“Abundant peace belongs to those loving your law, and for them there is no stumbling block.”—PSALM 119:165.
1. How did one runner show that she would not give up running races?
MARY DECKER was just a teenager when she became famous for running in races. By 1984, she had become such a good runner that many thought that she would win a gold medal at the Olympics. But something terrible happened. During the 3,000-meter race, she tripped on the leg of another runner and fell. She could not finish that race, but she did not give up running races. Less than a year later, she ran a one-mile race faster than any woman had ever run it before.
2. What kind of race do Christians run? How should we run it?
2 Living as a Christian is like being in a race. It is a race for everlasting life. We should not let anything stop us from running this race. It is not a short race in which a person has to run as fast as possible to win. And it is not like a jog in which a person runs slowly and sometimes even stops. Instead, it is like a marathon. A marathon runner has to have endurance to keep running all the way to the end. The apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth: “Do you not know that the runners in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may attain it.”—1 Corinthians 9:24.
3. Who can win the race for everlasting life?
3 The Bible tells us to run in this race. (Read 1 Corinthians 9:25-27.) The prize is everlasting life. Unlike most races, in this race all who run can win the prize if they endure to the end. (Matthew 24:13) A person will lose the race only if he stops following the rules or stops running before the race is over. This is the only race that has everlasting life as its prize.
It is not easy to run the race for everlasting life
4. Why is it not easy to run the race for everlasting life?
4 It is not easy to run the race for everlasting life. Jesus Christ ran it without ever stumbling, but none of us can do that. James said that “we all stumble many times.” (James 3:2) Our imperfections or the imperfections of others can make us slow down in the race or even stop for a while. If this happens, we might need help to get back in the race. We should not be surprised if we stumble from time to time.—1 Kings 8:46.
IF YOU STUMBLE, STAY IN THE RACE
5, 6. (a) Why is there “no stumbling block” for a Christian? What will help a Christian to “get up” when he stumbles? (b) Why do some not “get up” after they stumble?
5 What we do when we stumble or fall shows what kind of person we are. Some who stumble or fall get up and keep serving God. Others choose not to repent. Proverbs 24:16 says: “The righteous one may fall even seven times, and he will certainly get up; but the wicked ones will be made to stumble by calamity.”
6 Even if we stumble or fall, we can recover. As long as we trust in Jehovah, he is willing to help us when we have problems or make mistakes. He will help us to “get up,” because he knows that we love him. But wicked people do not want to get up. They refuse the help of God’s holy spirit and his people. The Bible says that “there is no stumbling block” for those who love Jehovah’s law. This means that we can get back in the race for everlasting life.—Read Psalm 119:165.
7, 8. How can one “fall” and still keep God’s favor?
7 Sometimes a person sins because he has a weakness. He might make the same mistake over and over again. But Jehovah will still view him as righteous if he gets up each time, that is, sincerely repents and works hard to do what is right. God viewed the Israelites as righteous as long as they repented of their mistakes. (Isaiah 41:9, 10) Proverbs 24:16 does not stress the mistakes we make but instead shows that Jehovah will help us to “get up.” (Read Isaiah 55:7.) Jehovah God and Jesus Christ are confident that we will do our best, and they encourage us to “get up.”—Psalm 86:5; John 5:19.
If you have stumbled, remember that Jehovah is very patient
8 Even if a runner stumbles or falls in a marathon, he may have time to get up and keep running if he gets up quickly. We do not know the “day and hour” when the end of the race for everlasting life will come. (Matthew 24:36) But if we try hard not to stumble, it will be easier to keep running the race and finish it. So how can we avoid stumbling?
THINGS THAT CAN CAUSE US TO STUMBLE
9. What five things will we discuss?
9 We will discuss five things that can cause us to stumble: our weaknesses, the desires of the flesh, injustice in the congregation, tribulation or persecution, and the imperfections of others. If one of these things has made you stumble, remember that Jehovah is very patient and will not give up on you quickly.
10, 11. What weakness did David have?
10 Our weaknesses are like loose stones on a road. The lives of King David and the apostle Peter can teach us about two weaknesses. David did not always have self-control, and Peter was sometimes afraid of what other people thought of him.
11 King David did not always control himself. Because of this weakness, he sinned with Bath-sheba. Later, he almost attacked Nabal, who had insulted him. Even though David sometimes did things without thinking, he never gave up trying to please Jehovah. With the help of others, he was able to “get up” after his mistakes.—1 Samuel 25:5-13, 32, 33; 2 Samuel 12:1-13.
12. Even though he made mistakes, how did Peter stay in the race?
12 Peter was afraid of what other people thought of him. He remained loyal to Jesus and Jehovah, but sometimes fear caused him to make mistakes. For example, three times he denied that he knew Jesus. (Luke 22:54-62) Another time, he treated some Christians as if they were better than other Christians. Peter had a wrong attitude, and others in the congregation could have imitated him. So Paul gave Peter strong counsel. (Galatians 2:11-14) Did Peter get offended at this counsel and stop running the race for life? No. He seriously thought about what Paul said, changed his attitude, and stayed in the race.
