When Robin Williams committed suicide, figures were released on the skyrocketing numbers of middle-aged men taking their lives. Unexpected health problems, derailed careers, financial implosions and exposure of sexual dalliances were some of the factors.
In the past few years there seems to be an epidemic of adulterous and sexually inappropriate relationships coming to light on a regular basis. Let's be honest, it's alarming to many of us onlookers plus causes much fear and trepidation among spouses who ponder the question, "Are we going to be next?"
And it's not just marrieds who are scratching their heads. Religious authorities are struggling watching the chilling increase of moral failures in their ranks.
Vatican City just released the news that a 63 year old respected Catholic bishop in Brighton, England just resigned due to an immoral relationship with a woman. It had nothing to do with an underage female or child sex abuse. Bishop Kieran Conry simply got entangled in a sexual relationship with an attractive woman and the scandal has rocked the Vatican.
Two weeks ago I sat with a pastor of a megachurch who explained the unraveling of his former assistant's deceptive adulterous involvement with numerous women in numerous cities over the past few years. A married man with children and set to be the future senior pastor, yet he threw it all away for the "temporary pleasures of sin for a season."
Derek Prince, deceased Bible teacher with a global ministry made this statement: "I've been in ministry for over 60 years and I am well aware that in a matter of minutes I can throw everything away that I have built."
Here's the deal: it's time to step back and engage in a realistic assessment of what's happening and hopefully learn from others' mistakes to avert disaster in our own lives, especially if we find ourselves in the middle season of life.
The Challenge of Living Chaste in a Decadent Culture
Erotic stimuli bombard us from everywhere today. There's also the elimination of restraints and sexual taboos. Add to this lethal mix the pervasive encouragement to indulge in sexual permissiveness via TV, films, magazines and the Internet.
Dr. Ted Roberts is trying to combat the avalanche of pornography flooding our churches by a DVD series advertised with provocative statements like "68% of Christian men view pornography" and "50 percent of pastors view porn regularly." He bases this on a five-year national survey conducted by Pure Desire Ministries entitled "Porn Usage in the Evangelical Church."
Paul Coelho, one of the most influential writers of our time, just released his latest book called "Adultery" dealing with this theme in our society today.
In case you haven't heard, the latest cultural trend being pushed is something called "Sugar Dating" where primarily younger women trade sexual companionship for money given by older, wealthy men. The documentary, "Daddies Date Babies" surveys this development and explains how many millennial girls engage in this activity to get quick cash and pay off their debts!
A new movie being released next week is called "Men, Women and Children" portraying how sex is pulling at us from every side in today's digital age. USA TODAY reviewed it and stated: "What's happening to us in the process? With porn at the ready on 'incognito' tabs, BDSM a jarring go-to for teens and Ashley Madison ads winking over one-click affairs, where are we headed?"
Last week in an article in The Christian Post entitled "The Defining Moment Between Attraction and Sexual Sin," the author confessed "after living 19 years free from dealing with sexual attraction outside my marriage, I find myself experiencing those old familiar triggers once again. YIKES!"
Gordon McDonald, author of "Magnificent Marriage," "Effective Father," and former president of InnerVarsity Press relates how he once was asked by a businessman if Satan was to "blow him out of the water" how would he do it? Gordon responded, "He'd never get me in the area of morality. I'm just too strong there. It would have to be somewhere else."
Subsequently, Gordon McDonald acknowledged adultery and stated he neglected to heed the counsel of Oswald Chambers who said in his classic "My Utmost for His Highest": "An unguarded strength is a double weakness." [The good news is that Gordon humbled himself and went through a lengthy process of restoration so he is functioning fruitfully in ministry once again!]
It would do us all good to regularly meditate on the scripture "So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But with the temptation will provide the way of escape to bear up under it" (1 Cor. 10:12-13).
Overview of Some More High-profile Examples
Ponder for a moment, while praying for these individuals, the following middle-agers who have confessed immorality or inappropriate behavior in extramarital relationships: Doug Phillips. Marcus Lamb. Rory Alec. Zachary Tim. Bob Coy. Jim Bolin. Paul Sheppard. Bill Gothard. Eddie Long. Benny Hinn. Bobby Petrino and four-star Star General David Petreus. The moral failures of Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker and Ted Haggard now seem like ages ago.
Wouldn't it do us good to consider the reasons why middle-age men get involved in sexually inappropriate or adulterous relationships? If we identify some signposts leading to the shipwreck, hopefully we'll steer clear before it's too late.
Seven Reasons Why Middle-age Men Get Involved in Sexual Immorality
1. Heart issue where they've never really submitted totally to Jesus Christ as Lord and then got established in an authentic local church for ongoing nurturing and support.
2. Unhealthy fear that time is fleeting and they must "grab the gusto" and experience whatever sexual pleasure remains before it's too late.
3. Sensing a lessening of physical attractiveness for their spouse and possible floating bitterness that she is "letting herself go," thinking it's alright to be attracted to and involved with other available women.
4. Because a spouse is disinterested in sexual activity, maybe experiencing menopause, thinking God understands and "gives a pass" to engage in extramarital sexual behavior.
5. As children have grown and left for college or marriage, there's simply more time for other pursuits which can include exploring new realms of sexual relationship.
6. Greater financial prosperity enables discretionary income to be tapped for recreation, hobbies, gadgets and, why not some sexual pursuits?
7. Whereas resolving relational conflicts quickly were once a priority, now laziness and selfishness rules, allowing the marriage to drift and a gulf to widen--a setup for Satan's alternative.
David was not a young man when he succumbed to sexual sin. Commentators believe his age was approximately 51! His devastating failure was a classic example of Satan's pattern leading someone from fantasy to flirtation to the fall.
"When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death" (Jam 1:13-15).
The subtlety of sexual sin was seen in the entrapment of David with Bathsheba. We must be on guard for EXTERNAL danger signals in relating to the opposite sex (growing dependence on someone; receiving affirmation and praise; listening to complaints about loneliness; receiving gifts; enjoying physical contact...) as well as INTERNAL danger signals (regularly thinking about a person; comparing the person to my spouse; finding excuses to be around the individual; having sexual fantasies about the person; scheming ways to be alone with them; sharing marital problems with them; exploring Facebook contacts; keeping "articles of affection" from an old flame...).
In these challenging times, it is critical to be aggressive in putting to death fleshly impulses and guarding our minds. May we discern any subtle signs of attraction and seduction and radically avoid associations where we might be drawn into temptation.
No matter what our age, let's resolve to be aggressive in avoiding temptation and attacking sin when it first rears its ugly head! "I pursued my enemies and overtook them; I did not turn back 'till they were destroyed. I crushed them so that they could not rise; they fell beneath my feet" (Ps.18:37-38).