Stumbling Stones or Stepping Stones

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Things may be stumbling-stones or stepping-stones to us.
They may be hindrances or helps--trials or blessings. What
they prove to be depends not so much on their nature as
upon our attitude toward them. It is not our opportunities
that count, but the use that we make of them. It is not how
much money we possess, but the wisdome we display in its
expenditure. It is not how many obstacles we meet in life,
but the manner in which we meet them. It is not the soul who
has the fewest trials and difficulties that prospers most,
but the one who meets them with courage and confident
trust. Some are crushed down and made to despair by the
very things that stir others to renewed effort and courage.

What our trials are to us depends on what we are to them.
This is well illustrated in Elijah's experience. The king
and queen were his bitter enemies. He feared them and fled
away and lived in hiding. (Elijah was in hiding because God
instructed him to do so. 1 Kings 17:3). He was afraid lest
he should be betrayed to them. He looked to his enemies;
he saw their power; he looked at himself and saw his own
impotence. And so he dwelt in fear. But the time came when
God spoke to him, and as he looked to God he began to see
His greatness and his soul was lifted up with courage. His
own weakness and the might of his enemies faded away from
his gaze. He came out boldly and challenged the idolatrous
party to a test of strength. Single-handed and alone, we
see him walk out before the assembled multitude, superior
to them all. There is no fear in his heart now. He is not
in the least daunted by his adversaries. He can look them
squarely in the eyes without shrinking. His heart is full
of confidence. He knows whom he is trusting. Throughout
the long day while the priests of Baal are calling so
earnestly upon their powerless god, the prophet is the
calmest man of all the many witnesses. He is looking on
God's side now, and he is conscious master of the whole
situation. He even grows ironical toward his enemies.

The outcome does not surprise us, for we know the God he
served. He was victorious now, but let us look at him a
few days later. Under a juniper-tree in the wilderness
sits a man, weary and dejected. He has fled for his life,
but now even his life has lost its value, and he says,
"It is enough: now, O lord, take away my life." Elijah
has fallen from the summit of victory to the depths of
despair. What occasioned this great change? Things did
not turn out as he had expected them to. Instead of the
queen being humbled by the display of God's power, she
was only made harder and anger became more fierce. And
when Elijah heard her threat to kill him, he lost sight
of God and saw only the anger of the queen and his own
weakness and danger; so his heart was filled with fear,
and he fled, as does a hunted animal to the depths of
the wilderness. So long as he looked to God, he was
victorious over his enemies and fearless as a lion;
they could not harm him. But when he looked upon the
strength of his foes and his own weakness and lost
sight of God, he was overcome with fear and fled
terror-stricken.

What made the difference in his conduct? Were not his
enemies the same? Was not their wrath to be feared as
much on time as another? Was not God protecting and
keeping him all the time? Had he need to fear them
more at one time than at another? The secret of his
different behavior was his attitude toward them. When
he feared them, they were stumbling-stones to him.
When he feared them not, their enmity became the
stepping-stone by which he was raised to the lofty
height of victory.

The same principle is true in our lives. If we approach
a conflict or trial with fear and trembling and
shrinking, it will very likely prove a stumbling-stone
to us; but if we approach it with calm confidence in
God and a settled determination to overcome, we may
make it a stepping-stone upon which we may mount to
higher and better things.

Sometimes things that are at first very discouraging to
us, afterwards become sources of help and encouragement;
not that the things themselves change, but because we
see them from a different angle. This is well
illustrated by the effect of my long affliction. One of
the worst things that I had to face in the first two or
three years was the consciousness of the depressing and
discouraging influence that it was having upon others,
not only upon those about me, but upon many persons here
and there, as evidenced by numerous letters showing that
the effect was wide-spread. It seemed to be a hindrance
to the faith of many people. But in the last two or
three years I have received many letters telling me how
greatly the writers had been encouraged and helped by my
affliction. The affliction itself was the same; the
change was in them; for that which was once a source of
discouragement would have continued so had they
continued to look at it as they had formerly done.
The fact that the changed point of view, or changed
attitude, changed the effect, shows that it is not so
much the thing itself as our attitude toward it that
affects us.

