Well-known Raleigh News & Observer columnists, Rob Christiansen not long ago noted that once North Carolina had a good name for honest government. "Not so in the 21st century," says Christiansen; "Two dozen people involved in public life have either run afoul of the law in recent years or at least been suspected of doing so." Christiansen calls this time in North Carolina history, "The Tarnished Tar Heel Decade." 
Moreover, North Carolina's former U.S. senator, John Edwards, just admitted to having an affair while his wife was struggling with cancer and he was campaigning for the Democratic Party's nomination for presidency of the United States. The revelation was a blow to the nation, but it was especially hard on a state where so many public servants have fallen of late.
The reasons why leaders fall are as complex as human nature. Shakespeare was known for writing about tragic heroes that succumbed to the enemy within. Othello was a victim of his jealousy. Lear was a prey of his own irrationality and misdirected suspicions. Hamlet was a casualty of his indecisiveness. The sinful nature of mankind may be an antiquated concept in the mind of many today, but the relevance of the Bible's truth is constantly demonstrated among the great and the small: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)
For this reason leaders must be especially careful and zealous to guard their roles. God, in his sovereignty, graciously grants leadership for the sake of service. Unfortunately, however, those blessed with it often follow their lower natures - listening to the wrong voices and valuing the wrong things. Consequently, the losses can be profound.
Such was the case with King Solomon. Solomon was a great education leader who was responsible for an incredible collection of proverbs and wisdom literature recorded in the Bible. He was an exceptional diplomat increasing the power and property of Israel far beyond what his renowned father King David had accomplished. He was an economic mastermind, taking the nation of Israel to phenomenal heights by striking an alliance with the Queen of Sheba, supplying horses and chariots to Near Eastern rulers, establishing a shipping cartel with the Phoenicians, and instituting royal provinces that provided a month's provision for the royal court. Devoutly spiritual, he was best known for his crowning achievement of erecting the Temple of the Lord. So lofty and grandiose were Solomon's achievements that no kingdom has ever matched them since.
Yet the Bible says, "For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God..." (I Kings 11:4). As Solomon listened to his pagan wives, his value system was grossly distorted.
Despite the fact that God had blessed Solomon with unprecedented international success, the Bible teaches he intermarried with foreign women that God had strictly forbidden him to wed because of their idolatry. He then heeded their requests to establish shrines and places of worship to their gods. Thus, Solomon fell from the favor of God and set in motion a judgment that divided the kingdom under his son, Rehoboam. Sadly, the nation would never again enjoy its former glory.
Samson is another example of a leader who did mighty exploits before he also fell. He served as a judge in Israel for 20 years and was a war hero in conflicts with Israel's arch-enemies - the Philistines. God's favor on him was demonstrated in his superhuman strength. Yet "it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah." (Judges 16:4)
Samson's illicit affair with Delilah would lead to his capture by the Philistines and his inability to continue serving as a judge. Even though Samson repented and his last battle with the Philistines was victorious as he literally pulled down the Temple of Dagon, it ended with his own death as well as that of thousands of Philistines. Samson not only lost his position and his life, but the nation lost what had been a powerful force for good.
There is but one anchor to keep leaders tethered to greatness - an abiding deep love and respect for God and His Word.
Woodrow Wilson, educator, author and the president of Princeton University, Governor of New Jersey, and the 28th president of the United States, once stated:
"A man had deprived himself of the best there is in the world who has deprived himself of this, a knowledge of the Bible. When you have read the Bible, you will know that it is the Word of God, because you will have found it to be the key to your own heart, your own happiness and your own duty." 
There is a story about a child who was raising a fit because he shoved his hand into the opening of an expensive Chinese vase and couldn't pull it out. Parents and neighbors unsuccessfully tried to get the screaming child loose. Finally, there was no other option left than to break the beautiful and costly vase. As the mournful heaps of broken glass lay on the floor, it became all too apparent why the child had been stuck. He was grasping a paltry penny he spied in the bottom of the vase, which he refused with clinched fist to release.
Leadership could learn a lot from that little boy. Whenever a person in authority more highly esteems the measly penny mess of this world than that which is most lovely and infinitely priceless - the eternal truths of divine revelation - something precious is lost that may never again be regained.
Resources  Rob Christiansen, "A Digest of Public Service," Raleigh News & Observer, September 9, 2007.  America's God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations, William J. Federer, Fame Publishing, 1999, p. 697.
Rev. Mark H. Creech is the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.