The Temptations of Leadership part 4
THE TEMPTATIONS OF LEADERSHIP
Pastor William D. Tyree, III
November 5, 2005
“Then the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” Matt. 4:1 (NCV)
1. THE __________ TEST
“For forty days Jesus ate nothing and became very hungry. Then the Devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, change these stones into loaves of bread.’ But Jesus said, ‘The Scriptures say, “People need more than bread for their life; they must feed on every word of God.”’” Matt. 4:2-4 (NLT)
When I’m empty, hurting, or confused, will I to meet my needs or rush to satisfy them ?
“My people have done two evil things: They’ve forsaken me - the fountain of living water, and they’ve dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can’t hold water at all!”
Jer. 2:13 (NLT)
“Let him who walks in the dark and has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on God. But you who live in your own light and warm yourselves from your own fires and not from God’s will live among sorrows.” Isa. 50:10 (NIV) 11 (LB)
“Don't worry... Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.” Matt. 6:31-33 (NLT)
“Then the Devil went away, and angels came and cared for Jesus.” Matt. 4:11 (NLT)
2. THE __________ TEST
“Then the Devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, set him on the highest point of the Temple, and said, ‘If you are God's Son, throw yourself down, for the Scripture says, “God will give orders to his angels and they’ll hold you up with their hands, so that not even your feet will be hurt.’” Jesus said, ‘The Scriptures also say, “Do not test the Lord your God.”’”
Will I use my abilities to serve God and others or to gain for myself?
“Just when Rehoboam was at the height of his popularity and power, he abandoned the Lord, and the people followed him in this sin.” 2 Chron. 12:1 (LB)
“Praise is the test of character.” Pr. 27:21 (NEB)
“... Let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Then we won't need to look for honors and popularity...” Gal. 5:25-26 (LB)
“If you will humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, in his good time He will lift you up.” 1 Peter 5:6 (LB)
3. THE __________ TEST
“Then the devil… showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and all their splendor, and said, ‘If you’ll bow down and worship me, I’ll give you all these things.’ Jesus said, ‘Go away from me, Satan! It is written “You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.”’” Matt. 4:8-11 (NCV)
Do I value on earth more than in heaven?
“What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” Matt. 16:26 (NIV)
“Use your money to do good...give generously to those in need, always being ready to share with others whatever God has given you. By doing this you will be storing up real treasure for yourselves in heaven--it is the only safe investment for eternity! And you will be living a fruitful Christian life down here as well.” 1 Tim. 6:18-19 (LB)
“When the Devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came.” Luke 4:13 (NLT)
Every time you pass a test, you’re given
“Then Jesus returned to Galilee, and the power of the Holy Spirit was with him... He stood up to read the Scriptures and was handed the book of Isaiah. He found the place where it is written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has chosen me -- to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives, to recover the sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, and announce the time has come when the Lord will save his people.’”
Luke 4:14-19 (TEV)
THE TEMPTATIONS OF LEADERSHIP
Pastor William D. Tyree, III
November 5, 2005
God never asks you to do anything that He doesn’t give you the ability and the power to do. The same is true of leadership. God doesn’t ask you to be a leader unless He gives you the abilities to lead, the opportunities to lead, the resources to lead and the people to lead. He won’t ask you to be a leader without giving you the gifts of leadership. That’s what those things are – opportunities, abilities, resources, and people.
That’s the upside of leadership. God gives you those gifts to do it.
The downside is Satan always tries to pervert anything that God gives you. Satan has never created anything original in his life. All he can do is pervert the gifts that God gives us. God gave us sex – Satan tries to pervert it. God gave us marriage – Satan tries to pervert it. God gave us the ability to make money – Satan tries to pervert it. God gave us all the things we have in life, every good gift came from God. Satan tries to abuse and misuse whatever God gives us.
God will give you these gifts, these abilities, to lead other people and influence others. But Satan will try to tempt you to use them for your own benefit. To use them for selfish purposes.
Of course the papers are full of stories like Enron and other scandals where we have leadership abuse and leadership misuse. Very talented people using their abilities for the wrong reasons and in selfish ways.
Today we’re going to end this series on “21st Century Living” by looking at the “Temptations of Leadership.” Matthew 4:1 “Then the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” Circle “then.” It says “Then the Spirit led Jesus into the desert (into the wilderness) to be tempted. What happened before so that he says then? You’ve got to go back and understand what happened just immediately before this to understand the context of these temptations. The Bible says this in Matthew 3:16-4:1 “As soon as Jesus was baptized He went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon Him and a voice from heaven said, ‘This is My Son whom I love and with whom I am well pleased.’ Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.”
This is very important. Notice the timing of temptation. After every mountaintop there’s a valley. After every spiritual high there’s a spiritual low. This is going to happen in your life. You can count on it. After a time of success with God you’re going to have a time of tempting with the devil. After a time of really feeling good about God, right after that, you’re going to be tempted. You could be here in this service today and have a real wonderful experience with God and blow it in the parking lot. So temptation could come that quick. After every high there could be a low.
