A Biblical Survey of Those Who Showed a Gap between Their Gifting for Leadership and Their Character Development

A different kind of devotional arose from surveying the Bible and thinking of emerging leaders like those that I train at Moody.

Jacob (Genesis 25-36)
Jacob has gifts in managing flocks and domestic affairs. His ambition, though, causes him to swindle his brother, practice magic and divination, and make deals with God. Jacob’s rivalry with his brother is fueled by being mentored by his mother. Both she and Jacob team up to manipulate their environment for personal gain, but instead they create potential disaster.
Jacob flees his home situation and makes a deal with God. Because of God’s persistent blessing in spite of his schemes, Jacob eventually submits to God’s oversight and puts away his idols. Jacob’s vision changes from a view of success because of self to a view of success because of God. He changes from viewing God as the God of his father to personally submitting to God.
Joseph (Genesis 37-50)
As an emerging leader, Joseph was singled out for leadership by his father. His cloak, according to Walton, was a symbol of management. Joseph’s ability to manage and his gifts with dreams were not coupled well with his interpersonal skills with his brothers. Jacob managed Joseph badly as a father-mentor and created an environment where Joseph was seen as an enemy, or as a snitch, which fractured the fraternal community.
God redeemed Joseph by taking him through times of trial and hardship in Egypt. He was separated from family and used his skills as a servant to both Potiphar and the jailer before rising once more to leadership. He became a faithful and competent follower before he was once more entrusted with oversight.
When Joseph rose once more to an exalted position of leadership he was completely focused on the provision of God and the welfare of others.
Moses (Exodus – Deuteronomy)
Moses is raised as a son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He would probably know government and would probably hold power. Moses identifies with ‘his people’ the Israelites. He has a hot temper and his anger leads to murder. He is afraid of the consequences of his actions, so he flees.
In exile and in the wilderness God shapes Moses and develops in him humility. Although his fears and his anger does not disappear it is tempered by experience.  Moses is called back by God after 40 years of formation. Moses becomes a humble conduit, putting personal power aside he uses skills in government and wilderness survival to lead Israel to the Promised Land.
Judges: Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson
The Judges show a decline in the quality of leadership following Joshua, Caleb and Othniel. By the end of the book no effective leaders are emerging and everyone is doing what they see as fit in their own eyes.

