Brian Williams messed up. America’s most trusted news anchor told a lie. In 2013, he told David Letterman a helicopter on which he was traveling in the Iraq War had been shot down. He later repeated the lie on the Nightly News in 2015. When confronted with the truth, he then apologized, but still did not tell the whole truth.
Now Brian Williams has been suspended without pay for six months. He will most likely be fired. His reputation is ruined. One popular marketing poll shows that within one week, he dropped from the 23rd most trusted man in America to the 835th.
Many are saddened by Williams’ sudden and dramatic fall. Others, in their shadenfreude, joke and taunt. As we watch famous people crash and burn from personal failures and mistakes, we easily find ourselves shaking our heads. How could they be so stupid? How could a person sink so low?
Dr. Dwight Moody was a famous preacher who lived a little over 150 years ago. He was also the founder of the Moody Institute, a Christian college in Chicago. One day as Dr. Moody was walking home from classes with one of his students, they came upon a drunk, passed out in a pool of his own vomit on the sidewalk.
Feeling superior and wanting to somehow impress his professor, the student asked Dr. Moody, “How could anyone stoop so low?” Dr. Moody looked at the drunk and then at his student.
“There, but for the grace of God, go I,” Moody replied.
That could easily have been him. That could easily have been you. So often we fail to realize we are two or three bad choices away from losing our happy families, our happy jobs – our happy lives.
Two or three bad choices.
Most times, you can come back from one bad choice and not lose everything. If Brian Williams had just admitted his lie right away and fully apologized, he probably wouldn’t have lost everything, but then he lied again and then again.
Before we shake our heads in disgust, though, we need to listen carefully to the Apostle Paul’s warning: “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
You let one drink become ten. Then you get in your car. Now a person is dead and you are going to prison.
It was just harmless flirtation. Then one day you offer to give her a ride home after work. Then you go in just to talk for a while. Now you have lost your wife and children. Everybody hates you.
When you see the famous and not so famous fall, remember that could be you. We are all just two or three bad choices away from losing everything.
But also remember that even if you did lose everything, it is never too late. Sure it may be too late for Brian Williams to salvage his career, but as long as we have air in our lungs and blood flowing through our veins, it is never too late to repent.
God’s grace is amazing. His forgiveness knows no bounds. You never have to lose everything. Whether you make one or one million bad choices, God will always take you back. He will always forgive you because Jesus suffered your punishment in your place on the cross.
So if you mess up, admit it. Don’t let one bad choice lead to another and then another. But also trust that no matter how hard you fall, no matter how low you sink, God’s grace for you knows no limits. Turn to him and find full and free forgiveness.