An image tarnished. These words bring to mind the likes of Tonya Harding, Mike Tyson, John Rocker, and Monica Lewinski. The pages of history are scarred with people who remind us of the consequences of one wrong decision at the wrong moment in life. Just a few weeks ago, another name was added to that list. George O’Leary. George was the national collegiate football coach of the year two years ago, and now was given the prestigious honor of being hired as the new football coach for Notre Dame. It is one of the most coveted positions in college football. Mere days after his hiring, it was discovered there was false information supplied about his academic and athletic background. He admitted to it being an error he made 22 years earlier in order to “beef up” his resume, but had never corrected. George was asked for his resignation before he ever coached a single game. His past had caught up with him, and his legacy will forever be altered.
Without a doubt, we have all had moments in our life we regret and wish we could relive. Things we wish had never happened; words we wish had never been spoken; acts we wish had produced a different outcome. They have each carried their own weight in embarrassment. I have not learned much in life or ministry, but I have learned restoring broken integrity, recovering a stained testimony, and reviving a tarnished image is very difficult. In fact, some falls in life are so devastating we may never recover fully. When God uses the word “blameless” in His Word, does it simply mean, “to give it your best shot” as some lives would imply? NO. It is a firm demand that we live above reproach and walk without shame.
Scripture has recorded for us the painful reminders of the price walking in shame extracts from our life. One such life is Aaron. Aaron stood with his sister Miriam and murmured against his brother Moses. Miriam is stricken with leprosy, but Aaron appears to walk away unnoticed. Later, Aaron stands by Moses when he disobeys the command of God and strikes the rock rather than speaking to it. Moses is denied entrance to the Promise Land, and yet again, Aaron appears to walk away totally unscathed. In casual reading, one would think Aaron was granted special privileges due to his call and anointing. However, God commands Moses to bring Aaron to the top of the mountain and to remove his priestly garments. Upon their removal, Aaron instantly dies. God had not missed a thing. There is no position, no calling, no anointing that can protect us when the day comes God removes the garments. In that day, what will God find hidden beneath our cloak? Will we find shelter in the strength of our integrity?
Another such life was Samson. There was such special plans for Samson’s life. Yet, in spite of those plans, he took for granted the call upon his life. He flirted continually with temptation. He carelessly handled his Nazarite vows. He thought life would always be handed to him on a sliver platter. In the end, Samson did fulfill God’s ultimate plan for his life, but it cost him an early exit from the world. Just what could he have become for God? He was still in the prime of his life. We were not ready to say good-bye just yet. There is so much more our hearts wanted to read of his life and accomplishments. Walking in shame ended it prematurely. It has been said, “When God is using a man, there is not an army that can kill him. When God is through with a man, there is not a team of surgeons that can keep him alive.”
My heart pauses when I read God’s Words to Abimelech, “…for I also withheld thee from sinning against me..” Do you think standing eye to eye with Nathan, David wished he had heard such words? Do you think Peter, while warming his hands by the fire of his conscience, wished he had heard such words? The true test of our walking in the Spirit is whether we are convicted before we act rather than after. As we begin this new year, may we be ever conscious of what we say, what we do, where we go, and decisions we make. There is something to be said about walking without shame, and it may just determine our usability with God tomorrow. My Lord and my God, I pray even as David, “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins.”
©2002 Alan Stewart
Alan Stewart: Dr. Alan Stewart has served as Senior Pastor of Rechoboth Baptist since December 1999. He attended The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Moody Bible Institute, Covington Theological Seminary, and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
Prior to pastoring the Tennessee church, Alan was an evangelist for 15 years. He has preached revivals/pastor’s conferences in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. He also preached crusades/conferences in India, Hungary, and conducted a crusade in South Africa in August of 2009. Pastor Alan is married to Jeanne, and they are blessed with two children – Sierra and Seth.