1999-02-04 - Falling Down
James 3:2 For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. (NAS)
I, for one, can identify with this statement. I stumble, sometimes badly. Over the course of twenty years, some things have changed and some have not changed nearly as much as I would like them to change. I can't say that I stumble less, because I am far more aware of my missteps than I used to be. One thing that has not changed at all is that when I stumble, it hurts. Just like a small child running down the sidewalk that trips and scrapes his knee hurts, adults who trip and fall hurt too.
One thing about the pain is that it may hurt even more deeply than it did. At first, the pain will be for ourselves and the injury and embarrassment we have caused ourselves. This remains true as we grow, but it becomes a secondary pain to the hurt we cause to others around us. Our disappointment at our failure becomes deeper when we realize that we have let Jesus and those around us down too.
As one dear friend put it, "We're human." This is not to excuse our sin, but to simply acknowledge that it is going to happen. There are a few people who I look up to for living exemplary public lives in the ministry. I'm sure that every one of them would be quick to point you or me on to Jesus. He is the source of their strength and wisdom. The higher you get put up on that pedestal, the longer the fall will be. The minute we stop relying on Jesus and feel that we have the situation under control is the moment of our greatest danger.
Rev 13:8 And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. (NAS)
This is my favorite verse in all of scripture. It is one of the few, if not the only reference to "the book of life". Those whose names are not listed in the book are worshiping the beast of Revelation. Those whose names are listed in the book must be the believers who will not worship this false god. But look at the timing. Their names were written "before the foundation of the world". Before time itself began ticking, the name of everyone who would believe in the salvation of God - Old testament and New - was placed on the pages of this book. God knew before He created Adam and Eve that they would fall from innocence and a plan to redeem them would be needed. The cross of Calvary was already in the mind of the Father before the first ray of light was called into existence. Nothing we do surprises God. It may sadden Him to see us sin, but it is not unexpected.
James 4:6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (NAS)
The one thing that the half-brother of Jesus allows is that "we all stumble". Yet, our names are not erased for all our selfishness and foolishness. The minute we are proud enough to think we are able to handle a situation in our own strength, God will show us otherwise. Yes, there will be pain involved in many cases. His correction is meant to humble us, not to break us. There are times when the lesson has a price. But, if we will admit our pride and turn from it, His purpose has been accomplished and a lesson has been learned.
Ps 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise. (NAS)
A broken heart is a wrenching experience. To know that we have failed our Lord, our friends and ourselves is difficult to deal with at times. The hardest person to forgive is very often ourselves. But there is never a time when Jesus does not stand ready to forgive - to pick us up and dust off our knees after we fall. It still hurts everyone involved. But the bandages of grace, mercy and forgiveness are offered to us as we hand over our wounded hearts to God.
Dear Lord - We know that You are faithful and just to forgive us when we stumble and fall. The more we remain humble, the more likely we are to rely on You. Help us to see the purpose in our struggles and failures. You have things to teach us and accomplish in our lives through Your grace in these times. And we have Your promise to never leave us. In spite of ourselves, You are faithful. Amen.