Most of us are prone to believe that leadership is positional. If one wants to lead then he or she must strive to obtain a position of leadership. And while leadership, including spiritual leadership, may be positional, it certainly does not have to be. We learned that in our study of Joseph [see article “Leading Where You Are”]. John Maxwell’s quote is a helpful reminder at this point; “Leadership is influence. Nothing more; nothing less.” There are those who have lead from the most unlikely positions [like Joseph], who took advantage of God given opportunities, employed their God given abilities, and looked to the hand of God to accomplish His purposes. There is no reason why many should not do so in our day.
Perhaps no one more strikingly illustrates this concept in scripture than Esther, and it would do us good to spend some time examining her fascinating life and how she lead under authority.
Esther had a few curve balls [to use a baseball analogy] thrown at her that perhaps some among us could relate to. We are not told how, but she lost her natural parents. She was separated from the security, apparent safety, and comfort of her native Jewish land ( although it may be possible she was born in Persia). She was immersed into a culture completely foreign to her customs, beliefs, and strict religious upbringing. These circumstances certainly would make it understandable to most modern Christians if she became dysfunctional or displayed any number of psychological maladies from which modern Americans often suffer. But one thing Esther displays in the entire Old Testament account is an amazing steadfastness and stability.
This is significant also in light of the fact that she had not only been uprooted but placed in a country with a very unstable political environment not at all friendly to or supportive of Jewish cultural and religious life. The city in which she lived was Susa, the center of the Medo-Persian Empire and Ahasuerus, or Xerxes, was its king. Xerxes was known as one of the more ruthless of ancient kings. The story is told of a mother who had lost all but one son to war. She pleaded with King Xerxes to spare her last son from going to war. Xerxes supposedly ordered her son cut in half and his army to march through the two pieces. Whether the story is true or not, it serves to illustrate the nature of the man under whose authority Esther would find herself. In the providence of God, Esther also found herself involved in some significant tension in the palace at Susa. Read the account in Esther for the full story, but the bottom line is that Queen Vashti spurned an important order from Xerxes and was demoted as Queen. The King’s assistant is sent on a search for beautiful maidens from who would be chosen one special woman to replace Vashti. Among the women brought to the palace for this purpose was Esther.
The challenges that are lining up before Esther are growing, which make her leadership under authority all the more significant and instructive for us today. Many of the reasons we might use to excuse insubordination can be found in Esther’s story. We will see incompetence, unreasonableness, vile character, fear for personal safety: you get the picture. How does one lead under such authority? Can it be done? It can, and it was, as we shall see when we continue our study of leading under authority.