Help can come from many sources, and true leaders are not always the people up front waving their arms. As we can learn from Naaman’s experience, slaves can give great advice to generals, and servants can know better than kings what needs to be done.
Fred Craddock tells a story (he has a million stories!) about preaching at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and looking more than a little nervous as he moved to the pulpit to read his text and start his sermon. After all, this was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, church. Dr. Craddock was a famous professor of preaching, and he wanted to do well, especially in this place.
He says he got to the pulpit and was about to read his text when the pastor who had invited him stood up and started to sing, “I feel much better now that I’ve laid my burden down.” Others joined in right away, and pretty soon there were instruments going, hands clapping, and the whole congregation was rocking.
Craddock says he had been standing there quietly for a few minutes when he realized that he was supposed to be leading worship at this point, so he started clapping and singing, too. The singing went on for a while, he says, and when it finally stopped, he preached like he could have gone on all day.
After the service, Craddock asked the pastor about it. “Well, when you stood up there, one of the associates leaned over to me and said, ‘That boy’s going to need some help.'”
Help can come from many sources, and true leaders are not always the people up front waving their arms. As we can learn from Naaman’s experience, slaves can give great advice to generals, and servants can know better than kings what needs to be done. As you read the passage, think of your own relationships to those you follow, lead and work alongside.
What sort of leader are you? Are you willing to listen to good advice, no matter who gives it? What sort of follower are you? Are you willing to take the risk to say the right thing at the right time?
Richard Vinson was dean of the faculty and professor of New Testament at Baptist Theological Seminary of Richmond in Richmond, Va. He is currently visiting professor of New Testament at Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Charlotte, N.C.
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