Principles for Christian Leaders


Humble and teachable

True humility—The spirit of the slothful servant we are often fain to call humility. But true humility is widely different. To be clothed with humility does not mean that we are to be dwarfs in intellect, deficient in aspiration, and cowardly in our lives, shunning burdens lest we fail to carry them successfully. Real humility fulfills God’s purposes by depending upon His strength. PCL 72.3

God works by whom He will. He sometimes selects the humblest instrument to do the greatest work, for His power is revealed through the weakness of men. We have our standard, and by it we pronounce one thing great and another small; but God does not estimate according to our rule. We are not to suppose that what is great to us must be great to God, or that what is small to us must be small to Him. It does not rest with us to pass judgment on our talents or to choose our work. We are to take up the burdens that God appoints, bearing them for His sake, and ever going to Him for rest. Whatever our work, God is honored by wholehearted, cheerful service. He is pleased when we take up our duties with gratitude, rejoicing that we are accounted worthy to be colaborers with Him. —COL 363, 364 (1900) PCL 73.1

Whatever the position we are called to fill, our only safety is in walking humbly with God.—RH, September 8, 1896 PCL 73.2

God chooses men of a humble and contrite spirit through whom He can work, and imparts to them His wisdom. They are little in their own eyes, and will not interpret success as the result of their own smartness, but will glorify God. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.” If men are entrusted with great responsibilities, this is no assurance of their fitness for their position. The assurance comes after test and trial. If they evidence that they sense their own weakness, if they make God their trust, the Lord will supply them with His wisdom. If they ask in faith, they will increase in knowledge and ability. If they depend upon God day by day, the stages of development will show a symmetrical growth heavenward. If they walk day by day in humility and contrition and wholeheartedness, in the strictest integrity doing justice to their fellow men, showing reverence and honor to God by being obedient and true to Him, keeping the living principles of righteousness, God will honor them.—Letter 124, 1896 (August 9) PCL 73.3

There are men to whom the Lord Jesus has entrusted responsibilities as leaders. Let them hide self in Christ, that they may know what it means to bear responsibilities in the work of soul saving. A sense of their own unworthiness will lead them to humble, fervent prayer and earnest seeking of the Lord in humility.—Letter 44, 1910 (April 20) PCL 74.1

The grace of humility should be cherished in the heart. It will modify and mold the words that fall from our lips into expressions of Christlike tenderness and care. The Master’s work is not to be neglected; but it must be done in love, declaring the Master’s message in the Master’s spirit. PCL 74.2

Wrongs are often in need of being met; and though firmness and decision may be required, it should not be done in an arbitrary, overbearing, crushing manner. Not until the heart is cleansed and purified through obedience to the truth can we be laborers together with God, and work with the mind of Christ. —Letter 86, 1896 (May 26) PCL 74.3

Humble but not timid—Humility is greatly needed. If cherished, it would be an ornament of great value in the sight of God. It is essential in the work. But there is no virtue in thinking that humility consists in cheap inefficiency. While humility is always essential in the service of God, while it must always be cultivated, be careful that it does not degenerate into the timidity which leads men to waver when circumstances require them to stand stiffly for the truth. There must be no half-and-half service offered to God. To every man the Lord has given his work. Everyone is to be a channel through which the Lord can work to communicate the will of Heaven.—Letter 79, 1901 (July 11); UL 206 PCL 74.4

The path of sincerity and integrity is not a path free from all obstruction. In the place of becoming fainthearted and discouraged, those to whom God has entrusted responsibilities are to see in every difficulty a call to prayer. They are to consult, not finite men, who are boastful and show a masterly independence, but the great Teacher who has given to every man his work in His vineyard. They are to be faithful workers, always in copartnership with the great Worker. Then they will not call slackly done work faithful and thorough service. They will stand fast against wrong, discerning the right from the wrong, the evil from the good. They will appreciate that which God estimates. There is no favoritism with God; and no partiality, no hypocrisy should be introduced or maintained in our households, churches, or institutions.—Letter 124, 1896 (August 9) PCL 75.1

Independent men of earnest endeavor are needed, not men as impressible as putty. Those who want their work made ready to their hand, who desire a fixed amount to do and a fixed salary, and who wish to prove an exact fit without the trouble of adaptation or training, are not the men whom God calls to work in His cause. A man who cannot adapt his abilities to almost any place if necessity requires is not the man for this time. Men whom God will connect with His work are not limp and fiberless, without muscle or moral force of character. It is only by continued and persevering labor that men can be disciplined to bear a part in the work of God. These men should not become discouraged if circumstances and surroundings are the most unfavorable. They should not give up their purpose as a complete failure until they are convinced beyond a doubt that they cannot do much for the honor of God and the good of souls.—3T 496 (1875) PCL 75.2

Humility, a qualification for higher service—Those who are humble, and who do their work as unto God, may not make so great a show as do those who are full of bustle and self-importance; but their work counts for more. Often those who make a great parade call attention to self, interposing between the people and God, and their work proves a failure. “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honor, when thou dost embrace her.” Proverbs 4:7, 8. PCL 76.1

