“Stand Firm”—Do Not Stumble
THE greatest issue facing mankind today is that of universal sovereignty. Jehovah invites us to take a stand and be counted in this matter by submitting to his appointed King, Christ Jesus. There is an urgent need to respond to his invitation, and in just the past five years, more than a million individuals have done so. But these have found that more is involved in taking a stand than merely a onetime decision to serve Jehovah. There must be a lifelong dedication. Will we maintain our stand when the going gets difficult? Or will we gradually weaken, after initially ‘standing firm’?—1 Corinthians 16:13; Hebrews 2:1.
If you have not found the Christian course easy, take comfort from the knowledge that the same was true of Jesus Christ. Yes, even God’s only-begotten Son had to pray for strength in order to maintain his stand, especially when his supreme test was approaching. Picture him in the garden of Gethsemane, praying earnestly: “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you; remove this cup from me. Yet not what I want, but what you want.” (Mark 14:36) He knew that the course ahead was difficult. He was especially aware that his Father’s name would be affected. Hence, the only perfect man on earth was not ashamed to ask for help.
When the going gets difficult for us, we have the same source of strength that Jesus had. We can pray to Jehovah for help so that we do not stumble or fall. But what kind of hazards may present themselves to make us stumble? Knowing this and preparing in advance may perhaps help us to avoid stumbling.
Persecution Can Stumble Us
The Bible warns: “All those desiring to live with godly devotion in association with Christ Jesus will also be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12) Persecution can cause us to stumble, and it comes in many forms. (Mark 4:17) It may be legal bans—bringing the danger of imprisonment and even death—mob violence, faith-sapping day-to-day opposition of a determined, opposed mate, or constant mockery of schoolmates.
Persecution is difficult to endure, but we are warned that it will occur in one form or another. Hence, we can build up our faith now and learn to rely on Jehovah’s strength so that when the time comes, we will endure in that strength. (1 Peter 4:13, 14; 5:6-11) However, stumbling blocks are often more subtle than the vicious assault of persecution.
Disappointments Can Weaken Faith
Who does not remember the crushed feeling that came when we were children and felt let down? Do you recall the time when Dad promised a special treat for the family and then for some reason changed his mind? Or the time he was going to take you to the zoo and at the last minute had to cancel out? How disappointed you were!
Adult Christians too can be disappointed, and this has in some cases led to spiritual disaster. Some set their hope on a date when they were sure Armageddon would come. When nothing happened on that day, they felt let down. Others were disappointed when a hoped-for privilege did not materialize. Moreover, people can be disappointing. One 18-year-old girl told her parents that she was so disappointed in the conduct of some of the young men in the congregation—and the failure of their parents to discipline them—that she wanted nothing more to do with the truth.
While disappointment is understandable under all these circumstances, should the disappointed ones be stumbled out of their relationship with Jehovah? Imagine Jesus’ disappointment when his apostles persisted in arguing over who was the greatest among them, thus betraying an ambitious attitude. (Luke 9:46; 22:24) Imagine, too, Job’s disappointment when the three companions who were supposed to be there to help him turned on him and started questioning his faithfulness! (Job 22:5-10) Yet, Jesus and Job did not stumble.
All humans are weak, so it would be unreasonable to let others’ failings affect our relationship with Jehovah. (Psalm 51:5) The imperfection of some should not blind us to the wonderful work Jehovah is doing as he gathers “all things together again in the Christ.” (Ephesians 1:9, 10) Keep in mind that it is imperfect, fallen humans like us that Jehovah is gathering, humans who need discipline and refining in order to grow strong. (Psalm 130:3) Our enemy is not our imperfect Christian brother but Satan, who wants to devour us if he can. He will not succeed if we ‘take our stand against him, solid in the faith.’ (1 Peter 5:8, 9) If we have such faith, we will by no means “come to disappointment.”—Romans 9:33.
Self-Condemnation Can Destroy
Some have lost their relationship with Jehovah God because of a sense of unworthiness. Conscious of their own weaknesses and shortcomings, they come to the conclusion that Jehovah would never accept their service. They feel that for someone like them to claim to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses is just hypocrisy. Have you ever been hard on yourself like that? If so, you should fight against such feelings.
