“Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.”~~ Ephesians 6:10-11
There are so many lessons in leadership I have learned along the way, and it’s always easy to share the positive, visionary ones. It’s a little tougher to go back and acknowledge the mistakes, but if we want to grow and develop as women who are strong, capable leaders, we must go back and take another look at some of the more painful, hard lessons we had to learn along the way.
The learning curve for women in leadership, in the church, is a steep one in most cases. There are various reasons for this, and that is a topic for another day! Suffice it to say, there are huge challenges for women who lead in the local church, and thankfully, God has given us some great biblical models of women who were strong, pivotal leaders in their time. If we take time to study these women — Deborah, Esther, Mary-Jesus’ mother, and Mary of Bethany, Lydia, Priscilla – and others, we will do well to take a few leadership lessons from the pages of scripture as we read about their lives and how the Lord used them for His purposes.
Today, I want to talk about the 2 most costly mistakes I made in leadership:
1. Not being adequately prepared for the battle, therefore making myself vulnerable to attacks.
2. Allowing myself to be influenced and directed by the wrong people, instead of by God alone.
Today, I’m only going to address the first point:
As leaders we must be ready to EXPECT ATTACKS! Beth Moore says in “Praying God’s Word”, that the “enemy is filled with fury because he knows his time is short. Scripture intimates that much of Satan’s fury will be directed specifically toward Christians as the clock ticks closer toward Christ’s return.” And those who step out to lead are especially in the crossheirs of Satan’s weapons.
Had I fully grasped or anticipated the depth of Satan’s hatred and schemes, I would have spent the majority of my energy and time building up my spiritual and mental strength. Nehemiah gives us so many great examples and word pictures as he set about to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. First of all, before he ever began the project, he sought the Lord — “For days, I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven. Oh Lord, listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you”. (Neh. 1:3-5). And as he began the project, and enlisted the help of the people, he encountered opposition. “But when Sanballat and Tobiah … heard that the work was going ahead and the gaps in the wall were being repaired, they were furious. They all made plans to come and fight against Jerusalem and throw us into confusion. BUT — we prayed to our God and guarded the city day and night to protect ourselves.” (Neh. 4:7-9)
In Ephesians 6:10-18, we see Paul’s list of spiritual armor. Only one of these is an offensive weapon, and it’s the Sword of the Spirit, clearly meaning the Word of God. Beth Moore says, “I am utterly convinced that the two major weapons with divine power in our warfare are the Word of God and Spirit-empowered prayer.” This passage in Ephesians implores us to “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.” He begins to list the defensive weapons, and comes to this one: “In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.”
I have read commentaries on this, and the word picture here is one of a wooden shield. If a fiery arrow hits a wooden shield, it would immediately be set afire and useless. But prior to battle, the soldiers soaked the wooden shields in water. They prepared their weapons to extinguish the flames of the arrow as it hit the water-soaked shield. I like to think of this as spending so much time in prayer, that our lives are completely soaked in the Spirit, and we can withstand the fiery arrows. Confession: When I was in a leadership position several years ago, I failed to spend the majority of my time and energy as a leader on my knees before the Lord, and fiery arrows came flying. I was vulnerable to the attacks because alas, I hadn’t soaked my shield–oops! The devil gained a victory. But the beautiful thing about this war is that it’s already won and we have a Redeemer who can make all things work together for His glory, to those who He has called.
If we are to be effective in our leadership as women, we must completely grasp and understand the fact that we are entering a war. And wars are made up of battles. And the only strategy for winning these battles is being adequately prepared in our defensive weapons and ready to strike the enemy defeating blows with our offensive weapons. Had I not failed to see this clearly, and to prepare both myself, and my team, I could have avoided this costly mistake. Thankfully, the Lord does not forsake His own, and He is faithful to complete the work He has called us to do, and His hand never leaves our side! Next week, we’ll look at how to make sure we are surrounding ourselves with a “yes” team — people who say “yes” to God and not to their own agenda.