are all expected to use them to the glory of God and the service of the church and mankind. To become the best people, we can be – the most capable and effective individuals possible – we must become more like what Jesus would want us to be.
Nehemiah mourned and prayed to God for four months. He remained in this state from the time he heard the bad news about Jerusalem (Neh. 1:1). Then he approached the king about the possibility of going back to Jerusalem to lead the Jews in rebuilding the wall (Neh. 2:1). His persistence in prayer had good results: the Persian king agreed to let him return to Jerusalem to build the wall.
Jesus taught us the need to persist in prayer (Luke 18:1-8). Do we continue in prayer (see Romans 12:12; 1Thess. 5:17), or are we satisfied to ask God one time for what we need? Jesus prayed all night in Luke 6:12. Have we ever done the same?