In his stirring book, David: Man of Prayer, Man of War, Walter Chantry contrasts the life and leadership of David with the life and leadership of King Saul. Consider the contrast between the two men:

Unimpressive stature Impressive stature
Inexperienced Experienced
Heart after God Hardened Heart
Repentant Resistant
God-reliant Self-reliant
Spirit-filled Spirit-possessed

God uses the unexpected, unimpressive, and inexperienced to accomplish remarkable things. Saul was a head above most men. David was ruddy and small in stature. Saul was driven by an evil spirit and died a crazed, God-forsaken man.David drove an evil spirit from Saul with the sound of his lyre. Saul hid out in his tent when Goliath taunted the Israelites. David stood up for his people and his God and defeated Goliath. We could go on. What made the difference between these two men?

Their Difference is the Spirit

What made David such a remarkable leader? The Holy Spirit. The chronicler of Israel’s history reveals the primary difference between these two kings: “And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah. Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul…” (1 Sam 16:13-14). The ultimate contrast between these men was not their appearance or experience; it was their spirit. We’re told that the Spirit rushed upon David, while the Spirit departed from Saul. One man was Spirit-filled and led. The other was Spirit-devoid and distrusting. Chantry comments on their difference: “God is showing us a man filled with the Spirit in bold relief against a man without the Spirit.”

Implications of Spirit-led leadership

Consider three differences in leadership between David and Saul:

  1. God’s Spirit Incites Zeal – In the face of Philistine blasphemies, David was incited with zeal for the Lord: “He was stirred to the depths with concern for the glory of God.”

What is stirring you? Are you stirred to depths…for the glory of God? Do hide out in your tent, your library, your office, or are you incited with zeal for the Lord to pursue his glory in pastoring, in mission? Are you passionately pursuing God’s glory or your own?

  1. God’s Spirit Incites Faith – Saul relies on bribes to get others to fight Goliath. Saul discourages young leaders like David (to not fight Goliath) because he is motivated by fear not faith.

Are you leading your church, your leaders, based on fear or faith. Do you insist on control or relinquish control to let others press ahead in faith? Are you dreaming beyond your own abilities or restricted by what you can see?

  1. God’s Spirit Incites Wisdom – David’s zealous faith was marked by self-control. When mocked by his brothers, he did not pick a fight, defend his abilities, but channeled indignation towards his enemies.

Instead of getting side tracked by petty issues, comments, and complaints, Spirit-led leaders learn to lead with “one blind eye and one deaf ear.” We detect distractions from God’s calling with wisdom and prudence. We don’t do everything. We are compelled by Spirit-led discernment, not human-led drive and ambition.