Leadership Spotlight - Ezra

A Series on Biblical Leaders The Spiritual Leader

Leaders have an important task of leading people into a growing relationship with God. Although there are many types of leaders throughout the social, political and military world, none is more important than spiritual leadership. What makes a spiritual leader? How does a leader spur people on to become stronger in their Christian lives and outreach to others? Ezra is the biblical example of spiritual leadership through his ministry while on earth. Throughout scripture many leaders face trials, temptations and struggles. Ezra’s life exemplified the desire to take people from mediocrity to an experiential passion for God. Spiritual leadership is God-given and carries considerable responsibility to be carried to fruition.

Ezra was a scribe that was in place during the post-exile period for the Jewish nation. His job was to be a student of scripture and to make it known to others. His gift of accuracy was important to communicate the detailed vision of God to the people. Ezra was able to work under the authority of the king and fulfill the specific job of teaching biblical principles.[1] God uses a leader with specific abilities and gifts to lead with excellence. The spiritual leader takes it a step further than human abilities and is used beyond mediocrity through the power of God’s Spirit. The leader that is invested in listening to God’s direction will continually make wise choices. Ezra was able to successfully influence people to seek God through his own example of being a spiritual leader.

A spiritual leader builds a life filled with faith in God to provide all that is needed to fulfill the vision. Ezra made a priority of trusting God to supply all the necessities for the challenged that were evident. Prayer and fasting is at the heart of humbling oneself under the hand of God. Ezra taught through example that seeking after God when the times were tough was the most important part of leadership.[2] Leading through tough times develops character and wisdom in the heart of people. Ezra realized that leadership is not a one-person show, but it takes a team to be productive.

A dedicated leader must learn to lead themselves personally before they can be effective. Ezra revealed his desire to not only see the people of Israel to be successful, but himself to be faithful. Leadership is not a sprint, but a marathon focused upon the finish line. In order to be successful in leading people spiritually, one must become dependant upon God. Ezra’s life was focused upon growth. He had the ability to recognize his gifting and role in serving God. He prepared his heart to seek after God and communicate the truth of scripture to the people.[3] Not only did Ezra want to seek God personally, but he began a revival through urging the Israelites to repent of their sin corporately. Ezra began to explain the Law of God so that people would understand how to obey.[4] A spiritual leader moves past the outward and focuses on the heart of the people.

Leadership ability is found in many people across broad jobs and careers. A spiritual leader helps people understand and focus on eternity. Ezra was not focused only upon the temporary, but on leading the people to make commitments to God. Spiritual leaders communicate practical ways for people to live out God’s Word. Many people are unsure of how to find God’s purpose for their life. Spiritual leaders are clear on the application of scripture to produce devoted followers of Christ. God continually calls his children to live out love for all people. The desire of spiritual leaders is to join God in what He is already doing in the world.

Cultivating relationships is a truth that each leader must continually focus upon if there will be life-change in others. Ezra was diligent to do the small things so that the big picture of God’s vision would come to pass. The process of leading is taking each small step and completing it with excellence until God finishes the work. Christ-like love is needed to build relationships that are strong and will last. God’s unconditional love for people must be the motivating force behind spiritual leadership. People are the focus and whether or not they have a relationship with Christ must become the priority. Ezra focused upon communicating the information of the Bible in order to see transformation. Ezra’s passion was to call the people of Israel to commitment.

God uses specific people to lead in a way that draws people out of their comfort zone. Growth occurs when people are stretched and all that is left is the sufficiency of Christ. The church today needs leaders who will speak of the truth of God. Ezra exemplified the reality of eternity throughout his ministry. Ezra knew the importance of asking for God’s strength and blessing in order to be effective in leading people spiritually.[5] In the darkest of times, God’s voice is many times heard louder than in easy circumstances. Ezra was able to use the tough times that the Israelites faced and helped focus their hearts upon repentance and faith in God alone.

Leaders are continually working with people. Understanding the needs and issues that each person faces on a daily basis is important in order to lead effectively. A wise leader never manipulates people but creatively casts God’s vision. Ezra was a great example of a spiritual leader who led with the heart of Christ. Spiritual leadership moves people onward to the call of God no matter the cost. Spiritual leadership is a God-given ability to follow the Holy Spirit and help people to grow in their relationship with Christ.

[1] “For Ezra prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statues and ordinances in Israel.” Ezra 7:10

[2] “Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, then we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions…so we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer.” Ezra 8:21, 23

[3] “So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.” Nehemiah 8:8

[4] “The hand of the Lord his God upon him…the good hand of his God upon him.” Ezra 7:6, 9

[5] I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14