As we continue our conversations on leadership, we’ve taken a look at the leadership qualities of some amazing female leaders found in the Bible, studying the stories of Deborah and Eve, among others. This week, we’ll take a look at one of my favorite leaders, Esther, as we discuss servant leadership and what it means to be a servant leader when placed in an unexpected leadership position.
Esther, a girl who became queen
Esther, or Hadassah, was a Jewish girl living in Susa during the exile of Israel. An orphan, she was adopted by her cousin Mordecai, who treated her as his own daughter. Mordecai was an excellent parental figure and mentor to Esther.
Through a series of dramatic events, Esther found herself married to King Ahasuerus, the king of the Persian empire. It seems like a fairy tale. A beautiful young woman marries the handsome king, and they lived happily ever after, right?
Not so fast. There was a catch.
Her new husband had no idea of his beautiful queen’s ethnicity. Esther had not revealed her background as a Jewish woman. And, the king’s high official Haman was not aware of the queen’s background. The challenge, Haman had a strong dislike for the Jewish exiles.
For a while, everything was going quite well, so it seemed. No one had discovered Esther’s ethnicity, and no one had connected her with Mordecai, who had been placed into a high position after uncovering a plot to destroy the king.
But, then, the drama begins due to the envy of Haman who was determined to rid the empire of the Jewish exiles. His plan was to “massaged his message” to the king by twisting facts and falsifying truths to gain the support of the king. Circumstances became severe at the accusations brought forth by Haman as he garnered the king’s aid in ridding the empire of the Jewish exiles.
Haman’s envy and greed got the best of him. Determined to have his way, he manipulated the situation to sway the king.
Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, now in a place of great importance, informed her that of all their people, she was the one who must go to the king and appeal to the king on behalf of her people. Mordecai believed Esther was placed in her position as the queen “for such a time as this.”
But Esther was a bit uncertain as she considers the palace rules and the risks of approaching the king without an invitation. How could she dare to go before the king? He had not asked her to come into his presence for many weeks. To go before him without invitation could very well lead to her death. Sure, she had helped save the king’s life from the plot Mordecai had uncovered. But, go before him, uninvited was asking for trouble.
Esther had not envisioned this type of service while serving as queen. The danger and risk of losing her life was not part of the plan, and it surely wasn’t what she signed up for when becoming queen.
And yet, if she did not go, her people would be destroyed.
If Esther were not obedient, God would use another person to deliver His people.
So, she prayed, and she fasted. After three days, she went.
Defying the kingdom’s law, and shocking the king’s court, she sought the king’s favor.
King Ahasuerus heard Esther’s pleas and supported her wishes.
Justice was made a reality. And her people were saved.
God used an orphaned Jewish girl to save her people.
A servant leader rises up
Sometimes we think the influential, successful leaders are leaders due to the special skills and abilities they hold. Special powers that allow them to sweep in and save the day.
This is what our culture tells us. And we believe it!
But servant-leadership isn’t about special skills or powers. Servant leadership is different.
Servant leaders are often appointed out of the unknown. An unlikely person chose to be of service to God. A leader who serves the people.
Being a servant leader requires humility and a willingness to do the not so fun things. It’s hard work. It’s the lowly jobs no one else wants or the positions of considerable risk. Doesn’t sound like much fun to me. What do you think?
Servant leaders are those who, though they may have significant fears and even doubts, willingly lay aside their comforts and security to do what must be done knowing it’s the right thing to do.
They, like Esther, rise up in times of need to do what no one else will do.
To be a true servant leader, we must be willing to take risks and do the work no one else wants to take on because the chances are too high or the job too challenging with little or no recognition.
A servant leader prays boldly
Esther knew in her heart there was no way she could accomplish the task of approaching the king uninvited without first seeking God and calling on Him to intervene on her behalf.
Unlike the threat of approaching the king, Esther knew she could boldly go before God without fearing His judgment. Hebrews 4 tells us that because Jesus is at God’s right hand interceding for us, we can go before His throne with boldness in our time of need. And this is just what Esther did in her time of need.
She also knew her plans could fail, but God’s plans would not fail.
Proverbs 19:21 tells us that we can have many plans in mind, but ultimately, it is God’s purposes that will come into being.
To be a servant leader, we must acknowledge that it is God’s plans that will prevail. Our role is to pray and seek Him to guide our steps as we place our dreams and plans in His hands and leave the rest to Him.
A servant leader trusts God
Once we’ve placed our plans in God’s hands, we trust in His plans for us. This will require faith and patience as we wait for God to move. Regardless of the outcome, we leave the end result up to Him, trusting and fully knowing that God works through the faithful and obedient.
We see this in the story of Esther as she risked death, she trusted God to carry out His will by stepping forward in obedience.
To be a servant leader, we must be obedient to the call placed before us. When we are placed in a position of leadership, it is our responsibility to follow God’s commands and do what is required of us.
Pray, trust, and step out in faith
As we study servant leadership through the example of Esther’s calling. Is there anything you can relate to as you seek to serve? Is there any area which you have not placed in God’s care?
I’ve currently stepped into a position to serve. Although a bit hesitant, I believe God is calling me to this particular role, and I am trusting Him to guide me as I obediently embrace this opportunity.
Are you struggling to trust Him in a particular situation? Do you fear stepping into the unknown? Or, have you walked into a situation where you were afraid to stand up for what is right or just?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, I encourage you to set aside time to seek God through prayer and allow His word to speak to you.
Pray He will give you the faith to believe in the impossible.
Pray that He will provide you with the courage to stand up for what is right.
Pray boldly in your time of need and allow Him to carry out His purpose for your life.
11 For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for well-being and not for trouble, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will look for Me and find Me, when you look for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,’ says the Lord. ‘And I will bring you back and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have made you go,’ says the Lord. ‘I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you away.’