And actually this is right after a spiritual experience. He’s had this moment us baptism. It’s Jesus’ coming out party. It says, “After He came up out of the water…” He was baptized the way we baptize here at First Baptist Church, Berkley, putting Him under the water and bringing Him up – by immersion. It says heaven opens up. The Holy Spirit comes down like a dove. A voice from heaven. This is pretty spectacular stuff. What an affirmation! Jesus has to feel good. “This is My Son,” God says.
What happens? Right after that He goes into a desert experience, lonely, by Himself, to be tempted by the devil. That’s going to happen in your life. The temptation often comes after an affirmation.
But it also comes right before you begin leadership. Because after this incident happened that we’re going to look at today, the temptation of Jesus, Jesus began His leadership. The first thing He does after the temptation is He starts His ministry, He starts serving, He starts leading.
The same is going to happen in your life. God says, I want you to be a leader. You feel God saying, I want to use you to make a difference in the world. Then you’re going to be tested. Then you’re going to begin your leadership in the world, your ministry in the world.
There are three basic temptations. You’re going to fight all three of them the rest of your life. The first one tests your maturity, the second one tests your integrity, and the third one tests your priorities.
1. The first temptation of leadership is what I call the Pain and Pleasure Test.
If you’re going to be a leader you’re going to have your pain and pleasure tested. This reveals your maturity. Why? Let me give you a definition of maturity. Maturity is the ability to endure pain and to delay pleasure. That’s the mark of maturity. Emotional maturity is the ability to endure pain and to delay pleasure. In other words, you do the hard stuff before you get to do the easy stuff. Immature people just want to do the easy stuff. They have no patience. They’re impatient. They’re impulsive. They don’t know how to wait, how to delay gratification. They’ve got to have it now. They’re impatient and impulsive.
The best example of this is a baby. A baby doesn’t know how to wait. A baby cries instantly. It’s frustrated. It’s unhappy. It is thwarted. It’s not having its needs met. It doesn’t know how to endure pain and it doesn’t know how to delay pleasure. It’s immature. That’s why one of the goals of parenting is to teach your children the difference between “no” and “not yet.” They are different. You have to teach your kids how to wait for pleasure. You get desert after the meal not before the meal.
We live in a very immature culture today. Would you agree with that? We live in a culture that does not know how to wait. We want everything and we want it all now. We’re very impulsive and very immature. We don’t know how to delay gratification. People say, Why should I have to wait until marriage to have sex? Why should I have to wait to buy this thing that I want, even though I don’t have the money for it. I can just put it on credit. Why should I have to wait until I have the money? Why should I deny myself any pleasure if I can have it now?” That is immaturity.
Most of the problems of our culture – in fact, I would say almost all the problems in American culture – come from our inability to delay gratification. It always causes problems. Things like our national debt. Why is our nation in so much debt? Because we pay for stuff we can’t afford, because we want it now not later. And other major problems like unwanted pregnancies – that’s because of delayed gratification. Or AIDS – I don’t know how to delay gratification. All of these things come from the inability to say, “I can wait.” Maturity is having the character to delay gratification. You’ll never be much of a leader until you learn how to endure pain and how to delay pleasure to do the tough stuff before you do the easy stuff.
Let’s look at this temptation – Matthew 4:2-4 “For forty days Jesus ate nothing and He became very hungry. [That’s an understatement! If you had fasted for forty days, would you be hungry? I think so! You’d be starving. You’d be famished. In this moment of weakness, in this moment of low resistance – He’s tired, He’s hungry, He’s lonely, He hasn’t eaten for forty days, in that moment Satan comes to Him. This is what the devil says] Then the devil said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, change these stones to loaves of bread.’ But Jesus said, ‘The scripture says, “People need more than bread for their life. They must feed on every word of God.”’”
What’s going on here in this temptation? Jesus is tired and hungry. He hasn’t eaten for forty days. He’s been on a fast. The devil comes, “You’re God. See these stones here on the desert floor? Why don’t You just do a miracle and turn them into little loaves of bread. You can eat them and You’ll be full.” What’s wrong with that? What’s so bad about that idea? Was it wrong for Jesus to be hungry? No. Was it wrong for Him to want something to eat? No. Did He have the ability to turn stones into bread? Yes. So what’s the big deal?
There are two major problems.
First, He’s being tempted to use His abilities for selfish reasons. God didn’t give Jesus miracle working power just so He can serve Himself and be comfortable. This isn’t Bruce Almighty. If you’ve seen that movie where God gives Jim Carrey power and he started changing everything in his life to the way he likes it. God didn’t give Jesus miracle working power just to make His life comfortable and do self-serving miracles.
The same is true with you. God has given you some good abilities, you have some talents. You have some abilities. But God didn’t give them to you for your benefit. He didn’t. He gave them to you for the benefit of other people. The talents and the abilities that other people have they’re not for their benefit. They’re for your benefit. God wired the universe in such a way that we need each other so we wouldn’t be selfish. My talents and my abilities are for your benefit, not for me to have big ego about or to serve myself. And your talents and abilities are not for you. They are to serve other people. The purpose for strength is for service not for status.
