You open your Bible, eager to understand God’s word more deeply. As you read, you come across verses that mention stumbling – but what do they mean? “Stumble” is used frequently throughout Scripture, communicating important spiritual truths. In this post, we’ll explore the meaning of “stumble” in the biblical context.
When you stumble in the physical sense, you trip or nearly fall. Spiritually, stumbling refers to faltering in your walk with God. It means being tripped up or hindered from following Him wholeheartedly. Stumbling can lead to spiritual ruin if unchecked.
The Bible warns believers about stumbling and causing others to stumble. But it also offers hope and a remedy through Christ. As you seek to grow in faith, it’s vital to understand what Scripture says about stumbling.
- Stumbling is faltering spiritually, often due to sin or unbelief
- We must be wary of anything that causes us or others to stumble
- Jesus is the remedy who lifts us up when we stumble
- We are called to strengthen and restore fellow believers who stumble
- God promises to equip us to walk without stumbling in Christ
Let’s explore the biblical meaning of “stumble” more fully. We’ll look at:
- Defining Stumbling
- Dangers of Stumbling
- Remedy for Stumbling
- Restoring Those Who Stumble
- Walking Without Stumbling
1. Defining Stumbling
What does it mean to stumble spiritually? The Bible uses various Hebrew and Greek words translated as “stumble,” with the general meaning of tripping up, faltering, or falling into sin. Physical stumbling illustrates the dangers of spiritual stumbling.
You’ve likely stumbled on an uneven sidewalk or loose rock. This causes you to trip and nearly fall. Likewise when you stumble spiritually, something hinders your walk with God, causing you to falter.
Spiritual stumbling indicates a lack of faith or obedience. It means being tripped up by sin or unbelief, resulting in faltering fellowship with God. The causes of stumbling may be outward circumstances or inward conditions of the heart. But the result is impaired communion with the Lord.
The Bible often portrays stumbling as totally falling into sin or apostasy. But it can also refer to smaller failures that disrupt your joy and consistency in following Christ. Anytime your devotion to God wavers, you are stumbling spiritually.
Symbols of Stumbling
Scripture uses various metaphors to depict stumbling:
- Falling: “…lest anyone fall short of the grace of God…” (Hebrews 12:15).
- Traps and snares: “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
- Wandering: “…a just man falls seven times…” (Proverbs 24:16).
- Blindness/darkness: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves…” (1 John 1:8).
These symbols convey the subtle dangers that trip us up unawares. Only by God’s grace and truth can you avoid stumbling.
2. Dangers of Stumbling
Why is spiritual stumbling so dangerous? What causes believers to falter in following the Lord? Scripture points to three primary dangers:
1. Sin and Unbelief
Sin is crouching at the door waiting to entice you (Genesis 4:7). Common sins that lead to stumbling include pride, greed, lust, envy, bitterness, and idolatry. You also stumble when doubting God’s Word or His goodness in difficult circumstances.
Unconfessed sin or persistent unbelief severely hinders your walk with Christ. Rather than running the race freely, you trip and scramble to regain footing. Hidden sin is especially dangerous, because the Bible warns: “…be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).
2. False Teaching
Beware of false teaching that contradicts or twists God’s Word. Paul warned Timothy to avoid “…profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness” (2 Timothy 2:16). False doctrine undermines biblical truth, shipwrecking your faith.
Testing all teaching against Scripture safeguards you from stumbling: “These were more fair-minded…they searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
3. Bad Company
Ungodly relationships and associations trip you up spiritually. “Do not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Peer pressure entices you to stumble, so choose friends wisely.
Avoid partnerships or alliances with nonbelievers or apostates: “Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with You?” (Psalm 94:20).
By heeding these warnings, you can minimize stumbling blocks in your walk with Christ.
3. Remedy for Stumbling
When you stumble spiritually, is there hope to get back on track? Absolutely! Scripture points to Christ as the remedy.
Christ Upholds You
Jesus secures you through faith, even when you stumble: “…the Lord upholds all who fall, and raises up all who are bowed down” (Psalm 145:14). He intercedes so your faith won’t fail (Luke 22:32). His grace and strength enable you to carry on.
