Therefore, dear friends, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. 2 Peter 3:17 (NIV)
Wednesday was a sad day for me. That is when I found out that a man I greatly admired and respected–a servant of the Lord for many, many years had fallen. The questions and emotions that immediately flooded my mind were too many to count. I went from shock to anger to doubt and sorrow all in the course of a few moments.
I am referring of course to what undoubtedly all of you have seen on TV or read by now, that the pastor of New Life Community Church, Ted Haggard, has stepped down from ministry pending accusations of yet another sexual scandal to rock the church.
How does this happen? No sooner did I think this then the answer I already knew came back to me. We wander from our first love, that’s how. The God who saved us, the God who called us to serve Him according to His purposes, the God who shapes us for a mission can sometimes be the God we forget among the busyness and materialism of our culture.
Bizarre, isn’t it? When we do this it’s like we’re trading diamonds, rubies, emeralds and gold for broken pieces of glass, colored rocks, shiny plastic and a pile of sticks! Actually, it’s worse, because there may be a gap between the quality and value of sticks and stones compared to gold and rubies, but there is an infinitely greater gap between what it is to be in close relationship with God and what it is to experience worldy pleasure. Why do we trade splendor for scraps? Why do we exchange treasures for trash? Who in their right mind would favor imprisonment over freedom?
Millions choose these over God’s best every day. And why would someone called to influence millions and who has seen countless miracles and blessings from the hand of God risk it all to crawl around in the mud and swim a few laps in the sewer? It takes a lifetime to build a ministry but only minutes to bring it all crashing down. And why does this happen? Because we buy a lie. We wander from our first love to follow instead lies from the one who never loved us at all.
Want to know the most sobering truth of all in this? It could happen to anyone. The moment someone thinks they are above it, ‘it’ (whatever that is for each of us) gets a little bit closer. Whatever pastor Ted struggles with may not be what you and I struggle with, but we all struggle with something and Satan knows exactly where each of us is weakest. And the irony of it all is that it’s usually in an area we feel pretty good about, pretty strong in. That feeling of self reliance and assurance goes by another name as well. The Bible calls it pride, and whenever it shows up in our lives our own devastating fall is not far behind.
Yes, it’s a sad day for me, but not just me, for millions of believers everywhere as we are reminded once again, but for the grace of God, there go I.