The Humble Young Leader

Joshua’s trust in God and his word formed him into a man of humble character. His confidence, dependence, submission, and patience offer powerful glimpses of Jesus, who perfectly lived out these qualities as our substitute and example. May God give many young men in the coming generation the ability to trust their God and lead with Christlike character.

God created men to be strong and faithful leaders, especially in their families and churches. Becoming that kind of man does not simply happen, however; we need to train ourselves for godliness and Christlike leadership (1 Timothy 4:7–8).

To grow as men, we follow Jesus — the only sinless man, the God-man, who alone provides us righteousness and the perfect example of how to live. But we also follow the footsteps of those who followed or foreshadowed his (1 Corinthians 11:1). Joshua, though predating the incarnate Christ, can serve as one such example, especially for younger men.

Joshua teaches us that leading well starts with realizing that all you are, have, and accomplish depends on God’s gracious provision. Joshua knew this deeply, even in his younger years, as he served God and led the people into the promised land. I would like to highlight four traits from Joshua that men young and old need today: humble confidence, humble dependence, humble submission, and humble patience.

1. Humble Confidence

At key times in Israel’s history, even as a young man, Joshua stepped forward as a great example of humble confidence. One of the first times we meet Joshua, we see his faith in action, trusting God against the tide of popular opinion.

Joshua took part in a search party sent into Canaan to spy out the land God had promised. The spies returned with a dismal prediction about Israel’s ability to take on the “giants” in the land (Numbers 13–14). Joshua and Caleb were the only two (of twelve) who urged the people to take the land, because they believed God’s word (Numbers 14:7–10). They knew God’s track record and his power to keep his promises. Their confidence was not in themselves but in the God they served.

Here we see one quality that set Joshua and Caleb apart from the rest of the Israelites — they believed the promises of God. They were not intimidated by the size of the warriors or the strength of the cities. Rather, they knew their God and remembered how he had dealt with Egypt, then the most powerful nation on the earth. If God could take care of the mighty Egyptian army, he could certainly take care of the Canaanite tribes. God rewarded Joshua’s and Caleb’s faith by exempting them from the entire generation of Israelites who would perish in the wilderness (Numbers 14:29–30).

Humility and confidence might seem like opposites, but in Joshua and Caleb, we see they are two sides of the same heart. When we find our identity and security in God, we can rest in knowing that our frailty and sin no longer define us. We can walk in the strength that God supplies, even when we are rightly aware of how weak and sinful we are. In fact, God only chooses and empowers those who know how little we can do on our own.

2. Humble Dependence

Joshua could be considered one of the greatest military leaders in history. He led the armies of Israel to victory against far more powerful enemies. Without minimizing Joshua’s gifts and abilities, he knew that God is the one who ultimately vanquishes his people’s foes. He learned this early in his military career, as he led the people in battle against the Amalekites.

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