Sunday 30 November 2014
Key Passage: Ephesians 6:10-14
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
About two years ago, during the midweek service, I had asked the following question: “What do you do when you seem to have done all?” Do you give up; do you give in; or do you hold on to the end? It’s a fact of life that things don’t always turn out as we expected despite our best efforts. When that happens we will have to choose our response, and it will determine how we come out of the situation; whether better or bitter.
Let’s say you prepared very well for an exam and were convinced that you did your best, but somehow, when the result came out you failed. What do you do? What if you believed that you heard from God, went into a business, invested all you had, but the outcome was a total loss. What do you do? How about if you fasted, prayed and believed God for the healing of a loved one but the person ended up dead. What do you do?
A few years ago I visited a campus where I heard a prayer leader in the Christian Union had left the fellowship and joined one of the cult groups. What was his reason? He said they had prayed and believed God for the healing of a terminally ill brother, but he died. Also, his own mother was diagnosed with cancer and they fasted and prayed earnestly for her recovery; still she died. His conclusion was that a god who could not intervene in those situations does not exist. That’s much unlike David (see 2 Samuel 12:15-22).
We must all come to a place in life where we can say, “Lord, I’ve done all I know how. If nothing changes then it must be that you have a better idea than I do. So, I rest in hope!” “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,” says the Lord. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). As humans, we have no right or reason to expect that at every point we shall be able to understand the wisdom of our Creator or what He chooses to allow in certain situations.
Adversity does two things to us. It reveals our hearts. “And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” (Deuteronomy 8:2) It also reveals our strength “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” (Proverbs 24:10).
HAVING DONE ALL
That is why our text begins with an admonition to ‘be strong in the Lord.’ We need to be strong because as a fact of life, evil days do come. We can’t fast it all away; we can’t pray it all away; we can’t faith it all away! It is high time Christians realized that, in this life, sometimes, bad things happen to good people and vice versa!
What constitutes an evil day may differ from person to person but almost always, it’s a time of spiritual warfare; it’s a time of crisis; it’s a time of trial. Sometimes it follows a disappointment when we are prone to being discouraged.
In this life, we may lose some battles but we must not lose the war. The goal of the enemy is to keep us down but God wants us to STAND. Even after we have done all and things don’t turn out as we expected we must still continue to stand. God has made resources available for us if we choose to stand. This is the armour of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). We need to do better than survive the conflict.
THE ENEMY IS AFTER YOUR FAITH
When trials come, they come to shake your faith. The most critical battle we face in this life is the battle of faith. Paul admonished Timothy to “Fight the good fight of faith…” (1 Timothy 6:12). Paul himself said “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7).
Faith is our lifeline to God. Crisis often comes to affect that lifeline. Whether you know it or not, how you respond when a crisis comes will determine how well you will be able to STAND. What the enemy seeks is to cut off this line. When Job was going through crisis, satan spoke through Job’s wife: “His wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to your faith? Why don’t you just curse God and die!” (Job 2:9 ERV). That is why we need “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6:17). We must continue to have faith in God (Mark 11:22).
Job’s response to his wife is quite instructive: “But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10). Is God only good when everything is alright, or is He still good when things don’t work out right? When it’s all peaceful and calm or when your pond is full of ripples? Each person must settle this question in your mind. GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME.
THE ATTITUDE OF THOSE STILL STANDING
First, they have a conviction: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). That includes the good and the bad; the things we understand and those we don’t understand. That was what kept Joseph in the midst of all the trials he faced. “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” (Genesis 50:20). The person of faith will trust in God through prosperity or adversity, even when you are unable to understand why bad things happen.
Secondly, they continue to have faith in God’s goodness and faithfulness. No matter what happens they know that God is good and what He permits is good for them (Psalm 119:68). Like Job said “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him…” (Job 13:15a). It’s an attitude that says, “Satan may have fired his worst shot at me but I am unfazed, I am unshaken.” We should not change our testimony about God. Job held fast his integrity throughout the time of testing, and maintained his confidence in God’s goodness.
Thirdly, they worship God despite their circumstances. “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). People around David could not understand how David could worship God despite the pain in his heart. “So David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house; and when he requested, they set food before him, and he ate”(2 Samuel 12:20). In that culture, as it is now, everyone expected David to be mourning, but he chose to worship instead. When we seem to have done all and situations do not change, avoid being stuck. Let’s move on with our lives.
I believe that that is the way to frustrate the devil – to act in a way that is opposite to what he expects you to do. If his intention is for you to be sad, rejoice instead; if he wants you to murmur and complain, worship instead; if he wants you to blame God for things that didn’t work out right, give God quality praise and thanksgiving. When it’s all over, let the enemy know that you are still standing!!