1 Peter 4:10 “Each of you has been blessed with some of God’s many wonderful gifts [that’s the talents you’ve got, the way you’re shaped] to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well.” I’ll be tempted where I’m gifted. What does that mean? It means that the devil doesn’t just tempt you in your weaknesses, he tempts you in your strengths. We think the devil tempts us in our weaknesses. Yes, he does. But he also tempts you in the things that you’re good at. The devil doesn’t mind you being good at things as long as you just don’t do it for God. You don’t even have to do it for the devil. He just says do it for yourself. To make yourself famous, to make yourself rich, to make yourself important, to make yourself comfortable. He says, Just keep using your talents and abilities but only use it for you. God didn’t give them for your benefit. He gave them so you could serve God and His purposes and so you could serve others. So he’ll say use the talents you’ve got, just use them in the wrong way.
Have any of you ever been tempted to turn stones into bread? No. Why? Because you don’t have that ability. But you’ve got some other abilities that the devil’s tried to use. For instance, if you’re really good at speaking – you’re articulate – then he’s going to tempt you to dominate other people with the way you talk. With your words. If you’re really persuasive, he’s going to tempt you to manipulate and use other people with your persuasiveness and use it for yourself. If you’re smart, intelligent, he’s going to tempt you to look down on people who aren’t smart and intelligent. If you’re good at athletics, he’s going to tempt you to use your athletic ability to boost your ego. He says I don’t mind you using your talents – just do it for the wrong reason. Do it for the wrong goal. God didn’t give you your abilities for your benefit. They’re for other people. And Satan will tempt you in your strengths. Whatever you’re good at he’s going to say, I want you to do that, I just don’t want you to use it for God.
Not only was this a temptation to use abilities for selfish purposes,
It was also a temptation to not wait on God to meet my needs. Here’s the first test: when I’m empty or when I’m hurting or when I’m confused, here’s the test – will I trust God to meet my needs or will I rush to satisfy them my way?
Satan comes to Jesus and says, “Jesus, You’re hungry. You need some food. You haven’t eaten for forty days. But God’s not going to take care of You. God’s not going to bring food to You. You’ve got to do this Yourself. You’ve got to take matters into Your own hands. It’s up to You. You know the old phrase, if it’s to be, it’s up to me.” Satan says to Jesus, “As the Bible says, ‘God helps those who help themselves.’” Friends! The Bible doesn’t say that. Ben Franklin said that. And he was wrong. God doesn’t help those who help themselves. God helps those who trust Him. Saying, “God helps those who helps themselves,” is saying, “I’ll just do it myself and then give God the credit.” That’s not faith. God helps those who trust Him. Not who take matters into their own hands and say, “I can’t depend on God. It’s up to me. I’ve got to gratify myself.”
I wonder what stones you’ve been trying to turn into bread in your life. You’ve got some unmet needs. You’ve got some unmet sexual needs. You’ve got some unmet financial needs. You’ve got some unmet relational needs and emotional needs. You’ve got some unmet needs in your career or your education, your job. Where are you trying to turn stones to bread and meet your own needs your way rather than God’s?
That’s the first temptation. Am I going to wait and trust God to meet my needs or am I going to say, No, I’ve got to take matters into my own hands.
Let me give you a little tip. Whenever you hear anybody say to you or you think in your mind, “You’ve got to think of yourself first.” That is a temptation. When you hear anybody say, “You’ve got to think of yourself! You’ve got to put yourself first!” That is a temptation. God’s not telling you that. That’s coming from the devil. He’s saying be self-centered. Think about you. God warns us in the Bible over and over again, I’ll meet your needs. But I’m not going to meet them if you take matters into your own hands and try to do it yourself and short circuit it and get in a hurry and don’t trust Me. Jeremiah 2:13 says this “My people have done two evil things. They’ve forsaken Me, the fountain of living water. And they’ve dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can’t hold water at all.” You know hat a cistern is? In a poor country it’s a hole dug in the ground that they fill up with rainwater. It’s not a well. It’s just a hole in the ground to hold water and it gets all dank and putrid and it’s not fresh water at all. God says, You know what people who try to meet their own needs instead of wait on Me are doing? I’m the source of living water, all the water you could want. But instead of accepting that, you turn your back on Me and go over here and dig a hole in the ground and put a bunch of putrid water in it and that’s leaking out of the ground and you’re not going to have anything left any way. You’re going to be in pain.
Some of you right now are in the dark. You’re confused. You have needs in your life that are unmet. You’re going to go, “I just don’t see how God’s going to meet this need. I don’t see how I’m ever going to get a husband. I don’t see how I’m ever going to have a baby. I don’t see how I’m ever going to get a job. I don’t see how I’m ever going to get out of debt.” You are confused. And Satan’s going to tempt you to turn some stones into bread. That’s short-circuit and do it your way. What do you do when you’re in the dark?
The Bible says, “Let him who walks in the dark and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on God.” Then he says, “But you who live in your own light and warm yourselves from your own fires and not from God’s will live among sorrow.” You go out here and try to make your own light, build your own campfire and you don’t trust in the light of the world you’re going to end up in so much pain and so much sorrow and you’re going to hurt yourself when you try to turn stones into bread.
So what’s the antidote to this first test, this pain and pleasure test. The antidote is two words – trust God. You trust God when things don’t make sense.
