Perhaps my favorite lab of the day was led by Pete Wilson, pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville. He titled the session: "Temptations in the Dip," and by that he means seasons of life when things aren't going well.
He pointed out that ideas and images are the means Satan most often uses when he wants to tempt us. We are vulnerable to certain ideas when we're in a ministry downturn. Here are some of the tempting ideas that Satan uses against leaders in such times.
1. We are tempted to think that we are in control. We begin to think we can determine outcomes (that actually are beyond my control). Our role is to abide in Christ. To be still and remain in Christ. To confess our radical dependence upon God.
2. We are tempted to pretend we will succeed immediately. Leadership is defining reality. The Stockdale Paradox (from Collins's Good to Great) means combining truth about the brutal facts of the current reality AND an abiding faith in the ultimate triumph.
3. We are tempted to ditch our God-given values in pursuit of our God-given dreams. Don't elevate your dream above God himself. Even good things (ambitions, family, ministry), if we make them ultimate things, become idols. For instance, there's big difference between loving others and trying to be loved.
4. We are tempted to feel abandoned. When ministry doesn't turn out the way you thought, you're tempted to feel alone, forgotten by God. The truth is that God is most powerfully present even when he seems absent.
God communicates over and over and over again, "I am with you. Will you be with me?" When we decide to be with him, it means we trust his identity, not just his activity. And even when we don't see his activity improving the situations, we still rely on his identity and abiding presence. "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you."