Rise When You Fall
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Luke 2:34c (Holman) . . .and rise of many in Israel. . .
Note God’s intent. When He lets us fall, He intends for us to rise. If you stumble, and you will, don’t despair. God never guided a soul down without intending to raise it. Any who stay down, do so by their own choice.
We react both ways. Many who fall don’t rise; many who fall do rise. The response differs for different folks, and differs at different times for the same person. Falls help some, but not all. How we respond to trials is a serious matter. It makes all the difference in the world, for better or worse.
When I was Pastor in Grenada, Mississippi, one of my finest men said he was totally godless until his son died. Losing his child led him to repent. When I was a teen in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, one of my favorite Sunday School teachers, who always attended church, had a son die. My teacher never darkened a church-door again. Both men experienced the same fall; one rose, one stayed down. Afflictions soften some, but harden others.
If we refuse to rise after a fall, our cause is hopeless, for we thereby reject the only remedy we have for faltering in our walk with the Lord. Submissively serving Jesus is to our spirit what oxygen is to our body. If He is yielded to, our spirit lives; if He is kept at arm’s length, our spirit withers.
Luke 2:34d . . .and to be a sign that will be opposed . . .
Enemies tried to snuff out the Gospel, but failed. Roman and Greek gods were among the first false deities to fall before Jesus. Paul had a vision of a man in Macedonia pleading, “Cross over to Macedonia and help us!” (Acts 16:9). When Paul chose to leave Asia Minor, and entered Europe for the first time, panic hit Mt. Olympus. Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and others felt pain in their chests, and screamed in pain. They had opposed Christ in vain.
Communism, which for over a century touted its intent to snuff the name of Jesus and all religion from Earth, is already a footnote to history.
Many still oppose Jesus, for varied reasons. For some, He isn’t what they want. They have preconceived notions of what God should be like, and think they know all spiritual truth. Knowledge is good if laid on the altar at Jesus’ feet, but not if put on the throne. Many hate Jesus’ light because their deeds are dark. They ignore Him, and opt to sink into deeper darkness.
Hypocrites cause multitudes to stumble. I also hate hypocrisy. But do not always equate failure with phoniness. A hypocrite knowingly pretends. Many sincere believers fail often. They stumble due to frailty, not hypocrisy.
Some are terrified at caricatures they hear about being born again. The idea of a radical, sudden change scares many away from faith. They don’t want to become a freak. They think they will become boring, weird, start chanting Gregorian chants, wear pocket protectors, speak only King James English, listen to no secular music, watch no sports, attend only children’s movies, and have roller-skating and hayrides as annual social highlights.
Millions stumble over Jesus’ deity, over His claim to be equal with the Father. Many hate His claim to be the only way to Heaven. Some oppose grace. Pride stalks us. We prefer to control things. We want to work and merit Heaven. Test yourself. How well do we do at receiving gifts? Our answer can speak volumes about our willingness to receive grace from God.
Jesus did not come to enter a popularity contest. He came to divide the crowd. Phillip Brooks was right about Bethlehem, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight”. Brooks noted fears as well as hopes.
Judgment-imagery is all over the incarnation. The axe is laid at the tree-roots (MT 3:10); the winnowing shovel will cast chaff to the fire (MT 3:12); the rejected cornerstone will grind evildoers to powder (LK 20:18).
Jesus divides the crowd. At Calvary one thief blasphemed while the other prayed; soldiers gambled, but one centurion believed. Due to Jesus, we learned the High Priest and Judas were evil men, Peter was weak, and Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus were better than they thought.
Jesus forces us to choose for or against Him. Neutrality is never an option. The spiritual realm is not ruled mechanically. We are not robots. We choose whether or not we will make the fateful choice to oppose Him.
Luke 2:35a . . .and a sword will pierce your own soul. . .
Not wanting to give Mary and Joseph the wrong impression, Simeon gave a blunt foreshadowing of Gethsemane, Gabbatha, and Golgotha that was fulfilled 33 years later. Pain over their children is not rare for parents. Barbara Johnson, in one of her books, said the decision to have children is to choose to take your heart out of its safe place and put it out where it can be hurt easily. She said there are times when the pain is so bad that a parent’s only recourse is to take a child and put him or her at the foot of the cross and say, “Jesus, you love my child more than I do. I commit my child to you.”
What Simeon told Mary can be said in smaller measure of all Christ-followers. Can we think of Jesus on a cross without our hearts breaking? No one comes near Christ without being willing to feel and share His suffering.
Luke 2:35b . . .that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
Jesus stirs people up by showing us what we really are way down deep inside. By laying our lives before Him, our lives are laid open. Jesus reveals to me my true self; He uncovers secrets about me even I don’t know.
When Jesus works in us, He is like the ancient mirror which, when looked at, revealed not the face, but the character, the innermost thoughts. For the pure of heart, the mirror stayed clear, but the guilty obscured it. This is the kind of test we have in Jesus. He is a mirror revealing us to ourselves.
Walking closely with the Lord can sometimes give us a moral shock. Paul was a persecutor, but when groveling on the Road to Damascus, was suddenly jolted into being an Apostle. Peter, one day on the Sea of Galilee, tried to instruct the Lord about fishing, but when Jesus performed the miracle resulting in a huge catch of fish, Peter hit the ground. He fell at Jesus’ feet and said, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man” (LK 5:8).
When Jesus died, the people standing near Him quickly had a change of heart. They had been jeering Him, but suddenly regretted what they had done and began to beat their chests, a sign of intense agony (LK 23:48).
We may reject Jesus, but we cannot escape Him. We may hate Him, but cannot avoid Him. What we think of Him reveals to us our true self. As we draw close to Him, we not only know Him better, we know us better as well. He knows us and puts Himself in our path that we might know us.
This is a great, albeit painful, gift. I want to know me. I do not want to come to the end, have God shake His head, and say, “John, you missed it.”
We all have in our hearts chambers locked and secret to ourselves. For instance, Peter meant it when he said, “I will not deny you.” We all have places in us where we are strangers, not at home. I have had people tell me things about myself that I initially thought they were 100% wrong about, but then, after prayer and consulting with friends, have decided they were right.
This hurts to the quick, but isn’t this what we want? I want to know me. My favorite Spurgeon quote may be, “In nothing do people err more grievously than in self-analysis.” We do not know us. We need help in this.
One important result of knowing ourselves is; we can know before we leave this world our everlasting destiny. Works cannot promise this. Jesus, by making the way clear, dispels illusions. Eternal destinies hinge on Him.