Christ Warns and Reproves
Jesus tenderly confronts anything causing you to stumble: “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:4).
His warnings and discipline are proofs of sonship, meant to turn you back to righteousness (Hebrews 12:5-11). Yield to His reproofs so you can walk uprightly.
Christ Forgives and Cleanses
When you stumble into sin, confess it quickly and receive cleansing: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
God remembers forgiven sins no more (Isaiah 43:25). So when condemnation threatens, cling to Christ’s complete forgiveness.
Christ Makes You Stand
Finally, recognize it’s Christ in you granting repentance and restoring your walk. “…he who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). His strength stabilizes your feet to keep from stumbling (Psalm 73:2).
So stumble into His arms of mercy when you fall. He will set you on solid ground again!
4. Restoring Those Who Stumble
When others stumble into sin, you have a responsibility to gently restore them. The Bible offers guidelines on dealing with stumbling brothers or sisters in Christ.
Discern the Situation
Seek discernment through prayer and God’s Word to assess the situation. Is it simply a temporary stumbling? Or lapsing into immorality or false doctrine? Different circumstances require different responses.
Check Your Attitude
Approach stumbling believers with humility and compassion, not a judgmental spirit: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness…” (Galatians 6:1). Remember, except for God’s grace, you could be the one stumbling.
Seek Their Restoration
The goal is always restoration to fellowship with Christ. “…not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing” (1 Peter 3:9). Avoid treating them as enemies, but admonish as beloved brothers.
Discourage Sin or False Doctrine
Confront those promoting destructive beliefs or sinful conduct. “…avoid foolish disputes…reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition” (Titus 3:9-10). Yet, point them to Christ and His Word as the solution.
Bear Their Burdens
Come alongside to help bear their burdens through loving accountability, prayer, and encouragement. “We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak…” (Romans 15:1). Your spiritual support can help stabilize them.
The Lord faithfully restores those who turn back to Him. So be His instrument to lift up those who have stumbled in the body of Christ.
5. Walking Without Stumbling
As a believer, you long to follow Christ faithfully, without constant stumbling. Is it possible to walk uprightly by His grace? Absolutely! Here are keys to steady your steps.
Abide in Christ Through His Word
Staying anchored in Jesus enables you to walk securely. “…abide in Me…If you abide in Me…you will bear much fruit” (John 15:4,5). Abiding means drawing life and nourishment from Him through prayer and studying the Bible. Feed on God’s Word daily so you won’t stumble.
Put Sin to Death
Don’t tolerate sin but mortify it through the Spirit: “Put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire…” (Colossians 3:5). Deal ruthlessly with sins that trip you up, through confession, godly sorrow, and repentance.
Walk in the Light
Living in openness and integrity fortifies you against stumbling: “…if we walk in the light as He is in the light…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Darkness trips you up, but light exposes and dispels sin.
Fix Your Eyes on Jesus
Keep your focus on Christ, not your circumstances: “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2). Worrying about trials will make you stumble. Looking to Jesus provides stability and hope.
Rely on His Strength
Finally, rely on the Holy Spirit’s power to prevent stumbling: “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). Apart from Christ, you can do nothing (John 15:5). But through His might, you can walk uprightly.
So stay vigilant against stumbling. But also rest confidently in Jesus, who preserves you blameless until the end (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Keep looking to Him – and walk forward boldly in His strength and grace.
In summary, spiritual “stumbling” means faltering in your relationship with God, often due to sin or unbelief. But Jesus lifts up those who stumble and helps them walk uprightly again through repentance and faith.
So if you stumble, turn back quickly to Christ and receive His forgiveness. He intercedes for you and is able to keep you from falling away. Also gently restore fellow believers who have stumbled, pointing them back to the hope and security found only in Jesus.
As you keep your eyes fixed on Christ through immersing yourself in God’s Word, you can walk steadfastly without stumbling. His amazing grace is sufficient to guide your feet in His righteous paths. May you “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” without stumbling (2 Peter 3:18). God bless you!