Leadership Lessons from Joshua: Character Counts

(This is Part 1 of a 10-part series exploring leadership lessons from the book of Joshua in the Bible. I wrote this with men in mind, but the leadership principles discussed are, of course, transferrable to women, as well.)

After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant. He said,“Moses my servant is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them.

Joshua 1:1-2

Can you imagine the shock? Wha–? Moses isn’t leading us into the Promised Land? He’s the man with the message, the LORD’s faithful servant, our fearless leader. How can this be?

True, Moses had led the Israelites for 40 years through the wilderness, doing almost everything the LORD had asked him while putting up with the nonstop whining of a stubborn and rebellious people. Forty years of being out in the scorching sun, enduring cold nights and eating nothing but bread wafers called “manna” that magically appeared every morning. All to stand at the door to the Promised Land and not go in.


Moses probably obeyed God’s commands thousands of times, doing whatever God asked of him. Yet, it was one seemingly small act of frustrated disobedience that disqualified Moses from leading the Israelites into the Promised Land.

The Israelites were complaining bitterly because they had no water to drink, so God told Moses to speak to the rock and water would gush out. But Moses, in his frustration, struck the rock twice with his staff instead of speaking to it. Water still came out and the people were temporarily satisfied, but God called Moses’ action an act of disbelief (not trusting) against His holiness (Numbers 20:1-13). And that was it. Forty years of faithful service and fearless leadership came to a screeching halt because of one second of distrust.

Sound familiar?

We’ve all seen it. Pastors and ministry leaders who have led hundreds and thousands of people to follow Jesus. They’re gifted teachers and leaders who have built successful ministries and churches, only to throw it all away because they let their guard down for one moment. Then one became two and two became three and three became a harmful habit. They have ended up like Moses, disqualified from leadership because of their indiscretion.

You may not be a pastor or ministry leader, but you are a leader – in your home, workplace, community. And one seemingly small act of disobedience can cost you your family, job, and reputation. If it can happen to Moses it can happen to anyone.

Don’t be that guy or girl.

The consistent message of Scripture is that character is more important than charisma. You may impress others with your charisma, but God is more concerned with your character. Charisma may get you in the room, but character will keep you there. If your charisma is greater than your character, you are likely headed for a fall. Conversely, if your character matches or exceeds your charisma, God will lift you up (Matthew 23:12).

Everyone is in a different place on their spiritual journey. The goal is not perfection, but consistent growth.

What is one area of character that you need to grow in to become a more consistent and effective leader?

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