Does Satan attack our strengths or our weaknesses? Does he try to destroy us where we’re strong or where we’re weak? For most Christians, it’s usually our weaknesses that the devil targets. But for Christian leaders it’s usually their strengths, the areas they’ve built ministries upon, the moral and spiritual qualities they are best known for promoting.
Why? Why does the devil go for the citadel rather than for the little cracks in the wall?
Because the damage is so much greater, the fallout is more horrendous, the church is more discouraged, and the world is most delighted when a Christian leader falls in the one place he really planted his flag and made a stand.
That’s why when I heard that Doug Phillips had resigned from Vision Forum Ministries, it was no surprise that it involved an “inappropriately romantic and affectionate” relationship with a woman not his wife.
Here’s a Christian man who built a much-loved ministry out of promoting Christian marriage, Christian leadership, Christian family, etc. He was a strong leader with strong views, courageously taking a public stand against the weakening of Christian marriage and parenting, producing lots of valuable resources to strengthen Christian marriages, to instruct children, to call men to bold leadership of their families, and to promote virtuous behavior through quality Christian films.
And this morning so much of what he built now lies in ruins, with many Christians he helped (and I include myself and my family in this) demoralized and depressed at the fall of a man in the one area that he went to war with our culture on.
What a warning to us all, especially to those of us who have leadership roles in the church, and especially in the areas we are strongest and most vocal on.
Is defending the doctrine of justification your big thing? That’s where the devil will attack.
Has the Lord given you a passion against Internet porn? Be sure the devil has targeted that area of your life.
Do you preach against materialism? Know that the devil is planting seeds of discontent, greed, and covetousness in your heart.
Do you protest against the promotion of homosexuality? That’s right, the devil’s set his sights on kindling that lust within you.
Is gospel-centeredness your “thing?” Watch the devil turn that into a new “law” to forcefully impose on others.
Do you major on humility and service? The devil has pride and tyranny lurking just round the corner.
“Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
I must admit, over recent years, I did worry at times that Phillips’ leadership and some parts of his wider homeschool/full quiver/patriarchy movement were coming across as a bit arrogant and overly self-confident. Although I valued so much of what they were promoting, I’d grown increasingly uneasy at the somewhat condemning and condescending tone towards any who did not sign on 100% with that agenda. Sometimes I feared that the Gospel of grace seemed to be lost in the midst of all that we were meant to be and to be doing as Christian fathers and mothers.
That’s why I hope that, awful though these events feel to all of us this morning, perhaps this is a much-needed opportunity for humble re-evaluation for all concerned. On the one hand, I dread telling my children about this; we’ve grown to love Doug Phillips over many years of homeschooling. On the other hand, God can turn it into a blessing by reminding them (and me) that the best of men are men at their best and that the Gospel of Christ is not just something we need at conversion, but every day of our lives. I also plan to read Doug’s letter of resignation with my kids, as in many ways it is a model letter of repentance and faith for Christian leaders everywhere.
This morning we pray for Doug, his family, and the other woman and her family. But, more than ever before, I also pray and beg the Lord that I will never have to write such a letter.
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