by David Linn
A leader battles one of two foes. Most leaders are largely affected by one or the other. Both adversaries lead to undesired results. While alike in some ways, they are different in others. These common enemies are fear and pride.
Fear causes a leader to focus on the wrong things. The devil loves to make us fearful. While this enemy can surface at any moment, my wife and I especially wrestled with fear early in ministry. We were called to plant churches in a third world country shortly after marriage. We easily deflected nay-sayers with statements like, this is the longest standing democracy on the continent, it’s a very stable country, it’s a safe place to start a family and raise children. However, no sooner had we arrived than the country – Venezuela – began to unravel. It quickly devolved into political battles that continue to this day. We lived there through coup attempts, martial law, nation-wide protests, suspicious elections, natural disasters and a national strike of two months. During those scary times, many missionaries left. It would have been easy and understandable to do the same. One day when tensions were particularly high, and an invitation to return to a stateside ministry on the table, we read Mark 5:36. The young daughter of Jairus, the synagogue ruler, was dying. In desperation, he found Jesus. At that moment, the news broke: your daughter is dead! Yet the very next frame says, “Ignoring what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe’” (RSV, emphasis added). Those words infused courage into Jairus and thankfully into us as well. We decided to stay. Our ministry in the country lasted over 25 years. During the following decade, more churches were planted, more souls saved, more national leaders groomed, and more missionaries equipped than any other time in our service. In fact, fruit from that season has a global impact to this day. Fear has rightfully been described as False Evidence Appearing Real. Fear is from the devil, and it is an insult to God.
Another enemy that leaders face is pride. While pride can assault at any time, it seems we are more vulnerable after a few victories. For many, this may happen later in life. Bible scholar A. W. Pink quipped, “it is interesting to note in Scripture that younger saints typically are not the ones to ‘disgrace’ their profession.” Joseph courageously overcame his injustices as a youth. David valiantly slew Goliath as a young man. Daniel’s three friends survived the fiery furnace during their younger years.
Unfortunately, a good profession has often been ‘disgraced’ in later years. Moses’ most visible shortcoming happened at the end of the wilderness journey. David fell to Bathsheba long after triumphing over Goliath. Earlier in his life Saul said, “Am I not a Benjaminite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, is my clan not the least of all?” However, after a modest beginning and few victories, he became proud, broke God’s law and became a public disgrace. David said of him, “How the mighty have fallen!”
While our scuffles with fear and pride may vary, both are ruthless and shrewd. Wise leaders remember they are not immune from one or the other. “Fear is an insult to God, pride is a challenge to Him,” (Curtis Sergeant, The Only One p.33). By God’s grace may we maintain a small image of ourselves and a lofty image of Him.