Thank you Lord that “By the word of your lips… My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not slipped” (Psalm 17:4-5).
I experienced the truth of David’s words on a rainy morning earlier this week. The rain had stopped and the sun was shining so I got out my bike to do a training ride for the upcoming triathlon race I’m doing with my son. I wanted to see if I could push myself to ride hard and fast for about an hour. The path was still a little slick in some places so I told myself to be careful.
The Hand from Heaven Reached out to Me
As I rode I got absorbed in the delightful fresh, clear air and the beauty of blue skies, trees, and the back bay of the ocean. And I was enjoying meditating on a line from a prayer I wrote, inspired by Psalm 139:9: “By the Spirit I rise on the wings of Christ’s dawn – the Father’s right hand holds me fast.”
Riding my bike on a wet path that morning I could relate to those words! I prayed that the Father’s right hand would hold me fast so that I wouldn’t slip and fall off my bike!
I was pedaling hard, probably going about 17 miles an hour as I headed into a turn on the bike path when all of a sudden my tire slipped on the wet asphalt and I started skidding! Oh no! Thank God I held the pavement – just barely! – and I didn’t wipe out. I probably would’ve gotten quite banged up.
Relieved, I continued cycling. Then it dawned on me that I had just prayed for the Father’s right hand to hold me fast! Wow! The Father’s hand had indeed held me fast just like I asked! By God’s grace my bike didn’t slip and crash! I experienced what the Psalmist says again and again: when we put our confidence in the Lord as we do what whatever we’re doing then we see that his right hand is reaching down from the heavens to help us.
Watch and Pray with Jesus
Watch and pray before you slip. That’s the lesson I was reminded of. It’s part of the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught us: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). It’s what Jesus told Peter to do before Peter denied him: “Your spirit is willing to do the right thing, but in your natural abilities you are weak and you’re not ready to do what you want. So watch and pray to become the kind of person who won’t fall into temptation” (Matthew 26:41, paraphrase).
As you know, Peter fell asleep! He went to sleep on Jesus when he needed to watch and pray — he wasn’t ready for the trial that came and he fell into denying his Lord. Then he fell into running away to hide. Then he fell into depression.
But after Peter messed up he made a recovery with God’s help. He learned to watch and pray with Jesus and so in the book of Acts and in Peter’s epistles we see Peter not falling, but standing strong in his faith through many persecutions and trials, even to the point of being crucified for Jesus upside down.
Where Might you Slip?
Where are you vulnerable to slip and fall in the days ahead? You know from past situations in which you’ve called down that the road ahead of you is slippery! Pause to identify your struggle or vulnerability… Hurting someone with a sharp tongue? Worrying? Being judgmental? Complaining? Overworking? Trying too hard to make something happen? Eating too much? Having a couple of drinks? Looking at pornography?
Don’t just resolve to do better next time – that never works! “Trying harder just gets you more of the same” is a wise adage. Peter’s problem in denying Christ wasn’t lack of will power – he was very willful! Peter’s problem was that he directed his will to rely on himself. He hadn’t trained his will to rely on Christ with him.
Take Hold of Christ’s Hand Now
Watch and pray with Jesus before you slip! Learn what Peter learned: admit your weakness and watch and pray with Jesus. “Train yourself to be godly” (1 Timothy 4:7). Rely on Christ to help you to become a different kind of person on the inside now so that in your trial that more Christlike person comes out.
To watch and pray use your imagination. Picture yourself in the slippery situation that tempts you… See the hand of the Lord reach down to you from the heavens… Take hold of it… Keep holding Christ’s hand… Pray to become the kind of person who doesn’t rely on anger or alcohol or _______, but on holding the hand of Christ…
If you pray this way about your specific struggle – and you do this over time with the help of Scripture and a soul friend – then you will not slip!