You have an enemy and it is not someone in your congregation, a member of your staff, or your peer across town. This enemy is not a member of your immediate family, extended family, or the person you bike with. This enemy is not popular culture, the political left or right, nor the latest movement that seems antithetical to the teachings of Scripture. This enemy is the enemy of your soul and he knows your most vulnerable tendencies.
Peter, in his first epistle, chapter five, addresses the spiritual leaders of the diaspora communities in Asia Minor. After posturing himself as a servant leader and speaking to the proper motives of a true spiritual leader, Peter warns them about this natural enemy with some of the most graphic language he can muster. “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
“In encounters with the king of beasts, an unarmed person is ‘one of the most helpless creatures,’ notes Charles Guggisberg in Simba: the Life of the Lion. ‘Man cannot run as fast as a zebra or a gazelle, he has not the horns of the sable antelope or the tusks of the warthog, and he cannot deal terrific blows like the giraffe.’ People are, in other words, easy pickings.” (The Most Ferocious Man-Eating Lions, The Smithsonian, 12/16/2009)
Just prior to this staunch warning, Peter provides us with the three biggest chinks in our armor as leaders that can prove to be our downfall.
Verse 6 states, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that at the proper time he may exalt you . . .” The antithesis of humility is pride–self exaltation. If we are spiritual leaders it is because God has given us a platform to do so. It is his doing and his calling in his timing. Pride tries to run ahead of God. Pride sees superiority, not humility. Pride makes us very vulnerable to the lion.
Verse 7 says, ” . . . casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” Leadership is difficult. Leadership into anything of significance finds itself in the fertile soil of potential anxiety. This is the disease of fear over what might happen. We are commanded to hurl all of our anxieties upon God. This verb is the notion of a 97 mile an hour fastball pitcher unleashing the ball as fast as he can. The motivation is the absolute, perfect care of God. I especially become anxious when I think no one cares. That is never the case. There is One who always cares–and we can unfetter ourselves of all that weighs us down as leaders.
Finally, in verse eight, Peter tells us to “be sober minded; be watchful . . . ” As spiritual leaders we deal in the spiritual realm. We should never be surprised that we will be opposed. But we are regularly. We forget that we are in a battle and that all of our leadership decisions are leveraged. We are not thinking correctly. We lack perspective. We are unaware. To be aware takes discernment and community. We need the help of others, peers, to see accurately.
Peter does provide us with an equal measure of reassurance in dealing with our enemy. In verses nine through eleven, he first tells us to actively resist the devil by standing in the gospel. He tells us to realize that there is world wide community of brothers and sisters who are suffering too. We never suffer alone. And he promises us that the God we serve will personally restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us–for he alone has all dominion. Not some roaring beast who threatens to dismember us.
Where are you feeling superior today?
What are you afraid of today–that is making your belly ache?
Where are you being obtuse today?
The enemy doesn’t have to win. Lead well!