It is so in regard to all things. We have need to learn
the lesson that one sister learned. Speaking of the early
months of my affliction, she writes, "At that time it was
a hindrance to my faith; but it has ceased to be so, for
I have learned not to ask why, but to have faith in God
and wait and trust."

Learning to wait and trust is the secret. This gives God
the opportunity to bring out that, which is best. How
could we know the virtue of patience if no one had a
trial of his patience? If we looked only at the trial,
where would be the blessing? We must often look at "the
things, which are not seen" that we may have courage to
meet the things that are seen. It is when we do this
that our trials become blessings: our stumbling-stones,
stepping-stones.

When we face things courageously and hold to our course
steadily through the storm, or when we bear opposition
and trials patiently and hold fast our integrity through
temptation, it is then that we mount up by means of
these very things to a loftier height and a broader
outlook. When we try to lift up ourselves by expending
our forces upon ourselves, we make but little progress.
How hard it is to keep good resolutions! How hard it is
to make ourselves better or stronger by the study of
abstract goodness or by wishing ourselves something
else than we are! We may look to the heights above us
and long to be there; we may think of the noble outlook
were we there, but there is but one way to attain those
heights--by the slow, laborious, and wearisome process
of climbing; and the things upon which we must set our
feet are the difficulties that we have overcome.

It is easy to go down toward the valley of discouragement.
It takes no effort to let a thing weigh us down. We can
easily let our courage and our confidence slip if we will.
It is sometimes easier to go downhill than it is to stop
in our going. But in life it is the up-hill going that
counts. Every time you overcome or trust clear through
to victory you have made progress upward. If you see a
trial coming, do not shrink and do not fear. Do not say,
"Oh, how shall I bear it!"

God designs trials to help, rather than hinder. He could
keep you from having them if it were wise; but he sees
that you need them, yes, that you must have them, or you
will never rise above your present level. Look for the
good in them; count them blessings. Meet them bravely,
and you will find them in truth, stepping-stones, not
stumbling-stones.

~ Selected ~


The article above was furnished courtesy of Jerry Boyer,
owner of "Messages From the Heart". To visit more of Jerry's
wonderful pages and to read his daily "Heart Talk",
please click on the banner below.


Heart to Heart


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Satan's Garage Sale


Once upon a time, Satan was having a garage sale. There,
standing in little groups were all of his bright, shiny trinkets.

Here were tools that make it easy to tear others down for use
as stepping stones. And over there were some lenses for
magnifying one's own importance, which, if you looked through
them the other way, you could also use to belittle others, or
even one's self.

Against the wall was the usual assortment of gardening implements
guaranteed to help your pride grow by leaps and bounds: the rake of
scorn, the shovel of jealousy for digging a pit for your neighbor,
the tools of gossip and back biting, of selfishness and apathy.

All of these were pleasing to the eye and came complete with
fabulous promises and guarantees of prosperity. Prices, of course,
were steep; but not to worry! Free credit was extended to one and
all. "Take it home, use it, and you won't have to pay until later!"
old Satan cried, as he hawked his wares.

The visitor, as he browsed, noticed two well worn, non-descript
tools standing in one corner. Not being nearly as tempting as the
other items, he found it curious that these two tools had price
tags higher than any other. When he asked why, Satan just laughed
and said, "Well, that's because I use them so much. If they weren't
so plain looking, people might see them for what they were."

Satan pointed to the two tools, saying, "You see, that one's Doubt
and that one's Discouragement, and those will work when nothing
else will."

~ Author Unknown ~


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Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist
the devil, and he will flee from you.


~ James 4:7 KJV ~


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