Easter is a reminder for us all that even when darkness seems to be winning, light will prevail. When we make a big mistake or we see our leaders losing their personal battles, we are reminded that God is ever-present and bigger than our mistakes, misgivings or moral failures.
In John 16:33, after sharing with his disciples that he would soon be leaving them, Jesus said, “I have told you these things so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows, but take heart, because I have overcome the world” (NLT).
We are all fighting a spiritual battle, but we are surprised when we see someone, especially a leader, fail. If we trust that God is in control, can we believe that God uses our leaders through their gifts, as well as through their failures? Wisdom is found in great work and speeches as well as through calamity and consequence. When those we look up to falter, it serves as a flashing red siren for each of us to arise and be vigilant. Evil is in our midst “for we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in heavenly places” Ephesians 6:12 NLT). The question isn’t whether you will experience trials; it is whether you trust that God will use them for good.
According to Ecclesiastes 7:20, “Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins” (NLT) We are all in the boat, rowing through a sea of temptation. We don’t have to look any further than the top 10 book, television, or movie list to know that we are being soaked in messages that disorient our moral compass, but God continues to provide refuge.
The world tempts, but God guides.
We stray, but God stands.
We sin, and God convicts and takes account.
We confess, and God gives grace.
We cry out, and he reaches out.
We seek change, and God transforms.
We rise up for battle, and God equips.
Accountability and Forgiveness
Despite our sin nature and the trials of this world, we are still accountable for our mistakes and failures. While forgiveness and grace are at the heart of our faith, there is a process that precedes forgiveness. It involves confession, taking responsibility for the harm we have caused and dealing with the natural consequences of our actions, making amends, and committing to lasting behavioral change. This does not happen overnight, nor does true and deep forgiveness.
The term “forgive and forget” is empty of the possibilities that can emerge from forgiveness. The need for forgiveness implies that something wrong, sinful, hurtful or destructive has happened. For full redemption to occur, we must forgive but not forget. Rather, we should remember. Remember that by nature, we are sinful. Remember that the devil comes to kill, steal and destroy, but God wants to give us life and life abundant (John 10:10). Remember that we are daily in a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:12). Remember there is none righteous, no not one. (Romans 3:10). Not one means not your elected official, not your Bible-study leader, not your husband or wife, not your pastor and not you.
When someone around us requires forgiveness, is fighting a losing battle, falters or falls — when one of our leaders is losing the fight, let us join in the battle. Evil may take one influential person out for a season, but God can use it to strengthen our collective resolve to contend with the darkness that has crept into our lives. As a result, the church body and the kingdom of God will be strengthened. What Satan intends for evil, God will equip for good.
Today is the day for each of us to rise up. Begin by doing the following:
Call on God. Ask God to search you by praying Psalm 139:23, “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts” (NLT). Ask God to reveal any sin that has crept into your life that dishonors God or causes you or others harm.
Confess your sins to God. God promises that if we confess our sins, we will be forgiven. (John 1:9) If possible, find someone you trust with whom you can be transparent. Many people because of their position, status, fear or pride do not feel they can share their challenges, sins and areas of weakness. When we hide our sins, they grow. Find a trusted friend, counselor, pastor or prayer partner that will challenge and encourage you with Godly wisdom.
“Throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1 NIV).
Commit to prayer. Pray for healing, wisdom and transformation. Invite others to pray with you, and ask how you can pray for them. Then commit to pray.
Create community. Join a Bible study group or community group that is committed to learn together, pray together and grow together. You can create this community within your family through weekly prayer and study time.
Dr. Terry Morrow Nelson is president of Morrow and Associates Partnership for Leadership and Transformation and is an assistant professor and assistant dean at Nova Southeastern University