5 Common Temptations for Leaders and Their Devotional Life

Forty years of ministry has taught me that only Jesus brings real power and the life-changing authority that makes it possible for any church to reach its potential.

Yet we often lead with less than that full power.

It’s never intentional, but it’s surprisingly easy to slide into leading on your own ability, or at least partially on your own, especially when the pressure is on and God doesn’t seem to be moving as fast as you hope and pray.

I have prayed and pursued God for all these years, but I have not always fully leaned into the significance of how my relationship with Him impacts my leadership.

Intellectually I’ve known from day one that God is my source, but only decades of experience have revealed the depth of that truth. He is truly the foundation and strength of my soul, and my leadership would never reach its potential without Him.

It’s too often that leaders who love God can become so consumed with the work of God that their walk with God isn’t always what it could be.

The result is that their leadership suffers.

However, instead of running to God, they work harder. Sound familiar?

Please don’t misunderstand; your leadership in the local church is critical to the advancement of the Great Commission.

We need good leaders and good leadership!

However, leadership alone isn’t enough.

That’s why I wrote my newest book:

LEADERSHIP ALONE ISN’T ENOUGH: 40 Devotions to Strengthen Your Soul

Leadership Alone Isn’t Enough

40 Devotions To Strengthen Your Soul

These 40 devotions are written specifically to leaders and provide practical insights from scripture and experience to help establish a more direct connection between your relationship with God and your role as a leader. Ultimately, you lead from a place of soul-level strength.

5 Common Temptations for Leaders and Their Devotional Life

1) Suffer from guilt

I love to pray, but it’s taken me years to develop true consistency. I have a really cool prayer room in my basement that’s like a sanctuary to me; it’s holy ground where God and I meet. I find joy, peace, and power there, and thankfully it’s no longer out of duty or performance.

But I remember times when I struggled to be consistent, and I felt guilty. Guilt robs you of joy! And a duty-like, performance-oriented prayer life is the last thing you need to allow into your devotional life with God.

This is not an excuse for any of us, we desperately need daily time with God, but guilt is a tactic of the Devil, not a punishment from God.

God may bring conviction, but He doesn’t bring guilt. The trouble is they often feel the same. The difference is that conviction pulls you back to God, and guilt drives you away from God.

Don’t let the Devil fool you; communion with God is a gift; it’s an invitation from your Heavenly Father who loves you. Prayer is a safe place that restores your soul, provides wisdom and insight, and brings you peace.

2) Miss the joy

When you make prayer a task with seven steps to complete and mountains of commentaries to read, that can result in the loss of joy.

Sometimes you can just sit with God, enjoy His presence, and soak in His Word. If you only read a verse and meditate, great. It’s not a competition.

I deeply appreciate devotional apps, like reading through the Bible in a year, but empathize when leaders lament to me that they missed a day or two and now “it’s a project to keep up” rather than a relationship to enjoy.

I can see the joy drain from their expression.

You might be tempted to return more slowly to your devotional practice because you feel you must “catch up” rather than simply be still in communion with God.

You don’t have to keep up; the purpose is to draw close, worship, and hear from God. The joy is to know Him, love Him, and want to obey Him. Not check the boxes.

Never lose grace in search of truth, and never surrender joy in obedience.

3) Function without power

It’s rarely intentional but easy to slide into leading from your own ability rather than with God’s power.

Leading on your own talent is often a result of ministry demands, problems to solve, and pressure in general.

The pressure can be so great that we think there is no time to pray, but the opposite is true; we need to pray all the more.

God doesn’t withhold His promises, favor, or blessing when we lack in our devotional life; we just fail to step into them. He’s always with us, but we must also move toward Him. 

God gave us access to His Spirit within us, but that power isn’t automatic. Instead, it functions on a relationship of dependence, worship, prayer, and quietly waiting upon His guidance and timing.

It’s not a legalistic transaction, but like communion with God, it just can’t be rushed. With that communion, God’s power is not only available; it’s abundant.

4) Give in to doubt

In a business deal, when you don’t have the numbers or are missing information, you have major questions.

In a relationship, when you don’t talk much, aren’t close, or even become disconnected, you can doubt the real status of the relationship.

Distance from God can shrink your faith and cause you to doubt.

Intellectually you believe, but experientially you aren’t entirely convinced because of the distance.

Drift from God causes doubt in God. So, the beginning of the remedy is a renewed and deeper connection.

About now, you might be wondering, “are you just saying the answer to everything is to pray more?” No, I’m not, but it’s a big part.

Of course, we must step out of the prayer closet and put our devotional life to work, but that starts with a devotional life.

It’s amazing how faith in action shuts down doubt.

5) Avoid quiet

I’ve learned that I can’t have my smartphone with me in my prayer room over recent years.

When I do take it with me because an important call is coming, but I don’t know when, like from a doctor, for example, I think I can’t miss that call!

But I can miss that call; I just don’t want to. It’s just part of the noise we’ve become accustomed to, and eventually, we think we can’t live without it.

Have you ever noticed that still and quiet can be uncomfortable? Yet, scripture, for example, Psalm 46:10, instructs us to be still and know that He is God.

We can even make our devotional life busy and complicated. Keep it simple. Find the tools you need that help you enjoy the consistency you desire.

Leadership Alone Isn’t Enough is a devotional that invites you to sit with God and soak in his grace, reflecting on leadership thoughts from His Word.

12 thoughts on “5 Common Temptations for Leaders and Their Devotional Life”

  1. Matthew Pless

    To my utter shame, I am forced to admit that during the first two decades or so of my walk with God, the only times I really ran to Him in prayer was in times of pain (physical, emotional, social, financial, etc.).
    During good times I would still pray, but my prayers were short and shallow: “Hey, God, thank you for your blessings to me. Amen.”

    After decades of pain and the reflexive running to His shelter, I became so used to His comforting presence that, gradually, almost imperceptibly, I spent more and more time chatting with Papa.

    Eventually, some time around 20 years ago, I was “there” more often than not. These days it has become an almost constant gentle conversation. I have slowly learned the powerful place of “pray without ceasing”.

    I won’t be leaving this place of comfort, life, wisdom, and peace. It is my dwelling place,now.

    1. Matthew,

      Thanks for sharing with us, you are a true intercessor and it helps to know that’s not an overnight process! Inspiring!

  2. Norman Bullock

    Thank you so much for this! it is exactly what I needed. I don’t tweet much but had to tweet about “5 Common Temptations for Leaders and Their Devotional Life” and have purchased the devotional

  3. Hi Norman,
    You are most welcome!! Thanks for getting a copy of the devotional, I hope it is a source of great spiritual encouragement to you!

  4. Dan, thank you for being faithful to building up others for decades. I would not be on the front lines in ministry if God had not prompted you to ask me to join you at Starbucks 20 yrs ago.
    Steve Finn

    1. 20 years ago! Wow!
      Steve its my honor to be part of your life, even a small part, seeing what God is doing through you is amazing!

  5. Thank you, Dan, for always being relevant and helpful and encouraging.
    Have a blessed day and know I thank the Lord for you often and your ministry.

    In Christ’s Love and Service
    Pastor Randy Garner

  6. Thank you Dan for sharing about a devotional life. Pastors need a devotional life apart from message preparation. Thank you for the encouraging words shared, much appreciated. I started my devotionals many many years ago early in the morning. It was the only quiet time I had before our young children woke up. Now they are all adults and I continue the early morning quiet time and continue to enjoy meeting with God then. Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. You are most welcome Dan, and thank you for sharing your thoughts, and so glad to hear you’ve continued your morning quiet time!

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