Everyone who extends himself to lead in some way will find himself or herself challenged. Being challenged isn’t bad. Being challenged simply means that you are being tested.
We may be tested for two reasons.
1) The devil may be testing us to see how strong we are. He may be looking for weaknesses in our style or in our attitudes that he can exploit. Mostly, I think the devil is looking for weaknesses in character. Even with a poor style a leader can still do a wonderful job in the kingdom if he has good character. But, if his style is great but his character weak, the devil will exploit his weaknesses and cause great harm to the man or woman’s life. This will then affect their family, their church, their job, the whole community.
2) The lord may be testing us to see the same areas of weakness as the devil, but with this one difference: God does not want to exploit our weaknesses in style, attitudes or character. God wants to build us up and strengthen us. God wants us faithful for the long haul. Spiritual leadership that goes the distance means our family or our local church can count on us for a lifetime.
Among the qualifications, or qualities, that Paul gives for an elder in 1 Tim. 3 and Titus is that he not be a new convert, and that he has raised his children to be obedient, faithful and respectful. This means that the shepherd has been around awhile. He has been practicing his leadership for decades. True spiritual leaders grow and develop over time. Spiritual leadership is not the fruit of a short course or of a seminar. Those things give us ideas. They introduce us to people we can talk to who know about leadership. But it is the living out every day the principles of our godly walk that builds the character that sustains long-term leadership.
All those who lead sometimes ask, "Why am I doing this?" No one is exempt. No one. Every leader, man or woman, young or old, asks themselves sometime, "Why am I doing this? Am I doing the kind of job God wants? Am I reflecting the heart of God? Am I reaching people ... anyone, someone?" Those questions, and the pain behind them, are part of the training and preparation for being a spiritual leader in the kingdom of God.
Every great leader in the Bible has experienced those feelings. Moses experienced failure in his first attempts to lead. David experienced tremendous success in his early experiences at leadership. Paul was misguided in his early spiritual leadership. But God was at work in the lives of each of these men to prepare and mature them.
The same experiences occurred in the life and ministry of Jesus. Certainly God was at work in his life as Jesus was raised ...
... in a godly home
... attending worship at the temple
... learning the principles, wisdom and scriptures of his Heavenly Father. "Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." Luke 2:52
Jesus had to be prepared to lead just as Moses, David and Paul had to be prepared. He had to be taught. But there also came a time when Jesus had to feel the gut-wrenching experience of being on the firing line for God. That is the story of Matthew 4:1-11
I said earlier that testing in our lives could come from God or the devil. Matthew makes it clear where this testing of Jesus came from: the devil. (V.1). In v.3 he is called the "tempter." Being the tempter means the devil is trying to find something wrong in your life. The devil works like a friend of mine, Terry Knapp. Terry used to work as an inspector for oil and gas pipelines. He would crawl through pipes that had been welded together. With a flashlight he would look for any kind of visible flaw in the welding. He studied and inspected every joint, looking for any slight crack or flaw that would allow gas or oil to escape from the pipe.
That is what the devil does in our lives. He looks closely at every detail of our hearts and lives. He is looking for any flaw, crevice or crack in our integrity and character. The very nature of the devil’s work is to analyze you, study you, investigate you, get to know every fiber of your being. He gathers all the data about it. Then, guess what he does with it? He looks at it and says, "Ok, over here, she is structurally weak. She has all the beauty, grace and poise of a young lady, but she doesn’t have her character developed yet. I will send her a young boy who will sweep her off her feet. She will not be able to resist his advances. She will fall for him. He will hurt her. He will undermine the morals her parents taught her. And I will kill her."
The devil looks at the data and says, "Ah, this is a fine young man. He respects his elders. He works hard. He has been taught the way of God. But he hasn’t had the time to mature in the ways of God. He is weak still several areas. Here is what I will do. Fresh out of college I will give him a good job with big pay. He won’t be ready to handle that money appropriately for God. He will spend it on his pleasures. In a few years, he will be spending his money on pretty pictures, then on pretty girls, young ladies who will lure his heart and body away from me. He will forget to worship God. And I will kill him."
That is the work of the tempter. And he does it so well, doesn’t he? "God, you know that man Job? He’s only following you because you reward him. Take away some of his blessings and see what he does." The story of Job unnerves me every time I go back and read it. I am thrilled that Job hung on to his integrity till the end!! I am scared that I would not be able to do the same.
The devil is watching Job, me, my son, my daughters, all of you.
He even watched Jesus to find the crack in the armor, if there was any, that he could exploit. He bided his time. He waited until the right moment ... when Jesus was very hungry. And he said, "Here Jesus, have some food."
There are three temptations in Matthew 4.
1) Food v.3-4
2) Power v.5-6
3) Authority v.7-10
Each of these temptations is an appeal to Jesus to derail him from his ministry for God. Jesus came to be the redemption of mankind. Jesus came to die. But the devil tried to appeal to Jesus’ hunger and desires to get him off track.
- Would Jesus take food from the devil? No, every good and perfect gift is from God, not the devil. Even in his hunger Jesus would not place himself at the mercy of the devil. He would not allow the devil to meet any of his needs. Only God could meet them.
- If Jesus accepted the offer of power, calling on the angels to rescue him, would he go to the cross?
- If Jesus accepted the offer of the devil to receive all the kingdoms of the world, and he had authority over all of them, would he need to go to the cross? Perhaps the devil thought he could convince Jesus that he didn’t need to die, now that he already had authority.
Each of these temptations was an appeal to needs that Jesus had. But Jesus wouldn’t fall for this trick of the devil. Jesus knows that only God can meet our deepest needs. Only God can truly satisfy hunger. Only God has the power and authority to give Jesus power and authority. Jesus knows the devil is a liar and the father of lies. The devil cannot give us anything that is ultimately good. Any gift from the devil is meant to deceive, hurt, and destroy.
Each one of these temptations was an appeal to ego needs that all of us have. We want to feel content in our bodies. We want to feel that we belong. We want to feel that we matter. Human beings will do almost anything to have these needs met.
We sin. What do you think sin is, ultimately? It is the conviction we have that we can meet our needs better than God can. God says, "Here, I give you eyes so you can take joy in the beauty of your wife and children." We say, "No, I will use my eyes to take in beauty that is not mine to enjoy." God says, "Here, I give you hands to do honest work." We say, "No, I will use my hands to do violence, and things that are dishonorable."
Sin is man’s attempt to say, "We can take better care of ourselves than God can." That was the temptation even to Jesus. But Jesus said, "NO!" Jesus’ leadership was challenged. This tempting in the wilderness was Satan’s attempt to derail the ministry of Jesus. He offered food, power, authority, wealth. Men have fallen for lesser things! Jesus maintained his integrity. He stood strong.
And we need to as well. Leadership in the kingdom is leadership for the long haul. Leadership is realizing that God is at work to build our character to be people who can endure the pain and difficulties of leadership and never give up. Leadership is realizing the deceitful work of the devil to derail us. It is to fully trust in God’s ability to meet our needs and not sell out to the devil’s lies. Leadership is being faithful for life.
Jesus was challenged, and we will be, too. We will feel those challenges in our hearts, in our spirit, in our bodies. We will wonder about our preparedness, our abilities. What do we do? We hang in there. Like Moses, David and Paul, we will have failures. Jesus was challenged, but he didn’t fail. We won’t handle things perfectly like Jesus did. But, like Jesus, we don’t have to let the devil win!
Leadership is being faithful for life. We can do that.