Matthew 6 Jesus said this “Don’t worry. Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. [Circle “all.” God knows all your needs that means He knows your emotional needs, your financial needs, your sexual needs, your physical needs, your health needs. He knows every single need in your life.] And He will give you all you need from day to day if you live for Him and make the kingdom of God your primary concern.” Circle “if.” Here’s the challenge. God says, If you will make Me number one in your life and you will make My kingdom, My purposes for your life the number one concern of your life (and I doubt that is in your life – is it number one? It may be important. Living for God is part of my life. It’s important but it’s not number one. It’s not more important than everything else.) He says if you will make it number one in your life and you say, every step of faith, every sacrifice, everything I do, it’s all for You. He says, I guarantee I will meet all your needs.
If you don’t believe that verse you should just take a pair of scissors or an Exacto knife and open it up to Matthew and cut it out of your Bible because you don’t believe it. A lot of people who claim to be followers of Christ and claim to believe in God act like atheists. “I don’t really believe God will take care of all my needs. I believe I’ve got to take care of them myself. So I’m going to come up with my way which is always an inferior way to meet my needs instead of doing it God’s way.” God says, “If you wait and you trust, I will meet all your needs.”
Notice the next verse “Then the devil went away and angels came and cared for Jesus.” Did you know that angels are real? You don’t see them. But the Bible says that the purpose of angels is to care for and protect and to minister to those who believe in Christ and follow Him – for God’s children. You don’t know all the things you’ve avoided because angels kept you out of it. They protected you. In this situation God waited until after the test to provide the answer to Jesus’ need, to send help. He did send help but He waited until after the test.
In your life it’s the same thing. God is waiting to see if you are going to trust Him about those unmet needs in your life. “Will you trust Me or will you try to turn stones to bread? Will you trust Me or will you accept the world’s way of dealing with this problem? Will you trust Me?” When you say, “God, everything I have, ever sacrifice, ever step of my life, it’s all for You. You are the supreme goal of my life.” If you do that He says, “I will meet your needs.”
Here’s the second test, the second test that every leader goes through. If you’re going to be a leader you’re going to go through this temptation many, many times. And also you’re just going to go through it in life.
2. The Popularity and Praise Test.
This is the second big temptation in life. The Popularity and Praise Test reveals your integrity. The Pain and Pleasure test reveals your maturity. The Popularity and Praise Test reveals your integrity.
What is integrity? Integrity is when your belief matches your behavior. What you say is what you actually do. You don’t say one thing and do another. When you have integrity what you are in public is the way you are in private and everywhere else. You don’t act one way here and another way there and another way over here. No, they’re all integrated together. You are consistent. If you’re going to be a leader that people can follow and trust, you have to be consistent. You have to have credibility, which comes from integrity.
The truth is there are very few things that reveal integrity more than success. Success puts you in the spotlight and people can see you warts and all. We know a lot more about our leaders than we know about our neighbors because they’re in the spotlight. It’s often easier to handle failure than it is to handle success. It’s often easier to handle failure than it is to handle fame. Because of the spotlight.
I don’t know if you noticed it but when people succeed it changes them. Not always for the better. When people become famous it often changes people, not for the better. In fact, I’ve seen it destroy a lot of people. They can’t handle it. You know about movie stars and sports stars and people who get instant fame. They go off the deep end and all of a sudden they’re addicted to heroin or crack and all kinds of stuff. They can’t handle the pressure of popularity and praise. They don’t have the maturity and they don’t have the integrity in order to handle this second test.
Leadership has some benefits to it. As you grow as a leader you get benefits of position and the benefits of privilege and the benefits of power. All three of those can be misused and abused in terrible ways. You can destroy yourself and your family and everybody else.
Let’s look at the second test. Popularity and Praise Test.
“Then the devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, set Him on the highest point of the temple [the pinnacle of the temple which was the tallest building in the city] and he said, ‘If You are God’s Son, throw Yourself down for the scripture says God will give orders to His angels and they’ll hold You up with their hands. So even not Your feet will be hurt. Jesus said, ‘The scripture also says, “Don’t test the Lord your God.”’”
Notice again: I want you to first see that Satan can quote scripture. Satan goes, “Doesn’t the Bible say,” and actually the verse he says here to Jesus the part about angels will hold You up and You won’t even be hurt if You fall down, that’s actually in the Bible. It’s Psalm 90:11-12. But he misquotes it. He twists it. He takes it out of context. That’s what cults do. They take a verse of the Bible and they twist it to mean something that was never meant. What it doesn’t mean is go out there and do any old goofy thing you want and God will protect you. And that’s what he’s trying to make it mean.
As I said, angels are assigned to protect you. You don’t even know it. They’re invisible guardians that help you. But what they don’t do is they will not stop you from making a foolish choice. That’s not their role. For instance, if I decide to go out here and get on the freeway in the middle of rain and go 190 miles an hour and say, “Angels, you better help me.” They got off at the last off ramp. They were scared. They’re not dumb. So I can’t go driving like a mad man and say, God’s got to protect me. Or I can’t pick up a bunch of arsenic and drink it and say, God, You better protect me. No, that’s kind of like holding God hostage.