Because they have not the determination to take themselves in hand and to reform, many become stereotyped in a wrong course of action. But this need not be. They may cultivate their powers to do the very best kind of service, and then they will be always in demand. They will be valued for all that they are worth. PCL 76.2

If any are qualified for a higher position, the Lord will lay the burden, not alone on them, but on those who have tested them, who know their worth, and who can understandingly urge them forward. It is those who perform faithfully their appointed work day by day, who in God’s own time will hear His call, “Come up higher.” PCL 76.3

While the shepherds were watching their flocks on the hills of Bethlehem, angels from heaven visited them. So today while the humble worker for God is following his employment, angels of God stand by his side, listening to his words, noting the manner in which his work is done, to see if larger responsibilities may be entrusted to his hands. PCL 76.4

Not by their wealth, their education, or their position does God estimate men. He estimates them by their purity of motive and their beauty of character. He looks to see how much of His Spirit they possess and how much of His likeness their life reveals. To be great in God’s kingdom is to be as a little child in humility, in simplicity of faith, and in purity of love.—MH 477, 478 (1905) PCL 77.1

Dangers of unbridled ambition—Awake, awake to your danger, all who have been striving for the highest place. Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will certainly be found on the wrong side. You need to die to self, to consecrate daily soul, body, and spirit, to be led and disciplined, and to walk humbly with God. When you are thoroughly aroused, you will seek the Lord with all the heart, that you may find Him. Your heart will be bound up in the love of Christ. Self will sink into its proper place, and Jesus will be all in all to the soul.—Letter 44, 1910 (April 20) PCL 77.2

The providence of God places man in unexpected positions to reveal his own weakness, to make it manifest that his power is in God alone. At the time when a soul is bearing weighty responsibilities, God tests the human agent. If his faith is not wholly centered in God, the little strength he himself possesses becomes exhausted, and impatience and railing reveal the fact that he needs to set his feet upon the solid rock. Every soul engaged in the Lord’s work, who becomes spiritually proud, flattering himself that he has made great proficiency above his brethren, will be left to learn the truth of the case. All boasting is laid in the dust.—Letter 18, 1895 (September 13) PCL 77.3

God cannot connect with those who live to please themselves, to make themselves first. Those who do this will in the end be last of all. The sin that is most nearly hopeless and incurable is pride of opinion, self-conceit. This stands in the way of all growth. When a man has defects of character, yet fails of realizing this; when he is so imbued with self-sufficiency that he cannot see his fault, how can he be cleansed? “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” Matthew 9:12. How can one improve when he thinks his ways perfect?—7T 199, 200 (1902) PCL 77.4

I have been shown that human beings desire too much power. They desire to control, and the Lord God, the mighty Worker is left out of their workings. The workmen feel qualified to hold the highest place. Let no man attempt to manage that work which should be left in the hands of the great I AM, and who, in His own way, is planning how the work shall be done. Know that God is the Instructor of His servants, and He will work through whom He will.—MS 143, 1899 (October 4) PCL 78.1

Humble soul winners—There are many who will spend and be spent to win souls to Christ. In obedience to the great commission, they will go forth to work for the Master. Under the ministration of angels ordinary men will be moved by the Spirit of God to warn people in the highways and byways. Humble men, who do not trust in their gifts, but who work in simplicity, trusting always in God, will share in the joy of the Saviour as their persevering prayers bring souls to the cross. . . . PCL 78.2

Christ will be with these humble workers. The angels of heaven will cooperate with them in their self-sacrificing efforts. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus will move upon hearts. God will work miracles in the conversion of sinners. Men and women will be gathered into church fellowship. Meetinghouses will be built, and institutions of learning established.—Letter 109, 1901 (August 6) PCL 78.3

Lifelong learners—The men who stand as leaders in any part of the solemn work of the last gospel message must cultivate and cherish broad views and ideas. It is the privilege of all who bear responsibilities in the work of the gospel to be apt learners in the school of Christ. The professed follower of Christ must not be led by the dictates of his own will; his mind must be trained to think Christ’s thoughts and enlightened to comprehend the will and way of God. Such a believer will be a follower of Christ’s methods of work.—9T 87, 88 (1909) PCL 79.1

Many of those who have responsibilities laid upon them, who are chosen to be presidents of conferences, are not selected because of their perfection of character, or because of their superior knowledge, but because the Lord signified that if they would be humble enough to learn and not think they were all ready to graduate, He would teach them His way. There is much for men in responsible positions to learn. When men feel that their ideas are without a flaw, it is time for them to change their position from president to that of a learner. When they think that their ideas, their judgment, should be accepted without question, they show that they are unfit for their position. God sees not as man sees. Whatever position a man may be called to fill, his judgment is not to be regarded as unerring. His entrusted responsibility makes it far more needful than it otherwise would be for him to be free from all egotism, and willing to receive counsel.—MS 55, 1897 (June 3) PCL 79.2