Ladder Of Despair :: By Grant Phillips

I would like for us to consider an imaginary ladder that all mankind is upon, saved and unsaved man.

This is no great spiritually enlightened topic, but just something I’ve been thinking about in relationship to all of us. It’s just an example to explain man’s state of being as an unsaved person, then that unsaved person becoming saved and growing in their Christian life.


Each and every unsaved person reaches first for a ladder which extends down into the deepest darkest pit. All of us begin in this deep dark pit, lost and without God.

The pit is alluring to our senses. Our minds are tricked by the evil one to believe there is beauty in the darkness. For some though, they know they must get out. They hear Another calling them to greater things. There is only death here, not joy.

Feeling against the walls, the only escape that can be felt is a ladder, but it is covered with a hopelessly slick slime and all its rungs are broken. Escape is impossible, but yet most try the ladder in the hope that just maybe they can climb upwards, but they never make it.


The deep dark pit represents the futility of all man because of the lost state we are in. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

The ladder represents the works of man (one’s futile attempt to gain or work for salvation), the enticing lies of the evil one. He says to the hopeless one, “You can do it.” “Just climb up the ladder,” but each attempt is met with failure. After struggling to no avail, man hears a faint whisper in the darkness, Another voice that is telling him, “Take My hand. I’ll pull you out.” Most of the doomed continue their attempt to climb the greasy ladder, and they just keep falling deeper into the pit.

Time after time the unsaved man works at climbing the ladder ‘til soaked with sweat at his useless efforts, but then occasionally one will take heed to the whisper, “Take My hand.” He will reach one hand toward the voice and with the other grab the ladder, but the Rescuer says, “No, you must let go of the ladder and take my hand.” Most will not, but finally one does as instructed. He lets go of the ladder, reaches for the hand of His Savior and is pulled out of the miry pit.

“He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.” (Psalm 40:2)

As soon as the Rescuer’s hand clasps his and pulls him out the unsaved man is topside on solid ground and the pit is instantly closed off. His clothes are now destroyed and he is clothed in the righteousness of Another.

“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10)


As a new man in Christ Jesus we now realize that the whisper we heard and heeded was the urging of the Holy Spirit of God. The Son of God reached down to us and saved us by His power alone. The cross, His death and His resurrection is the Gospel that set us free. God the Father smiles down upon us as we rest in Him through His Son.

We are babes in Christ, nestled in His arms. Now He will help us grow, as any babe should, each day becoming stronger and stronger in His power. Yes, we are a new man, but the old man also remains within us, and he isn’t done with us.

As a young Christian the Lord expects us to crawl, then advance to baby steps and continue to grow, but the evil one keeps telling the old man within us, “Climb the ladder.”

Even though we now know the ladder is nothing but a figment of our imagination and represents our own works, most of us still want to reach for the ladder. Where do we think we’re going? Are we like those of Babel who chose to glory in their own works? Surely not, but yet we keep mixing works with God’s grace.

Our Redeemer told us, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Christ Jesus. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18)


We are all born into sin, far away from God, deep in the miry pit of death and destruction. Most try their own methods to crawl out, grabbing an imaginary ladder of works we think will save us and draw us closer to God. To the contrary, we just fall deeper in the pit.

Only the hand of Christ Jesus, reaching out from Heaven, can pull us to safety in the security of His own power. However, even as His own children, who have placed their hand in His, we still often think our works should count for something. They don’t. He saved us from the pit through His power and we can only grow by His power.

We are like most earthly children crying out, “My way, my way!” The core reason so many churches are powerless today and so many Christians are spiritually ignorant is because we fail to listen to God. We think we know it all. Sounds just like earthly children doesn’t it?

Until Christians truly get in the Word of God and start living it, we will continue to replicate the Laodicean church of Revelation chapter three. We had to let go of the ladder for Jesus to save us. We must do the same to grow in Him. The works of God should be seen in every Christian, but for any Christian to think they need to produce their own works to keep their salvation is against everything the Bible teaches.

I never cease to be amazed at some of the nonsense I read and hear from professing Christians. It is so obvious they are still reaching out for the ladder. They are listening to the “old man” instead of the “new man.” Paul spoke of this in Romans chapter seven. He also pointed out our victory in Romans chapter eight, but if we don’t become genuine students of the Bible, closely listening to our Teacher the Holy Spirit, we will continue to flounder about, reaching for the ladder.

Many of the unsaved wrestle with their sins and works, hoping one will offset the other (works to offset sins), but it will never happen. Their own humanly inspired works will do no more for them than they did in getting us out of the miry pit. We were saved by His grace and we will never grow as His child without His grace. It must always be His works and our faith.

The Bible says, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)

Then it says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)


To be saved, God requires faith plus nothing. Only the grace of God can save us. God uses our faith in His Son to save us by His grace, apart from any works except His own. If anyone thinks they are saved by faith plus works, they are not saved. They are not a true Christian, a true child of God. They remain a child of the devil. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Every true child of God should walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16) so they will produce works that result in the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26). We were saved by faith, not works, but after we are saved we produce works because (1) the Spirit works through us and because (2) we wish to please our Lord and obey Him.

For the unbeliever, it must be faith without works to be saved. For the believer, faith without works is dead. (James 2:20).

Get off the ladder and reach out to Him.

Grant Phillips


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