Preachers: The Prey of the Lion
Jim Deason (Originally published in Biblical Insights)
In 1896 British Officer, Lt. Col. John Paterson, was sent to Africa to build a railroad bridge over Uganda’s Tsavo River. There was a sense of urgency in his commission because there were important deadlines to meet. He was confident that he could get the job done, but he didn’t figure two man-eating lions into the equation. They entered his camp at night, dragging away their victims, killing for food and later, seemingly for sport. His superstitious workers feared that they were actually not lions and began calling them ghosts. According to reports more than 130 people were killed by the lions in just a few months. Paterson finally killed them and their skins are on display today at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, IL.
Today, our battle is not with a physical lion. Our adversary is more fierce and more deadly. He is the devil “who prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). A real lion can only destroy the body but this spiritual foe is after your soul.
Therefore, this is a fight that you cannot afford to lose.
Biblical Insights is not a “preacher” paper. Its goal is to address a wide range of issues that are of interest to all Christians. Occasionally, however, it is important for those of us who preach to look at things in the light of the unique position we occupy. This is one of those times.
While I reject the pastor system found in denominationalism, it cannot be denied that preachers occupy prominent positions in local churches and are in the public eye. Preachers wield a lot of influence, affecting a lot people, both inside and outside of the congregations they serve. The scrutiny sometimes can be intense. The preacher is held to a high standard and should be, for Paul commanded him to, “show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:12).
Perhaps it is because preachers occupy such public positions that the devil seems to place special emphasis on us at times. The sin of a public servant can do immeasurable harm to the Lord’s cause in a community and Satan knows it! This, no doubt, is one of the reasons why
Paul wrote to one young evangelist concerning “how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God” (1 Tim. 3:15). His instructions then are timely for preachers today. There are certain “lions” about which the aged apostle gave specific instruction.
1. The lion of laziness. Paul encouraged Timothy to “discipline himself for the purpose of godliness” and “labor” in the gospel (1 Tim. 4:7,10). The young preacher was to “take pains” with his work and “be absorbed” in it. Unlike many whose time at work is controlled by others to whom they must give an account, for the most part a preacher’s time is under his control. It’s easy to be lazy and dereliction of duty may go, at least for a while, undetected by others. However, like its counterpart, hard work, it will eventually become “evident to all” 1 Tim. 4:15). Preacher, realize that you are to “do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward…” (Col. 2:23,24). Don’t succumb to the lion!
2. The lion of imbalance. Timothy was instructed to balance his preaching (2 Tim. 4:2). Reproof and rebuke are needed, but so also is exhortation and patient instruction. One of my heros in the faith, Rufus Clifford, Sr., used to call exhortation “scotching the work.” Mary Poppins sang, “A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Though there are certainly exceptions, generally, that is pretty good advice for those of us who preach. Balance in our approach adds credibility to our message. In addition, Paul felt it was important to declare “the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27). If you allow yourself to become a “one-note wonder,” if you are perceived to concentrate on one issue alone, your effectiveness as an evangelist is on the precipice of self-destruction. Songs have different notes for a reason. I understand that controversial issues must be addressed and that sometimes a single issue requires more time and attention than at other times. But, don’t forget about the need for balance. You may be fighting the devil on one front but he may be destroying more souls on another. Don’t succumb to the lion!
3. The lion of covetousness. Paul encouraged Timothy to remember that “godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment” (1 Tim. 6:6) and warned him that “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10). The young preacher was warned to “flee from these things” (1 Tim. 6:11). Most in our society have an insatiable appetite for things – and they want them NOW! The sad thing about this is that there are lending companies who will encourage you to mortgage your soul to feed that appetite. Indebtedness, fueled by covetousness, is eating away at the financial fabric of our society and preachers are not immune. The price of this indebtedness, however, is high. A wise man said, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave” (Prov. 22:7). What happens when you create such a financial mess that you can no longer meet your obligations? Is that not sinful on several different levels? What does it do to your reputation? What does it do to the reputation of the church in your community when they are faced with the report of debts you have left unpaid? I have a friend who is a Senior Vice-President of a prominent bank. He once told me that, when lending, a loan officer always must be concerned about the three “p’s”, one of which was preachers. Don’t succumb to the lion!
4. The lion of sexual temptation. Paul commanded the young evangelist to “flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness” (2 Tim. 2:22). Earlier in his life the apostle had warned the Corinthians to “flee immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18). It is against the background of these warnings that Timothy was told to treat the “older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Tim. 5:2). So preachers, in terms my grandmother would use, “behave yourself!” Don’t flirt. You can’t take fire in your bosom and not get burned (cf. Prov. 6:27). “Drink water from your own cistern” (Prov. 5:15) or, as Paul said, “each man is to have his own wife” (1 Cor. 7:2).
Solomon warned of sin’s consequences when he said that “the way of the transgressor is hard” (Prov. 13:15). Specifically addressing the man who goes in to the adulteress he said,
“None who go to her return again…” (Prov. 2:19). When an evangelist yields to the siren song of the adulteress much and lasting damage is the result. In some cases, adultery has been the public signal of a soul spiraling downward into the dark abyss of sin never to return again. In others, hearts have been contrite and from a penitent heart genuine confession was made. Still, trust and confidence are lost and, though it might be regained in a measure over a period of time, life will never be the same as before.
You would think that such instruction would not be lost on preachers and elders, but sometimes it is! Preacher you are in the public eye. There are some ungodly women for whom you will have special appeal. You are going to be tempted. Don’t bring this shame upon yourself, your family, the church, other preachers and, especially, don’t bring this shame upon the Lord! I agree with Connie Adams who wrote in a recent Truth Magazine article, “The cause of our Lord is far too important for any of us to give into such temptations to the destruction of our own families, the detriment of our own souls, and the retardation of the greatest work in the world” (Vol. LI, No. 1, p. 29). Don’t succumb to the lion!
5. The lion of pride. “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7). This instruction was given to a young man who likely was hesitant when he really needed to speak. A preacher needs to have the courage to say the things that need to be said. Still, no one should ever think that the commission to preach is a license for pompous arrogance. Timothy was a bond-servant (Phil. 1:1), nothing less, but certainly nothing more. He was someone who found his significance in his service. There are times, especially when something good has taken place, when we are prone to take personal credit and bask in the glory of our own accomplishments. Jesus taught us to remember that “We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done” (Luke 17:10). Let everyone of us remember that our life is really about Him, not us. Let us hide behind the marvelous cross of Christ and exalt Him in all things. Don’t succumb to the lion!
I have been preaching the gospel for over 33 years. More and more when preachers gather I tend to be one of the older of the bunch. I make that point only to say that with experience comes observation. Most all of the preachers I know are sincere, dedicated, hard working, and morally pure servants of God who serve as wonderful examples to those among whom they live and work. Praise God, and may He increase your tribe! Occasionally, however, news comes of another soldier who has fallen, having become prey to the lion. It breaks my heart! More importantly, it breaks the heart of God (Eph. 4:30). Every gospel preacher should constantly bear in mind that we wear the lovely, blood-stained, name of Jesus, and act like it.
originally in Biblical Insights