Follow The Leader

Discovering a truly exceptional leader is like finding a needle in a haystack—hard to find, but when you run across one, it makes a piercing impression. A leader doesn’t have to be a president, professor, or a pastor. I saw an amazing leader in the nail salon last week—a mom with her two kids.

She asked her son to wash out his ice cream dish and take water to their dog (that was waiting in the car). He gladly completed the task without a single complaint. When her daughter asked what color fingernail polish she should choose, do you know which color the mom chose? She didn’t. She said to her daughter, “I think you should pick the color that makes you smile when you look at it.” The girl picked purple—and giggled. That mom was a good leader. Her children wanted to follow her. But it wasn’t just her kids. She talked with the manicurist as if they’d been friends for years—and this was the tough little manicurist, the one who almost never smiles. She smiled that day. Laughed out loud, in fact. And gave the little girl a free manicure. The woman was an incredible leader because people wanted to serve her—and she appreciated them for it. There was a man like that in first century Rome…

Acts 25:1-5 – “Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, where the chief priests and Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. They urgently requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way. Festus answered, ‘Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. Let some of your leaders come with me and press charges against the man there, if he has done anything wrong.’” (emphasis added)

A good leader involves his followers in the decision-making process when possible. Only days into his new assignment, Festus can’t afford to make enemies of the influential Jews, but neither can he risk being duped. Whoever said, “Those rowing the boat are less likely to rock it,” was a wise and resourceful leader! It’s easy to complain, simple to stand back and offer solutions; but a good leader presses onlookers into action to determine which accusers are serious about resolutions.

Acts 25:6-9 – “After spending eight or ten days with them, he went down to Caesarea, and the next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. When Paul appeared, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many serious charges against him, which they could not prove. Then Paul made his defense: “’I have done nothing wrong against the law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar.’ Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, ‘Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?’” (emphasis added)

A good leader waits, becoming a student of people and predicaments. What did Festus do in Jerusalem for eight to ten days? Why did he allow the Jews to accuse Paul and Paul to issue his rebuttal—before Festus spoke a single word? Why were his first words a question rather than an edict? Because Festus was a student of his surroundings. He knew that in order to lead well, he must grasp thoroughly the personalities and proceedings of the current conundrum.

Acts 25:10-12 – “Paul answered: ‘I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!’ After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: ‘You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!’” (emphasis added)

A good leader consults wise counselors. Paul’s outburst was—understandably—emotional and based on the fear that he’d be turned over to unfair judges. He had no one to consult with before he spoke. Festus, however, didn’t react. He responded—after conferring with his council. Both spoke with “!” passion, but (as will be proven later) only one spoke wisely.

Acts 25:13-22 – “A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus. Since they were spending many days there, Festus discussed Paul’s case with the king. He said: ‘There is a man here whom Felix left as a prisoner. When I went to Jerusalem, the chief priests and elders of the Jews brought charges against him and asked that he be condemned. I told them that it is not the Roman custom to hand over any man before he has faced his accusers and has had an opportunity to defend himself against their charges. When they came here with me, I did not delay the case, but convened the court the next day and ordered the man to be brought in. When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive. I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges. When Paul made his appeal to be held over for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar.’ Then Agrippa said to Festus, ‘I would like to hear this man myself.’ He replied, ‘Tomorrow you will hear him.’” (emphasis added)

A good leader treats threats with respect until they prove disrespectful. King Agrippa was a puppet ruler of the Jews, while Festus was the Roman governor/military enforcer of this district of Israel. Two rulers, a single piece of land, two hostile cultures forced to co-exist. Agrippa and Bernice were brother and sister, young at the time Agrippa took the throne. Festus, leader of Rome’s military force, chooses to be hospitable—even tutor the lad in a burgeoning new sect called, the Way. Could Agrippa use this information against Festus in the future? Perhaps. But the older man chooses to offer a measure of humble respect and is offered the same in return. It doesn’t always work, but it’s always worth a try.

  • Lord, a good leader tests for commitment in complainants, waits to build relationship before responding, seeks wise counsel, and treats even possible enemies with gracious respect. I have a long way to go, Abba, to become the person You want me to be. Thank You for the grace that covers my failed attempts and for the love that keeps beckoning me to try again. I want to be more like You everyday so I can stand before you and hear those words, “Well done…”

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