A handful of faces
In my mind's eye I have a handful of faces and names from decades past. Of men who are no longer useful in the kingdom of God, but who once showed potential. Today they are neatly parked in cul-de-sacs of uselessness or else they have made shipwreck of their faith.
And the reason for this handful is the same: they ran before they could walk. In some cases it was foolish pride, in some cases they were encouraged by unwise older believers to run before they could walk, in still other cases they were not discipled in the early years of their Christian faith and so they discipled themselves, and imagined they could run before they could walk.
Wanting to run before you can walk
This is the first peril. Before we have any wisdom (we may have knowledge, but there is a universe of difference between wisdom and knowledge), we expect to be listened to, we expect to assume influential roles. The cause of this peril is pride - the idea
that somehow we are better / more knowledgeable / more whatnot than
Of course, pride dresses its ugly self up in the beautiful garb of zeal - but in the end it is plain and simple pride. I mean Satan isn't going to allow pride to be called pride ("ooo", "ouch") is he?
Wanting to run before we can crawl is the first peril which leads some into "succeeding" (or at least wanting to succeed) before their time. And it can very easily lead to ruin. Not without reason does Paul say that leaders must not be new converts lest they get proud (1 Tim 3:6) and end up in the same pit as Satan.
The cure to this peril is to bear the yoke while we are young (Lam 3:27). Follow others, listen to others, think little - or better nothing - of our own opinions, hold lightly to our immature ideas. Do what others tell us to do. And one day when we have learnt to follow, we can be entrusted with the awesome task of leading others.
Being made to run before we can walk
An equally dangerous mistake is made by older Christians who push young babies into responsible roles - and in the process expose them to Satan's chest-puffing suggestions. It's all done in good faith - here is a famous sports star just converted or a young convert who seems to be on fire. Load them with responsibilities and give them the stage!
What a young believer needs is a few years in total obscurity, learning to grow, getting the ABCs into place, such as (- not knowledge, that is XYZ) a humble spirit, a servant heart, a teachable attitude, a Christ-like attitude.
Being left to disciple ourselves
I think of one more face of ruin - a young man who was not discipled in his faith in the early years - and by the time someone loved him enough to disciple him, it was too late: he would not be discipled. Today Satan has him nicely parked in a lay-by troubling no-one, least of all his evil self.
This young man was self-discipled. This was in the early days of the Internet, and basically he taught himself. What happens? He picks and chooses what he wants to read. He's not going to listen to wise elders and loving pastors, he's going to listen to what He wants to listen to, capital H. And guess what? His input lines up with his prejudices and weaknesses and foibles. All he listens to reinforces all of his prejudices, which, naturally, grow, and grow and grow.
He has no-one around him in these early years to tell him, "that is error", "that is folly", "that is just plain daft", so those ideas grow and grow and eventually take over his mind. Before long his "theology" is a jumble of crazy ideas - which he thinks are of primary significance - but in point of fact and reality do not rank as secondary, tertiary or even quaternary (of fourth importance) issues.
This man is like a carpenter's apprentice who refuses to take advice from the master carpenter (that's how absurd the situation is!) He will make joints as he sees fit, he will carve as he sees fit, he will choose the wood he sees fit. Now, would you buy a chair from this fellow? Would you employ him? Would you take carpentry lessons from him?! No, no, no. I don't think so. Would you sit on his chair? I hope not.
Wherever this man was converted, they have failed to disciple him.
Is there a cure or is there hope? Only by a humbling, which God alone can do (we are never called to humble someone else, by the way; that is God's work, and God's work alone).
The Bible way to 'success'
The proper way to "succeed" is to humbly serve Jesus in our local churches, learn from those with infinitely more wisdom than us (in Scripture it is wisdom that counts, not knowledge, which is almost irrelevant to spiritual growth), obey when told to do something, and wait a long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long time (i.e. wait a long time). Until God raises us up, until the elders and God's people see in us servanthood and humility and Christlikeness.
Then, and only then, can Jesus entrust us with some great great task. Not before, not for the sake of the Kingdom of Jesus, not one minute before.