You need to understand the difference, and most people don’t, between faith and presumption. They’re not the same. Here’s what faith is. When God tells you to do something and it feels really hard to do and it doesn’t make sense but God told you to do it. And then you go do it, that’s called faith. When you think up some goofy idea on your own and you go out and do it and then you expect God to bail you out that’s called presumption. Understand the difference? Let’s say I go out here and go blow a bunch of money, go spend $250,000 on all my credit cards on some frivolous project. Buy yacht or something. Then I get so in debt I go, “God, You’ve got to get me out of debt!” And God’s going, “I didn’t get you into debt. You were presumptuous.” That’s not faith.
There’s some guys on tv right now teaching like God is your genie. He’s not your genie. He’s God. He’s not obligated to bail you out of all the problems you’ve got yourself into. Some people make it like, Whatever you ask God He has to give you. No, He doesn’t. God is God and you’re not.
So what’s going on here in this temptation.
First, it’s the temptation to presume on God’s grace. To hold God hostage and say, “God, if I go do this You’ve got to protect me.” No, He doesn’t. God is not your genie.
It’s also a temptation to draw attention to yourself. And this is a real big temptation to leaders. When we try to draw attention to ourselves and think it’s about us instead of about God. It’s a temptation to impress, a temptation to show off.
The devil comes to Jesus and says, “We know You’re God. So how about this? I’m going to take You up on the tallest building of the city. Here’s the plan. You jump off and on Your way down, the angels will catch You. It’ll be spectacular. Then everybody will know that You’re God and they’ll give You glory and honor. It’ll be a real show. You’ve got to admit – this’ll be spectacular. There will be a lot of applause. ”
What’s wrong with that? Was it wrong for Jesus to receive glory? No. Was it wrong for Him to get the applause and the praise of men? No. In fact, the Bible says the whole universe was created for the glory of God. And that one day we’re all going to spend time bringing glory and praise to God. And every knee will bow and confess that Jesus is the Lord and everybody’s going to eventually praise Him. But it wasn’t God’s plan. This is the wrong way and the wrong time.
God’s plan was that Jesus Christ would come to earth and get glory by dying on a cross, not jumping off a building. One of them is to show off. The other is to sacrifice. One of them is spectacular. The other is sacrificial. Jesus did not come to earth to show off, to do little miracles – walk on Herod’s pool or something like that. No. He came to sacrifice.
And, by the way, this is the difference between leaders or heroes and celebrities. I keep trying to drill this in because I want you to understand. We have this celebrity culture in our world. Celebrities are famous for doing something spectacular. They do a movie a show or break a sports record. They do something spectacular. Heroes are people who are praised because they did something sacrificial they did it for somebody else’s benefit.
I hate to tell you this but there’s not a single sports star who’s a hero. Or a single movie star who’s hero. They’re celebrities. They do it for their own benefit. They break records, like how many home runs not for helping anybody else. They do it because they love the game. They do it because they get paid to do it. They do it because they have the personal motivation. Maybe they want to the glory from it. But they’re certainly not doing it to help anybody. It’s just for personal, selfish reasons. So they’re not heroes. They’re celebrities. Heroes are people we honor because they gave their lives to do something for somebody else. They did something unselfish and that’s why we honor them.
Here’s the heart of this temptation. Will I use my abilities to serve God and others or to gain prominence and approval for myself? That’s the second temptation. Will I use my abilities, what God has given me, my talents, to serve God and others or to gain prominence and approval for myself?
It’s a temptation to draw attention to yourself. Jump off the temple and everybody will love you. It’s also a temptation to not do it in God’s timing. To get glory ahead of schedule. As I said, God’s plan is to give His Son glory. But this was the wrong way and the wrong time. And Satan goes, “I know He’s God. I know He’s going to get glory. If I can’t get Him to get it in the wrong way, at least I’ll speed it up. Let’s just speed up the time table a little bit, Jesus. I know You’re going to go to the cross. But first, why don’t You jump off the temple and everybody will think that’s cool.”
Temptation is always a short cut. It’s often a short cut to a legitimate goal. To have a need met. But the ends do not justify the means. It may be the right goal but it’s not the right way or it’s not the right time.
You have certain abilities. And you have certain opportunities and you live in a free country. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do something. Leaders know this. True leaders. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. There are a lot of things that I can do. But as a leader I don’t do them. Why? Not because they’re necessarily wrong. But because they’re just not necessary. I want my life to count. As a leader people expect you to hold a higher standard.
But you say it’s my private life. It’s my life. I’m not hurting anybody. Yes you are! Because you always have influence. And you influence the people in your life around you. That’s what leadership is. Leadership is influence. When you influence people you either influence them for good or for bad. And you are a leader.
You say, “But it’s my private life!” If you compartmentalize your life into public and private and you don’t think they have anything to do with each other you’re dead wrong. If you think, This is the way I act with the guys. And this is the way I act at work. And this is the way I act at home. And this is the way I act on the golf course. And this is the way I act at church. And you have compartmentalized your life. You do not have integrity.
Because integrity means it’s all integrated. It’s wholeness. That you’re exactly what you appear to be in public or in private. You’re the real deal. You’re authentic. You’re not phony. You’re not a fake. You act the same way with your kids as you do with CEOs. And you act the same way with Christians as you do with non-Christians. You live a life of integrity because it’s integrated and your life is not in neat little compartments and you say, “This is my sex life over here… and this is my spiritual life over here… this is my financial life over here…” No. They’re all integrated together. That is integrity.
