5 things to pray when your hero falls
Ravi is not the first, and won’t be the last
Many of us in the evangelical world have been reeling from the results of the investigation into the sexual immorality of the late Ravi Zacharias. The confirmed actions of Ravi were enough to bring me to tears as I read about them. To many, Ravi was the greatest apologist of our time. His influence strengthened the faith of millions and brought thousands to know Christ through his evangelism, books, and ministry. His long-term practices of sexual immorality, abuse, and manipulation were known to no one except the victims. Ravi had successfully compartmentalized (at least outwardly) this area of his life and went to his deathbed without it being exposed. All of us are shocked. Angry. Confused. Hurt.
Oh, how I wish this was an uncommon story. We have all known someone we looked up to who fell into sin. Many times, the sin cannot be hidden for too long. And when it becomes exposed, there is devastation that follows. For those in the spotlight, with fame and influence, the spiritual warfare is intense, the temptations are pronounced, and the potential fallout is catastrophic. No, Ravi is not the first and he certainly won’t be the last. It can be tempting to question everything we learned and benefited from their influence. It can be tempting to question the merit of having “heroes” we look up to and individuals we respect. But my hope is that, as Christians, we would pray humbly and fervently for five things when our heroes fall.
1) Pray that God would show us the depth of our own sin
“That would never happen to me. I would never do something like that. How disgusting!” Have you had these thoughts? Well, the truth is that sin lies in the heart of each of us and we all have the tendency to minimize the evil of our own thoughts, words, and actions. We all have those things we put up with in our lives, things we justify and think are no big deal. When those we admire have their sin exposed for the ugly thing that it is, our response should not be to marvel at the depth of their sin but to remind ourselves of the depth of our own sin. That feeling of disgust you get when you hear of the sin of others… do you feel that way about your own sin? We must! These are the things that required the death of the perfect Lamb of God. Allow the cross to show you how evil your sin is and resolve to crucify the flesh. Let us put our sin to death through the power of the gospel.
2) Pray that God would keep us from falling into sin
1 Cor. 10:12-13 says, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” There are two striking things about this passage. First, it is when we aren’t careful that we often fall. When we don’t keep watch over our lives, when we get comfortable and think little about the possibility of sin. That is when we are most likely to fall. Second, no believer is unable to resist temptation, no matter how great. God always provides a way of escape and his Spirit empowers us to say no. We can fall. We often do. Even if they aren’t in ways that would make world news. When our heroes fall, it should be a reminder to us that no one is safe from the enticement of sin. May we take heed lest we fall also.
3) Pray that God would be near to their family
One of the ways that well-known failure is devastating is how it affects the close friends and family of the one who has sinned. For Ravi’s family, I cannot begin to imagine what they are going through, especially since he is gone and has lost his opportunity to repent to them. Sin like this is devastating enough but there is no privacy when it comes to influential people. All of their sin is out in the open for everyone to see. This kind of exposure amplifies the grieving process of many who are close to them. It is harder to move on, to go out in public, to surround yourself with others who can help. In seasons like this, it is good to lift up their families up in prayer, asking God to comfort them in the midst of devastating grief.
4) Pray that God would protect the faith of those who came to know Christ through them
It is only natural to question the influence of those we find out were living an immoral lifestyle, especially a hidden one. If they were so good at deceiving us, was anything they said true? This is a temptation for all of us but an even deeper struggle for those who came to faith because of their influence. We are angry and hurt. We can either bring that anger and hurt to God or allow it to drive us from him. But God is what we need right now. God can use broken sinners to accomplish his purposes. And thank God he does, otherwise none of us would be usable. Something about Ravi’s story reminds me so much of David. King David was a man after God’s heart, used by God to do great things, and the standard by which every subsequent king would be measured against. But David fell into sexual immorality. He was not “taking heed” and when the temptation came, he had an explicit affair with Bathsheba. And he needed to keep it quiet. In fact, he organized the death of her husband to keep it quiet. This is the evil that resides in each of us. But God still uses sinners like us. Our faith need not be shaken in the grief of a hero failing. Because our ultimate hero never fails.
5) Pray that our hope would rest in Christ and not men
This is the anchor for our souls when sin is exposed. This is the solid rock on which we stand when the storms of life hit us. This is the strong tower that guards us from the devastating power of sin’s effects. Our hope rests not in men but in the God-man, Jesus Christ. Our hope rests in the one who was tempted in every way like us but without sin. The only secret he kept was to conceal the fullness of his glory until his hour had come for him to give his life for the sins of others, not to conceal his own. And in that act, he brought salvation and forgiveness for all who trust in Christ. This is our hope. When our heroes fail, we pray that God would use that reality to remind us of where our hope must rest. In the one who never fails.
God is a god of perfect justice. Ravi’s sins will be paid for. Either by Ravi in eternity or by the cross at Calvary. We need not fear that God was unaware of his “secret sins.” And we need not fear that sin will linger forever. No, our conquering king and righteous judge is coming again. And when he does, all the hurt and brokenness of the most vile of sins will be washed away and we will never suffer from them again. May we who belong to Christ trust in him and long for that day.