By Jonathan Dodson
In his stirring book, David: Man of Prayer, Man of War, Walter Chantry contrasts the life and leadership of David and Saul. Chantry’s little book is packed with practical and gospel insights for leaders. Consider the following differences between two kings of Israel, David and Saul taken largely from 1 Samuel 16-17.
Saul was a head above most men. David was ruddy and smaller in stature. Saul was driven by an evil spirit and died a crazed, God-forsaken man. David drove an evil spirit from Saul with the sound of his lyre. Saul hid out in his tent when Goliath taunted the Israelites. David stood up for his people and his God and defeated Goliath. What made the difference between these two leaders?
Their Difference is the Spirit
The Holy Spirit made all the difference between these two men. The chronicler of Israel’s history reveals the primary difference between these two kings: “And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah. Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul…” (1 Sam 16:13-14). The ultimate contrast between these men was not their appearance or experience; it was their spirit. We’re told that the Spirit rushed upon David, while the Spirit departed from Saul. One man was Spirit-filled and led. The other was Spirit-devoid and distrusting. David would plead with God to not take his Spirit (Ps 51:11). God would take his Spirit from Saul.
Consider these 3 major differences in leadership between David and Saul:
God’s Spirit Incites Zeal
In the face of Philistine blasphemies, David was incited with zeal for the Lord: “He was stirred to the depths with concern for the glory of God.”
What is stirring you? Are you stirred…to depths…for the glory of God? Do hide out in your tent, your library, your office, or are you incited with zeal for the Lord to pursue his glory through your vocation? Are you passionately pursuing God’s glory or your own glory?
God’s Spirit Incites Faith
Saul relies on bribes to get others to fight Goliath (17:25). Saul discourages young leaders like David (to not fight Goliath) because he is motivated by fear not faith. Remember God doesn’t look at appearance but at the heart (16:7). Samuel would have never chosen David, but God did.
Are you leading your employees, team, staff, or church based on fear or faith? Do you insist on control or relinquish control to let other leaders rise up in faith? Are you judging by appearance or looking at the heart? Very often we are too doubtful about some and too confident about others. Judge by the Spirit not the flesh, by faith not fear.
God’s Spirit Incites Wisdom
David’s zealous faith was marked by self-control. David wasn’t all zeal and faith, but was tempered by wisdom. When mocked by his brothers, he did not pick a fight, defend his abilities, but channeled indignation towards his enemies (17:28-29). The Spirit produces leaders that balanced and discerning, not merely zealous and faith-filled.
Instead of getting side tracked by petty issues, comments, and complaints, Spirit-led leaders learn to lead with, as Spurgeon put it, “one blind eye and one deaf ear.” We need wisdom to discern what voices to listen to and which ones to shut out. We don’t entertain every idea. We follow the Spirit through wisdom, not ambition, in order to advance God’s glory in every sphere of society.
May God make us zealous, faith-filled, and wise. May he never take his Holy Spirit from us. May we lead well and finish strong, ever dependent upon the Spirit, glorifying our great Savior and King Jesus in all that we do!
Jonathan Dodson is the senior pastor of City Life Church in Austin, Texas. He is the author of multiple books, including The Unbelievable Gospel and Gospel-Centered Discipleship.