Seven Barriers That Prevent Us From Completing Our Race

As we continue to explore the topic of finishing well, I want us to consider seven barriers that prevent us from effectively completing the race.

1. We become trapped in our pride.

“Pride goes before destruction, and arrogance before failure.” Proverbs 16:18

The Old Testament tells us the life story of Saul, the first king of Israel. At first, Saul was an effective ruler for Israel as God anointed him with the Spirit and he won several military victories.  However, Saul began to allow pride to overtake his heart. When the prophet Samuel came to confront Saul, Samuel was told: “Saul went to the town of Carmel to set up a monument to himself.”

Unrepentant pride will always eventually lead to the downfall of a leader. Rather than living for the glory of God and the sake of others, Saul lived for his own personal glory. Rather than building the Kingdom of God, Saul was building monuments to himself. Unfortunately, we are often blinded to our pride.

2. We abuse our power and authority.

Jesus acknowledged the role of the Pharisees as religious leaders to the nation of Israel, but he also highlights the ways they abused their position of leadership. “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” (Matthew 23:1–4)

Likewise, as leaders, we can “rise to the top” in a hierarchical structure of power and authority, and be tempted to assume privileges from our perceived status which can lead us to abuse the power and authority entrusted to us. Power and influence over people can be a dangerous thing.

Jesus taught that Kingdom leaders are not known for the power they have over others, but by the way they use their authority to serve others.

3. We misuse finances.

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Timothy 6:10, NIV)

Most people familiar with the gospel accounts of Jesus probably know the story of Judas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, betraying the Son of God. However, Judas’ downward spiral began before the kiss in the garden as Jesus was arrested. Judas was first a thief before being a betrayer. “Not that he [Judas] cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself.” (John 12:6)

Over the last several decades, a leadership crisis has plagued both the church and corporate world because of financial abuse. Money can do funny things to people – even good people. Leaders, particularly those who have power positions and make important decisions concerning finances, must be cautious in the ways they handle finances. Far too many leaders have fallen due to issues related to money.

4. We participate in sexual misconduct.

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3)

Samson had an incredible opportunity to be a fantastic leader for the nation of Israel. Unfortunately, rather than resisting temptation, Samson became driven by his insatiable sexual cravings, which ultimately led to his downfall.

Sexual sins have always been a powerful tool in the enemy’s hands against God’s leaders. From illicit sexual relationships, addiction to pornography, lust, emotional affairs, sexual harassment, abuse, etc. the world is littered with carnage from those who have fallen from leadership due to sexual misconduct.

5. We allow unresolved and unreconciled family issues to persist.

As the high priest of Israel, Eli had tremendous influence over the nation. Yet, because of issues involving his children (1 Samuel 2:22-25), his leadership greatly suffered.

Problems between spouses, between parents and children, or between siblings can deteriorate a leader’s ministry. No family unit is void of conflict and challenges. Yet, when issues arise between a husband and wife, parent and children, or among siblings, we must seek to take ownership of our actions and attitudes, forgive one another, and reconcile the relationships with the gospel of Jesus.

6. We plateau in our relationship with God.

All of us will go through up and down seasons in our relationship with God.

Life is not one continuous mountain-top experience with God.

If we allow our hearts to grow cold or experience burn-out over a prolonged season of time, then we run the danger of living life dependent upon ourselves rather than in a close relationship with God.

Walking in a vibrant, interactive relationship with God does not keep us from experiencing trials or feeling “dry” at times. Nevertheless, as we consistently draw near to God, we will renew our strength and focus in life, allowing us to finish well.

RELATED: How To Fight the Good Fight and Finish Well (Part 2 of 4)

7. We do not allow Jesus to heal our emotional or psychological woundings.

Life is brutal. Suffering, pain, betrayal, and trials hit all of us. We all become wounded in the journey of life. If we allow the deep, underlying areas of hurt and pain in our lives to remain untouched by Jesus, then these unhealed wounds open us up to habitual sin against God and others. Peter Scazzero says, “Emotional health and spiritual maturity are inseparable. It is not possible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.”

Observation

As you look at these barriers, ask yourself, “Do any of them have anything to do with leadership skills?” They don’t. Instead, each barrier is deeply rooted in character issues.

It is not the lack of leadership skills or abilities that keep a person from finishing well; it is a lack of heart issues being resolved.

Perhaps you have heard the saying, “Rome was not built in a day.” It the same manner, I would argue Rome did not fall in a day. It was a process.

Dallas Willard states, “The ‘sudden’ failures that appear in the lives of some [leaders] are never really sudden but are the surfacing of long-standing deficiencies in ‘the hidden person of the heart.’”

Making it personal

Is there one or more of those areas that are taking place in your life? If so, seek God, confess and repent. Also, share your challenges with another person.

Craig Conaway is a trainer, coach, spiritual director, and writer. His passion is to help equip people to be courageous followers of Jesus who impact their spheres of influence for the glory of God. Craig has over 20 years of pastoral experience including directing an in-depth discipleship training school. He recently completed his book, Identity: Being Who God Says You AreCraig resides in Norman, OK with his wife and three kids, and is pursuing his Master’s of Leadership.