All of God’s people go through hard times that test their faith. Leaders face it even more intensely because the enemy knows what God said, “Smite the shepherd and the sheep shall scatter” (Zech 13:7, Mt 26:31, Mk 14:27).
Going after leaders is a tactic in natural warfare as well. If one army can take out leaders of another, they will usually win the battle. During the American Revolutionary War at the Battle of Saratoga, the American army used this tactic. On the eve of the battle, the patriot forces surveyed British forces. They were severely outnumbered in ammunition, muskets, men, and supplies.
The night before the battle, Daniel Morgan, commander of a group of farmers called Morgan’s rifles set a strategy, “Don’t waste your shot on those who fight for a mere sixpence a day, save your shot for the Epaulette men” (Epaulettes were ornaments worn on the shoulders of leaders with rank). By the second day of the battle, the British leader’s ranks were so decimated that they surrendered even though they still outnumbered the patriots in everything.
A Main Scheme of the Enemy Against Leaders
Paul tells us that as we engage in warfare, we are “not ignorant of the devil’s schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11). The Bible showed one of his primary schemes against leaders when Jesus took His first steps towards His calling.
- A step of obedience towards God’s call: Jesus submitted to John’s baptism because it was “fitting to fulfill all righteousness” (Mt 3:15).
- God affirms His love: It always pleases God when leaders take steps of obedience, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (Mt 3:16).
- A fresh experience of Holy Spirit: Anytime we respond to God’s call, Holy Spirit stirs freshly in us (Mt 3:15-16).
- Immediate temptation of the enemy to hinder moving in the call: He uses “if/then” logic. “If you are” (speculation about the call), “then,” obey the enemy’s promptings to prove it (Mt 4:1-11).
- Even when leaders overcome the temptation, the enemy only departs for a little while but will always come back again. Luke 4:13 The devil finished tempting Jesus…and went away to wait until a better time.
An Essential Battleground Leaders Must Avoid
Isolation is the enemy’s favorite hunting ground! He “prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). How do lions hunt? They stalk herds patiently, waiting for animals to drift away from the others, then the lions devour them.
I was once at a large game reserve in Kenya and saw this firsthand. A male and female lion approached us. We had a vehicle with an open-top, so I stood up and took pictures as they slowly prowled around us. Looking directly into their eyes was ominous. I watched them intently as they slowly moved around and kept staring at us. It amazed me to see how slow and patient they were.
Then they slowly turned their attention behind us. As the lions walked on, I looked up in the direction they were heading. I realized they were following a herd of animals. They continued their slow, patient moves towards the herd. They were waiting to catch an animal drifting away from the pack so they could quickly devour them.
This is how the enemy goes after leaders. Unfortunately, leaders are often very isolated, especially in traditional church leadership models. I remember the account of one leader writing to a friend I knew.
“I feel so lonely in the ministry; they all share their needs and problems with me but where can I turn? I’m not sure of things any more. I have been unable to sleep properly with the pressure of it all. I cannot understand it because I know God has called me, and I suppose I should not even be talking like this. It’s probably the devil trying to make me give up. At the ministers fraternal no one else seems to be going through it. I can’t very well show them what is happening, so I don’t bother to go any more.” (This is a recipe for becoming easy prey for the enemy)
God never intended for leaders to be isolated. Consider His design for leaders.
- Genesis 2:18 The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”
- Proverbs 18:1 He who separates himself seeks his own desire, He quarrels against all sound wisdom.
- Psalms 142:2-4 (Titled an instruction of David when isolated)… (3) They have hidden a trap for me. (4) Look to the right and see; For there is no one who regards me; There is no escape for me; No one cares for my soul. (David’s later fall was when he was isolated again 2 Samuel 11:1-4).
- Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Two are better than one…(10) For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. (11) Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? (12) And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.
One value our family of churches is passionate about pursuing is the importance of leaders walking in accountable relationships. We use a phrase to reflect this: “EVERY PASTOR NEEDS A PASTOR.” Every leader needs the wisdom, encouragement, and accountability of authentic relationships with spiritual moms, dads, and family mentors who walk with them. This brings God’s motivation to continue to “draw near to Him, hear His voice, and remain faithful to His call” (Hebrews 3:12-19, 10:22-28).
Three essentials to move into God’s Provision/Design
- Recognize and reach out: Realize God’s design for leaders to walk together and reach out to those who can pastor you. If you don’t know who, seek God and ask those leaders you know for suggestions with whom you may connect.
- Let them know: Let them know you want that kind of relationship with them. Also, let others know who those relationships are with, so they will have the assurance that you are walking in God’s provision of health. They can also appeal to them for help if they see unhealthy patterns in you.
- Walk it out: The apostle John was very close to Jesus relationally. He also is the one who gave the most instruction about walking in an actual relationship with God and others. Over and over, He speaks of their interconnectedness. He identifies it as “walking in the light” (1 John 1:5-10, 2:7-11, 3:11-18, 4:7-21). James, his brother, also weighed in on it (James 5:16).
Let us make sure we seek God and walk in His provision of health as leaders. Remember that the enemy will always come at us, so we must keep accountable relationships real and regular.