In our work as pastors, an evil alliance conspires for our discouragement. The world, the flesh, and the devil try to wear us out, bring us down, chew us up, and take us out of the fight. These are the same enemies every Christian faces, but they operate in us pastors in unique ways.
Take the devil (yes, take him, PLEASE!). He hates what we’re doing. Just as Satan tried to derail Jesus in the wilderness through persuasive words (Matt. 4:1-11), so he suggests things to us pastors that, if believed, will kill our joy and effectiveness in ministry. Jesus said the devil is a really good liar. “He…does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).
I’ve identified five things the devil regularly tells me because he hates me and hates my church. Sometimes he uses people to say these things. But usually my own sinful nature gives him all the help he needs. Notice that hidden inside each lie is a small grain of truth.
1) Lie #1: “You’re amazing.”
“You’re indispensable,” the devil says to me. “After all, you have training, gifts, and experience no one else has. Nobody else can get the job done like you can. As for your preaching, why, it’s extraordinary–it just hasn’t been discovered yet. And your spiritual insights–incredible! If only people would pay attention to you, their lives would be so much more fruitful. What’s the matter with them?!”
2) Lie #2: “You’re awful.”
“Listen to yourself,” says Satan in the next breath. “The very fact that you think those elevated thoughts about yourself just goes to prove how proud, arrogant, and self-reliant you are. What kind of pastor–what kind of Christian–would be so boastful? Don’t you know God doesn’t use dirty vessels? You’re such a hypocrite. You might as well hang it up, dude.”
3) Lie #3: “Get busy!”
“I have a suggestion, pastor: Get to work. Stop thinking about yourself all the time. There are souls to be saved, battles won, cities rescued, nations evangelized! Why are you wasting time talking to that Forlorn Freddie when there are so many more important things to do? You haven’t a moment to lose. It’s fine if you want to pray for a little while, but God wants results.”
4) Lie #4: “Relax.”
“OK, maybe I went a little overboard,” the devil says. “You’re right, you need a break. Hardly anybody Sabbaths anymore–you need a Sabbath. In fact you need a sabbatical. You’re working too hard. Every soldier needs a furlough. Don’t worry about those souls, battles, cities, and nations. You believe in predestination, don’t you? God’s going to do what he’s going to do. You’ve done all you can. Let the chips fall.”
5) Lie #5: “It’s hopeless.”
“You’re a mess, pastor. And so is your church. Look at the numbers: your church is not growing. In fact, Christianity is declining everywhere you look. Islam is growing like gangbusters, but not Christianity. Looks like you guys are losing ground. The bad guys are winning, pastor. The church looks more and more like the world all the time. You still think the kingdom of God is advancing?? How long are you going to hold on to that foolish idea?!”
These are just a few of the often contradictory messages I hear from our enemy, the devil. What does he tell you, and how have you learned not to listen to him?