Taking a walk on the dark side? Here's what you should know. . .
I don't exercise in the dark anymore.
A few years ago I went for a jog in the dark and nearly broke my ankle. I was coming around the edge of our neighborhood, passing behind the guardhouse. There's a short, very dark stretch there, so I slowed to a walk until I got around the corner and back onto the sidewalk. But the sidewalk runs in front of several townhomes and there's a slope for their driveways, and it was slick. I went down fast and hard and had to hobble back home. It was several days before I could jog again, and like I said, that was the last time I tried to exercise in the dark.
Until this week.
I had to run over to pick something up from a missionary who lives on the other side of our subdivision, and since I missed my exercise that morning, I thought I would multitask. So I pulled on my sneakers. I wasn't going to fall this time, I knew, because being pre-warned is the best prevention.
I made sure I didn't forget, either. The whole way to the dark corner behind the guardhouse, I reminded myself about my previous fall. I walked slowly. And when I came to the sloped driveway, I made sure I wasn't hurrying because I definitely wasn't going to slip again in the exact same place as before. I was sure of that. Because being pre-warned is the best. . .
And down I went. On my knee this time. Smack dab in a bit of filthy sludge. Ouch!
Clearly, not only am I a klutz, I'm also a fool. Foolish enough to fall twice in exactly the same spot.
Turns out, being pre-warned is not the best prevention. Trying to keep yourself from falling, even when you know where the slippery slope lies, is challenging. Turns out, you can walk into a dark place with your eyes wide open and still fall.
I really don't know how that happens. I only know it does. I only know that some days I wake up saying to myself, "You fell into temptation the last time this happened. Don't fall today. Be pre-warned and don't fall this time. Look, here comes that same problem, but you are aware it's there, so don't. . ."
Bam. Down I go on my face.
Even when you know exactly where temptation waits, you can still fall.
How much more when you walk blind into a dark place and have no idea what pits and monsters lurk?
I could have made sure I didn't fall in that same place. I could have taken a different route entirely. Part of my problem was my own hubris. I was just proud enough to think that I could stand.
The Bible has something to say about this, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" ( I Corinthians 10:12). Or you could translate it something like this, "Let her who thinks she can walk around in the dark in the exact same place where she fell before take heed because she's about to bloody up her knee."
There are several spiritual lessons you can learn from my foolishness. (You're welcome.)
1. Walk in the light so you don't stumble.
John 11:9-10 Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.
2. Don't put your trust in your own knowledge, ability, or steadfastness.
II Peter 3:17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
3. When you do fall down, get back up again.
Proverbs 24:16--For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again.
4. When you are clinging to the Lord and He is upholding you, you can fall without being utterly cast down.
Psalm 37:23-24 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.
Have you fallen and are struggling to get back up?
Here is an excellent sermon by Pastor Mark Minnick on the topic of Getting Up Again.
Sometimes the only thing standing between you and victory over temptation is just a few minutes.
Sometimes fear causes us to sin. We see circumstances in our lives that aren't going the direction we want and God seems to be off on a coffee break somewhere, so we take matters into our own hands.
Like Saul at Gilgal.
Samuel had said, "In seven days I will come to Gilgal."
But the hordes of Philistines (I Samuel 13:5) had already gathered, with their 30,000 chariots, 6,000 horsemen, and foot soldiers as numerous as the sand upon the seashore. They were strong and powerful and they knew it. They were probably already doing their victory jig.
Saul's soldiers, on the other hand, were trembling in fear. As the seven days ticked slowly past, each one longer than the last, his men began to slink away from their king to hide in caves, thickets, rocks, holes, and pits. He went from 3,000 soldiers down to 600, an obvious loss he couldn't possibly overlook.
His son Jonathan wasn't worried; he had a firm grasp of Who God Is and What God Can Do. Jonathan will shortly make that powerful statement, "Nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few." But Saul had no such faith, so Saul panicked.
When the seventh day came and brought no Samuel, Saul lost patience and offered the burnt offering to the Lord himself, in clear disregard of God's commandment.
And then Samuel showed up, right on time.
Sometimes we miss God's blessing by seconds. We cave when a few more minutes/hours/days of endurance would bring a rich payoff. Sometimes, when temptation hits us hard, we give in because we see no end in sight and we feel like we can't keep our defenses up any longer.
Procrastination and endurance might be the very thing that sets us free.
There are no "ifs" in God's plan for the ages, but from a human perspective, if Saul had endured slightly longer in his very uncomfortable situation, his kingdom would have been established forever. That's not my random guess; that's what Samuel told him in I Samuel 13:13-14.
The important thing to observe is that the real problem wasn't Saul's circumstances; the real problem was his character. Samuel is clear: "The Lord has sought for Himself a man after his own heart." We can fill in the blanks: And that's not you, Saul.
If Saul had been a man after God's own heart, who clung to God's commandments and ignored his circumstances, he would have endured.
Is there any temptation to which you succumb too fast?
The next time that temptation hits--and it will, because our tempter is great at pounding the same nail over and over again--how can you endure? Is there some wall of defense you can throw up? Is there some way you can procrastinate and give God a little more time to work?
Ten minutes may be all that stands between you and deliverance.
Laura Berrey and her husband Tim are missionaries with Gospel Fellowship Association. They share a passion for missions which has taken them to several countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe. They currently minister in the Philippines.