The next stage on the leadership journey is character; the foundation of leadership.
Strong leaders must have strong foundations, deep roots, so when their tree is shaken, their ministry doesn’t fall because of weak character. Or think of it this way; are you an iceberg or an ice cube? They’re both frozen water but if you hit an ice cube it moves; hit an iceberg and its mountain of upside ice beneath the waves, and like HMS Titanic, you’ll be the one who sinks.
Godly leaders need strong foundations to withstand the extra pressures of leadership.
Jesus, the leader whose example we’re called to follow, is tested at the start of His ministry (Luke 4:1-13). It’s a picture of a pattern leaders particularly undergo. Like Jesus, you have a scheming enemy, prowling around, looking for “opportune time[s]” to bring you down with him.
What is the main character battle ground? Identity. “If you are the Son of God…” Jesus is tested on this: will He believe what the Father has spoken over Him at His baptism – His “Beloved Son” identity (Luke 3:21-22) – or will He be enticed away by false promises and lies of the enemy?
Mike Breen brilliantly breaks this down further into three main areas – approval, appetite and ambition – using a triangle – which I’ve (cheekily) expanded.
The first test is appetite, verses 3-4, tell this stone to become bread. It’s fleshly temptation, whether hunger for food or sex. It speaks of our consumerism, our ‘instant gratification culture’ that down plays negative long-term consequences. Think “you will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). It’s about indulgence. King David is our bad example. In 2 Samuel 11 we find him indulging himself in the bedroom rather than fighting on the battlefield. Lust begat adultery which begat murder. Bathshebagate.
The second test is approval, verses 5-8, all the kingdoms of this world bowing down to you. It’s human applause, people praising you. It speaks of our celebrity culture. It’s about insecurity. King Saul is our bad example, see 1 Samuel 15.
The final test is ambition, verses 9-13, throw yourself down from the Temple in Jerusalem and let everyone watch you be caught be angels. It’s getting known by quick means, cutting corners, rather than, in our application, hard earned character growth. It speaks of our competitive culture. It’s about impatience. King Absalom is our bad example, see 2 Samuel 15.
Which one are you more vulnerable to and how can you guard against it?
If you need some pointers read: 1 Corinthians 6:18; 2 Timothy 2:22-24; 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 and think about how Jesus resisted temptation in Luke 4.