The future King David was trained in his early years as a shepherd for his father. Later on, the runt of the litter surprised everyone when he defeated the giant no one else would take on. That landed him a lucrative job, a royal wedding and soon after, David’s Facebook page gained a ton of new followers.
Although King Saul liked David, his own insecurities as a leader motivated him to kill his son-in-law. Even Saul’s own son pled allegiance to David as future king. The days, weeks and years ahead were all about David living as a fugitive in his own land. David didn’t have Osama’s elaborate hiding places, but then again, Saul had to rely on hearsay as to David’s whereabouts. Despite the lack of technology, Saul was never far behind him and at times, David narrowly defied his death.
If you take time to read the story in 1 Samuel, one thing you might notice is that David was continually asking the Lord for direction. He not only listened to what God was saying, he obeyed, knowing that his very life depended on it.
It was only later that we see David lounging around in the palace at the height of his success and just happening to notice the gorgeous woman across the street. We don’t see David asking the Lord about this and his next step marks the beginning of many self-inflicted troubles. What happened to David along the way?
Was it the years of hardship and difficulty or David’s success that sent him in a downward spiral? What happened to the humble David who sought the Lord for direction in every battle? Now that he was in a nice position, did he think he didn’t need to keep asking God for wisdom and direction?
Is this what happens to leaders today who start off in a humble position and then after God raises them up, they suddenly think they don’t need God anymore? This bothers me to no end and if there is a pattern we can see and predict and avoid, we need to learn from this.
What I’m observing is that leaders don’t necessarily have to be big to fall. Yes, the higher they are, the harder they fall and the more people they take with them, but I’ve also witnessed people, not necessarily even leaders, falling and the criteria are always the same: lack of humility. Surprisingly, not only themselves, but the people around them are stunned.
I’ve also seen that the lack of accountable relationships is a key factor in the rise and fall of leaders. Where are the close friends and confidantes when leaders are on the road to temptation? Why isn’t anyone asking leaders the hard questions, like, ‘”How’s your prayer life? How’s your marriage? I’ve noticed a change – what’s going on?” Or are leaders’ relationships so shallow and task-oriented that if they’re busy, that’s good enough for everyone?
I’ve been praying about the pride issue and since all of us are prone to it, I’m asking for wisdom to avoid the demise of many. The shiniest lures for most people are sex, greed, power, position and title. I believe that given the opportunity and the right circumstances, few if any would remain standing. That means none of us should be surprised when someone falls. It just means they didn’t have any guard rails to stop them.
So what can we do, leader or not, to stay on the path to long-term success? Not just avoiding the obvious dangers, but actually setting up at least one accountability relationship with someone else that realizes their own infallibility. It’s not a case of the blind leading the blind, but two people who are willing to ask the right questions and speak the truth in love when needed.
I doubt anyone felt comfortable approaching King David. Even his closest assistant dared not ask the King what he was doing in his spare time. But today, leaders are not equivalent to kings, although some might regard themselves so highly. Leaders are not infallible. Leaders need God and leaders need others to keep them on track. And let’s replace the word leader with people because it doesn’t mean that because you’re not in a leadership position that you can’t fall. We’re all infallible. Notice the word “fall” in there…prone to falling.
So while we continue to pray for one another, let’s also set up some practical guidelines to become more approachable, more accountable and more transparent. If David could add something here, he’d probably warn us to never stop asking the Lord for wisdom and direction at every step, no matter what level of success you’ve managed to reach because you didn’t get there on your own and you won’t be able to stay there on your own.
An old saying goes like this: Humility – a strange thing. The minute you think you’ve got it, you’ve lost it. David journalled a powerful prayer in Psalm 51 when he realized how far he had fallen. Who are you accountable to? Do yourself and everyone around you a favour and act on this today.
“You desire honesty from the heart, so you can teach me to be wise…create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me…restore to me again the joy of your salvation and make me willing to obey you..A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise.”