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.
Christians are imperfect. We have flaws. We all have sinned. (Romans 3:23) As James puts it, “We all stumble in many ways.”
Now, if I made that statement, all who know me would agree. “Yep. He’s a stumbler.” But these words were penned by one of God’s chosen Biblical writers.
James includes himself as one who stumbles in many ways. He acknowledges imperfection in his walk with God.
The Apostle Paul was also open about his spiritual shortcomings. He said, “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15) In fact, Paul went so far to say, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15)
The point here is that “stumbling” does not render us unusable for God’s work. The sins of the past are just that. Behind us. Forgiven. And God offers a remedy for the sins of the present. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
Today. Every day. Whenever you sin, God stands ready to forgive.
If you have children, you recall their first steps. They wobble, defy gravity, stumble, and fall. As they mature, they become stronger and steadier on their feet. But growth involves more than just walking. They graduate from babbling, to baby talk, to able conversationalists. Children mature in social skills and learn to control their emotions (hopefully). One day, if all goes according to plan, your child wears a cap and gown, walks across a stage, and receives a diploma for completing his or her first major phase of growth. Then comes the school of hard knocks where there’s even more to learn.
Our walk with Christ is like that. There’s always something new to learn. And just when we think we’ve mastered the Christian life, something comes along to cause us to stumble.
The context of James’ instruction is the tongue. You know, that wagging device inside the mouth that can cause so much trouble. “If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man…”
Can anyone claim perfection in all they say? No. Even the godliest person I ever knew let loose with a few unkind words when she was provoked.
The early church fathers stumbled and struggled to live up to the Lord’s expectations. They understood that stumbling is inevitable and necessary for spiritual growth. It reminds us of what we need to work on.
As we’ve already seen, Paul saw himself as the chief among sinners. And how about Peter? Christ told Peter that he would be instrumental in the growth of the church. (Matthew 16:18) But when Jesus was arrested, Peter denied the Lord three times. And the disciple was devastated by his actions, which led to an uncomfortable confrontation with the Lord.
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” John 21:17
Peter had been one of Jesus’ closest friends. Despite the disciple’s love and devotion, he stumbled. But his failure didn’t disqualify him from service. Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”
Jesus can still use you — despite your stumbling. He will put you back in the game if you are willing.
Confess your sin. Seek His forgiveness. And offer yourself to be used again.
For more on this topic, check out this article: Learn from the Sins of Your Past
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 4 (October – December) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.