And in the midst of all this, God's call is clear and strong: Stand. Persevere.
When the smoke clears, who will still be standing?
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 1 Corinthians 16:13, ESV
“Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.” Nehemiah 4:14b, ESVThose verses resonate with the soul of the believer, who knows that we have an enemy; that we are at war. They resonate especially with men, who are created by God to be strong. "Fight for your sons, your daughters, your wives!" That sounds amazing. Echoes of our very purpose are in those words. And yet, for our generation of men, the closest thing we know about living these verses is video games and superhero movies. We were created for greater exploits than these!
When real pressure comes, who will stand? Who will persevere?
Preachers are sometimes tempted to reduce themselves to mere spiritual cheerleaders. "You can do it!" But we know that the power to stand does not lie in motivational speakers or believing in ourselves. We are fallen and broken and sinful and weak. The Law gives us commands, but no power to obey them. Praise God that he has not left us with only Law! There is power in the gospel. Power to stand; power to persevere. We cannot do it in our strength. We are truly weak. But God is strong! "...he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4).
Most Christians have heard the passage about the armor of God since Sunday School. Few put it on and stand. Ephesians 6 tells us to put on the armor of God, and lists the various pieces. We must realize first that it is the armor "of God." It is his armor. The pieces of the armor are his own character and work - salvation, righteousness, truth, etc. God and his Messiah are even seen in Scripture wearing this armor!
"There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse..." (Speaking of Jesus, the Messiah, born of the seed of David, son of Jesse) "...he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins" (Isaiah 11:1, 4b-5, ESV).
"The LORD saw...that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak. According to their deeds, so will he repay, wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies; ...they shall fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun..." Isaiah 59:15-19, ESVThe Lord is a mighty warrior! He himself fights against his enemies. This is where our victory lies, rather than in our own ability. We are more than conquerors (Rom 8:37) because our God gives the victory. We simply "stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD" (Exodus 14:13). The Christian's armor is God's armor; God's own character and work. God gives us his strength, his victory, his fighting-clothes. His armor is, in a sense, himself. We are to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 13:14).
Christ has given the ultimate death-blow to Satan and his demonic forces. In his death and resurrection Jesus triumphed (Col 2:15), and God "raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church" (Ephesians 1:20-22, ESV). Jesus is above the forces of evil. And through faith in the gospel we have been united with Christ! Our union with Christ means that we are IN him and share in his victory. Ephesians goes on to say that God "made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (2:5-6).
Satan and his co-workers will one day be thrown by God into the lake of fire, forever (Rev 20:10). Until then, he is prowling like a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8) and attacking the church. But God turns even these attacks into tests of our faith and works all things for our good and eternal joy and salvation (Romans 8:28-30). We must simply endure to the end. We must STAND.
Three times in the Ephesians 6 "armor of God" passage we are told to stand (v 11, 13, 14). We must constantly be looking up to the One who is above all satanic powers. We must believe the gospel - that Christ has died for our sins and is risen and exalted forever, and that through faith we are in him and share his victory. We must believe...and stand.
Who will still be standing when the smoke clears?
By his grace, let us stand.