Any view of Christian ministry that doesn’t take the opposition of Satan into account is a naive view. He is, after, all the primary enemy of every Christian leader (Ephesians 6:12).
But Satan has many weapons in his arsenal, and he uses them with great subtlety. This is why Ephesians 6:11 warns us, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”
So what are some of the weapons Satan aims at spiritual leaders? We could name many, including some of the more obvious ones such as financial or moral failure. But even those are usually not the beginning place of destruction. Below are seven pitfalls that all of us easily fall into and need to guard against:
1. Wrong Focus
We know—and readily say—that there is only One who is worthy of our focus.
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.—Hebrews 12:2
But we easily take our eyes off of Him, don’t we?
We so easily shift our gaze to other people or even to the work of the ministry. I’ve been guilty of both…and I know that both are unsatisfying and unsustaining.
In Jesus, we find our example (Hebrews 12:3, 1 Peter 2:21) and our acceptance (Ephesians 1:6). He is our life (Colossians 3:4).
I’m not speaking here of a fast-paced day, but of a disordered life. After all, there is a difference between scheduled tenacity and unplanned idiocy. When we get to the point where we are living from one cyclone to the next, we lose any sense of rhythm or rest in our spirits. We even lose the ability to plan well and get sucked into the tyranny of the urgent.
Sheer hurry and busyness is not the sign of productivity and spiritual health, and it can be counter-productive to it.Sheer hurry and busyness is not the sign of productivity and spiritual health…and it can be counter-productive to it. Click To Tweet
We rarely hear God’s voice in the rush of life; it takes time and intention to be still and listen to Him.
Be still, and know that I am God:—Psalm 46:10
Some of us are by nature “problem solvers”—which is another way of saying that we see details and can easily become distracted and burdened by what isn’t going right. Some of this is legitimate. I think of when Paul said, “Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28).
But there is a fine line between care and worry. And we need to daily cast our cares upon the Lord. Always remember that God never called you to bear His responsibilities…and He offers to carry your burden.God never called you to bear His responsibilities…and He offers to carry your burdens. Click To Tweet
A few years ago, my daughter gave me a small plaque that sits on my nightstand and reads, “Give it to the Lord and go to sleep.” It’s good advice.
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.—1 Peter 5:7
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.—Philippians 4:6–7
Comparison will kill you every time. Not only does it lead to pride or discouragement, but it is usually based on a false perception of other people’s reality.
For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.—2 Corinthians 10:12
God gives each of us different responsibilities and opportunities. When we compare to others, we miss the joy in how God is using us.
God gives each of us different responsibilities and opportunities. When we compare to others, we miss the joy in how God is using us. Click To Tweet
I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.—1 Corinthians 3:6
5. Skimming Spiritually
As spiritual leaders, we are constantly exposed to the Bible, often through our own preaching, teaching, and counseling. Between this constant exposure and the hurry of life and ministry, it is easy to get to the place where our own devotional life is nonexistent or surface.
But spiritual fruit and a walk with God are not sustained by skimming spiritually. God calls us to seek Him. This takes time and intention. It involves genuinely seeking His face through His Word and in prayer.
Spiritual fruit and a walk with God are not sustained by skimming spiritually. God calls us to *seek* Him. Click To Tweet
O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.—Psalm 63:1–2
When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.—Psalm 27:8
6. Lack of Solitude
Solitude is a chosen time of separation for the refining of your soul. And it is one of the best ways to combat the hurry addiction we so easily get caught up in.
Even Jesus—in His busiest seasons of ministry—needed time alone with the Father and put a priority on carving out solitude.
And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.—Mark 1:35
And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.—Matthew 14:23
Wise spiritual leaders create rhythms of solitude—daily, weekly, and perhaps quarterly as well.Wise spiritual leaders create rhythms of solitude. Click To Tweet
7. A Critical Spirit
Leaders who are out of sync spiritually—often due to one of the six areas listed above—will develop a critical spirit. It may be manifested internally toward one’s self, family, co-workers, or church; or it may be manifested externally toward the culture at large or random strangers. If we don’t have rest in our own spirit, we’ll simply be looking for something to criticize.
Additionally, unguarded discernment can become a judgmental spirit. While we are called to be discerning (Philippians 1:9–11), we are also instructed to trust God to be the judge.
But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.—Romans 14:10
How Well Are You Fighting?
What makes these enemies particularly insidious, is the way they encroach upon our lives without us even noticing. Take a moment then to look over this list again, and rate yourself on a scale of 1–10:
- Wrong focus
- Skimming spiritually
- Lack of solitude
- A critical spirit
Do you see any of these gaining ground in your life? If so, don’t be discouraged. But recognize the enemy, and fight it!