For a righteous man may fall seven times And rise again, But the wicked shall fall by calamity. – Proverbs 24v16
This passage reminds me of Micah’s words when he felt broken, battered, defeated in the midst of a wicked and sinful nation – ‘Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; When I fall, I will arise; When I sit in darkness, The Lord will be a light to me.’
I like the way that is worded. Note that Micah said ‘when’ not ‘if’ I fall. Falling is sadly a part of living. It would be great if we could just coast down the road of godly living without problems. It makes it even harder when some folks claim that they do so, that they never fight or battle sin. The truth is though, that battling is part of living and losing some of those battles is a part of the fight.
The question is what we do when we are down? What happens when we keep falling and stumbling and feeling defeated?
Solomon wrote that the righteous man falls seven times, but he just keeps getting up again. Getting up again is a mark of a true believer. It is not easy when you just keep getting knocked down. The challenge is making sure that we do not get knocked out.
I can’t think of a better illustration of this that Christian’s encounter with Apollyon in Pilgrim’s Progress. Don’t skim over this – take the time to read it through.
Then Apollyon straddled quite over the whole breadth of the way, and said, I am void of fear in this matter. Prepare thyself to die; for I swear by my infernal den, that thou shalt go no farther: here will I spill thy soul. And with that he threw a flaming dart at his breast; but Christian had a shield in his hand, with which he caught it, and so prevented the danger of that.
Then did Christian draw, for he saw it was time to bestir him; and Apollyon as fast made at him, throwing darts as thick as hail; by the which, notwithstanding all that Christian could do to avoid it, Apollyon wounded him in his head, his hand, and foot. This made Christian give a little back: Apollyon, therefore, followed his work amain, and Christian again took courage, and resisted as manfully as he could. This sore combat lasted for above half a day, even till Christian was almost quite spent: for you must know, that Christian, by reason of his wounds, must needs grow weaker and weaker.
Then Apollyon, espying his opportunity, began to gather up close to Christian, and wrestling with him, gave him a dreadful fall; and with that Christian’s sword flew out of his hand. Then said Apollyon, I am sure of thee now: and with that he had almost pressed him to death, so that Christian began to despair of life. But, as God would have it, while Apollyon was fetching his last blow, thereby to make a full end of this good man, Christian nimbly reached out his hand for his sword, and caught it, saying, Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise, (Mic. 7v8); and with that gave him a deadly thrust, which made him give back, as one that had received his mortal wound. Christian perceiving that, made at him again, saying, Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us. (Rom. 8v37). And with that Apollyon spread forth his dragon wings, and sped him away, that Christian saw him no more. (James 4v7).
What did Christian do when knocked down and about ready to perish? He reached and grabbed his sword (obviously the word of God) and used it to attack the devil.
I don’t think I can word this better than Paul in his letter to Corinth. We have problems. We have challenges. We have confusion and despair, but we can’t afford to quit. Get up and get back at it.
‘We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.’