The Pitfalls of Spiritual Leadership:Part 2

 In Blog, Charles Cavanaugh

Last time we looked at the pitfall of attractiveness. Let’s take a glimpse again at Saul’s life and see the second pitfall of spiritual leadership.

2. The second danger or pitfall Saul illustrates is presumption. Wise spiritual leaders know their jurisdiction and do not tread beyond the area of their giftedness and responsibility. The wise leader knows his responsibilities and his limitations and refrains from stepping into areas that are not his.

Saul’s presumption is first seen when he offered an unlawful sacrifice in 1 Sam. 13. He had hardly gotten started as King before his true character shows, and he begins to unravel. His obvious physical qualities and apparently spiritual ones yielded to unwise decisions and wrong actions. He stepped into an area forbidden to him and reserved only for the Priest. He allowed the pressure of the moment to dictate his decision instead of doing what is right, no matter what (1 Sam. 13:7-10). Any good leader can make a bad decision, but no principled leader will deliberately forsake what is right because of the pressure of the moment. “The integrity of the upright will guide them, But the perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them. The righteousness of the blameless will direct his way, But the wicked will fall by his own wickedness” (Prov. 11:3&5). This instance was no exception for Saul, who later, in his fear, consults a medium in direct disobedience to the Law of God (1 Sam. 27:3ff). Saul’s apparent discernment had melted into compromise and foolish decisions. As the pressures of leadership mounted, the reality of weak character was exposed. The unwise and unfit leader will often presume that, because he is in the position of authority, he can do things forbidden to others. He may presume that he can get away with decisions, the consequences of which are promised and certain. The favor of God may seem irrevocable, and the favor of people may be bought for a season or held temporarily with the power of position, but one presumes upon them to his peril.

Saul’s presumption is further illustrated by an unwise oath. (1 Sam. 14:24ff). Leaders can sometimes believe that if they say it, then it is automatically true and right. Saul’s oath was the foolish attempt of an unspiritual man to act spiritually (or at least to appear to act spiritually) and to secure success and safety by any means. When a spiritual leader is motivated by fear instead of faith, he may work to secure God’s favor; however, God’s favor comes by grace, and cannot be earned. But Saul did not understand faith or grace and thus foolishly made an oath that put those under his authority in harm’s way. It also put him in a position of having to defend his oath against his own son, whose loyalty, commitment, and courage were unquestionable.

The wise leader will heed the words of Christ to “let your yes be yes and your no be no” and will avoid words, commitments, and promises that may come back to haunt him later. Presumptuous actions and presumptuous words can destroy his credibility and effectiveness and ultimately lead to his demise.

Charles Cavanaugh

President – Vision4Living Ministries

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