Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
— 1 Corinthians 10:12
Here is an incredible story from history that demonstrates the danger of “cracks” in your spiritual life. The story comes from the city of Sardis, where one of the seven churches in the book of Revelation was located (see Revelation 3:1-6).
The city of Sardis was located very high on top of sheer cliffs that were almost impossible to climb. Because of their city’s high and remote location, the residents believed it couldn’t be penetrated or taken captive by a foreign enemy. It was this overconfidence that led to the demise of Sardis on more than one occasion.
Because those who lived in Sardis believed they were impenetrable, they felt sure that foreign aggressors couldn’t make war on them. As a result, they became proud, cocky, overconfident, lazy, and complacent. As this apathy took over, the residents smugly concluded that there was no other city as secure as theirs. As a result of this haughty attitude, they stopped giving attention to the foundations and walls of their spiraling city. Thus, while the people’s pride and overconfidence kept growing stronger and stronger over the years, they failed to notice that the foundations and walls of their city had begun to deteriorate and form massive cracks at the base of the walls.
At first the cracks were small and unnoticeable; but as time progressed, those tiny cracks grew bigger, deeper, and wider. Finally, the gaps in the walls became so wide that a human body could easily slip through them — but the people didn’t even realize that they were no longer secure! Due to the massive fractures in the walls and foundations, it had become very easy for an enemy to climb up the sides of the mountain, slip through the cracks, and march right into the city. Yet the city residents were completely unaware of the problem!
One night while the city of Sardis was sleeping, an enemy army scaled up the cliffs and slithered through the cracks in the foundations and walls of the city. It took only a few minutes for the enemy soldiers to creep through those fractures and silently make their way up to the top of the city walls. The invading army then settled into military positions with weapons fixed on the main routes of the interior so no one in Sardis could make a move without facing retaliation.
When the residents of Sardis awakened the next morning and ventured out into the streets, they were thrown into a state of panic and shock when they realized that they were surrounded on every side by an enemy force. Enemy forces had infiltrated into their midst before they knew those forces were even near!
Unfortunately, the city of Sardis is like so many of us. We become so busy with life, so tossed about by everyday cares, or perhaps so confident of our own abilities, that we become unaware of our own spiritual need. We go on in life as though we have no need to deal with the foundations of our lives, not realizing that tiny cracks are starting to form.
This kind of negligent thinking is usually accompanied by prayerlessness and insensitivity to the Spirit of God. A Christian who is too busy to get into the Presence of God is a Christian who will soon find himself in trouble, just like the city of Sardis.
This is why the apostle Paul said, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). The word “thinketh” is from the Greek word dokeo, which in this case means to be of the opinion, to reckon, to suppose, or to think, as it is translated here in the King James Version. In this verse, the word dokeo expresses the idea of what a person thinks or supposes about himself. There is nothing here to verify that the individual’s opinion is correct; only that it is the prevailing opinion he has regarding himself. In just a moment, you’ll see why this is so important for you to understand!
Next, Paul says, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth.…” The word “standeth” comes from the Greek word istemi, which simply means to stand, to stand fast, to stand firm, or to stand upright. But when the words dokeo and istemi are combined together as Paul uses them in this verse, it means, “Wherefore let anyone who has the self-imposed opinion of himself that he is standing strong and firm.…” Then Paul adds the next critically important words: “…take heed lest he fall.”
The words “take heed” are from the Greek word blepo, which means to watch, to see, to behold, or to be aware. The Greek tense indicates the need not only to watch, but to be continually watchful. Paul is urging us to live in an uninterrupted state of watchfulness regarding our spiritual lives and the firm stance of faith that we claim to possess!
Why does he insist that we be so watchful? He goes on to say, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” The word “fall” is pipto, which means to fall. In the New Testament, it is used to depict someone who falls into a terrible predicament or into a worse state than he was in before. It can also depict someone who falls into sin; falls into ruin; or falls into some type of failure. The word pipto that Paul uses in this verse emphatically describes a downfall from a formerly presumed high and haughty position. Therefore, it isn’t just a little stumbling that Paul is referring to; it is a downward plummet that causes one to sorrowfully crash!
When you put all of this together, First Corinthians 10:12 could be translated:
“If anyone has the opinion of himself that he is standing strong and firm, he needs to be continually watchful and always on his guard lest he trip, stumble, and fall from his overconfident position and take a nose-dive downward to a serious crash!”
We must never become so smug that we fall into complacency. The day we allow that to happen, we are in big trouble! Like the city of Sardis, we may end up with huge cracks we aren’t even aware of. That is exactly when the enemy will slip in to take us captive in different areas of our lives. Therefore, we must match our confidence with watchfulness!
Unfortunately, it appears that the church in Sardis precisely mirrored the city of Sardis. Jesus told them, “…I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and are dead” (Revelation 3:1). At one time the church in Sardis had a great name and a testimony of being spiritually alive and vibrant. But because the believers in that church got too busy and failed to give heed to the foundational things in their lives, cracks began to form spiritually over time. Eventually the devil found a way to slip into that church to ruin its name and influence. Because of spiritual negligence, this church body lost its vitality until Jesus even said it was “dead.”
In Revelations 3:2, Jesus told them, “Be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.” I love this verse, for it alerts us to the fact that it is never too late to do something to fix the problem! Jesus said, “Locate the problem! Find a solution! Strengthen what you have! Do it before it’s too late!”
If you have a part of your life that is broken, cracked, or splintered, there is still hope that it can be restored. It may require emergency care to get it on life support for now, but it can be resuscitated and brought back to life again. Preventative medicine is always better than corrective surgery, so learn to take the right steps to avoid these problems.
It may seem like it takes a lot of time to stay watchful and prayerful about your spiritual life, but I assure you that it is less expensive and less painful than it is to crash spiritually and then have to fix things in your life that never had to be broken in the first place!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, help me stay watchful regarding the condition of my spiritual life! I recognize that sometimes I get too busy and fail to pray, wrongly presuming that I am strong enough to be able to survive in a state of prayerlessness. Especially after what I’ve read today, I realize that this kind of smugness and pride has always gotten me into trouble. Therefore, I turn from apathy and the wrong kind of confidence, and I turn to the Cross! Please examine my heart and help me identify those areas of my life that need to be fixed or corrected. Once You reveal to me what needs to be changed, please give me the power to apply the needed correction.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I declare by faith that I am sensitive to the Spirit of God! The Holy Spirit shows me every area of my life that is weak and that needs attention. When the Holy Spirit speaks to me, I am quick to listen and quick to obey. I urgently act to bring correction to every weakness in my character and my spiritual life where the enemy might try to penetrate. Therefore, the devil has no access to me!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Are you aware of any areas in your life that have deteriorated and need attention? It could be your marriage, your finances, your relationships, or a whole host of other vital areas of your life. Are there cracks in any of these areas through which the devil may try to sneak up on you and take you captive?
2. If your answer is yes, what do you need to do to seal those cracks and strengthen those areas so the devil cannot successfully lay siege to your life?
3. Can you think of one area in your life that was fractured in the past, but through God’s grace is now healed and sealed from any future attacks of the devil?