Barak is a great military leader but he lacks faith and courage. He is called to lead, but is shamed because the glory goes to a woman. He is still instrumental in God’s plan but does not fulfil his potential as a leader.
Gideon, like Saul, is a leader who has poor self-image. He is timid and cowardly. The Angel of the Lord knows that he is a great and mighty warrior, but he does not identify that way. God encourages Gideon by giving him a series of signs. In this way, finally, Gideon finds courage to pursue his calling.
To avoid self-reliance by Gideon, God reduces the number of his armies to 300. However, we know that something is amiss when Gideon’s men shout, “For the Lord, and for Gideon!” Gideon increasingly creates his own agenda and ultimately replaces worship of Baal with worship of a golden ephod.
Samson is the last in the line of named Judges in the narrative and struggles with the lust of his eyes. He has great strength from God, but he has critically poor control of his appetites for sex and food. His parents seem to indulge him and spoil him. They give in to his unrighteous demands.
Samson suffers at the hands of the Philistines and ultimately seeks revenge for the eyes that he has lost. Although God uses Samson in spite of himself, he is a sad figure of an emerging leader who fails.
Saul (1 Samuel)
Saul, like Gideon, lacks confidence but a quick rise to power corrupts him. He develops into an egotist who is afraid of looking bad in the sight of the people. Some have said that he might have been bipolar, but he definitely had a weakness with fluctuations of overconfidence and fear. He embodies the qualities that people look for in a leader: height and strategic prowess. However, his fear of people and his lack of devotion to God lead to his downfall.
God judges him and takes the kingdom from him and as king of Israel he fails. There is no real path of redemption.
David (1 & 2 Samuel)
David, unlike Saul, is a man after God’s own heart. However, he is artistic and creative. He has great military skills and leadership skills. He motivates people around him well. However, his passions, which we see in the Psalms are not harnessed well sexually.
He makes advances on Bathsheba, kills Uriah her husband, and marries her. Nathan confronts David and David repents and suffers. His suffering, though, is temporary. His internal wounds never heal. We see him as flawed in his relationship with his children. He mismanages a case of rape in his family, and his inaction allows Absalom to lead a rebellion. It could be argued that although God was redeeming him as a leader, guilt or shame fatally flawed him as leading with moral authority.
As a general observation of the kings of Israel, we see that they do not do well in the eyes of God. This raises questions of how leaders emerged from the palace of Israel. The quest for personal power would have been modeled by their fathers and by a number of their mothers. For example, we see the daughter of Jezebel, Athaliah, behaving very much like her mother, even though she becomes Queen of Judah.
The kings of Judah fare slightly better, but they preserve a more orthodox faith than the idolatry implemented at Dan and Bethel. Joash stands out as an orphan king who was mentored by priests. Although he did not tear down the idols erected to false gods on the high places, he did restore the temple. He has a zeal for the temple, where his guardian lives, but he does not see well beyond that.
In conclusion, many of the kings of Israel and Judah had obvious disparities in their skill sets. Although the heritage seems to be important, there is a lack of clear evidence of how kings were developed within the text.
Peter (Matthew-Acts)
Peter is bold and brave in many circumstances. However, he lacks judgment and denied Jesus when Jesus was most in need. In John 21 we have a picture of Jesus restoring Peter by forcing him to look at the inconsistency in his own heart. Ultimately Peter is developed by a pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Paul (Acts)
Paul is well trained in both Jewish and Greek culture. Paul has a desire or zeal for God that is misguided. He stands by as Stephen is stoned to death and he actively seeks out Christians in order to persecute them.
Jesus appears to him in a vision in order to direct him and the event leaves Paul blind. He must humble himself and submit to his new Lord and await deliverance. Jesus then teaches him for three years in the wilderness of Arabia (Galatians 1) before he becomes an apostle to the Gentiles.
John Mark
Paul and Barnabas divide because Paul is unwilling to forgive John Mark for turning back on a mission trip. However, Barnabas’ encouragement of John Mark leads to reconciliation with Paul and the production of the Gospel of Mark.
Meta-analysis of Emerging Leaders Who Had Great Gifts and Obvious Weaknesses in Their Profile
Looking through the accounts of leaders who emerged with great gifts but had flaws there are those who received grace and those who suffered under the law.
Those who suffered under the law were righteously judged for their early mistakes. Even if they maintained or attained leadership, the Bible does not speak positively about them. Their fatal flaw seems to be a quest for power and self-reliance. They do not repent or look to God when confronted with their failings. In the case of Saul, and those like him, we sometimes see grief at the failings, but we see a sense of personal loss not one that is concerned for the reputation of God. They ultimately fail because they see God as a means to personal power, rather than seeing that their power is sanctioned by God for his glory.
Those who receive grace are also judged for their mistakes and often receive punishment or discipline. However, like David, they accept their punishment. They may grieve their own loss, but they are also concerned for the things of God. David in the Old Testament and Peter in the New Testament are both externally focused on God and his purposes.
In emerging leaders in the Bible, their failings are often exposed and allowed to run their course. The results of their personal deficiencies are adultery, murder, and denial. These people then often leave the obvious path for self-advancement and are taken into the ‘wilderness’ both literally and figuratively. In the wilderness they often become reluctant to lead, but God encourages the emerging leader to keep emerging by coming personally or sending a messenger.


  1. As you are emerging as a leader which narrative connects most with you?
  2. How might you be disciplined in order to refocus your leadership gifts?
  3. How do these narratives help you to develop leaders around you?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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19 Responses to A Biblical Survey of Those Who Showed a Gap between Their Gifting for Leadership and Their Character Development

  1. Beth Coale says:

    Wow, this was really interesting! I can see myself looking back to this a resource later.

    1. Moses, because he feels like he doesn’t belong and he struggles with anger & fear

    2. God put Moses in experiences where he learned to overcome struggles – I can be seeking out & choosing to be involved in (or continue to be involved in) opportunities which God is providing me that can stretch & grow me.

    3. It is important to us to be able to relate and connect with people… It gives us hope that God can still use us too even though we may be damaged. Also, these narratives help us admit to our faults so that we can then work on them.

  2. Sara Cavitt says:

    1) After reading these narratives, I found that I connect to Moses and Gideon the most in my leadership roles. At times I can be timid and fearful in what I know God has called me to do.
    2) Concerning the times when I am fearful, I know that I should ask the Lord for strength and confidence. I know that I need to find my strength and confidence in Him! My desire is to boldly follow His calling on my life.
    3) These narratives are a wonderful reminder that God uses imperfect people, but if people follow His calling, they can be powerfully used!

