The leaders I’m investing in are all exceptional!
- Exceptionally gifted
- Exceptionally resourced
- Exceptionally appreciated
In addition to these wonderful assets from God and His people, they also enjoy exceptional freedoms.
- Freedom to set their own schedules
- Freedom to work independently
- Freedom to hide from accountability
Every gift and every freedom can be abused. No one is exempt from the temptations of entitlement. Those who are exceptionally blessed can easily be deceived. Remember King Solomon. He was an exceptionally gifted man. After he humbly asked for the wisdom to lead well, the Lord stunned him with far more, saying: “I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never be anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for - both riches and honor - so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.” I Kings 3:12-13
Sadly, even though Solomon started well, Solomon did not finish well. Why? Well, even the wisest of the wise are still human. While Solomon saw God answer his heartfelt prayer for wisdom in ways far beyond anything he could have imagined, Solomon eventually fell into the entitlements of power. Just like his father before him, he didn’t consistently use his freedom to honor God, but instead, he willfully violated the clear standards of God.
Solomon was exceptional; therefore, Solomon thought that he was the exception! That was his problem, and ours, and that’s scary. In recent days we have been stunned with tragic stories of exceptionally gifted Christian leaders who crashed and burned. In their own ways, they enjoyed both exceptional gifts and exceptional freedoms, but they each abused them. They brought shame to themselves, their families and to their ministries. How?
- They squandered kingdom resources
- They committed adultery
- They refused accountability
No one is exempt from temptation. In a study of 100 biblical leaders, on whom there was enough information to evaluate, it was concluded that only one third finished well. Those that didn’t finish well had the same things in common. They failed to make personal application of the Scriptures to their own life, and they failed to exercise personal accountability with others.
Without applied theology and deep community we’re all sitting ducks for the devil! It’s been said that unless you’re stronger than Samson, more devoted than David or wiser than Solomon, sexual sin can bring you down too! A few years ago, one senior leader of international influence said, “Even after all these years I’m shocked at how sin still stalks me.” Well, now we know that sin didn’t just “stalk” him, he actively and repeatedly pursued it!
Entitlement isn’t just a problem among many millennials, it’s a problem among many Christian leaders! Decades ago I read an interview with a denominational leader who said that in his state he had never known of a pastor caught in sexual immorality who was not also guilty of financial impropriety. While you may think of someone guilty of just one or the other, the point is that both are based in the abuse of privilege.
Seldom do we immediately see our own vulnerabilities. Tim Keller wrote: “Self-deception is not the worst thing you can do, but its the means by which we do the worst things. The sin that is most distorting your life right now is the one you can’t see.” This is why the psalmist prayed, “Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing your instructions.” Psalm 119:29
How can we each get on track and stay on track to finish well? First, admit reality - you’ve got a relentless enemy! He will never give up on bringing you down, so don’t assume that you will ever outgrow or age out of any temptation. A buddy of mine just told me of an old priest who confessed, “I wouldn’t assume that I’m beyond sexual temptation until I’m in heaven for at least three full days!” As long as you have a pulse you’ll have some personal battles with temptation.
Finally, take heart, temptation is not sin. Jesus was tempted in every way, and yet was without sin. Yes, He was fully Divine, but Jesus was also fully human. Our humanity isn’t the entire problem; it’s our failure to admit our humanity and take the appropriate measures to live within God designed limits. Living within limits is the key to godliness. We can be both human and holy.
We all must determine two things:
- Faithfully devote ourselves to ruthlessly making personal application of the Bible.
- Faithfully devote ourselves to honestly living in soul-enriching community.
The choice to finish well must be made daily by each of us. Only I can make that choice for me, and only you can make that choice for you. By God’s grace, may we be able to say each day: “I have no secrets, and it’s well with my soul.”