Stumbling Blocks

January 29, 2017

The road ahead of us is tough and challenging. There will be many circumstances and situations that will come as stumbling blocks and will hamper or impede our walk. Nevertheless, we must rise and go on without being distracted. There will even be times when we shall stumble and fall but we should take comfort in the promise in the Book of Proverbs that says, “Though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes” (Prov. 24:16). Indeed, the righteous are given many opportunities to rise again because they are able to repent and start life again. On the other hand, the wicked will have no chance of recovery for they will neither repent nor acknowledge God in their life.

While we may stumble and fall because of the obstacles that will come our way, we are warned that we should never be an obstacle in the way of others. The apostle Paul warned, “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? . . . The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be” (Gal. 5:7-10). Even the Lord Jesus Christ strongly warned his disciples not to be an instrument in causing others to fall, especially children. He said, “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matt. 18:6). We should never take these warnings lightly. Rather than be an obstacle, we should help and encourage those who have stumbled to rise and continue on with their walk.

When Jesus told his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life, Peter rebuked him saying, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” In response, Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Matt. 16:23). Jesus saw the hand of Satan in Peter and commanded Satan not to just depart from him this time, as he did at the temptation at the mount, but to go behind him and be subject to him. He emphasized that he is the master and no one can thwart the plan and will of God for him. God’s will for him was to die and unless he dies, there shall be no salvation for sinners. No wonder Satan used Peter, the most vocal and influential among the disciples, as an instrument to stop God’s plan.

Jesus wanted us to always have in mind the things of God. The apostle Paul emphasized this when he said, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col. 3:2). Peter was so absorbed by the things of this world for a reason. They were with Jesus and enjoyed all the good that Jesus was doing in their midst. They were fed, together with the five thousand people, and had witnessed the miracles upon miracles that Jesus performed. Their group was looked up to by the people and the last thing that he wanted to see was for Jesus to die and depart from them. But what he had in mind were just the things of this world - temporal things. The Lord wants us to focus our eyes on spiritual things instead. To this the apostle Paul said further, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (Rom. 8:5).

Satan continues to put stumbling block before us hoping that we stumble - and we will stumble in one way or another. In fact, the apostle James said, “We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check” (James 3:2). But the good thing about us is that we have the Lord with us when we are focused on the things that are above. The Psalmist encouraged believers to hold on to their faith in spite of all the obstacles that can cause us to stumble. He said, “If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand” (Psalm 37:23-24).

For someone who had stumbled, the command is for him to rise again and continue with his walk. He should never give up, just like those who compete in an obstacle course. It is often not the strongest or fittest that wins but the smartest. As believers, the devil cannot outwit us because we are not unaware of his schemes, but he can defeat us if we cause others to stumble. The apostle Paul warned, “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Cor. 8:9). Therefore, let us help those who stumbled that they may rise again and continue on in their journey and let us not cause anyone to stumble lest we suffer the consequence. Hallelujah!