Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
— 1 Timothy 3:6
Maybe you’ve had an associate or a worker whom you once greatly trusted — until he or she deceived and betrayed you. If you’ve gone through that kind of difficult experience, you may not be too excited about trusting people again.
Every leader in the world has been through one of these experiences. Even Jesus had a thief on His team who stole money from the organization and who later betrayed Him and turned Him over to the religious authorities to be executed on a cross. If that can happen to Jesus, it’s possible for it to happen to anyone. But Jesus didn’t give up and quit just because there was one bad apple in His group. There were still eleven others who remained faithful. Although these eleven also made some mistakes along the way, they ultimately changed the course of human history as they carried the Gospel message to the ends of the earth.
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Letting your emotions get the best of you by deciding to go on alone is not the right answer when you go through this type of experience. You need to get up, brush off the dirt, learn from your mistakes, and go for it again with all your heart. Rather than blame someone else for what has happened, just accept responsibility for where you may have failed. Stop moaning about the bump in the road you’ve hit, and allow that ordeal to become a learning experience. It’s time to quit thinking about what others did wrong to you. Instead, ask what you did wrong that permitted the situation to arise. Ask yourself:
- Did I give too much authority to this person too quickly?
- Did I trust someone I really didn’t know very well?
- Did I spend enough time with that person to really become his friend?
- Did I let that person know what I expected of him?
- Did I ignore signs that something was going amiss?
- Did my spouse tell me something was wrong, but I wouldn’t listen?
- What did I learn from this experience?
No school is more effective than the one you go through when someone you work with betrays or disappoints you. After that experience, you will better understand why Paul told Timothy not to choose unknown people for key leadership positions. In First Timothy 3:6, Paul wrote: “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.”
If I were to ask you, “What is a novice?” you might answer that a novice is a new Christian. That certainly can be true; however, the word “novice” is much broader than this narrow interpretation. It comes from the Greek word neophutos, which is a compound of the words neo and photos. The word neo means new, and photos is the Greek word for a plant. Compounded together, neophutos means a new plant. In this context, it is understood to mean a new convert or a new Christian. But this word can also refer to an old plant that is new in your garden. In other words, it can also refer to a transplant.
Few pastors make the mistake of choosing brand-new converts for key positions in the church or ministry. Few business leaders would put a young, inexperienced teenager in charge of their business. However, church leaders and business people do often make the mistake of promoting people too quickly when those people come to them from other churches, organizations, or businesses. Newcomers may look good and sound good, and their talents may be urgently needed. Thus, hasty decisions are often made, and people are promoted before they are really known.
People may have years of experience, but if they are new in your garden — your church, ministry, organization, or business — you need to take the time to know them before you give them vast amounts of authority and responsibility. Paul explains why, saying that if you promote a person too quickly, it puts him in a position for the devil to deceive him into thinking too highly of himself. This is what Paul means when he says, “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride.…”
The phrase “lifted up with pride” comes from the Greek word tuphuo, and it means to be wrapped in smoke, such as a person whose vision is so blurred, he can’t see things properly. This is where we get the word typhoon, which refers to a destructive storm that causes great damage.
You see, when a person is elevated too quickly, the devil often whispers to that person, “Look how powerful you are! Even though you’re new here, you’ve already become so visible!” Why is this so extremely dangerous? Paul continues to explain by saying, “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.”
Do you see the words “he fall into”? These are from the Greek word empipto, which means to fall into some kind of controversy or to fall into some kind of encounter. Thus, Paul warns that when a person is promoted too high too quickly, he may become clouded by his own sense of self-importance, which causes him to stumble into an encounter with the devil that could have destructive, typhoon-like consequences not only for the person himself, but for the church, organization, or business.
Paul concludes by saying, “…lest he fall into the condemnation of the devil.” The word “condemnation” is the Greek word krima, which means judgment. It can describe an action that leads to one’s judgment. This being the case, this phrase could be translated, “…lest he fall under the same action and judgment of the devil.”
What was the action of the devil that led to his judgment? You can find his words in Isaiah 14:12-14, where five times he declared that he would ascend into the highest places of Heaven to disrupt the position of God and to seize God’s throne above the angels. Ezekiel 28:17 tells us the reason this deception filled Satan’s heart. It says, “Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty.…” You see, Lucifer became so impressed with his own beauty and radiance that he started thinking too highly of himself — and that is what led him to believe he could usurp the position of God!
This kind of situation is precisely what Paul is warning us to avoid when he urges us not to promote people to positions of authority too quickly. When this happens, Satan begins to go to work in these people’s minds, telling them that they are wonderful and more powerful, gifted, and cap-able than anyone else. If they allow the devil’s game to work in their minds, they will begin to think they should have authority that was never given to them. This is precisely the kind of wrong thinking that will release a spiritual typhoon in your church, organization, or ministry!
So if you’ve ever suffered after promoting someone before you really knew him — or if you’ve ever been hurt because you gave power to good people too quickly — you need to accept responsibility for where you may have failed. Learn from this experience, and then move on. You’ll be a much better leader because of what you have learned from this difficult “school of hard knocks”!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I ask You to please help me gauge how quickly others should be promoted in our church, organization, or business. I don’t want to make the mistake of throwing people into situations where the devil will test them because I promoted them too quickly. Also, Lord, I ask You to please help me have a new appreciation for those who are over me and who are taking some time before promoting me. I want to be a blessing and I never want the devil to have an opportunity to blur my vision because I think too highly of myself. Thank You for loving me enough to promote me in just the right time and in just the right way.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I use wisdom in the way I choose and promote leaders in my area of responsibility. I am careful, cautious, and hesitant about promoting people to high positions too quickly. Just as God watches and tests me before giving me greater responsibility, I watch, test, and wait to see if others are really ready before I assign them new and important tasks. Because I rely on the Holy Spirit’s help in this matter, I am making fewer and fewer mistakes in choosing the right people to promote!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Have you ever seen someone promoted so quickly that it caused deep spiritual problems later on? If so, who was that person, and what did you learn by observing that heart-rending situation?
2. Have you ever watched someone whom a pastor loved, cared for, and promoted later become the chief critic of that same pastor? Was that person you? If yes, have you ever gone to your pastor to ask for his forgiveness?
3. If you’ve been feeling let down by someone you trusted, why don’t you take some time today to pray and ask the Lord to help you forgive that person? After all, the prison of bitterness you’ve been locked in because of that past offense hurts only you!