5 Leadership Lessons from King David

Jonathan Pokluda | 11.24.14

Israel’s King David was, without a doubt, a great leader. Men were willing to follow him even before he was king, and even when he was on the run and had to hide in the desert. God referred to him as “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22), which is some of the highest praise anyone gets in the Bible.

Though no one reading this (other than you, William) will ever have a chance to be king, we do have opportunities to lead in different ways. And after looking at David’s life for a talk on the whole Goliath incident, I noticed several ways in which his story shows us what we need to be God’s kind of leader—a man after God’s own heart.

1. To be God’s leader requires PATIENCE.

David was anointed as Israel’s king when he was a boy, probably in his early teens. But he was 30 before becoming king of Judah (which was just part of Israel) and 37 before he was named king of all Israel, as promised.

Having to wait a couple of decades for something you’ve been promised, that’s rightfully yours, is hard enough. But the existing king, Saul, spent a fair portion of that time trying to kill David. This forced him to stay on the run, hiding in caves and fleeing to another country. At least twice, David had a clear opportunity to kill Saul, and considering the circumstances it could have been considered self-defense. But David didn’t. He knew that God was in control, and trusted Him enough to wait on His timing.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

- David (Psalm 27:14)

2. To be God’s leader requires HUMILITY.

So you’re a lowly shepherd boy, and you’re chosen as king by the guy who’s in charge of such things. What do you do?

If you’re David, you go back to taking care of sheep.

When he does get called up to the palace, instead of demanding the throne, he works as a servant. He performs music for the king whenever Saul demands it, like a human iPod.

When his dad asks the anointed king to serve snacks to his older brothers, he serves snacks to his older brothers.

David was humble. He knew that, even as king, he was still just a servant of the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?

- David (2 Samuel 7:18)

3. To be God’s leader requires COURAGE.

When Goliath came out to challenge the army of Israel, everyone was afraid of the 9-foot giant. Besides being king, Saul was a head taller than any other Israelite (1 Samuel 9:2). So when the giant Goliath came out to challenge the army of Israel, I’m sure people were looking to him to do something. Instead, he was “dismayed and terrified” (1 Samuel 17:11), just like everyone else.

Except for David. The kid brother ends up comforting the scared king, assuring Saul that he’d take care of it (1 Samuel 17:32). And you probably know what happens next.

David was brave because he knew Who had his back. If you’re on God’s side, then there is nothing to fear—not even death.

Though our giants might look different today, there is definitely still evil in the world that we need to stand up against. We need not be afraid if our hope is in the Ruler of the universe.

The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?

- David (Psalm 27:1)

4. To be God’s leader requires FAITH.

Throughout all of this, David showed that he had faith in God. He believed that God was in control. God had promised that David would be king, and since he wasn’t king yet, that meant Saul couldn’t kill him. Same with Goliath. When others brought up doubts, David pointed to evidence of how God had taken care of him in the past (1 Samuel 17:33-37). He trusted that God would continue to keep His promises.

But I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me.

- David (Psalm 31:14-15)

5. To be God’s leader requires GRACE.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about David being “a man after (God’s) own heart” is that he’s just as well-known for his mistakes as his successes. This is someone who slept with the wife of one of his friends, tried to cover up the resulting pregnancy, and had the husband killed when that cover-up didn’t work. He abused his power at times, wasn’t known as a great father or husband, and would sometimes lie when it suit his purposes.

Why would God have anything to do with a lying, adulterous murderer? Really, it says more about God’s character than David’s. The one thing David did was recognize when he was wrong and repent. Check out Psalm 51 for one particular instance of him doing so.

Being a good leader doesn’t mean making the fewest mistakes; it means being open about them and being quick to ask forgiveness and get back on the right path.

I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, Lord, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.

- David (2 Samuel 24:10)

What do you think makes a great leader?

  • JP

(With help from Kevin McConaghy)

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