This is a problem so many people fall into. That’s why we have so few leaders today – real genuine leaders.
There was a leader in the Bible named Rehoboam. He started off great but he let pride and he let popularity and he let praise go to his head. The Bible says in 2 Chronicles 12 “Just when Rehoboam was at the height of his popularity and power he abandoned the Lord. [He thought, “I don’t need to worry. I’ve got it good. I’m successful! I live the good life.” He abandoned the Lord] And the people followed him in this sin.” When leaders mess up it hurts others. It hurts others in the business, it hurts others in the family, it hurts others in the political party, it hurts others in the community, it hurts others in the church when leaders mess up.
That’s why the Bible says in Proverbs 27:21 “Praise is the test of character.” How do you handle compliment? Do you let them all go to your head? Praise is the test of character.
So what’s the antidote? What’s the antidote to the popularity and praise test? How do you keep it from going to your head? Have you noticed this, that normal people, you give them a little bit of power and they go crazy. You’ve got a great neighbor. Then all of a sudden he becomes head of the homeowner association. Brother! Or your best friend becomes president of the PTA and they’re a little Saddam, running everything! Or all of a sudden somebody in your business gets elected to be head of a task force and they run it with an iron fist. Or in the classroom. Somebody’s put at the head of a work group or project. I don’t know what it is but normally nice people, you give them a little bit of popularity or power or position and they just go goofy! Why is that? What’s the antidote?
There are only two antidotes to the Praise and Popularity Test.
The first one is Galatians 5. “Let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Then we won’t need to look for honors and popularity.” Here’s the first thing you do. You want to win over this one? Listen to God! That’s the first antidote. Listen to God’s voice instead of listening to other people’s voices. Don’t listen to popular opinion. Popular opinion is often wrong. But you say, “Everybody’s doing it!” So what? “Everybody’s taking this. Everybody’s doing this. Everybody’s going there.” So what? You listen to God, follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part (that’s integrity) every part of our lives, then we won’t need to look for honors and popularity. You don’t need it. You don’t need the award. You don’t need the honor. It doesn’t matter. As I said before, one minute you’re a hero. The next minute you’re a zero. It doesn’t last anyway. So never spend any time on fame.
So listen to God. The other thing you do to beat this test is to practice humility. 1 Peter 5:6 “If you will humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God in His good time, He will lift you up.” God says I will bring you to a position of prominence if you humble yourself before Me in the right way. Notice it says, humble yourself. That’s something you choose to do. Don’t ever pray, “God, please humble me!” You don’t ever need to pray it. You don’t. In fact, never in the Bible are you told to pray, “God, please humble me.” Instead we’re told over and over to humble yourself. It’s something you do to yourself. You humble yourself.
What is humility? Humility is not denying your strengths. You’ve got a bunch of strengths. It’s being honest about your weaknesses. You’re a bundle of strengths and weaknesses. Humility is being honest about both. Humility, another word for it is dependence. You say, “God, I am so dependent upon You. I can’t lead this family without You. I can’t lead this business without You. I can’t lead this team without You. I can’t lead this small group without You. I can’t lead this community without You. I can’t lead my friends without You. I am dependent on You. You’re going to have to help.” The Bible says, “If you humble yourself He will lift you up.”
By the way, let me give you a little tip. I don’t know if you’ve ever prayed to God on your knees but I highly recommend it. I’m not talking about praying on your knees in church. I’m not even talking about praying on your knees with your family or your small group where other people see you, because that sometimes can be showing off. But you pray by yourself on your knees. Find a time, get alone with God and get on your knees and pray for three or four minutes. Just tell God what’s on your heart. “God, I need Your help! These temptations, I don’t want to all for these things. I need Your help.” Getting on your knees is a position of reverence. It’s a sign of humility. It’s a demonstration of dependence when you’re saying, “God, just by being on my knees I’m saying, You are God and I’m not.” I remind myself of that. Leaders always find their strength on their knees.
Abraham Lincoln wrote this: “I have been driven many times to my knees in prayer with the overwhelming realization that I had no where else to go.” Driven to your knees.
Let me give you a little tip, a little secret. When you’re on your knees it is impossible to fall. “Pride goes before destruction. And a haughty spirit before a fall.” But when you’re on your knees it is impossible to fall. So try it. This week. Get on your knees and pray.
If you’re going to be a leader, one that God can use, there’s a third test and this one’s a big one. I call it…
3. The Prosperity and Possessions test.
The first one Pain and Pleasure measures your maturity. The second one Popularity and Praise measures your integrity. This one, Prosperity and Possessions, measures your priorities.
A couple chapters later after this incident, Jesus says in Matthew 6 “You cannot serve both God and money.” He didn’t say you should not. He said, you cannot. You can’t worship God and worship money at the same time. You can’t have God as the number one goal of your life and making money as the number one goal of your life at the same time. Only one can be number one. You cannot love God and love money at the same time. Something has to be number one and something else has to fall later in the order and scheme.
Let’s look at the third test “Then the devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and all their splendor. And he said, ‘If You’ll bow down and worship me, I’ll give You all these things.’ [Circle the phrase “all these things.” He’s talking about possessions – things. All these things. “I’ll give you all the prosperity in the world.”] Jesus said, ‘Go away from Me, Satan. It’s written, “You must worship the Lord your God and serve only Him.”’” Nothing else is worth worshipping except God.
