I’ve been thinking about this note lately and wanted to send it again. It originally went out to the officers, but it applies to all of us as we pursue God. It’s also useful as we consider officer nominations in coming weeks. In the opening quote from 1 Tim 3, Paul is conflating the work of the enemy and the decline of a man’s character and reputation. Our sin is the work of the enemy, yet it’s still our sin.
“He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”
I know the enemy is after you, constantly grinding on you as an officer, though you may not be aware of it. Your habit may be to attribute certain difficulties in your life to relationships, difficult personalities, over-work, diet, exercise, health and so on. But the enemy is constantly working, and he’s working on you. The fact that you are tired, or distracted, or overwhelmed by other responsibilities when you try to read the Word or pray; the difficulty of fulfilling, or even thinking clearly about, your responsibilities as an elder or deacon; your occasional willful sin that distances you from God. In all these, Satan hopes to make you his means of undermining the Bride of Christ.
Satan knows that to destroy the Church, which he dearly desires to do, he must first destroy you. So that’s the mission: to destroy you. Without healthy leaders there are no healthy churches. He may destroy you by making you lukewarm in your faith, by seducing you to see the Church as a burden that encroaches on personal happiness, by thinking of the office as increasing your stature among men, by making you argumentative regarding certain doctrines or practices, or by convincing your wife to complain about your service. He will attempt all available means. He hates Jesus Christ and the entire idea of a gracious Redemption. And so he hates you—with a kind of absolute, seething hatred that you and I do not fully appreciate. If you don’t believe this, you’re just a casualty waiting to happen.
I encourage you to be on watch for signs: indifference about prayer, a disinterested mind and heart in worship, a contempt for certain people or aspects of the church’s life, assigning too much value to success at work, a growing interest in particular possessions, hobbies, or women besides your wife. Whatever the case, learn to ask yourself about any off-course actions or desires: “Why am I suddenly so interested/disinterested in that?” Paul’s point in the text above (from 1 Timothy 3) is that a man’s fall is Satan’s work; and Satan’s work is a man’s fall.
What can you do when attacked?
1) Go to God. William Guthrie says that to put on the armor of God is to “put on Christ.” Go straight to Christ. Ask his help and strength. Do this first.
2) Tell someone you trust the nature of your temptation or sin (Jas 5:16). Accountability is an incredibly powerful tool. Tell someone.
3) Preach the Gospel to yourself: By grace, you are a new Creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), not indwelt by the devil but by the Holy Spirit. He loved you before you were cleansed.
4) When tempted, know there is a way out. “…he will also provide the way of escape” (1 Cor 10:13). Say it to yourself: There is a way out.
I don’t know where exactly the Lord will take this church, but I do know our help and hope are in him. If you are beat down, it is likely Satan doing the beating. Go to Christ, knowing that “the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Pet 5:10).