When a Strong Man Falls

When a nationally known church leader falls it hits the headlines, and strikes at our heart.
How should we react?

First, I guess, by making us aware of our own vulnerability. Years ago I heard the business speaker Fred Smith ask: “What should we think if we heard that Billy Graham has shot Oral Roberts?” It was an odd question indeed! But Fred went on to say to us, “We should be disappointed but not surprised. Each of us is capable of anything.”

But we should also remember that “the weakness of God is stronger than men” (That’s from Paul, not Fred.).

The English writer Simon Tugwell has some thoughts about Jacob’s nighttime wrestling at the river Jabbok which speak to me. This encounter with God occurred at the height of Jacob’s good fortunes, when he was returning home a very successful man.

But Tugwell points out that Jacob wins in this wrestling with God! That (as in judo) “God uses the strength of man to bring him into subjection to his plans. God throws us by our own energy, by our own success.”

For us to be fully converted, writes Tugwell,

We have to be convicted of the powerlessness of power, of the futility of being
always on top. It is the very victory of Jacob which is his undoing … Really to meet
the weakness, the poverty, the humility of God, while we are in the full flood of our
strength, our arrogance, our ambition, surely that is what “disables” us, giving us a
new name, leading us into a light so brilliant that by comparison all our previous
light is seen to be but darkness. (Simon Tugwell, Prayer: Living with God.)

So Jacob in the morning limped away, a new man, with a new name, into the rising sun of morning.

Often it takes a fall – from the heights – to allow grace fully into our lives.

May it be so for our brother. For me. For you.

Leighton Ford

November 30, 2006

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