My song leader and I were perched on the front pew, prepared to lead the congregation in song and sermon after communion, which was being served from the platform seven steps up.
Beginning his descent with trays of filled cups, our server tripped and launched into a headfirst dive, zeroing in on two petrified parsons and a cluster of die-hard down-fronters.
Nothing damages dignity like taking a tumble. Just ask someone who’s doused a half-dozen communicants with grape juice with two thousand pairs of eyes watching.
Stumbles of a more serious sort aren’t uncommon among God’s chosen: think King David, or the apostle Peter.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of David? His character collapsing blunder with Bathsheba? Did that end his story? By no means! There are 150 psalms in your Bible; David wrote half of them. God said of him: “I have found David . . . a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22).
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Peter? His weak-kneed, triple denial of Jesus? Did that end his story? By no means! He was the keynote speaker on Pentecost, was chosen by God to open the door of the kingdom to Gentiles, and wrote two of the letters in your New Testament. Peter refused to live out his life in the shadow of shame.
Biblical portraits of its characters are painted just as they were: no stumble, scar, or sin—however distasteful or disappointing—is airbrushed out. There they are, failing and falling in full view of their peers and all future generations.
But their get-up-and-get-back-on-track deeds are there too. Their flubs are mid-story, not end-story.
Spiritual stumbles can be devastating. But stumbling is a stubborn fact of life. It happens. Have you ever tripped and taken a tumble? Sure you have. You wish like crazy you hadn’t done what you did. But you did . . . and now you have to deal with it.
Deal with it like David did: regret it, repent of it, and confess it.
When David confessed, “I have sinned against the Lord,” the immediate response of God’s prophet was, “The Lord has taken away your sin” (2 Sm 12:13). God fast tracks forgiveness of the penitent.
If you need a prayer-starter after a mess up, David left this one for you:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. . . . Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity (Ps 51:1–2, 9).
Deal with your sin like Peter did: face your failure, repent of it, and devote the rest of your life to uncompromising faith in the Savior.
When many of Jesus’ disciples began deserting him, he asked the twelve, “Do you want to leave, too?” Peter said, “Lord, where would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One from God” (Jn 6:68–69 NCV).
The Lord honors your faith, notwithstanding your failings. Never forget that. When you trip up, rush back in resolute faith, leaning full weight on this promise of Jesus: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (Jn 6:47 NKJV).
God has never used anyone who hasn’t stumbled, for “We all stumble in many ways” (Jas 3:2).
Nor has God ever used anyone who, after stumbling, didn’t get up and give it another go.