Links Daily Devotional

When Leaders Fail

Then David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by [counting the people]. Now, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.” (1 Chronicles 21:8, NIV)

I don’t mean to disparage the hard work of Jimmy Walker who, after an excellent 2013 PGA Tour season, won his first Tour event on Sunday at the Open to start the new 2013-2014 season and catapult himself to the top of the FedEx Cup standings. Walker really has been an up-and-comer over the past 12 months, has shown his talent and now his ability to win, and is headed to the 2014 Masters, among other spoils of victory.

But here’s my not-so-bold guess: Walker won’t be atop those FedEx Cup standings at season’s end. Odds are good, in fact, that he won’t be there in a month.

That’s the trouble with being a leader. The same unnoticeable fall taken by any of a million people in the middle of the pack is instantly recognizable from a leader for what it usually is: a tumble from the top.

Yesterday we explored the excellent leadership characteristics of Israel’s King David. Yet for all of those, if you know anything of David’s life, you almost surely had playing in the back of your mind an account of his Hollywood failures: adultery with Bathsheba, the arranged murder of her husband, the counting of the Israelites…

Wait, the counting of the people? That one doesn’t sound like tabloid material. You may not even be aware of its place in David’s reign. And yet its action and its consequences were arguably much greater than his sexual sin with Bathsheba, because this counting was enacted in blatant disregard (and distrust) of God’s instruction.

In a banner written above David’s head–and those many excellent traits of his leadership–we would read this one word: FAIL.

What are we to make of it when leaders fail? Certainly, we are reminded that it is the perfect God and not imperfect men or women who ultimately rule. We are driven to faith in him over and above faith in them. These must be our first layers of response to something akin to a fatal loss, where we may begin to grieve.

At the next level, we must find it in our heart to forgive. But know this: such forgiveness will only show up in our hearts as it is placed there by God. So you will need to go to God in prayer, asking him to empower you to do the very thing you are reluctant to do. You must trust God to do in the life of this fallen leader what he has always done in your own life–led you through the path of forgiveness and restoration.

Finally, you will look for evidences of that restoration. This is not to put demands on this leader that you would not put on yourself; but it is to reasonably expect contrition and humility, and repentance and humility, and apology and humility, and restitution (as necessary) and humility, and God-praise and humility. Now, this is no trite play against humility. Rather, it is a strong recognition of James’ challenge to humble ourselves in God’s sight that he may lift us up (James 4:10). No leader can be returned to right relationship with God, nor to any God-ordained position of leadership (no matter how diminished) without a true humility, without a full surrender to God’s hand as the judge of what we have done wrong and how we will be raised up again in his chastening love.

Jeff Hopper
October 16, 2013
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