We are tempted to relevance, to power, and the desire to do the spectacular. None of these are wrong in and of themselves, but coupled with unexamined motivation any of them can lead to leadership or life disaster. We must couple our desire for significance with the desire for transformation in the lifting of those we love and lead.

I sometimes struggle with having right motivations. I want to do great and awesome things. I want to live a significant life. For as much godly experience as I have in life, you would think I’d be exempt from temptations involving whacked out motivations, but if Jesus could be tempted in those areas, then it’s probably going to be a lifelong struggle as I continue to put “self” to death and live at a higher level. I must constantly lay down the desire to accomplish great things — yes, you heard me right — and embrace transformation and transformational leadership/ministry as my higher objective. In this episode of the Calibrate Life Podcast, David and Donna discuss Three Critical Temptations Faced by Every Leader and how they practically struggle with and navigate these temptations in their own life as they press toward joyful living.

For a synopsis, episode notes, and links mentioned in the podcast episode, continue reading…


Three Critical Temptations Faced by Every Leader

When Jesus went into the wilderness to prepare for his public ministry, he was tempted by the devil. Three very specific temptations that Jesus faced, every spiritual leader also faces. The biblical account is found in Luke 4 and Matthew 4.

  • The Temptation of Relevance
  • The Temptation of Power
  • The Temptation of the Spectacular

I am much indebted to Henri Nouwen and his book In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership [3:15]

I’ve not read the book for many years, and I did not reference the book in preparation for this podcast, but the principles in the book have so impacted my life that an indelible impression is imprinted on my soul. The way these three temptations are framed as relevance, power, and the spectacular was inspired by Henri Nouwen’s book.

These principles are impactful and very relevant to every spiritual leader. We must always measure and weight our motivations


The Temptation of Relevance [6:27]

We certainly do not want to be irrelevant. We must be relevant, as leaders, to our communities, constituents, followers, and those we love and leave. The temptation to relevance will prompt us to look at superficial or immediate needs instead of focusing upon things that will bring true transformation.

There is a temptation to relevance of which we must be cautious. [8:00]

Jesus was tempted to turn stones into bread. His response was, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from God.”

Sometimes a person’s felt need is not actually their greatest need. We must address immediate needs, but we will not lose focus of the greater thing or the greater need that demands ultimate attention. [9:10]

The Temptation of Power [12:45]

When we are exalted to a place of prominence and leadership we exert a measure of control over people’s life. A leader who lacks integrity may take advantage of their position.

When a leader is immature it brings great stress and difficulty to those they lead, be they employees, congregants, family, etc.  “Woe to the people who’s king is a child.” (Ecclesiastes [10:16])

Leaders without maturity lead from a positional authority, mature leaders lead from relational authority. A temptation to power is a temptation of self-exultation. [16:26]

If you want to be great, be a servant. Being a servant is the path to “greatness”. [16:50]

The (recommended) book, Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness by Robert Greenleaf, is a leadership classic. Written in the 1970s, this book changed not only the perceptions of many spiritual leaders, but also business and corporate leaders. Greenleaf’s idea, modeled after Jesus’ leadership style, directed leaders to relationally and humbly serve their followers, and through such leadership transformation would occur. [17:00]

The Temptation of the Spectacular [18:45]

Motivation: Why do I want to do something “big”, something “spectacular”? We should monitor our motivations, because doing something significant is a noble ambition, but having the wrong motivations will lead us to temporal and insignificant ends. [19:24]

When my motivation is to make me look good I’m on the wrong track. My motivation needs to be bringing glory to God and lifting others. [23:00]

As a writer, should my goal be to be on the New York Times Bestseller List? Is that an ignoble goal? Is that wrong or right? [24:00]

If I cannot be motivated by a desire to please God, a desire to serve, a desire to transformationally impact others, then I need to close the book and try again on another day. [25:00]

[shareable]It is not God’s responsibility to bail me out of my reckless agenda… to attempt such is to tempt God.  [/shareable]

Calibration Tools: Helping You Lift Those You Love and Lead [26:00]

Calibrating our Temptation to Relevance [26:23]

  1. In every situation you face, ask the question… what is the heart of this matter and where does / or will transformation occur?
  2. In coaching situations direct the person you love and lead to consider the immediate need and the long-term necessities in play. Make sure you have discussions that keep the main thing the main thing.

Calibrating our Temptation to Power [27:54]

  1. Are you operating with positional authority or relational authority? How might we move to a relational authority posture?
  2. How can you lend authority to others to empower them to accomplish tasks and fulfill their purpose? [29:00]
  3. How can you better serve those you love and lead? How should you demonstrate humility to those you love and lead? Name one thing you can do to serve. [29:49]

Calibrating our Temptation to the Spectacular [30:54]

  1. Keep redirecting to motivation. When you set out to accomplish things of significance check your motivation. Are you seeking praise or are you seeking to facilitate transformation? (this fixes so many things in leadership, and this will impact how you proceed).
  2. Adjust your measure of “greatness”. It is not about “awesome” or “spectacular” it is about steady, solid, stable, obedience, mission, and accomplishing transformational leadership.


Do not seek relevance, seek revelation.

[shareable]Do not seek relevance, seek revelation. [/shareable]

Do not seek power, seek purpose.

Do not seek the spectacular, seek the Solid Rock.