5 Traits Your Friends Must Have to Prevent Stumbling
“He lost the one friend he had who he listened to. That’s what happened,” Mike answered.
I asked Mike why a high-profile Christian in our business community seemingly went off the rails. Why he began making bad life decisions. He continued to make terrific business decisions, but not so with his personal life. It started with choosing to divorce his wife of twenty-five years and went south from there.
When I went to visit this successful man, I had to ask him, “Why? Why the divorce?”
He answered in great detail.
But the answer appeared to be self-serving. To tell you the truth, it scared me. I thought, “If he can make this decision, what protection do I have?”
At that time, I was a brand new follower of Jesus Christ. This guy was one of my heroes. I wanted to be like him. He was well respected in our community. He had a very successful and fast-growing technology business. He was even gifted in real estate. He was loved and respected by his employees. I can go on, but suffice it to say, he had it all. Respect, love, power, possessions, and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
The divorce seemed to be the first step in the unraveling of everything. First went his personal life, then his friends, and finally, he sold his business. I’ve lost touch with him so I can’t tell where he is now.
And all this happened about a year after his friend died in an accident. The friend that he allowed to speak into his life. The friend he listened to. The friend who was God’s voice in his life.
His story never left me.
But I never personalized it until now.
Recently, while reading the biography of Ulysses S. Grant, I came across this statement:
“This biography will contend that Grant was an alcoholic with an astonishingly consistent pattern of drinking, recognized by friend and foe alike: a solitary binge drinker who would not touch a drop of alcohol, then succumb at three- or four-month intervals, usually on the road. As a rule, he underwent a radical personality change and could not stop himself once he started to imbibe. Alcohol was not a recreation selfishly indulged, but a forbidden impulse against which he struggled for most of his life.”
Grant learned early in his life that alcohol was the one thing that could destroy him and his career. It almost did once, and he feared it might happen again. But God put a man named John Rawlins in his life. He was Grant’s Chief of Staff.
In the midst of Grant’s growing fame as a Union General in the Civil War, there were many celebratory dinners for Grant. All of them were awash in alcohol. These were celebrations of victories led by the great Grant.
But John Rawlins was always at his side.
He took the responsibility of keeping Grant from falling victim to the one thing which would surely bring him down. Alcohol.
The author writes about the impact this responsibility had on John Rawlins.
“Rawlins began to feel oppressed by the eternal burden of being Grant’s watchdog. ‘I am the only one here (his wife not being with him) who can stay [the drinking] . . . & prevent evil consequences resulting from it,’ Rawlins told his fiancée.”
Then I asked myself, “Who do I have in my life to keep me from the one thing that can bring me down?”
The answer came back in a flash: Regi Campbell.
But Regi is no longer here to be my “watchdog.” He died on January 24, 2020.
Before he died, God opened the door to another man, Bruce Wilkinson. Bruce calls me from time to time. Not frequently. It could be months, in fact. But Bruce is now always on my mind when I am making decisions while in the midst of being tempted with my one thing. I know I am going to get that call from Bruce.
Just last week Bruce called me out of the blue. I didn’t get back to him for a day. I always delay calling him because I know the seriousness of the conversation that will take place. And then he called me again. He wasn’t about to give up.
He asked me, “What is going on in your life?”
This led to a one-hour conversation. A conversation that resulted in three pages of notes. It was the same conversation I used to have with Regi. These two men know my heart. They know what I am thinking even if I can’t put it into words. They know my one thing.
Toward the end of the call, I asked Bruce, “Why did you call me?”
He said, “God put you on my heart while I was praying. He told me to call you.”
I believe, as leaders, we have that one thing that can bring us down. To ensure the one thing does not win the day, God puts a person in our lives whom we respect and listen to. I’ve had a few men like this in my life and here are their attributes.
They are God-fearing men who pray for me.
They see a potential greatness in me I don’t see in myself.
They believe in the mission God has for me.
They know the one thing that can bring me down.
They have a burden to be there for me. To help me fight off the one thing.
John Rawlins knew he served only as a backup. He was not alone in keeping Ulysses S. Grant on his path to greatness. The person with the primary responsibility was Julia Grant, Ulysses’ wife.
I have Kathy and Bruce.