For Those Who Stumble
He is able to guard you from stumbling, and to set you before the presence of his glory in exceeding joy.
Here is a wonderful promise for us who have committed our lives into the hands of God. For our pathway towards “the presence of his glory” conceals many pitfalls, and he undertakes to guard us from these. When do we stumble? When, unaware of any obstruction, we strike our foot on something hidden in our path. This verse assures us that God’s preserving grace will operate just there, beyond the realm of our consciousness. If we commit ourselves unreservedly to his care, we need not fear the unknown. We shall marvel to see how again and again God preserves us from dangers of which at the time we were wholly ignorant.
Usually we stumble because we can’t see what lies before us. I’m sure many of us have had the experience of walking across a dark room and discovering something in the way that causes us to stumble. Isaiah tells us that the world sits in darkness. Paul will say, “whom the god of this world has blinded their minds.” Once Adam gave way to the influence of the devil, since then humanity has groped in darkness. To be sure there have been those who believe they have been “enlightened” so that they no longer feel the need of God’s light. Yet history reveals that the “enlightened ones” lead their followers into deeper darkness. Consider Karl Marx who taught that there could be an equal distribution of resources. His dream was that everyone would share and share alike. Russians under the rule of the Tzar saw this philosophy as the answer and initially embraced it until it became evident that human nature had not changed. After years of enforced compliance for the masses with the elite getting the lion’s share of resources, the communist enlightened movement collapsed leaving the people in much worse conditions than before. The French embraced the philosophy of Voltaire who taught that humans were the masters of their own destinies and they had no need of religion. Atheism ruled the day and its destructive power resulted in the bloody French Revolution. Again and again multiple attempts to create utopia were tried and all of them failed because humans stumble.
John in his gospel introduces Jesus as the Light of the world:
“In the beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself. He was [continually existing] in the beginning [co-eternally] with God. All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him not even one thing was made that has come into being. In Him was life [and the power to bestow life], and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness did not understand it or overpower it or appropriate it or absorb it [and is unreceptive to it]. There came a man commissioned and sent from God, whose name was John. This man came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe [in Christ, the Light] through him. John was not the Light, but came to testify about the Light. There it was—the true Light [the genuine, perfect, steadfast Light] which, coming into the world, enlightens everyone. He (Christ) was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own [that which belonged to Him—His world, His creation, His possession], and those who were His own [people—the Jewish nation] did not receive and welcome Him. But to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the right [the authority, the privilege] to become children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name— who were born, not of blood [natural conception], nor of the will of the flesh [physical impulse], nor of the will of man [that of a natural father], but of God [that is, a divine and supernatural birth—they are born of God—spiritually transformed, renewed, sanctified].”
John 1: 1-13
Jude picks up on this revelation and adds, “He is able to guard you from stumbling.” When we walk in the light of Christ, our way is clear and every snare set by our enemy is visible, every obstacle in our path can be clearly seen, and every pitfall on the path can be circumvented because of the great light. It is evident from observation that more evil occurs in darkness than daylight for perpetrators seek to remain hidden from view. How often it is in the darkness of night that the whispers of fear, doubt, unbelief, and temptation come!
How then is God able to keep us from stumbling? First of all He has sent us the Holy Spirit to guide us:
“But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth [full and complete truth]. For He will not speak on His own initiative, but He will speak whatever He hears [from the Father—the message regarding the Son], and He will disclose to you what is to come [in the future].”
Even in the darkest moments when we cannot see our way, the presence of the Holy Spirit walking with us, holding us, guiding us, and placing our feet upon a solid foundation, keeps us from falling.
Paul further tells us:
“For all who are allowing themselves to be led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading again to fear [of God’s judgment], but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons [the Spirit producing sonship] by which we [joyfully] cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies and confirms together with our spirit [assuring us] that we [believers] are children of God. And if [we are His] children, [then we are His] heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ [sharing His spiritual blessing and inheritance], if indeed we share in His suffering so that we may also share in His glory.”
Second of all God has given us His Word:
“Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
The wicked have laid a snare for me, Yet I do not wander from Your precepts.
Uphold me according to Your word [of promise], so that I may live; And do not let me be ashamed of my hope [in Your great goodness]. Uphold me that I may be safe, That I may have regard for Your statutes continually.
Establish my footsteps in [the way of] Your word; Do not let any human weakness have power over me [causing me to be separated from You].
Psalm 119: 105, 110, 116-117, 133
If for some reason, like Peter, you feel as though you are drowning in the storm of life, cry out, reach out, and refocus your attention on Jesus. He will lift you up, set your foot on a rock and hold you steady as He directs your steps. If you’re walking through a dark season of life, seek the Light. Isaiah gives us a powerful promise: “Those that sat in darkness have seen a great light.” If you’ve fallen because trouble and temptation have been too strong, cry out to the Shepherd who left the 99 and has come seeking you. You can trust in His rescue and help in the time of trouble. Finally let the peace of God rule your heart because you know that on that day, Christ Himself will present you to the Father because you trusted not in yourself but in Him.
Dr. John Thompson