The shrill ring of the telephone broke the silence in my study but the caller’s message broke my heart. Another fellow minister had fallen morally. Another soldier of the cross, who once stood tall — who had armed his congregation with truth and encouraged them t o stand strong against the adversary — had disgracefully deserted the ranks and given victory to the enemy by his sin. Even before I put the receiver down, tears flooded my eyes.
An ancient scene f lashed through my mind, a sickening scene — a battlefield in Israel called Mount Gilboa, littered with the bodies of Hebrew soldiers after a tragic day of combat against the Philistines. Among the dead lay a tall, seasoned warrior –king named Saul. How the pagans of Philistia must have gloated in their victory over the army of God! And while Saul had turned David’s life into a nightmare for more than a dozen years, David lamented the king’s death with the words, “How have the mighty fallen” in battle (2 Sam. 1:20, 27).
As I sat alone in my study, I thought about David’s fall, which began with a stumble on a rooftop overlooking the beautiful Bathsheba. His stumble led to a fall that still causes me to shudder. I wondered if those same words haunted the king after Nathan stuck a boney finger in his face and declared, “You are the man!” (2 Sam. 12:7). God’s most valiant warrior — the man who had routed the enemies of his Lord and tor n down idols to false deities — had slandered the name of the Most High wit h his adultery and murderous cover -up. How the enemies of God must have gloated. Even after repentance, nothing was ever the same for David, his household, or his reign.
When anyone in the family of God fails, it affects everyone, but the moral failure of a leader shakes the church all the way to its foundations. And sometimes, a congregation can never quite recover. So there in my study I shuddered to think of my fellow warrior, sitting alone in his own study, perhaps with his face in his hands wondering to himself, How could I have brought this shame upon myself, my family, my wife, my church, and — more grievous than anything — how could I have so disgraced the name of my Lord?
Knowing that I a m merely a man whose old nature will not die until I am with my Savior in eternity, I pleaded with my Lord, “Protect me from the evil one. Should I stumble, deal harshly with me if You must. Stop me, O God, before I fall! Never let it be said of me, ‘How have the mighty fallen’ in battle. Not only for my sake, but for the sake of Your name.”
“You, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: ‘God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’” – Romans 2:21-24
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About Charles Swindoll
Charles R. Swindoll has devoted his life to the clear, practical teaching and application of God’s Word. He currently pastors Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, and serves as the chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary. His renowned Insight for Living radio program airs around the world. Chuck and Cynthia, his partner in life and ministry, have four grown children and ten grandchildren.