An old European proverb worth heeding reads: “Age and treachery will always defeat youth and zeal.” Eugene Peterson might retranslate this to read: “Crafty veterans will take down the energetic and distracted kids every time.”
Satan is legendary for his ability to take down leaders of God’s people who began their journey with Christ fully equipped with all the resources of God and the best of intentions. Get that. We have to see just how good he is at this game of leader- destruction in order to raise our respect and awareness to where it needs to be. While ownership of the spiritual resources for our dogfight with evil is guaranteed, this does not promise possession or mastery or victory in our fight on earth. Zeal and equipment are not enough. Because of my work with leaders, every week I hear of another leader or fellow pastor in God’s army that has been shot down after what seemed to be an awesome beginning. We need to see and analyze the patterns in order to avoid them in our lives and ministries.
Here are the common denominators I have mapped out, the anatomy of a takedown:
A highly visible conversion
Accelerated spiritual growth and training
Strong spiritual gifting and willingness to risk
Clear calls to service and ministry for Christ
Growing responsibilities of leadership in the Body of Christ
Success and recognition
Sound familiar? Now add:
Growing pressures connected to their responsibilities
Character issues magnified by stress and exploited by evil
Increasing isolation and openness to small spiritual compromises
Establishment of spiritual footholds in private sin
Satanic assault on relationships with God and people (i.e., wife, children, elders, members)
Loss of openness and accountability with respect to personal battles
Private struggles continuing despite public “success”
Sin-induced cynicism; callousness with respect to beliefs.
Fierce satanic resistance to efforts by the leader toward prayer, confession, accountability, and possible healing.
Confusion and disillusionment, creating more clouding of the mind and isolation from God and people.
Then the kill-shots:
Failure to recognize the satanic campaign against him.
Extreme vulnerability to satanic assault.
Discontentment and loss of vision in service for the Lord
Acceptance of a form of habitual sin to medicate spiritual despair.
A fireball trailing thick black smoke plummeting toward earth.
For these men (maybe you right now) and many others like them, their sin did not initially bring about their fall; it was their lack of discernment and understanding of their foe. I would say it can be a lack of “discernment and understanding of their GOD”. There is a callousness that grows in the hearts of men whose accomplishments have overshadowed their reliance on Him. In their eyes, they are secretly the source of their strength. A prayer life that has changed from, “Lord, draw me to you” to “Lord, empower me to do…”
Somewhere along the way, the leader:
Compartmentalizes the Devil away
Makes him a theological construct vs. a daily reality
Expects Satan to stay in some box
Early in the leaders’ spiritual quest, Satan and evil was a huge threat. But now, with victory over major sins, some spiritual growth and success, and a little knowledge to flex about God with others, the threat level was lowered to Condition Green (i.e., low risk of terrorist attacks). The leader stops learning, repenting, and reflecting and starts coasting. Pride begets stupidity.