In Deuteronomy 1:13, we see Moses giving advice concerning the type of leaders he selected for Israel. I want you to see the three qualities he looked for - wisdom, discernment and experience.
The first requirement was wisdom. Wisdom is different from knowledge. Knowledge comes by study. So those who have clever brains excel in this. Wisdom comes by going through many trials. So those who are faithful excel in this. Wisdom is the application of knowledge to practical situations in life. You may have a lot of Bible knowledge, but no divine wisdom. The book of Proverbs places a great emphasis on acquiring wisdom - not on knowing Scripture, but on knowing God. The Bible is a means by which we get wisdom and know God. A lot of people who study the Bible acquire knowledge. But the tree of knowledge brought death. Knowledge puffs up (1 Corinthians 8:1). The tree of life brings wisdom that teaches us how to live and how to react to different situations in life. So wisdom is the first requirement for a leader.
The second requirement was discernment. This is one of the greatest needs in leadership today - the ability to discern between what is godly and what is human - not between what is godly and demonic, which is easy, but between that which is of God and that which is of man, between that which is spiritual and that which is soulish
Sometimes people say, "Well, after all we are only human." But Paul rebuked the Corinthians for "walking like mere human beings" (1 Corinthians 3:3). We shouldn't be behaving like mere men. We should be walking like Jesus Christ. "He who abides in Christ should walk as He walked" (1 John 2:6). It may be easy to discern between a spiritual man and a carnal man - one who is living in sin. But we must be able to discern between a spiritual man and a soulish man - one who lives by his human abilities. When you listen to a man speak, you should be able to discern whether the man is speaking from his heart or from his head. What comes from a man's head will only go into other people's heads. But what comes from a man's heart will go to other people's hearts. Jesus always spoke from His heart. We must learn to speak from our hearts. The Bible was written for our hearts, not for our heads. The psalmist said, "Thy word have I hid in my heart (not my memory) that I may not sin against Thee." (Psalms 119:11).
The third requirement was experience. You may acquire much wisdom even when you are young. You may even have discernment. But you still need experience to be a godly leader - and that takes time. Experience comes through being crushed in different trials and tasting God's power and encouragement in those trials (2 Corinthians 1:4). The strength we receive through trials is what gives us a ministry to others.
Moses then warned the judges not to show partiality but to hear the small and the great alike (Deuteronomy 1:17). This is a very important requirement for leaders. Never flatter the rich.
When I was a young believer, I saw in every church I went to, that if a man was an influential person in society - such as an important government official or a rich businessman - he was always on the board of the church. I wondered why this was so. Surely every big man in the world was not a spiritual man. In fact, the Bible says that "God has chosen the poor of the world to be rich in faith" (James 2:5). So these people were obviously being chosen for their worldly influence. No wonder all those churches backslid very soon. They showed the very partiality that we are warned against in James 2. I decided then that if the Lord ever planted a church through my labours, I would appoint spiritual men as elders, not influential men. And this is what we have done in all the churches the Lord has planted through us.
"You shall not fear man," Moses told the leaders (verse 17). If you want to be a leader, you should not be afraid of any man.