“The more a leader thrives the less the leader is likely to be tempted. A strong leader moving in the Kingdom purposes of God has long passed the point of struggling with any evil desire or distraction that would dog one’s steps and trip up the leader. A thriving leader is shielded with divine Immunity that prevents him or her from Satan’s snares.” Jesus’ example blows that thinking clean out of the water.
In Luke 4:1-11 we learn that Jesus, having been filled with the Spirit in his baptism, is “led by the Spirit” into the wilderness to meet evil straight away in a battle that lasts for a month and a half.
Henri Nouwen describes Jesus’ three temptations in ways any leader can understand. Turning rocks into bread that would feed hundreds would make Jesus relevant, well-liked, and all the rage. Jumping from a 40-meter steeple to be caught by a swooping angel would make Jesus look spectacular. Ruling the nations of the world would give Jesus a power that he could use for anything he would want. Nouwen gives three worthy antidotes to these temptations in his book, In the Name of Jesus.[i]
But for now, we do well to watch for these distractions coming to us: to be popular, to look good, and to use one’s power wrongly. Recognizing these enticements is important. Naming them reduces their power. We are also helped to know that these temptations come at our strengths, not to our weaknesses. Nor will these temptations seem like blatant forms of evil. Often they come to us soon after God has used us in our role of leading, speaking and serving in the church.
C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters has the senior devil saying to his juniors, “The fine flower of unholiness can grow only in the neighborhood of the holy. Nowhere do we tempt so successfully as on the very steps of the altar.”[ii]
I suggest these well-proven ways to overcome temptation.
- Pray each day to overcome temptations that regularly visit you. For me that means naming and praying against pride, envy, criticism, holding on to anger, being overly busy and looking good. My biggest temptation is always not trusting God.
- Confess to a trusted friend or small group, when appropriate, those temptations that are especially strong at times. Confidentiality is important here. No one wants their potential sins spread to others. For this reason I’ve found it helpful to confess the temptation outside of the ministry group which I have been asked to lead. Confession to a trusted friend or group can break the power of the attraction and also provide prayer support for us.
- Thank God that the Lord is able to deal with our temptations, providing a way through the difficult time (see I Cor. 10:13).
Thriving leaders face and deal straight away with temptation. They become stronger through these continuing times of testing. God uses them in their greatest hour of need.
[i] Henri J. M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership: The Crossroad Publishing Company, New York, N.Y., 1989
[ii] C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters with Screwtape Proposes a Toast: Revised Edition: Collier Books, MacMillan Publishing Company, New York., 1982. p. 173