It’s easier to get on the right track than it is to stay on the right track. How many people do you know who started out well but got knocked out of the race after a few years? Probably many.
There are four categories of temptations and traps to protect against: Those involving the Mind, Money, Morality and Misgivings.
1. The Mind.
“For I say…to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think…” (Romans 12:3 NKJ).
Self-exaltation and selfish ambition says, “I don’t need anyone else; I know more than them; they can’t teach me anything. I owe little and I deserve a lot.” When you start to think and speak like this, you are on your way down. It should be: I owe a lot, deserve little, and need lots of help. “Pride goes before destruction” (Proverbs 16:18).
“So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them. And the people kept shouting, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died” (Acts 12:21-23).
2. Money: Embezzlement of Funds and Financial Mismanagement.
If an offering is taken for a given area, make sure it goes there. I tell people seeking to go into ministry to get out of debt first, because financial pressure opens doors to all kinds of temptations. John D Rockefeller lived his life by John Wesley’s dictum on finances: Gain all you can by honest means, save all you can by being thrifty and give all you can by being generous.
Elijah’s servant Gehazi, and Judas the disciple are negative examples that we can learn from. Both fell prey to the lure of unrighteous financial gain.
3. Morality: Entanglement with Sexual Sin.
Solomon was the wisest; Samson the strongest; and David the greatest. But each had major setbacks because of sexual immorality, so don’t think you are above it. Don’t put yourself in the place of temptation. “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22 KJV). Pornography is a major problem among male leaders in the church today, and we would do well to learn from even strong leaders who have fallen:
“It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle…David remained at Jerusalem. Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold.” (2 Samuel 11:1-2 NKJ).
David should have been out on the battle field, but instead he stayed home and fell into a trap. As my parents would say, idle hands are the devils playground. Sure enough the devil brought a temptation in the form of beautiful Bathsheba his way and like a lamb to the slaughter he was caught and paid a terrible price. Every time you choose to sin you choose to suffer.
4. Misgivings: Embitterment, Sorrow and Hurt.
When you are a leader there are a lot of things that happen to you that just don’t seem fair. I gave them everything and they turned on me. I gave my heart to this work and it fell apart. There are betrayals, heartaches, major disappointments and setbacks that you have to be able to deal with and overcome. People leaving your church and then speaking badly about you. You tried to help them and they turned on you. I call this leadership backlash. Be careful how you deal with it.
Try to follow the example David set for us in 1 Samuel 30. When everything went wrong, David’s own men turned on him, he didn’t react, and become vengeful against them, he wept and encouraged himself in the Lord and then inquired of the Lord and God turned it all around (6-8).
People leaving your church can be taken as a personal rejection. Don’t take it so personally, don’t take it so seriously and don’t take it lying down. We must do our best and trust God for the rest!
Let’s love righteousness and hate iniquity so that we can finish our course with joy.
Yours for the Restoration and Revival of God’s People,
Dr George Hill
President/Founder, Victory Churches International