Posted by: glorifyhim1 | January 14, 2013

Falling or Standing?

My husband loves to watch people fall – as long as no one gets hurt, of course! His laughter can be heard all over the house if he watches an episode of spills, trips, and falls on Funniest Videos. But to give him his due, he also thinks its hilariously funny when he falls. Just the other day he came inside from working in his wood shed. Apparently, he had started to walk backwards rolling  his two-wheel cart, but had forgotten that he had left a crate sitting just behind him. Backing into the crate, he lost his balance and fell backwards over top of the crate. So there he lay, flat on his back with both feet sticking straight up in the air against the crate. While no one was there to witness his fall, he lay there and laughed at himself for a while. Then he rolled over to stand up, and came inside to tell me what had happened. He laughed the whole time he told me about it.  “Well, at least you didn’t fall on your head,” I sympathized, and we both laughed again!

While we could laugh about my husband’s fall and a few others that we’ve both experienced over the years, we both realize that all falls are not funny. Sometimes people can be seriously injured and hurt. And sometimes our falls have nothing to do with physically falling. We may experience emotional, social, and spiritual falls as well. While these types of falls may sometimes be witnessed by others, they are never funny. And oftentimes, these types of falls are not even visible to others – we cry alone, suffer alone, and bear our fall all alone.

I think that the Bible teaches than even sincere believers are not immune to falling. We live in a fallen world and our fleshly desires war against our spiritual desires. This is nothing new. The early Christians experienced the same struggle. Peter begged the Christians in Asia Minor: “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:17). In order to keep from falling, Paul told the Ephesians to “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). He continued: “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13). When we try to live as Christ calls us to live, we are set for battle in this world.

So how can we keep from falling spiritually? The Bible actually points out several things that can trip us up.

  • We fail to seek godly counsel and we search for advice in all the wrong places.

“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, but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).

Our first counselor is God Himself – not what seems right to us nor the current wave of popular opinion. We need to seek His wisdom and guidance in the affairs of our lives. We need to evaluate our problems against the Word of God. The Bible offers immeasurable advice to anyone truly seeking to stand. There are also anointed pastors, trusted teachers, and Christian friends and counselors that we can go to for help.

  • We trust in the wrong things.

 “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness” (Psalm 37:3).

He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like foliage” (Proverbs 11:28).

When we put our trust in anything other than God Himself, we are actually making that person or thing our god instead of the one true God. Then we are destined to fall. The very first commandment declares: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:2-3). God is the only one worthy of our total, complete trust. “As for God, His way is perfect. The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him” (2 Samuel 22:31).

  • We become proud.

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

Haughty is defined by Merriam-Webster as “blatantly and disdainfully proud.” A proud spirit forgets that we stand because of Christ, not because of anything we have done. This truth is probably seen no better than in in a story that Jesus told about a Pharisee and a tax collector.

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

(Luke 18:10-14)

The Pharisee in the above story is playing by all the rules. He fasts, tithes, and does the right things – and he is very proud of all that he does. The tax collector, on the other hand, has nothing to boast about. Instead, he just calls out for God’s mercy. Jesus concludes that the tax collector, not the Pharisee, would leave justified before God. The tax collector would receive so much more blessing than he deserved – and so much less punishment than he deserved. He would undoubtedly leave overwhelmed with the goodness, faithfulness, and absolute wonder of his God.

But what about the Pharisee? I actually feel kind of sorry for him because whether we like to admit it or not, there’s just a little bit of him in all of us (at least at one time or another).

  • We try to earn our standing before God. We go to church, volunteer for myriad activities, give our tithes and offerings, etc. But we do it for all the wrong reasons. Our service becomes a list to complete in order to measure up instead of joyful acts of service and love.
  • We try to justify ourselves in God’s eyes by comparing ourselves to others – I do more, I give more, I read my Bible more. We tend to think we’re okay if we can show that we’re better than someone else. We forget that in God’s eyes, we are all sinners. The only thing a Christian has to boast about is Jesus!
  • We look at everything and everyone else based on the all-important “I.” Notice the number of “I’s” in the short passage above. Instead of looking at the world through our “I” glasses, we need to pray for the Spirit to help us see as God sees.
  • We don’t really seek God, but what we think is right. The passage above states that the Pharisee “stood and prayed thus with himself.” He’s not really talking to God; he’s reasoning with himself.

When the Pharisee left and went home, I wonder how he felt. Did he feel he deserved more of God’s blessings since he lived a better, more devoted, life than the tax collector?  If he actually received less than he felt he deserved, did he feel the need to work harder and do even more to try to justify himself before God? Or did he become angry with God, angry at the tax collector, or just give up?

I hope that the Pharisee learned what another tax collector learned. Luke tells the story of Zacchaeus, a rich tax collector. Zacchaeus heard that Jesus was coming into Jericho and he wanted to see Him. But Zacchaeus was too short to see above the crowd so he climbed up a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when He passed by. When Jesus came to the tree where Zacchaeus was, He told Zacchaeus to come down from the tree because he needed to stay at his house. Zaccaheus was overjoyed and after spending time with Jesus, Zacchaeus told him: “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold” (Luke 19:8). From his simple encounter with Jesus, Zacchaeus’ life was totally transformed. Zacchaeus learned that he didn’t have to be good enough or deserving enough for Jesus to seek him, save him, and turn his life around.

I find that I need to be reminded of this lesson from time to time as well. God doesn’t bless me because I’m good enough or do all the right things. He doesn’t show His mercy because I deserve it. God extends both His mercy and His grace because of who He is, not because of who or what I am. Zacchaeus was so transformed by Jesus’ love that he eagerly sought to help others, giving half of his goods to the poor. Furthermore, if he had wronged anyone, he went beyond what the law required, stating he would restore four times more than he had taken. Zacchaeus loved – not because he was supposed to, expected to, or required to – but because he wanted to love others as Jesus had loved him. Something tells me that Zacchaeus had learned that the secret to keep from falling is to stand on Jesus – on His mercy, grace, and abiding love.

 

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