The decisive moments of history find their origin and daring in the hearts of men and women who stand willing to make command decisions. Leadership demands vision, courage, and decisiveness. Leadership can in times of peril cost your life. Over the July 4th holiday during a patriotic service this quote capture my heart and my imagination. In speaking of the courage and sacrifice of our men and women of the armed services it was said, “Not all of them gave their lives on the field of battle, but all were willing”. This willingness to lay down one’s life for others is the essence of love and leadership.
One of the shining moments of English history dates back to the days of Elizabeth I when she and her people stood defiantly against the mighty Spanish Armada. This mighty fleet of warships sailed under the flag of Philip II to destroy the reign of the protestant Elizabeth and to return England to the domination of the Pope and the Catholic Church. This holy war of sorts was to be fought on the high seas, and apparently on the shores of England. Elizabeth launched her tiny fleet to seek to slow the advance of the Armada, and gathered her foot soldiers at Tilbury Camp. Against the advice of her cabinet, Elizabeth donned the armor of a cavalry officer and rode into the midst of her warriors. Her friends feared a traitor in the ranks would rise up and slay the queen, but she knew in her heart that if victory was to be had she had to stand with her people.
In an impassioned speech Elizabeth inspired her people declaring:
“Let tyrants fear, I have always so behaved myself that under God I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal heart and good will of my subjects. And therefore I am come amongst you as you see at this time not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved in the midst and heat of the battle to live or die amongst you all. To lay down for God and for my kingdom and for my people my honour and my blood even in the dust”.
In a courageous act of leadership Elizabeth descended from her throne and stood on level ground among her subjects. In a strange twist by standing among them she towered above them and led them to an amazing victory. Even though the victory was won on the high seas her courage and leadership inspired the English people to become one of the most powerful empires the world has even seen. Her humility and courage sets a standard for all leaders to follow.
Who or what inspired Elizabeth to lead in this way? It would obviously be speculation, but there is no doubt one can find this kind of leadership and courage in the King of Kings and Lord of Lords our own Jesus Christ. Jesus left the right hand of His Father and humbled himself to become flesh and blood born in a lowly stable. The creator stood in the dust among His creation, and slept under the stars with His subjects with only a stone to lay His royal head upon. He exchanged His crown for our crown—a crown of thorns, and laid down His life for His friends on a cruel cross. Great leaders would do well to follow the example of Jesus.
If we are serious about changing the world for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, we need to learn to lead like our King. You cannot lead from the throne nor from the rear. Leaders stand among their people, and choose to lay down their lives “in the dust”.