  3. Lacy says:

    1. I can relate to Joseph, because he struggled with humility and the desire to showcase his own gifts, as well as with confused family relationships. God worked in him to move him from self-glorifying service to service out of true love for others and for God, which is an area I can see him working in my life.
    2. God has stretched me within the past few years by putting me, like Joseph, in situations where I am called on to serve others without getting the response or reciprocation I might desire.
    3. They give me a framework for identifying the strengths and weaknesses of those around me, and encouraging them in growth.

  4. Jenna says:

    1. I can definitely relate to Saul’s fear of the people’s opinion and struggle with bot overconfidence and fear.
    2. I’m hoping that God will continue to develop in me a trust in Him during my time here at Moody, but I think that I will learn the most about not being overconfident in myself or fearful of others’ opinions when I actually start teaching. God has already been giving me opportunities to teach others and to be willing to fail in front of them, but I’m still working on placing my confidence in God, not in myself or what others think of me.
    3. As leaders, we all struggle with different things; looking at how people struggle in leadership and comparing them to the biblical characters can help me discover what I can do to help them.

  5. Ed says:

    John, stuck out for his peace making. I see a lot of power seeking, lust and left turn’s in these peoples life’s due to sin. God now takes them and brings them down and upon there realization and repentance they use there God gifts, some taught over life to now lead large amounts of people on Gods terms. As we lead we should be getting taught. Each leader should look for the strong points in leaders and help them develop those skills. A teacher will see where a leader to be needs to grow and with Love help them over come there fears. My quest to be taught and lead will last a life time.

    Prayer: Dear God, help me see my qualities good and bad so I can shape them in your glory. Please put people in my life to help me see your word so I can help others learn your word. God I can not do this alone and need you in my life.

    In Jesus Christ

    A MEN

  6. 1) As you are emerging as a leader which narrative connects most with you? “Paul most connects with me because I feel that it isn’t until Christ humbles me that I realize where I have made a mistake or where/what I am supposed to do. He often gets my attention through humbling a experience.”
    2) How might you be disciplined in order to refocus your leadership gifts? “Have an accountability partner, journal my prayer life, and share what I am learning in my quiet times more often.”
    3) How do these narratives help you to develop leaders around you? “I was encouraged that each had faults and yet they were still used by God.”

  7. Dylan says:

    1. I don’t feel that I’m emerging as a leader but I suspect it may be coming soon. I identify most with David in these descriptions.
    2. I think if I want to lead or be working for God, I need to step out in faith to love others and make disciples, even if I’m not perfect.
    3. These narratives show many things that can go wrong in leadership. Studying these will increase my awareness of the possible downfall of a leader.

  8. Kathleen says:

    I do see myself as an emerging leader. This might be due to people around me telling me I am a leader. Being a leader takes great responsibility and is not something to be handled lightly. I think I need to refocus my mind on what qualities make up a good leader. Just because a person is standing in front of people talking does not make them a leader. Sometimes the best leaders are the ones who lead from the background. These narratives were a good reminder that leadership qualities develop over time. Often our experience now are preparing us for the future. God uses imperfect people for his glory. What an awesome reminder!

  9. Janice says:

    1. I can relate to Moses when he lacks confidence in God’s call to lead Israel and when he says he is not an eloquent speaker.
    2. To refocus my leadership gifts, I need to first focus on God, surrendering all to Him as I trust in Him to lead me.
    3. These narratives help me develop leaders around me by recognizing other people’s gifts as uniquely given by God for His glory and realizing that we will fail but that God’s grace and mercy abounds in our failures and He still uses them for His good.

  10. Mary says:

    A few things resonate from several of the synopses, but I suppose I am somewhat of a blend between Moses and Paul. In creating this list, they actually look very similar to each other. These are the things that connect with me:

    1) Both have affiliation with God’s family and the law growing up; I came from a legalistic Christian background.
    2) Both do some pretty drastic things in their life that they are not proud of; I won’t list mine. ☺
    3) God yanks them out of their sinfulness and changes their hearts; He definitely did the same for me.
    4) God prepares them for ministry while in the wilderness; Moody is my wilderness.
    5) Both came from positions of prestige and both learned humility and submission; I held a leadership position and had a prestigious career before coming to Moody and am learning humility and submission (though not any more than the average person).
    6) Moses had issues with anger and fear; I also struggle in these areas sometimes and am working on them.
    7) Both became a leader of God’s people with a soft spot for spiritual formation of the people; spiritual formation of God’s people is my passion and the reason I am here.

