Have you ever wondered why so many Christian leaders fall? How can someone who seemed to be so strong spiritually end up behaving in contemptible ways? I suppose the reasons are many, but I believe the one common denominator is this: they trusted themselves too much.
My purpose is not to attack anyone who may have been disgraced. I bring up this topic because we all face the same dangers, and unless we’re careful, we can all fail just as easily (fortunately, not as publicly).
The problem starts with believing that we’re better than we really are. Maybe others praise our spirituality, or we experience victories in our battle against sin. Before long we start overestimating our ability to resist temptation. If we don’t come to our senses, we start taking greater risks, putting ourselves in unwise situations. After all, we can take it, we’re strong!
That’s exactly what the devil wants us to believe. He knows that it’s just a matter of time before we succumb.
This process doesn’t only apply to major transgressions like adultery or financial corruption. It’s the same for the more mundane aspects of life. For example, I was just recently confronted with my own lack of strength. I had gone to visit my mother, who is not doing well. You would think that, given the circumstances, I would be patient and kind at all times, right? I wish I could say that I was, but I would be lying. Frustrated with myself, I realized the root of my error: I had overestimated my own goodness and ability to be patient. As a result, I hadn’t turned to God for help. The next day with Mom went much better. The difference? I didn’t trust myself and therefore prayed fervently for patience and compassion.
So what is the solution? It starts with never overrating our strength, regardless of the severity of the temptation. Only when we have an accurate view of our own abilities, or lack thereof, are we driven to ask for divine help. We should never trust our own abilities to fight sin. Instead, let’s keep sight of how dependent we are on God in situations both big and small.
The Apostle Paul summarized it best. To the church members in Corinth, who were pretty smug about their abilities and strengths, he sent a warning about temptation: “If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin.” (1 Co 10:12)