Leaders, Lust, and Longings

By Chuck Lawless

Leaders are, by their very nature, driven people. Always there are more goals to reach, more dreams to fulfill, more thirsts to quench. That attitude is part of what makes them leaders.

Leaders are simply passionate people. Those passions can, though, mark victory or defeat. You can use this blogpost to think about the passions that most influence you as a leader.


James, the brother of Jesus, warned us about “lusts” or “passions” that war within us (James 4:1). Read each item in the list below, and use this scale to indicate how much each one affects you as a leader.

1-2: Not a deep problem
3-4: A slight problem
5-6: A growing problem
7-8: A serious problem
9-10: An idol

  1. Pleasure. Do you use pornography? Do you give in to immoral thoughts? Have you chosen not to put safeguards on all your electronic devices? Do you expect your spouse to be available to you physically to meet your needs while you give her little emotional, relational, and spiritual guidance?
  2. Power.  Do you like being “in charge”? Do you treat your immediate reports poorly? Do you fight to get your way? Do you struggle admitting when you’re wrong?  Do you prefer not to serve on a team if you’re not the leader? Do you get frustrated when you’re not “in the know”?
  3. Recognition. Do you subtly make sure others know when you’ve done something significant? Do you get frustrated (that is, jealous) when others get acclaim instead of you? Do you develop relational networks on the basis of whether others can help you gain recognition?
  4. Wealth. Are you stingy with the dollars you earn? Do you wrestle with God when you sense He wants you to give more toward His work – perhaps even decreasing your hard earned savings? Do you tithe only to the penny, and then begrudgingly? Do you nonchalantly brag about your salary?
  5. Stuff. Do you like to show others what you have? Do you need the latest gadget, the newest car, the nicest office, the biggest church building? Do you boast about things that will some day be left behind?
  6. Food. Do you eat poorly, with little regard for your physical well-being? Have you ignored the requests of others to take better care of yourself? If you don’t have an eating issue, do you have other habits that are likely harming your body?
  7. Ministry Activity. Is your self-esteem tied to your accomplishments and recognitions? Do you make sure you do your job, but spend little time with God? Do you gently let folks know when you’ve worked many hours and made many sacrifices for God?
  8. Bitterness. Are you angry with someone to the point you choose not to let it go? Do you quietly want God to get revenge on someone on your behalf? Do you refuse even to entertain the thought that you might have been wrong in a particular situation?
  9. Secrecy. Are you living a double life? Is much of your life dedicated to covering up your sin?


On the other hand, the Bible speaks of “longings” for things that really do matter. Now, read each item in the next list below, and use this scale to indicate how much each one marks you as a leader.

1-2: Not at all a longing
3-4: A slight longing
5-6: A growing longing
7-8: A strong longing
9-10: A life-transforming longing

  1. Longing for God. Do you want God as much as a thirsty deer longs for water (Psalm 42)? Do you desire God so much you cannot make it through the day without spending time with Him? If God were to absent Himself from your life, would it change much?
  2. Longing for Salvation of Others. Would you, like the Apostle Paul, be willing to be accursed so others might get saved (Rom. 9:3)? Is it your heart’s desire and prayer for others to know Jesus (Rom. 10:1)? Does your life show evidence of such a burden? Are you willing to go anywhere so all people groups might know Christ (Matt. 28:18-20, Rom. 15:20-21)?
  3. Longing for Eternity. Do you long for Jesus to return? Can you pray with John, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20)? Are you living faithfully in “the meantime,” desiring most to be with Jesus while understanding your call to be here now? Are you living for the temporary or the eternal (1 Cor. 3:10-15)?

Is your life more driven by your lusts or your longings?

Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook.


photo credit: Daniel Kulinski via photopin cc


  1. says

    My mind is activated with those self assessment questions about my personal life regarding lusts and longings and it helps me more to get in touch with the Sovereign God so as to secure myself any time.

    The over-all total is that my life is more driven by longings.

    Thanks so much for this activity

  2. David Frost says

    I am going to take this assessment and meditate on it during some quiet time. On a cursory reading it proposes significant issues that need more time to address in my life. Thanks for this post. I will use it hopefully towards a deeper commitment in my walk with Christ.

  3. says

    Thank you so much for this challenging post, Dr. Lawless. By God’s grace I have been able to put off the old self with its deceitful lusts (Ephesians 4:22) and live with what you call a “life-transforming longing.” It is abundantly clear to me that none of it is of myself, but instead is God working in me for His good pleasure. He transformed me from someone whose life was dominated by lusts into someone who rejoices with inexpressible joy and longs to faithfully serve Him whenever, however and wherever He sees fit. Never could I have done this for myself, nor would I have sought to. Thanks be to God for His transforming grace!

    The most amazing and glorious thing to me is that He only increases the power of my longing for Him, for the salvation of the lost and for eternity. Praise God for His mighty works in our lives and His faithfulness to finish the good work that He started in us. Seeing countless others at Southeastern who have these same longings and are being trained to live them out truly refreshed my spirit. Thank you for all that you are doing there.

  4. shawn says

    Dr. Lawless,
    I love the Lord Jesus and the Father, but this assessment has made me realize I am not where I want to be. I only have trouble with two lusts but I am sorely lacking in the longings. I haven’t been able to figure out what was wrong until now. Please pray that He will restore to me the joy of my salvation. Thank you.

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