The Spirit, Power, and Leadership


Judges 4:14 (NIV)

Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?” So Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him.


The entire book of Judges in the Old Testament records great exploits and deeds done in the service of Israel’s God and Israel’s people. In Judges, when the Spirit of God is mentioned, themes we often associate with power—strength, courage, and decisiveness—are usually running through the text nearby. 

With our modern sensibilities, we sometimes prefer to emphasize the Spirit-rich themes of love and compassion. But the Spirit of God is always at work in the spiritually awakened leader, shaping the power we have been given to become more like the power the Father expresses (and Jesus modeled). It is a love-rooted authority expressed in discerning, decisive action.

Let’s get the picture. After Moses, Joshua is in the lead. He is filled with the “Spirit of wisdom” (Deut. 34:9) by the laying on of Moses’ hands (let’s make a mental note of this physical sign of a transfer of blessing). Then, Joshua passes on, as does his whole generation of leaders—leaving the Israelites to run spiritually wild. They are forsaking the God of Israel, and the Lord allows raiding parties from other nations to attack the Israelites. 

Following soon after Joshua, and before the more famous Gideon and Samson come on the scene, the judge Deborah appears in Judges 4. Deborah exerts prophetic leadership (she is a prophet; Jud. 4:4). She is schooled in hearing the Spirit, and as she sits under a palm tree, she is learning to discern the best approaches to settling disputes among arguing Israelites (Jud. 4:5). 

In other words, Deborah has practiced following the leading of the Spirit in small things—and will exercise that honed discernment in a bigger arena. Deborah is a listening leader, and that is where her spiritual authority comes from. Leaders who lead by learning the art of spending deep time listening to the Holy Spirit will not only lead by God’s initiative, they will also intuitively know the frailness of leading from their own pastoral, corporate, or best practices experience. They rely on hearing God, and they trust the decisions that come from Holy Spirit discernment.

Deborah hears God speak and issues the words she receives. Then, in the name of the God of Israel, she exerts decisive, commanding, and, as we see in Judges 4:14-15, appropriately authoritative leadership. “Go!” is the command she hears from God. “This day . . .” is the timing she senses is appropriate. “Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?” is the promise reclaimed and remembered.

Leadership is a gift of the Holy Spirit, expressed in a variety of forms throughout covenant history. That leadership gift can be prophetic, pastoral, administrative, creative, apostolic, wise and insightful—or expressed in other ways. If that leadership is motivated by love and continually surrendered to our Maker, the power one wields will heal rather than harm, liberate rather than oppress. Jesus had all the power in the cosmos at his disposal, yet the love that was its foundation directed its energies toward the freeing of the heart and the transformation of the soul. 

To be a leader means to have influence. What we do with that influence is the question. Kingdom leadership is designed to thrive when submitted to the loving motivations of God and surrendered in discernment to the Holy Spirit.

Practice listening to the Holy Spirit in the little things, whether you lead in your home, your church, or your city—and you’ll hear the Holy Spirit guide you when the stakes are high.


Jesus, I receive the Holy Spirit. I am eager to be a leader after your heart, leading from love and listening to your guidance. Come, Holy Spirit; fill me with wisdom, understanding, and courage for the moments of influence ahead. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


  1. Have you ever had to act in confidence in a moment of leadership and found that the Holy Spirit was backing your initiative? What motive was in your heart as you took your step of courage?

For the Awakening,
Dan Wilt

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Comments and Discussion

One Response

  1. “It is a love-rooted authority expressed in discerning, decisive action.”

    I have learned this running an antique mall: Sometimes hard decisions about vendors have to be made with love , compassion and understanding in order to preserve the integrity of the business.

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