Peter did not get offended at Paul’s counsel and stop running the race for life
13. Why can health problems cause us to stumble?
13 Health problems can make our life very difficult. As a result, some give up running the race. For example, a sister in Japan got very sick 17 years after she was baptized. She allowed her health problems to cause her to become weak in the truth, and she became inactive. Then two elders visited her and encouraged her. When she came to the meetings again, the brothers greeted her so kindly that she started to cry. Our sister is now back in the race.
14, 15. What must we do when we have wrong desires? Give an example.
14 Many have stumbled because of the desires of the flesh. If we are tempted by our desires, we need to do everything we can to keep our thinking and actions clean according to God’s standards. Jesus said that if our eye or our hand is making us stumble, we should “throw it away.” We should get rid of immoral thoughts and actions that could cause us to stop running in the race.—Read Matthew 5:29, 30.
15 One brother who was raised in the truth said that for as long as he could remember, he had homosexual desires. He said that he always felt different and uncomfortable around other people. By the time he was 20, he had become a regular pioneer and was a ministerial servant in the congregation. Then he made a serious mistake and was disciplined, and the elders helped him. He prayed, studied the Bible, and made an effort to help other people. All of this helped him to continue running the race. This happened a long time ago, but he says: “At times I still have those feelings, but I don’t let them overtake me. I have learned that Jehovah will not let you be tempted beyond what you can handle. So I believe that God thinks I can make it.” This brother does not want anything to take him out of the race. He knows that life in the new world is worth whatever he has to endure now. He says: “Until then, I will continue to fight.”
Life in the new world is worth whatever we have to endure now
16, 17. (a) What helped one brother who thought that he had been treated unfairly? (b) What should we remember about the congregation so that we do not stumble?
16 We could let ourselves be stumbled by injustice by others in the congregation. In France, a brother who used to be an elder thought that he had been treated unfairly. He was bitter and had stopped attending meetings and going in the ministry. Two elders visited him and kindly listened as he explained what he believed had happened. They encouraged him to trust in Jehovah and reminded him that the most important thing is to do what pleases God. He listened to their counsel and was soon back in the race.
17 We all need to remember that Jesus Christ is the one whom God appointed as the Head of the congregation. We should not worry about what imperfect humans do. Jesus has eyes “as a fiery flame.” He understands everything that happens in the congregation much better than we ever could. (Revelation 1:13-16) For example, we may think that there has been an injustice in the congregation. But really we might have simply misunderstood what happened or why it happened. Jesus corrects problems in the congregation in the right way and at the right time. So we should never let what another Christian does cause us to stumble out of the race.
18. How can we remain faithful during tribulation or persecution?
18 Two more stumbling blocks are tribulation or persecution and the imperfections of others in the congregation. In his story about the man who sowed seed, Jesus showed that some would stumble because they experience “tribulation or persecution” for being one of God’s people. Our family, our neighbors, or the government can cause tribulation or can persecute us because of the truth. A person may be especially in danger of stumbling if he “has no root in himself,” that is, if his faith is weak. (Matthew 13:21) But if we are determined to stay close to Jehovah, the Kingdom message will help us to have strong roots. So when you go through difficult times, meditate on “praiseworthy” things. (Read Philippians 4:6-9.) Jehovah will give us the strength to stay faithful during trials so that we do not stumble out of the race.
19. How can we avoid being stumbled when someone offends us?
19 Some have stopped serving Jehovah because of the imperfections of other people. Or a person might stumble because others do things that his conscience would not allow him to do. (1 Corinthians 8:12, 13) If someone offends us, will we get so upset that we leave the truth? The Bible tells us to stop judging and to forgive others, even when we think that we have a right to be offended. (Luke 6:37) When you feel offended, ask yourself: ‘Am I judging others based only on the way I prefer to do things? Will I leave the truth just because my brothers are imperfect?’ Our love for Jehovah can help us not to allow what others do to keep us from finishing the race for life.
RUN WITH ENDURANCE AND AVOID STUMBLING
20, 21. What will you do in the race for everlasting life?
20 Do you want to “run the course to the finish”? (2 Timothy 4:7, 8) Then study the Bible and our publications, do research, and meditate so that you can know what kinds of things might stumble you. Beg Jehovah for holy spirit to make you strong. Remember, if we stumble or fall, we can still get back in the race and run to the finish. We might be able to learn from our mistakes so that we can run the race even better.
If we stumble or fall, we can still get back in the race and run to the finish
21 The Bible shows that we have to run the race all the way to the finish if we want the prize of everlasting life. As we run, Jehovah will give us “abundant peace.” (Psalm 119:165) He will continue to help us now and will give us everlasting blessings if we finish the race.—James 1:12.