Again, I want you to notice some stuff about this temptation. First, in all three temptations, Jesus answers by quoting scripture. Even when Satan quoted scripture to Him. Satan goes, “Why don’t You do this?” And he quotes a scripture. Jesus quotes one back. Satan says, “Why don’t You do this?” Jesus quotes another scripture. Satan says, “Why don’t you do this?” And Jesus quotes another scripture.
Why is He doing that? He’s modeling for us how to resist temptation. You don’t resist temptation with your own opinions. You resist it by knowing what the Bible says and remind yourself of that. So when he puts an idea in your mind you say, “Yeah, but the Bible says…”
Notice, Jesus had these verses memorized. He didn’t pull out His pocket Old Testament and say, “I know somewhere over here in the Bible it says do this instead of this.” No. He knew exactly where it was. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not, but when you’re tempted there’s rarely a Bible in your hand. You don’t carry them into the bathroom or the movie theater or work or to the game. No. When you’re tempted it’s setting at home, looking very nice on your shelf. And that is worthless. This is the sword of God. It’s what you fight with. You need to have it memorized.
Let me say this as clear as I can say it. If you’re serious, serious about God’s purpose for your life, the most important thing you can do – to avoid temptation, to handle temptation, the most important thing you can do to defeat temptation is memorize some verses out of this book. If you get tempted regularly by anger you need to memorize some verses on anger. If you get tempted regularly by being impatient or shooting off your mouth, then you need to memorize some verses on watching what you say. If you get regular tempted by lust or jealousy or greed or pride or whatever, you need to think of and memorize some verses that have to do with that. So that when the devil puts an idea in your mind, a temptation, you go, “Yeah but here’s the inspiration. This is what God says.” Without that you’re shooting blanks
The devil is not afraid of your opinion. But he does fear the word of God because it’s the truth. So memorize scripture.
You say, “I can’t do that!” Of course you can. You memorize whatever’s important to you. I know people who say, “I can’t memorize anything!” But they have every sport statistic for the last three years in the NFL. “I can’t memorize statistics. But they can tell you exactly how far it is to the next putting green on that fairway. Or they can tell you the stock quotes. Or they can tell you recipes that they do from memory. Or they can tell you all kinds of gossip that they’ve memorized. Or they can tell you phone numbers. You memorize what’s important to you. If the Bible is important – God’s word – you’ll memorize it.
What’s going on with this temptation? The devil comes and says, “Jesus, I’m just asking one tiny, tiny thing. If You’ll just bow down and worship me, just one time, I’ll give You all the wealth of the world.” It’s interesting but Jesus doesn’t even challenge Satan. He doesn’t say, “You don’t even own the wealth of the world.” No. He just says, “Don’t tempt God. You should only worship God.”
What is this? This is a temptation and it’s going to happen with you too, to compromise your purpose and mission in life. That’s what it is. It’s a temptation to compromise your purpose and mission.
Jesus was sent to earth not to be wealthy but to save the world. You were put on this planet not to just acquire a bunch of things but to make the difference with your life. And the temptation is this. Satan says, “Jesus, isn’t money more important than Your mission? Isn’t possessions more important than Your purpose? I’ll give You everything. You’ll have it made if You’ll just sell Your soul to me.” That’s what this temptation is. It’s the sellout to materialism. To money, to wealth.
Do you know anybody who’s done that? I do. You know anybody who’s sold out their family in order to make more money? I do. Do you know anybody who’s sold out their own health in order to make more money? I do. Do you know anybody who’s sold out their eternity in heaven in order to make more money? I do.
This is the test of what’s going to matter. Here’s the heart of the temptation. Do I value wealth on earth more than eternal reward in heaven? You’ve got to decide. Do I value wealth on earth more than eternal reward in heaven?
Jesus was crystal clear about this and in Matthew 16 He said this “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world yet forfeits his soul.” You’re not put on earth just to get bunch of things that you’re going to leave behind anyway the moment you die. You’re going to spend far more time in eternity than here. You need to be storing up treasure in heaven. How do you do that?
What is the antidote to the Possessions and Prosperity test? There’s only one answer to it. Generosity. Generosity is the antidote to the third temptation. Generosity. Every time you are generous you break the grip of money in your life. Every time you give away money. You give it to some poor person on the street. You help the homeless. You help the tsunami victims. You give your tithe at church. You give an offering. You support some charity. You help anybody who’s in need. Anytime you give money away you are breaking the grip of materialism in your life. Why? Because materialism, the third great temptation, is all about getting – “I’ve got to get all I can. I’m scared to death to let it go. I’ve got to hoard it because I might not have enough. I don’t really trust God with my needs so I’ve got to save and I’ve got to hoard and it’s get, get, get, get. Get all you can, can all you get, sit on the can and spoil the rest.” That’s materialism. I’ll get it all. How do you break the grip of materialism? How do you keep from being a material girl? You give. It’s the only antidote. You give. It breaks every time I give. It doesn’t matter if I give a buck or a million bucks. I break the grip of money in my life.
