By Don Ruhl
“We all stumble in many things” (Jam 3.2). Often stumbling is ignored or excused by Christians because they do not see how it can lead to anything permanent, or it is written off as just being a part of who they are. Still others will see it as just being human and since every person stumbles in many things, there is nothing to be concerned about.
However, stumbling must be seen as a matter of heaven and hell. That is, if we stumble and do not get up, but remain in a state of apostasy, hell is our destination; whereas if we get up from stumbling, we can still have the hope of heaven. Does this not make stumbling one of the most serious matters that we can consider? When we stumble we should give all diligence to get back up to our former position of righteousness.
The Bible uses walking as a metaphor for living
Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful…
Romans 13.13 is just one of the many times that the New Testament uses this metaphor, “Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in licentiousness and lewdness, not in strife and envy.”
We walk to journey from one location to another. In life we are on a journey, as though we are walking from one location to another. However, what can happen as we walk, especially if we are not paying attention, is we stumble over something and fall. In life we often fail to use the light of God’s word to light our way in this dark world (Psa 119.105), and we stumble, doing something that we should not have done.
Stumbling is an ugly picture
In Second Peter 2.20–22 we can see graphically with three more metaphors what it means to stumble,
For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”
Peter used the metaphor of pollutions and becoming entangled in them. Is anyone eager to breathe polluted air? Who wants to drink from the sewer? Yet, Christians who stumble are doing these very things spiritually.
The second metaphor is of a dog eating his own vomit. Can you imagine eating your own vomit? Need it be repeated that this is what fallen Christians are doing?
The third metaphor is of a clean sow wallowing in the mire. This may make sense for a pig, but not for humans, because we clean ourselves to avoid the mud. Why then do Christians fall away and go back to the filth of sin after having been washed from sin?
Signs of stumbling
The preceding material being true, we should all be very careful to examine ourselves to make sure that we do not stumble. Here are some things to look for in your own life, and may be in the lives of others whom you can help. Of course, the pattern may not be the same for every person, but often you will see the following (this list is from J. Curtis Manor).
- Lack of time for Bible study, church assemblies or Christian service
- Devoting of more time to reading newspaper or novels than the Bible
- Preference for the company of the irreligious to that of Christians
- Looking for reasons to justify something you have already done or decided to do
- Evaluating the sermon more by its length than by its content
- Becoming more prone to illness on Sunday than on other days of the week
- Stretching one week’s excuse to cover two or more weeks of absence from church
- Thinking of the church in terms of “they” rather than “we”
- Reaction to sorrow, doubts, or personal problems by avoiding Christian who might help to resolve them.
- Resentment toward being visited by representatives of the church.
Where are you on your walk?
Are you walking, or have you stumbled and fallen? Sometimes we need help to get back up on our feet, and that is why God wants us to have fellowship with one another, so that we can look out for one another and help each other.
Therefore, be sure that you are an active member of the church!