Following Jesus is not a part-time job. When Jesus called Peter to drop his nets and come with Him, He was not asking the fisherman to go with Him for a block or two. He was asking him to consider leaving everything behind in order to be His disciple. Peter left behind a somewhat secure living to follow Jesus. People like Matthew left behind a lucrative career and a life of relative ease (although lots of people hated the tax man). Each of the 12 and many more chose to follow Jesus … and each one stumbled along the way.
God’s Word calls us to run our race with perseverance (Hebrews 12:1-3). We are warned that it will require throwing off those things that hinder us and watching out for those things that can trip us up. Every believer wants to be able to say as Paul did as he neared the end of his life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7), but we all know that along the way there are many things to trip us up and cause us to stumble.
Doubts cause us to stumble. There are days we feel like super saints, days when our faith is strong and we are determined to let our candle shine on the front porch of the devil himself. Those are good days, but sadly they don’t last forever. There are also days when tragedy strikes, sickness sets us shop in our bodies, and heartaches abound. On those days, it seems as if the shield of faith we are holding is full of holes. We doubt, and that doubt causes us to wonder whether we should keep on pushing forward.
Detractors can also trip us up. It seems that when we’re riding high there is always someone taking pot shots at us. They may be jealous. They may be angry. Their faith may be full of holes, and they want everyone to be as miserable and hopeless as they are. Whatever the reason, there are plenty of people ready to stick a foot in our path to cause us to stumble as we run the marathon of faith.
Distractions also abound. We jogging along the path heading toward the goal when we hear the distinctive sound of music from an ice cream truck. There are so many things in this world to capture our attention and pull us off the course marked out for us. Some of these things are sins … but they are packaged so beautifully. Other distractions are not bad things, in fact, they are good things; they are just not God’s best for us. Many people generation after generation have settle for good while sacrificing the best.
We stumble because of doubts within. We stumble because of threats and attacks of detractors. We stumble because of the distraction of other things at the cost of the best thing.
We ALL stumble. We have the best of intentions. We do not intend to go off course, but we do. We do not intend to let anything distract us from our goal of walking in faith, but it’s just so tempting. And even though we should not use the excuse that everybody stumbles to make ourselves feel better, there is grace and mercy in those times we do wind up flat on our faces. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
So run the race even when stumbling is inevitable. But when you stumble do not simply sit there a wallow in your failure, instead confess your failure, receive grace, embrace mercy, and with God’s strength get back on track.