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Intersection of Life and Faith

Lead Us Not into Temptation

  • Krista McGee Author, teacher, homemaker; Tampa, Florida
  • 2013 23 Aug
Lead Us Not into Temptation
We have a good friend, who, for years, has had a passion for youth ministry. He started as a lay leader, then became a paid leader. He knew this was his calling, and those of us who knew him concurred. He loves teens, and he is gifted with the compassion and energy necessary to shepherd them. So he went back to school and worked hard to earn a degree in youth ministry. After he graduated, he landed the job: youth pastor! We never had seen him so excited, so full of dreams. It was exciting just being around him.

Recently, however, this same man walked out of a meeting with his boss and his wife, telling the former he resigned and the latter he wanted a divorce. Why? He developed a relationship with another woman, a woman worth leaving his family and his calling to pursue. The fallout from this decision devastated everyone around him. Hearts are broken that will take years to heal.

How does something such as this happen? A friend whose marriage survived an affair shared her story with me. She said the affair didn't start out as an affair. She never ever intended to commit adultery. Her relationship with God wasn't what it should be—she was busy and just didn't make spending time with Him a priority. Her husband worked a lot. The other man's wife did, as well. She and the other man happened to find themselves thrown together. At first, they just talked—small talk, getting-to-know-you stuff. After a while, the small talk turned into sharing—sharing complaints about their spouses, sharing dreams about their futures, sharing thoughts and feelings that began to build deep connections. An emotional bond was formed. Because her relationship with God wasn't a priority, she easily was able to ignore the warning signals he was sending her. Before long, she and this man no longer found themselves thrown together, but looked for opportunities to be together, planned them. From there, she said, the physical affair "just happened." She had justified everything else up to that point: "We're good friends, nothing wrong with that. He's a shoulder to cry on. I can't help it if I have feelings for him. They're natural. I couldn't help it—I just fell in love." Justifying sex was easy. She said she had allowed herself to be so blinded that months into the affair she actually believed this relationship was beneficial to her marriage.

Sadly, this story is repeated hundreds of times in churches all over the globe every year. I have no doubt a similar series of events happened with our youth pastor friend.

Thousands of years ago, the psalmist asked, "How can a young person remain pure?" (Ps. 119:9a). Thankfully, the question isn't rhetorical. The psalmist gives us the answer: "Only by living according to your word" (Ps. 119:9b).

Are we living according to God's Word? Are you? Youth pastors are under a tremendous amount of stress. You're planning camps and retreats, dealing with helicopter parents and deadbeat dads, cleaning up literal and emotional messes...You get very little downtime and probably less gratitude. It's easy to get caught up in doing that you forget about being. It's easy to focus so much on the spiritual health of your students that you neglect your own walk with Christ.

I spent the past year guilty of this very thing. I work at a Christian school. I teach AP English and direct the musicals. I lead a Bible study for senior girls. At church, I facilitate a small group Bible study, serve on the praise team and volunteer in the preschool ministry. I also write books. Oh yeah, I have a husband and three kids.

By the end of the past school year, I was exhausted—physically, emotionally and spiritually. I don't think I realized how much of a toll the year had taken on me until I returned from vacation and had several people stop and tell me how much better I looked, how rested and happy I seemed.

I also found that, while my time in God's Word was consistent last year, it wasn't exciting. I went to it because I should. It became just the first on my long to-do list that never quite got finished. I often rushed through it because I needed to move on to the next item on the list. I can't live according to God's Word if I am just seeing time in it as a checkmark on my list, and I cannot remain pure without it.

I became apathetic the past year. I knew all the right answers, said all the right things; but my heart wasn't in it, not entirely. That, my friend would say, is how it starts.

When we let our relationship with God slip, our passion for Him fizzle, we find ourselves defenseless when temptation strikes. We don't have the energy to resist. We don't have the desire. Sometimes, we don't even see the point. We need to pray, "Lead us not into temptation," but we also need to back it up by putting on the full armor of God. We cannot do battle when we're spiritually naked.

One of my former students is an accomplished dancer. She says that to execute a succession of pirouettes, a dancer must find one spot to focus on so that with with every revolution, the dancer brings her eyes right back to that point. If she does that, she can spin and spin and spin and not get dizzy, not meander around the stage. She can make a solid landing and enjoy the rush of accomplishment that comes with finishing well.

The same is true for us. We need to focus on what is important—our relationship with God. Keep our eyes on Him. That means we might need to drop some of the good things from our load or schedule to be able to focus on the best—on making sure our first love is just that, that our hearts and minds are in line with His will and His Word. We need to protect ourselves so we can minister the way God has called us to minister, so we heal hearts rather than breaking them. We need to be leaders worthy of being followed.

When Krista McGee isn't living in fictional worlds of her own creation, she lives in Tampa and spends her days as a wife, mom, teacher and coffee snob. She is also the author of Anomaly, First Date, Starring Me and Right Where I Belong.