Watch Your Step

February 17, 2020

We may come across some bumps on life’s pathway, but there are ways to avoid tripping over them.

By Cheryl Paulsen

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or years it has been common knowledge in our family that I can stumble over almost anything. Even a little irregularity in the pavement can be sufficient to cause me to become quite a spectacle. For this reason, Jude 24 has been a theme of my prayers both physically and spiritually for a long time. “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling . . .”

This was particularly brought to my attention awhile back when our family visited Israel. In Jerusalem we stayed at a Christian guest facility just inside the Jaffa Gate. Each morning as breakfast was being served, one of the staff members read a passage of Scripture. The first day’s text included this same verse, read from a different version which said, “To him who is able to keep you from stumbling . . .”

Be assured, I was quoting that verse in my mind as we went about the city of Jerusalem. We walked miles (literally) over rough, ancient stone sidewalks, up and down stone steps, on rocky paths, and through narrow tunnels. Thankfully, the Lord helped me not to fall.

Spiritually speaking, the difficulties in our lives can be stumbling blocks or stepping stones. Often the decisive factor is how much we lift our focus toward God and His plan for us.

Almost invariably there is one cause for my stumbling problem—when I walk, I do not lift up my toes quite enough to avoid irregularities in the terrain. Spiritually speaking, the difficulties in our lives can be stumbling blocks or stepping stones. Often the decisive factor is how much we lift our focus toward God and His plan for us.

Consideration of the full context of these verses in Jude can be helpful. “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).

Who is able to keep us from falling? “The only wise God our Saviour.” Not only is He able to keep us from falling, but He is able to present us “faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” He is worthy of our focus.

What are some ways to keep our focus lifted toward Jesus, thereby turning potential stumbling blocks into stepping stones? Here are a few, and you can probably add to the list.

Submit to God and resist the enemy. James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” This is a two-part instruction. It is important to be certain that we have submitted our wills, our plans, our desires to God. We want to be fully controlled by Him. Then we can trust Him to give us strength to resist the devil. Resisting shows active determination.

It is important to remind ourselves that God sees the big picture—every aspect of every situation. He has a purpose in mind when He allows difficulties to come our way.

Ask God. We can pray, “What do You want me to learn from this?” At times God allows trials or temptations to teach us a lesson or to develop our faith or patience. It is important to remind ourselves that God sees the big picture—every aspect of every situation. He has a purpose in mind when He allows difficulties to come our way. We want to be receptive to His instruction and quick to learn any necessary lessons.

Sing. A lady in our congregation tells of facing a difficult time in her life, and pouring out her concerns to the Lord. The Spirit spoke to her heart, “Sing!” She said, “I don’t want to sing; I don’t feel like singing.” Again, the instruction came, “Sing!” She went to her piano and began to sing old hymns. You can guess what happened—God’s Spirit came down and touched her soul, lifting her spirits. The stumbling block had become a stepping stone and a valuable lesson for her and the rest of us.

Praise. Singing is one way to praise, but there are other ways as well. Hebrews 13:15 instructs, “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” The word “sacrifice” implies giving when it may be painful. God wants us to thank, worship, and praise Him even in the difficult times. We can always praise Him for His love to us, Jesus’ death on the Cross to pay for our redemption, and for His power to help in every situation. However, we can also praise Him for the good He has promised to bring from our current challenge.

Check perspective. With a little consideration, we can probably think of numerous people who have turned what seemed to be immense stumbling blocks into stepping stones. Lowell Montgomery, a minister in our organization, is one who comes to my mind. It was my privilege to work with him and he had an amazing perspective. Through many years of his life, he had debilitating physical problems, yet it would have been hard to meet a more positive man. He could see the good in everyone and every situation. One of his favorite words was “wonderful” and he applied it liberally to many circumstances. It was always an encouragement to be around him. He had turned stumbling blocks into stepping stones.

Matthew Henry, a well-known Bible scholar, was robbed, and he made a journal entry which was later adapted into a commonly referenced prayer, “I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.” This is choosing a perspective of thanksgiving.

Quote God’s promises. God and His Word are unchanging and infallible. Reciting His promises and even praying them back to Him can steady us and increase our faith. Of course He remembers His promises, but reminding Him of them will benefit us. When we rehearse how God stood behind His promises in the past, it will help us have courage for the situation that we are currently facing.

Spiritually, we need to be “looking at” God, because He knows exactly what is ahead of us. We need to have our focus on Him and His instructions, power, and promises.

Assess your focus. Where we look is important. When I walk, I do a lot of looking at where I’m going as a preventative measure. Spiritually, we need to be “looking at” God, because He knows exactly what is ahead of us. We need to have our focus on Him and His instructions, power, and promises. When challenges come our way, He is not surprised because He has allowed them for some good purpose. We can trust Him to help us not to stumble.

In Biblical history, King Jehoshaphat faced a challenge when three armies combined together to invade the land of Judah. Although he was afraid, Jehoshaphat took the right steps. He looked to the Lord and proclaimed a fast. In response, the people of Judah gathered to seek God. They began to rehearse what God had done for them in the past and remind Him of His promises. Jehoshaphat said, “O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

God heard their prayers and promised deliverance without a battle. When Jehoshaphat and the people heard this, they fell down and worshiped God, even though the invading armies were still marching toward them. Singers were appointed to go before Judah’s army, and when they began to sing and praise, God gave them the victory.

Thank God. Not only should we thank God for what He has already done, we need to thank Him for what He is going to do. In 1 John 5:14-15 we read, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” We can quote this promise to God for yet unanswered prayers and thank Him that He is going to answer.

All of us may choose either to stumble or to step up in the daily circumstances that face us. We can lift our focus to God and rejoice in His plan for us, or we can stumble along with complaints, anger, or self-pity. Let’s step up!

About the author

Cheryl Paulsen is a member of the Apostolic Faith Church in Portland, Oregon, and serves as Corporate Secretary for the organization.