I’ve seen it more times than I want to remember, and it’s the most tragic aspect of my labor for the Lord.
A spiritual leader goes from having a growing walk with the Lord and a healthy ministry to a seemingly sudden state of decline. Before you know it, his life is in pieces. He’s out of the ministry, his family is wounded and sometimes fragmented, and he is spiritually shipwrecked.
A Christian goes from spiritual growth and faithful service to a seemingly sudden apathy or antagonism toward the things of God. Soon, his family is divided, and his life is shattered.
How does it happen? How can a spiritual leader move from a strong and solid walk with God to a state of destruction?
As with almost any calamity, there are multiple aspects to consider. But in the Sunday morning message of our Winter Revival, Dr. John Goetsch so clearly drew the path we follow to this destruction. The steps he outlined resonated so strongly in my heart as what I have observed so many times, that I’m sharing them with you—as the warning that they are to all of us.
A little discontent
It all starts with a sin that we commonly excuse or overlook—discontent. And it doesn’t take a lot of it either. Just a little discontent will do the trick.
It worked for Eve.
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?—Genesis 3:1
No wonder God warns us against discontent! Discontent is not only wrong because we are wanting what God has not given; it is wrong because we believe that God Himself is not enough for us.
Hebrews 13:5 clearly links our contentment with our satisfaction in God alone: “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”
Contentment is a mark of godliness. First Timothy 6:6 points out, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”
A lustful distraction
Once the seed of discontent lodges in our minds, it takes only a slight distraction to turn our focus away from the Lord.
Eve, Achan, Sampson, and David all fell for temptation through a distraction that entered their eye-gates. Notice in the verses below the eyes as a launching point for temptation.
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.—Genesis 3:6
When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.—Joshua 7:21
Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her.—Judges 16:1
And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.—2 Samuel 11:2
And it all begins when we allow ourselves to be discontented with God. From that point, distractions come readily.
A lost discernment
Here is where the downward spiral becomes evident. A Christian who once seemed strong now struggles to see right from wrong. In fact, he may begin calling wrong right!
Considering 2 Peter 1:4, it’s easy to understand this progression. Here God tells us that it is through the “exceeding great and precious promises” in His Word that we escape “the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
Hebrews 5:14 further tells us that God’s Word gives us spiritual discernment and maturity: “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
A spiritual leader who has lost his discernment has surely also lost his personal time with God in His Word. He needs to hear the rebuke of Jesus, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29).
A lethal devouring
When your discernment is gone, it is only a matter of time before you become Satan’s prey.
This is why 1 Peter 5:8 cautions, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”
Satan is a defeated foe and can be conquered through the power of God. But what power does the undiscerning Christian have? He’s not sober or vigilant and has walked into Satan’s trap.
Stay off the path
As I’ve reflected on Dr. Goetsch’s message, I’m reminded anew of the gravity of discontent.
Could I urge you? If there is even a small discontent in your heart, turn from it! Look to Jesus, and recognize the fullness of who He is. Discontent in the heart is an evidence that we do not believe God alone is enough.
Are you finding lustful temptations particularly strong? Look deeper than the temptation, and you will find discontent. Eve would never have been lured into taking the fruit if she had simply rejoiced over the many trees of the garden God had given her to eat. Satan always works to pull our focus to what God has withheld. We would be less likely to fall for his temptations if we would instead focus on what God has given!
Don’t be devoured by Satan. Find your contentment in Jesus Christ, “for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” And He is enough!