If you’re hopping into our discussion about temptation, we started here in Part One, asking if maybe the subtle temptations of leadership—the ones that aren’t even technically “sin”—could in fact be a test from God. Leadership brings perks. But could the integrity with which you handle those perks be showing God how much influence, power, and/or money you can or cannot be trusted with?
Let’s circle back to the temptations Jesus faced in Matthew 4. After fasting for forty days, “the tempter came to [Jesus] and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread’” (Matthew 4:3).
Did Jesus have the ability to turn the stones into bread? Yep. And as a leader with some level of influence, power, and resources, you too could turn “stones” into “bread”—we’re overhauling youth group…let’s launch a ministry for that…if we just upgrade this… You can use your leverage to solve most problems.
And it’s not even that the problem itself was the problem. This was not a temptation to “sin” in the traditional sense. Was bread a legitimate need for Jesus? Of course—he’d been fasting for forty days.
The temptation to turn stones into bread was a temptation to act independently of God–to leverage legitimate power in an illegitimate (non-God-ordained) way. God had led Jesus into the fast; and Jesus chose to wait for God to lead him out.
This is such a sticky temptation for thriving ministries. We’re presented with a challenge or problem and we have the resources to immediately solve it. Singles ministry losing momentum? Let’s change the format! Sunday attendance dropping? We need a fancier building!
But could this temptation be reminding us that sometimes God puts us—or keeps us—in our current circumstances for a reason? And though we can jump to a solution, it may not be the solution God has in mind for us…?
This temptation is subtle. And the way to conquer it is subtle too. In Matthew 4:4, Jesus responded to the temptation by referencing an Old Testament lesson, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” What would it look like for our ministries to hang on “every word that comes from the mouth of God?” As teams, how can we declare our dependence on God? How can we commit to wait for his green light?
And here’s the convicting question: where have we charged ahead, disregarding the timing or solution God has for us? (Hint: Independence from God always results in slavery to something or someone else. So to whom or what are you (or your ministry) a slave? The bank? An overwhelming calendar? A sense of competition?)
We’ll tackle a closely-related temptation next time. Here’s a preview of where we’re heading: “Getting yourself out on a limb and asking God to bail you out is not faith, it’s __________.”
Our discussion of temptation continues here, “Temptation: Out on a Limb.”
Our Pause DVD is a 4-part series by Andy Stanley that takes a closer look at temptation. Buy it here.
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