Even the strongest leaders need this . . .

Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall enter. Encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it.
— Deuteronomy 1:38

He stood up to the mob. He said, “Go” when they said, “Whoa!” He was willing to wait 40 years when God said, “Halt.” He was Moses’ right-hand-man. He was Moses’ successor. He was the leader who would and who did lead the conquest of the Promised Land. He was Joshua.




Joshua was a leader’s leader. He was one bad dude and a holy man to boot. But even this strongest of men needed something and that something was encouragement.

Encourage him!

Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A, rightly said, “How do you know someone needs encouragement? If they are breathing.”

Joshua was breathing. At this point he may have been taking deep breaths in anticipation of his dangerous assignment. God knew the certainty of a heavenly tap on the shoulder was not enough to sustain him. He needed the encouragement of the people he would lead. This is an early message of Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy begins with a historical summary. The nation of Israel is poised to cross the Jordan River. They are on the verge of big battles for a beautiful land. So God pauses to give them a history lesson lest they forget His Word and repeat the error of their forefathers whose graves dot the desert they have just traversed.

Joshua is a part of this historical review. He is not the man he was then. He’s older, a mature man, even an old man; but the marching orders he carries in his pocket still address him as leader. And even leaders, who specialize in encouraging followers, need encouragement too.

Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall enter. Encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it.

How can followers encourage leaders? Here are five “words” that, when spoken from the heart, put wind in a leader’s sails:

  1. “On it” — We encourage leaders when assigned a task, we reply, “On it!” Not “What!?” or “What the heck?!” or “Why?” or “Can I get to it next week?” or “Seriously, who do you think you are?” That’s not to say there’s no room for clarifications, questions, or push-backs, but the spirit of the follower is ready obedience to tackle the task given by his/her leader.

  2. “Done” — If you want to put a smile on your leader’s face, don’t peter out! Finish the job you’ve been given. All it takes to put a skip in your leader’s step is to follow up an assignment with one simple word: “Done!”

  3. “I’m praying for you.” — Paul was not shy about asking for prayer. He knew where the true power lies — the power to move mountains, galvanize timid souls, melt hearts, and tackle big challenges. “The battle is the LORD’s” . . . so go to the LORD. Pray for your leaders — and let them know you are praying for them from time-to-time.

  4. “I’m with you.” — We hear this from the lips of the people of Israel (Joshua 1:17) and from David’s armor bearer (1 Samuel 14:7). “In the ancient Near East, a change of leadership would typically involve a pledge of loyalty to the new leader.” Leaders love hearing followers are with them “heart and soul.”

  5. “Thanks!” — One of our leaders often ends an email to me with the words, “Thanks for being my pastor.” These are simple words that convey much more than simple appreciation.

Contrary to the common adage, “Leadership is NOT a thankless job.” It a great job made better when we give leaders what every breathing person needs — encouragement.

What leader can you encourage today?


“In the ancient Near East . . .” from The ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Publishers. Note on Joshua 1:17.