I thought I would briefly share a key idea that came out of a lesson our men’s group studied this past Fall. Our study was on leadership and this particular lesson took a look at temptations that leaders face. What we discovered is that leaders face many of the same temptations as everyone else, only when a leader falls, there’s perhaps greater fallout.
Our workbook had a quote by C.S. Lewis that I believe captured the “aha” moment for many of us. Lewis wrote,
“It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the person away from the light and out into the nothing… Indeed, the safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
That quote, and the truth behind it, is relevant in almost every sphere of life. It reminded me of something a former mentor of mine once said. He emphasized over and over again that comprise comes through the smallness of our daily surrenders.
It’s giving up that little bit of personal conviction each day. It’s that little piece of candy that no one will ever know you ate. It’s watching that program when you were all alone… or visiting that website. You get the picture.
The way this usually works is that the first surrender makes it easier to do again… and again… and again. It’s that “cumulative effect” that Lewis was pointing to. No person wakes up in the morning planning to sin spectacularly later in the day. (I’m sure you know exceptions to that, but I hope that they are just that… exceptions.) I don’t think that an individual starts out seeing how many people he or she can hurt through their behavior. But it builds up over time. Give a little ground here and there and before you know it, you’re lost. You’re practically unrecognizable to even yourself. You didn’t plan in advance for this to happen, but those small daily surrenders were enough to do the trick.
Therefore we must be vigilant. We need to work from knowing who we are and what we’re about. We need to know those areas where we’re more susceptible to giving in. Are we being less watchful in certain areas of our lives than others? Even the small, seemingly insignificant areas? Are we over-confident that we would “never fall prey” to a particular temptation? A member of my church used to always say to me, “to be forewarned is to be forearmed.”
Our lesson concluded with a caution to leaders. Quoting a Chinese proverb, “the beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right name.” The authors then provided this wise counsel by adding, “There is power and freedom in naming the issues that we face. This is the first and most important step in defeating temptation.”
If you want to avoid those small surrenders pray for God to deliver you from temptation. But don’t forget to do your part. Name those temptations in advance. Talk with someone you trust and ask them to hold you accountable. The Apostle Paul shared some key wisdom on this point…
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Grace and Truth,