We sometimes sing a song that begins with these words: “One step at a time, dear Savior; I cannot take any more; the flesh is so weak and hopeless; I know not what is before.” Each stanza of this hymn reflects the human dilemma of walking by faith. We cannot see the future, and often cannot even perceive what lies just beyond arm’s length. As the song declares, we want to reach the goal of eternal life, but we often feel that getting there is outside the realm of human capability.
This, of course, is exactly the point. The Lord does not expect us to make the journey solely by virtue of our own strength and resolve. He knows that we cannot do this alone, and He expects us to depend on Him to help us take each step on the pathway to life. The sooner we realize this truth and accept it, the easier our journey will become.
King David of Israel understood this truth and extolled it in Psa. 37:23-24. There he said, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.” The imagery here is that of a father holding the hand of a child and guiding his steps. Even though the child is taking each step on his own, the father is there making sure that he safely completes each step. When the child stumbles, the father keeps him from falling on his face because he is holding the child’s hand.
David’s point was not that God will keep us from physically falling down as we walk, but rather that He holds our hand as we make our spiritual journey to heaven. When we struggle with sin, stumbling and falling, our Father lifts us up so we do not fall hopelessly into the abyss of sin. He helps us to our feet and gently leads us again in the right direction. We will suffer some scrapes and bruises in the experience, but if we are willing to keep walking with Him, our Father will continue to lead us toward our heavenly reward.
There is one important aspect to this imagery that must not be overlooked. It is the fact that we must continue to take each step along the way in order to reach the goal. The scriptures call on us to walk with God. He will not drag us against our will in the direction of heaven. He will, however, lead us by the hand as we take each faltering step that direction. In 1 Jn. 1:7 John said, “But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
The inspired apostle did not say if we sit in the light the blood of Jesus will cleanse us. He said we will be cleansed if we walk in the light. This means that we must be making progress toward the goal. It doesn’t matter how swiftly or slowly we are walking. It only matters that we are walking. In 2 Cor. 5:7 Paul said that we walk by faith and not by sight. This is because we cannot yet see the goal. We believe it is there, and we believe we will reach it if we continue to walk with God.
This is why the idea of taking “one step at a time” is so important. One step at a time is within the capability of even the most fragile in the faith. One step at a time is doable. One step at a time will not tax us beyond our ability to bear it. One step at a time, in the direction of heaven, will get us there without fail. In Eph. 5:15 Paul said to be careful how we walk, not as unwise men but as wise. If we are wise, we will always walk in the direction of heaven by following God’s word. If we are wise, we will make the journey all the way to goal, one step at a time.