There’s nothing that troubles my heart more than watching a spiritual leader morally collapse. It brings such a wide-range of emotions. I feel for the people who looked up to the leader. I feel for the community that was supposed to be reached by those people. I feel for the leader, their family, their calling. I feel for myself. ‘If it could happen to him, what about me?’ I get sad. I get angry. I feel loss. But then, I quickly develop a sense of resolve. ‘This doesn’t have to happen.’
Leaders don’t just spontaneously-combust. That’s just how it looks the moment we hear about it. The truth is that the seeds of that public failure were quietly sown long before they produced public fruit. Those seeds were nurtured in an environment that allowed them to grow undetected. Then, at the opportune moment (for our enemy), the disgusting fruit produced after the very kind of disgusting seed it came from. Had the seed only been identified and destroyed, we would still be benefiting from all the good things these leaders have to offer.
What about you and me? Will we identify the seeds of corruption in our own lives before they take root and destroy our lives? No one else can do it for you. Most people will never even know your secret battles unless some public fruit is displayed. So, here are some tips to take with you into your personal struggle with evil. By the way, if you want to win that battle, YOU WILL. So don’t worry about it. Just commit to smash those nasty seeds and cultivate the good seeds that Jesus has already sown into you!
Keys to Avoid Moral Failure
1.) Make it Personal. It’s easy to exist in a community – even a Christian community – without ever personally engaging with God. It is totally awesome to go to church every week and to attend prayer meetings and small groups. Do that and also spend alone time with God. I’ve found it’s possible to put on a great show in front of other people even when you’re silently slipping away on the inside. If you’re always with others, you may even convince yourself that everything is fine. I’ve also found that it is impossible to seek out one on one time with God and not immediately be confronted with your true state. Don’t be afraid of that. That confrontation is the beginning of setting everything back on course.
2.) Honor the Word. I’ve noticed that I don’t hear my kids anymore. Years ago I started tuning out all their play noises so I could focus on other things. As a result, I occasionally don’t even notice when one of my kids is standing right in front of me asking for something. Terrible, right? Consider how we do that with God’s Word. The more we get used to hearing the Word and not acting, the less sensitive we become to it. Eventually, the very tool He gave us to help us grow toward Him is useless to us. Honor the Word and He will always be able to speak to you through it.
3.) Have Quality Conversations. Genuine relationships with other people are a powerful tool for staying on track. The problem is most of us don’t take advantage of those relationships. We prefer to keep conversation surface-level and about others. What if you found one person this week and created a quality conversation, one where you talk about what God has speaking to you about in the Word and in your time with Him? Going public with what God is challenging you with is a powerful tool. Don’t waste your relationships on gossip and pop culture. Mix in some quality.
4.) Be Under Authority. Each of us need someone looking out for us that we’re accountable to. Lone-rangering is a recipe for moral compromise. Justifying your actions, behaviors, whereabouts and words to someone else may seem like extra work, but it’s worth it. Just the process will help you avoid traps and self-deception.
5.) Focus. With everything else covered, all that’s really left is to focus on doing what God has called you to do. That won’t leave you with much time for any nonsense. Assuming you’re putting to practice these other keys, simply being where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there will keep you on track most of the time.
What about you? What keys have you found for avoiding moral failure?