Do you feel unworthy to serve Jehovah? Then ask yourself, ‘Who is worthy of this great privilege?’ All Christians have a constant fight against their own imperfections. Even the apostle Paul complained: “When I wish to do what is right, what is bad is present with me.” (Romans 7:21) Was Paul a hypocrite because he sometimes did things that were wrong? No. A hypocrite is one who pretends to be what he is not. If we strive to do what is right but slip occasionally in spite of ourselves, is that making a pretense about something? Of course not.
The Bible exhorts us to “put on the new personality.” (Ephesians 4:24) Does that mean, though, that we lose all the traits of the old personality? No. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul said that the new personality is “being made new” through accurate knowledge. (Colossians 3:9, 10) The expression “being made new” implies a continuing action. So changing our personality is an ongoing process. It is not surprising, then, that on occasion we discover flaws in ourselves.
This is not, of course, to minimize the seriousness of sin, nor does it mean that we can give in to temptation without a fight, assuming that Jehovah will automatically forgive us. But it does help us not to be unreasonably critical of ourselves. And it makes us love Jehovah all the more because he provided Christ’s ransom sacrifice so that we can serve Him in spite of our inherently sinful nature.
The apostle John presented a balanced view of the matter when he said: “I am writing you these things that you may not commit a sin.” But then he realistically added: “Yet, if anyone does commit a sin [due to human imperfection], we have a helper with the Father, Jesus Christ.” (1 John 2:1) Rather than being excessively self-condemning, this insight into our condition and the help Jehovah has provided leads us to echo Paul’s words: “Thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”—Romans 7:25.
Do Not Stay Stumbled
Jesus gave a stern warning to any who might be a cause for stumbling: “Whoever stumbles one of these little ones who put faith in me, it is more beneficial for him to have hung around his neck a millstone such as is turned by an ass and to be sunk in the wide, open sea.” (Matthew 18:6) But what about the one stumbled? If we are stumbled by somebody or some circumstance, should we excuse ourselves and say, “Well, it isn’t my fault, so I won’t serve Jehovah anymore”?
Consider an illustration. Have you ever slipped on a patch of ice or tripped over a step? Perhaps the hazard took you by surprise. It is understandable that you found yourself sprawled on the ground. But what did you do next? Did you say: “It’s not my fault that I am lying here. It’s the ice [or the step] that is to blame. So I will not get up again”? More likely, you stood up and walked away from the embarrassing scene as quickly as possible.
Would not the same be true in spiritual matters? If we are offended by some circumstance or by some fellow Christian, that is a serious problem that should be handled. However, if we stay stumbled, insisting on blaming someone else for our problem, is it not true that our situation becomes more and more our own fault?
Happily, if we are stumbled, the elders and other mature ones in the congregation are more than willing to help. (Galatians 6:1) And Jehovah himself gives strength to those who desire to serve him despite difficulties. (Philippians 4:13) So we should always be ready to ask for help if it seems that something is going to interfere with our firm stand for Jehovah and his Kingdom. Then we will not give Satan a victory by being stumbled and staying down.
Where Do You Stand?
Each day, dedicated servants of God face issues that test their devotion to Jehovah. No matter what they have to contend with, they must stand up and be counted on the side of Jehovah’s Messianic King. The powerful rulers of this earth have taken their stand “against Jehovah and against his anointed one.” What a privilege we have to stand for him!—Psalm 2:2.
However, we cannot stand against the influence of this whole world system on our own, so we are comforted by Jesus’ promise to be with his congregation “until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 28:20) He will support us. In addition, great help comes when we stick close to Jehovah and seek support from him. Turning to his Word can give us strength. When we may feel unable to bear up, Psalm 55:22 invites us to ‘throw our burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain us. Never will he allow the righteous one to totter.’ Yes, the Bible urges all of God’s people to “stand firm in the faith”—and not to stumble.—1 Corinthians 16:13.