Every type of lifestyle has its peculiar hazard. My father was a coal miner. We knew that every day he entered the coal mine he risked his life. One day the horrible news came to my mother that he had been seriously injured by a mass of falling coal and slate in the pit where he had been working. For weeks he battled for his life. His pelvis and both legs were broken, plus several ribs. Miraculously he lived. My dad constantly warned me, “Never go inside a mine.” That was his way of saying, “I don’t want you to be a coal miner.”
I heeded my father’s advice. As a young man in Kentucky, it was tempting to go to work in the coal mine. I did not yield. However, I did work in the steel mills and foundries in northern Indiana and found that they also had many occupational hazards.
The Apostle Paul was the greatest spiritual leader on the earth. He had been greatly used by God; however, he realized that there were some hazards that he must escape if he were to continue to be used by God. Every Christian is a leader in some respect. Leadership has been defined as “influence.” When you influence someone to act in a desired way, you are leading.
Nothing is more thrilling for the child of God than to be used of God. Nothing is more frightening for a person who is being used of God than to think that he would reach a place where God would not use him. To the great Apostle Paul, this was a constant motivating factor for self-discipline. The devil has many tools to be used on the spiritual leader. These are the occupational hazards of the spiritual leader.
1. Pride is a primary hazard to the person who is being used of God.
God does some wonderful things for us and through us. We must be quick to remember that it was God who did it. We are only instruments. The work is the Lord’s. Pride is the root of every sin. “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) God hates pride (Proverbs 8:13). Paul realized this hazard. “For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am…” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10a) Boasting excluded, pride I abase, I am only a sinner saved by grace.
2. Popularity causes many to fall.
Praise is sometimes a greater hindrance to a spiritual leader than is criticism. Flattery is like chewing gum. It is to be enjoyed for a few minutes but not to be swallowed. It has always been easy to make an idol out of a Godchosen leader. The followers must be careful to give honor and respect to the leader but not to idolize him. The spiritual leader must be careful not to allow personality worship. This causes much damage to the body of Christ and will divert the leader from his purpose of giving honor and glory to God. “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.”(1 Corinthians 3:5-6) “He (Jesus) must increase, but I (John the Baptist) must decrease.” (John 3:30)
3. Lust has been the occupational hazard that has struck the death toll of countless numbers of God’s men.
The lust of the flesh (sexual sins) and the lust of the eye (covetousness) have caused many to fall. When one is being used of God, the devil would love to convince him that since God is using him he could indulge in forbidden pleasures. “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6) All we need is what God has given us. “…be content with such things as ye have…” (Hebrews 13:5)
4. The “yo-yo” emotional life can put the spiritual leader out of commission.
Highs and lows will come to any leader. The secret is not to get overly excited about one’s defeats. Paul overcame this hazard. He said, “…for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11). He had some great victories. He had some horrible defeats. The secret of not becoming a casualty is to realize that both victory and defeat are temporary. Neither will last. We must learn to live with both.
5. A sense of infallibility and indispensability often develops among people who have been blessed by God.
God has given them wisdom. He had blessed their work. They are filled with His spirit. How sad, but throughout Christian history, some have come to believe “If I said it, you should believe it.” No man should assume that, and none of us should give any man that kind of allegiance. Any man can make a mistake, and any man can be replaced. We are instruments. God changes instruments, but God does not change. He buries His workman, but His work goes on. Paul overcame this hazard. “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
We should, like Paul, determine to keep our body, our mind, and our will in subjection to Jesus Christ. In this way we can know the joy of being used of God until we are promoted to Heaven. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”(1 Corinthians 15:58)
This article was originally published in From Where I Sat available from Striving Together Publications.