HIS ASPIRATIONS WERE TO BE A SOLDIER. Yet his early career was fraught with disappointment and failure. On his first military assignment he inadvertently ambushed a group of foreign soldiers which helped set off a seven-year war. During that conflict, this ambitious soldier was ordered to establish an advance post in enemy territory. He chose his position so poorly that he had to surrender it almost immediately along with a regiment of his soldiers.

Later he served as a general’s aid, but when the general followed his advice, his army suffered one of the most humiliating and decisive defeats in its history. When he was commissioned to take reinforcements to a fellow officer, he was mistaken for the enemy. They proceeded to fire on his soldiers and before they realized their mistake, forty of his men lay dead or wounded.

So unsuccessful was his early military career that he declared: “I have been upon the losing order ever since I entered the service.” In light of such an unpromising beginning it is understandable that George Washington was hesitant to accept command of all the American forces during the American Revolution. In his acceptance speech he declared: “I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with.”2


The founding fathers of the American republic recognized that although Washington felt inadequate for the task and although he had not yet established himself as a successful general, he had faithfully and diligently undertaken all of his assignments. Washington had spent many years toiling for his country. He had suffered numerous defeats and setbacks. He had faced enemy fire on several occasions. During the disastrous defeat under General Braddock, Washington had four bullets pass through his coat.

Anyone who met Washington was impressed with his bearing. He conducted himself as a veteran soldier who had always performed his duty. When the time came for his country to assign one of the greatest military commands in its history, it seemed prudent to choose him.

Some aspiring leaders constantly seek “the big break.” They distribute their résumés, applying for important and prestigious positions. They use political tactics to gain friends and forge alliances. Sadly, those seeking to serve God often follow the same pattern. In so doing, they neglect the most basic lesson in spiritual leadership: if you are faithful in a little, God will entrust you with more (Matt. 25:21; Luke 16:10).

Henry Blackaby, Called to Be God’s Leader: How God Prepares His Servants for Spiritual Leadership (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006).

I have recently written a 6-week study of Called to Be God’s Leader–a Study of the life of Joshua


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