Stumbling on the Trail

Most mornings Toby, the Aussie dog, and I go out for a morning walk. We are blessed to live in the mountains and we have a beautiful trail up the hill behind our house. It is usually a refreshing time of being outside and getting some exercise.

This morning, however, I must have stumbled over rocks a half dozen times, on this trail that is so familiar to me. It was definitely frustrating! I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ words in Mt 18:7 where He says “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks!” The context of this passage is that Jesus’ disciples have come asking who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. His reply must have startled them because He called a little child over and told them that “Whoever humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”.

Jesus goes on to teach them about stumbling blocks.

Mat 18:5-9  “And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes! 8 “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. 9 “If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.

Stumbling into sin often comes on the trail we are feeling most familiar and comfortable on. Whenever I hike a new trail, I tend to be very alert to conditions that would cause me to stumble or fall. But on the comfortable, safe, old usual trail today, I was not alert for the danger. Stumbling blocks are like that – they seem to appear out of nowhere, when we least expect them. 

So how do we avoid stumbling into sin?

Know your own heart and what you struggle with. Know what situations cause you to fall into temptation and sin. Do certain TV shows cause you to lust? Don’t go near them. Do certain radio programs provoke you to anger? Turn them off and listen to something edifying. Does shopping cause greed to rear its ugly head? Then stop using shopping as recreation. Does not eating right make you “hangry”? Then eat healthy food, and often enough to keep you feeling good. Figure out your triggers to sin and avoid them.

Prepare yourself ahead of time. By knowing your heart, you are more aware of where the dangers lie. Have a healthy fear of God in your soul, know His Word and remember that Christ died to set us free from the law of sin and death. We are no longer slaves to sin, but must always be prepared for the temptations that will come.

 Pray for help! In Mt 26:41 Jesus tells us “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Be watchful! Cultivate a healthy fear of falling into temptation and sin. My pastor said recently “make sin your sworn enemy – a foe into whose hands you fear to fall.” Learn to hate sin itself and not just hate the consequences.

Remember God’s faithfulness to His children.  1Cor 10:13   “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”  

Remember Who is interceding for you even now. Even in the midst of our worst struggles with sin and temptation, our great High Priest, Jesus, cares for us.  Heb 7:25 tells us that “Therefore He (Jesus) is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

Temptation lurks around us all the time. If we are to walk by the Spirit and not carry out the desire of the flesh, we must cultivate our love for Christ above all else. When we love God with all our heart, we will see sin for what it is and flee from it. Its when we are most comfortable that we are often the most vulnerable to the crafty attacks of our enemy. So be alert and ready to flee from sin.

Thanks to my Pastor Matt for the great sermon that this post is based on. You can find him here if you want to listen to the entire message.

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