If you have been around in Christianity long enough, you have likely come to respect and revere various authors, speakers, and leaders. Likely, you have also been disappointed by their frailty, and sinfulness. The pastor who obviously struggles with gluttony and obesity. The public figure who has a temper problem, and the traveling minister whose family life is in shambles.
Perhaps this problem has sharpened into a fine pointed question in your mind. A tool of darkness with which Satan can torment you from time to time, when the path is dark and you wonder if there is really anyone who really loves and worships God?
There is a plain and rather mundane answer to this question: saints fail because they are human. We are only shocked at their failures because of their successes.
You see, we are surrounded every day by human incompetence, failure and sin and we are not surprise but it in the least. It is just normal human nature – it is the way the world is. But when a Billy Graham, Francis Schaeffer, Mother Therisa or the like makes a stumble – now what is a shocking thing!
But why should it be? Does great success, deserved popularity, and obvious maturity in Christ negate one’s humanity? If we did not put people on a pedestal, we would not consider it a fall when they act as humans do.
It is not surprising that our saints and heroes have their share of human sin and frailty. What IS remarkable about them is that they have not allowed this to cripple them. They have not concluded that since they are unable to “get their act together” on this or that issue in the private life, God is not able to use them. What is remarkable about them is that they had stepped out in faith and obedience, trusting to the love and grace of God to carry them, and use them in spite of their imperfections and sin.
And, ironically, it is just this glowing success which makes their failures all the more glaring.
Do not look down on Christians who have gone before, and accomplished much, because they have their failings too. Rather, challenge yourself in how you will serve God – in mighty and spectacular and mundane ways – even though you are just a sinful human, saved by grace.
This is not an excuse to laziness.
On the one hand, if you strive to be great for God, you must remember that you will be put under the same microscope that all the saints who have gone before having placed under. If you strike at Satan’s head, he will strike your heel. If you have a faulty, he will find it. What has been practiced in a bedroom will be shouted from the rooftops, even of churches. If you wish to be great for God, you must do all that lays within your power to remove all that remains of selfishness, sinfulness and weakness from your personal life, for every fault will become brilliantly evident if you once become famous enough.
Furthermore, we must be rigorous. Paul said not to put anyone in leadership unless they have been tested (1 Tim. 3). What does this mean? Only that certain moral deficiencies disqualify us from leadership. If we are struggling with serious sin, which has the potential to blow up in our face, and destroy the ministry we are trying to build, we need to have the dignity and foresight to step down early from the position, or move on to another. We need to get our act together on these major issues, before we can step into important positions which will draw increased attack. And some people with especially sordid former lives should probably not inhabit the primary roles of leadership, for the reasons mentioned above.
However, that being said, I need to put my finger on another type of laziness. Is the laziness which says, “I am not spiritual enough to accomplish anything for God. Just look at my personal life! I eat too much, I rarely do devotions, and I have a bad temper. I guess I will never be able to follow that call to write, preach, serve, et cetera.” What is your standard of excellence? How perfect do you need to be? How long will you wait until you will follow God’s call on your life?
Jesus said “be perfect, as my Heavenly Father is perfect,” (Mat. 5:48). This is the only standard we have to aim for, and we will never hit it – although we will always grow by aiming towards it.
You must obey God’s commands. You must be holy, as he is holy. Perfect holiness is our only and our great target.
However, in the reality in which we all live, we both know that you will not hit that target. You will be a flawed christian, just like all the others. The only question is whether you will be a strange saint, at which people will scratch their heads and say, “how was this person able to accomplish so much for God, considering that they were such a mundane and sinful person?” Or will they look at your life, and feel that it all makes so much sense? Too much sense? After all, you were just an ordinary person, and you accomplished only what normal people do in a normal lifetime.
Strive to be an anomaly. And ordinary, weak, sinful person. Someone who is utterly and exasperatingly human. Someone who doesn’t have it together. But someone who, nonetheless, takes on the world like a toddler charging the tide with a broomstick. Attack this old world, flogging it with your prayers and love. Leave it a different place. Break down lies, shatter speculation, and melt hearts. Do it, despite of your sin, which Satan holds in front of your face to paralyze you. You must look not to yourself, but to the cross. Keep your eyes fixed above, where Christ sits at the right hand of the Father. Not condemning you, but empowering you.
For it is no longer you live but Christ will live through you, if you will but let Him.