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Summary: We may learn leadership in one of two ways: by making our own blunders, or learning from someone else’s.

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Negative Leadership

Numbers 13:1 - 14:4

Pastor Dave Campbell

It has been said that we may learn leadership in two ways: by making a lot of mistakes or learning from other people’s. The collapse of leadership displayed in our text is nothing short of disastrous. Perhaps the biggest disappointment of all is that the ten spies who returned with an evil report were actually the leaders from among the people. We can easily pick out at least five major leadership blunders from numbers 13:

1. THEY MISUNDERSTOOD THEIR MANDATE

Numbers 13:17-20 indicates that the spies were not mandated to see IF they can take the land, but HOW they are to go in. A common mistake that we as leaders can make is over-analyzing our call. We look at it from every angle we can to see how we can pull it off and we can even talk our-selves out of doing what God told us to do.

2. THEY GOT FOCUSED ON THE CHALLENGES

When the leaders of Israel saw the land, they saw everything from good to bad. They made the mistake of allowing their focus to be drawn to their inadequacies. Good leaders will not draw attention to the weaknesses. Neither would they let the facts obscure the truth. When they reported strong people and fortified walls and descendants of Anak, they were stating the facts. The fact is that the inhabitants WERE strong and the cities WERE hard to conquer, but the truth is, they were able to take the land. Good, godly leaders can state the facts, but they will also state the truth and offset the negative with faith building words. "Yes, the job will be difficult. Yes, we feel inadequate for the job, but the truth is God is Awesome and we are able!"

3. THEY FAILED TO RECOGNIZE THEIR POTENTIAL IN GOD

The Lord seeks people of faith to give leadership to His church. Such stuff was obviously lacking in the hearts of these ten spies. In fact, they actually went so far as to refer to themselves as grasshoppers and erroneously declared that it would be the way their enemies would see them also (Num. 13:33). We learn from Rahab that the people of Canaan were actually terrified of the people of Israel once they heard of God’s intervention on their behalf (Joshua 2:8-11). Their "hearts melted with fear". Too bad Israel’s leaders didn’t have the same confidence in God’s power as their enemies did.

4. THEY FAILED TO UNDERSTAND THE CONTAGIOUS EFFECT OF A NEGATIVE REPORT

Numbers 14.1 describes the mass hysteria that occurred after they heard the spy’s assessment. All the people raised their voices and wept aloud. There was no rejoicing or dancing in the streets. There was no excitement or anticipation of great and new things in the Lord. There was only the tragic sound of a defeated people. The people completely bought into the spy’s evaluation of the situation and believed it entirely. Never under-estimate the power of your words, especially if you are respected as a leader! I wonder if you have any idea how important you are to the morale and atmosphere of your church! The vision that you cast to the people will either make or break the direction of a church! Victory rises and falls on the faith of the leaders.

5. THEY FAILED TO REMEMBER GOD’S MIGHTY DEEDS OF THE PAST

The ten plagues of Egypt and the deliverance through the Red Sea should have been fresh in their minds yet they seem to have forgotten what God can do in an impossible situation. (Read Numbers 14:11, 22,23)

I would like to close on a positive note and focus for a moment on the two men who saw through the obstacles to the possibilities. What made Joshua and Caleb different from the other leaders?

1. A SENSE OF GOD’S FAVOR! Numbers 14:8

If God be for us, who can be against us?

2. A SENSE OF GOD’S PRESENCE! Numbers 14:9

I recall a time when I was four years old and I drove my tricycle around the block at least once a day. On occasion I would encounter a trio of bullies who would stop me and threaten me with rubber knives and a bow and arrow with the suction cups on the end. I was so scared that I didn’t know what to do. So, I just sat there on my bike and stared straight ahead as if I didn’t hear them. Eventually, they got so bored with me that they let me go my way. I lived in fear of running into those guys ever again. I mean these boys were big. Probably five or six years old! But, I was never afraid if my Dad was with me. He could fix those bullies any day of the week and I brimmed with confidence if only he would make the trip around the block at my side. I have found the same confidence with the Lord Who promised me His never-ending presence in my life.

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