It’s generosity that’s the antidote. 1 Timothy 6:18-19 says this “Use your money to do good.” Circle “use.” Money is meant to be used not loved. You use money and you love people and you love God. If you use money you’re going to love people. But if you love money you’re going to use people. Because you’re going to end up using them to make more money. And you’re going to try to even use God. You love God and you use money. You don’t use God and love money.
The Bible says this, “Use your money to do good. Give generously to those in need always be ready to share with others what God has given to you. By doing this you’ll be storing up real treasure for yourselves in heaven. It is the only safe investment for eternity and you will be living a fruitful Christian life down here as well.” God says every time you give money away you’re banking it in heaven. You help a poor person, you’re banking it in heaven. You’re storing up treasure in heaven forever and ever and ever. And He says that’s an investment that’s never going away. You’re never going to loose it. The stock market’s not going to go down on that one.
Let’s summarize this. These three temptations are going to happen in your life and they all represent an attack on the nature of God.
The first one is an attack on the sufficiency of God. It is a temptation to doubt the sufficiency of God. The first temptation says “I don’t really believe God will take care of my needs so I’ve got to go out here and figure out a way to turn some stones to bread because I don’t think God’s going to meet my needs.” You doubt the sufficiency of God.
The second is the temptation to abuse the sovereignty of God. That’s this: “I’m going to go out here and do something really stupid and then expect God to bail me out.” Ever heard somebody say something like that. “I know it’s wrong but I’m going to go ahead and do it anyway because I know God will forgive me.” When I hear that I want to say, “What kind of fool do you think God is?” “I know it’s wrong but I’m going to go ahead and do it anyway because I know He’ll forgive me. That is an abuse of the sovereignty of God.
The third temptation is to reject the sanctity of God. Sanctity means only God is worthy of worship. You shouldn’t worship anything else. Don’t worship any person, don’t worship any thing, don’t worship any event, don’t worship any religion. You should only worship God. I’m going to put God over everything else.
Let me give you some bad news and some good news as I close this. Here’s the bad news. You’re never going to outgrow temptation. I hate to tell you that. But you’re going to have it the rest of your life. Luke 4:13 “When the devil had finished tempting Jesus he left Him until the next opportunity came.” Don’t you wish he’d left off that last part? Don’t you wish you could go through the test one time and then be a leader the rest of your life and it’d be easy? You will be tempted the rest of your life. You’ll never get so strong that things don’t bother you any more. In fact, the stronger you grow in the Lord the more Satan hates you. He wants to fight you. He’s going to try to get you down.
But don’t be intimidated. Don’t ever be intimidated by temptation. It’s not a sin to be tempted. Jesus was tempted. He didn’t sin. It’s not a sin to be tempted. It’s sin to give in to temptation. So when the devil puts a thought in your mind and you go, “I shouldn’t have a thought like that!” Of course you shouldn’t. But it didn’t come from you. It came from the devil. So don’t be intimated by it. He’s just trying to mess you up.
Realize that temptation is always an opportunity to grow spiritually. We always think that temptation is an opportunity to do bad. But it’s also an opportunity to do good. If I’m tempted to be unfaithful, when I choose faithfulness, guess what? I’ve just grown! So temptation is always an opportunity to be a stepping stone to growth rather than a stumbling block into sin. God says you can use this for good.
That’s the bad news. You’re not going to outgrow it.
Here’s the good news. Every time you pass a test you get more power. Every time you pass a temptation you get more power. “Then Jesus returned to Galilee and the power of the Holy Spirit was with Him.” Notice the first verse of the outline says He was led by the Spirit into the temptation. When He comes out He’s not led. He’s in the power of the Spirit.
What’s that power for? Just so you can feel good? No, the power is for you to be a leader. The power is for you to influence others. The power is for you to help others. Strength is for service not for status.
When Jesus finishes the temptation He starts His public leadership. And what He says here is the very first public sermon He’s ever preached. He’s announcing to the whole world His agenda. He’s saying this is My purpose on earth. “Then Jesus returned to Galilee and the power of the Spirit was with Him. He stood up to read the scriptures and was handed the book of Isaiah. He found the place where it was written [in other words, He choose this intentionally and He says this] ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He’s chosen Me [He’s going to be a leader] to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives, to recover sight for the blind, to set free the oppressed, and to announce the time has come when the Lord will save His people.’”
Here are the three questions I have to ask you.
One, will I make God the primary concern of my life? Lord, I’m living for Your kingdom, for Your purpose for my life so I can trust You to meet all my needs because You’re number one in my life.
Two, will I dedicate my God-given abilities which came from Him anyway to serve God and others rather than just make a big name for myself, make lot of money, be comfortable, and use it all selfishly.
Three, will I value eternal rewards in heaven more than more important than making a lot of money here on earth. Will I put people before possessions?
God is raising up a group of ordinary people right here in this church that He intends to use to change the world and to impact the 21st century. I have no doubt in my mind about that. The only question is will you be a part of this history-making group. Or will you miss the opportunity of a century of your lifetime?
If you’d say, “I’m in!” Would you pray this prayer: “ Jesus, I want to be an influence for good and for God. I ask You to make me a leader and use me anytime, anyway for Your purposes. Help me to grow in maturity, to live with integrity, and to use my time and money with priority. I open my life completely to You. Come in and take over. In Your name I pray. Amen.”