    To help other emerging leaders around me, I suppose it is sharing my struggles and letting them know I am not perfect (not that that they would think I am) as a way to encourage them that if God can use me He can surely use them.

  11. Rachel says:

    I connect with Peter’s inconsistent heart, seeking yet fearing. I am walking through a valley of doubt and healing from past hurts. These narratives allow me to see my flawed peers with grace instead of comparing them to the “ideal minister” in my mind.

  12. karas says:

    I’m not sure which one leader I connect with as much as the general theme of being fallible, making mistakes, always needing grace. I guess maybe I most specifically need to take steps to actually lead and not just think about it. These narratives are great, and help me be more equipped to point to examples for other leaders-in-progress. I can show them that they need not be perfect, but they need to be humble and always learning.
    I am consistently amazed at how God works through such imperfect individuals, like those in the Bible and like myself.

  13. Ashley says:

    1. I connect with Gideon. I feel that at this is a time of life where I lack a trusting understanding of God, and therefore quickly doubt who he has made me to be.
    2. I think in order for me to see myself and my strengths more clearly, I need to be spending more time with God so that I can see him and hear his voice more clearly.
    3. It is helpful to read a short synopsis of these leaders. In a way, one can more quickly connect with them after reading a short bio than reading chapters and books of the Bible.

  14. nataliaria says:

    The biblical leader who most stood out to me is David. Not so much because I relate to all the wonderful things that are said about David being one after God’s own heart, or his status in the line of Jesse-Jesus, but rather because I see his story as a cautionary (and highly applicable) story of the power of misplaced and unchecked desires and interests. David saw something that he wanted (Bathsheba) and he did not stop to consider the various effects his entire relationship with her would have on a vast amount of people around him (not the least of which are his own children). While the connotations are not sexual, I worry that I will set my sights too tightly on one thing, which may even be a good thing, but I will not be able to appropriately assess the impact that pursuing my desires might have on those closest to me. I’m worried I won’t even realize how selfish I’m being.

    In light of the above, I think one of the strongest ways that I can realign and re-prioritize my leadership gifts is to continue to be immersed in God’s Word. As we talked about here a couple days ago, I believe that when my heart and mind are attuned to God’s voice, heard though the Bible and the Holy Spirit, I will be much less at risk of stepping beyond what is God-honoring, and in so doing, sacrificing the hearts of others.

    I think the above survey of biblical leaders establishes a great list of common characteristics, strengths, weaknesses, and struggles that leaders in biblical history faced. This can be used as a tool when interacting with rising leaders in our own generation; we can learn much about leadership, grace, judgment, and the nature of God by studying those who have lived and lead before us.

  15. Amy McCashen says:

    Right now, I feel like I relate with Peter. I am a leader in many areas, and yet at other times I definitely fail from a lack of judgment and and speaking before I listen. I am often eager to be bold and brave, but when it get really hard, I sometimes get afraid. I need to trust Jesus more. I want to be bold and brave always, not just when it is fun or convenient for me.

  16. Sarah Deurbrouck says:

    1. As you are emerging as a leader which narrative connects most with you?
    I don’t know if I really resonate with any of these. I supposed I feel like a follower, not a leader. I want to be like Mary the Mother of Jesus. She willingly submits to God, despite all the social shame it will bring to her. She follows her husband and together God uses them to perform one of the greatest miracles.
    2. How might you be disciplined in order to refocus your leadership gifts?
    I need to keep reading the Proverbs. I want to grow as a wise woman who knows her place, how to manage her household well, respect her husband, speak words of grace to others.
    3. How do these narratives help you to develop leaders around you?
    I can encourage those around me with the positive, godly qualities seen in leaders in Scripture, amd also warn leaders around me of the sinful qualities seen in biblical leaders.

  17. Nick says:

    I think as a leader I connect most with Moses, as he struggled with fear and anger but God humbled Moses through his experiences in the wilderness. I also resonate with Gideon as he had a bad self-image. Sometimes I have a hard time being confident in myself, especially in places of leadership, and I need constant affirmation from God.

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