When to Run and When to Stand: How to Fight Spiritual Battles

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We’re working our way through the book of Colossians in our Ladies Bible study group at BCF. Yesterday we looked at Paul’s warning: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Colossians 4:2). So we posed the question: what are we watching for? Two points stood out from elsewhere in the Scriptures:

When Jesus confronted his three closest disciples who were asleep in the garden, he admonished them to “watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Matthew 26:41). So the lure of temptation is one area where we need to be watchful.

Then Peter, who was one of the three, gives us another saying, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The reality and work of the devil is another.

How are we to handle these two?

The conventional wisdom is to resist temptation and flee from the devil; but what does Scripture say?

About temptation, Paul said, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful, he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). When we face temptation, we take the way of escape. We flee. We run. We get away from the source of temptation, be it a place, a person, a website, or the office breakroom.

And when it comes to dealing with the devil, Peter’s warning continued: “Resist him, standing firm in the faith . . .” (1 Peter 5:9). We resist the devil, standing firmly and confidently behind our shield of faith in the God of Christ our Lord.

So the conventional wisdom is completely backward – Scripture tells us to resist the devil and flee from temptation. No wonder we’re falling so easily to the enemy.

Why does this matter?

Because as 1 John 4:4 reminds us: “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” If you are in Christ Jesus, then Christ Jesus is in you through His Holy Spirit. The very same Christ who has already overcome the devil. Because of Jesus’ work on the cross, the devil has no authority over you. None. And you need to stand firm and remind him of that when he comes roaring at you. Because all he can do is roar.

And because, as Jesus admonished his sleepy disciples, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). Your flesh, the part of you that responds to temptation, is weak, even as a Christian. Though we are set free from the power of sin, we are still bound to our fleshly nature that desires sin. Paul said, “I have the desire to do good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep doing” (Romans 7:18,19)

Christ has already defeated the devil, but you and I will battle our flesh every day of our earthly lives.

Understanding the enemy and his tactics is vital – not just to surviving – but to thriving and growing and carrying the cross of Christ into a lost and dying world. You need to know your enemy Beloved. But more than that, you need to know your Savior. He has already claimed the victory over the devil. And He will give you strength – to flee when you face temptation and to stand firm when the lion roars.

“Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25).

Don’t Fear-get about God

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“When I am afraid, I will trust in you” (Psalm 56:3).

I love how little kids make up words.  Like calling pockets “snack-holes” or shoelaces “shoe-snakes.”  When my son was little he had a word that always made me smile – when his memory failed him, he didn’t forget, he said “I fear-get.”  I thought that was so cute – I wanted to box his teacher’s ears when she corrected him.

That is the perfect word for how some of us live.  We fear-get.  We give in to fear and we forget who our God is and what He is able to do.  We fear-get His power and His promises.  We fear-get His Word and His Spirit.

When Israel battled the Philistine army one enemy soldier caused the whole army to tremble in fear.  Goliath was a giant of a man – “over nine feet tall” – and he used his size to his advantage.  He loomed large and heckled Saul’s soldiers and “all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified” (1 Samuel 17: 4-11). Their fear caused them to forget their God and his power and promises as they trembled before their enemy.  Enter David, the young shepherd-boy with a sling, a pocket full of stones and an unwavering faith in the Lord.  He recognized the enemy was defying “the army of the Living God” of Israel (v. 36).   In other words, he knew this battle belonged to the Lord.  While David faced off against Goliath, Goliath faced off against God. And Goliath went down. Hard.

There are two important lessons to learn here.

The Israelite army trembled at the threats and ranting of Goliath.  At words.  They were afraid to stand against the giant because of words.  That is satan’s favorite ploy against us – he is a “roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8) – but roaring can’t hurt you.  He’s just making a lot of loud noise. When we listen to satan’s words, we fear-get the Word of God and tremble like the army of Israel.

But when David went to confront Goliath, he went “in the name of the Lord Almighty” (v. 45).  He carried five smooth stones in his pouch – and the memory of how God had given him victory in the past.  Recalling how he had killed lions and bears in his shepherding work, David declared, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37).  Unlike the Israelite army, David didn’t run from the enemy – he “ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him” (v. 48).  He loaded his sling with one stone and all the confidence He had in the Lord.  He didn’t fear-get a thing.

What makes you fear-get?  What makes you tremble and fear-get God’s love, grace, mercy, hope, power and promises.  What makes you fear-get His Word?  What makes you fear-get who you are in Christ?  What makes you fear-get all the God has done for you?  David Jeremiah says, “When we recognize how God has been our help in ages past, we’ll remember He’s our hope for years to come.”  Beloved, the mighty God of David is your God too.  He delivered Israel and He will deliver you.  Don’t give in to the rants of the enemy.  Don’t fear-get about God.

What’s Bogging You Down? Part 1


What’s bogging you down friend? What’s slowing your forward progress in your faith?  What keeps you from being all you want to be, all you were created to be? I believe the Scriptures reveals many things that impede our progress – things that are all very much under our control.  We would be wise to pay careful attention to them.

The writer of Hebrews addresses three of these in this verse: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1).  We’re going to look at two of these in this post and unpack more in subsequent posts.

Did you notice that the writer separates “things that hinder” from “sin?” Not everything that bogs us down is sinful. The Greek meaning of the word “hinders” is a weight or burden.  Because the writer uses the image of a race, we can imagine the thoughts of a runner; his goal is to be fast, and so he eliminates everything that might slow him down.  Modern runners search for the lightest shoes and for running garments made from lightweight fabrics.  Everything is evaluated for its weight and how that might affect his time.  A runner would never take his backpack to the track with him.  Yet too many of us are trying to run this race of faith with weights and burdens tied to our backs.  We are still carrying guilt from sins that God has forgiven.  We are carrying pain from old hurts and wounds that God is more than willing to heal.  We are carrying the expectations of others – or ourselves – as so much excess baggage.   As we run this race,everything in our lives should be evaluated for how it can hinder our spiritual progress.  Any weight that is not essential for the race should be eliminated.  Don’t be hindered by excess weight.

The other point that the writer makes is “sin that so easily entangles.”  Continuing with the runner’s example, I Kings 18 has the perfect visual for us.  When God sent rain to end the drought in Israel, King Ahab took off in his chariot to try to beat the storm, leaving Elijah behind.  But “The power of the Lord came upon Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel” (1 Kings 18:46).  Elijah, on foot, outran King Ahab in his chariot pulled by a horse (or horses). You can imagine how Elijah’s long flowing robes would have wrapped around his legs as he ran, causing him to slow down and likely stumble.  So, he took the skirt of his robe and tucked it into his belt to free his legs from becoming entangled.  That is the perfect picture of sin.  It wraps itself around us and makes it impossible to “run the race marked out for us.”  Here’s something powerful I discovered when I researched this passage.  The Greek rendering of the whole phrase “which so easily entangles” is a combination of three things. It means “to skillfully surround,” and “to prevent or retard.” Okay, that fits perfectly with the image we have in our minds.  And of course we know that Satan is the one “skillfully surrounding” us with sin.  But I was very surprised to find it also includes the meaning of “well or much admired.”  Do you see it?  What entangles us so easily is the sin that we cherish.  It’s the sin that we secretly love.  It’s the one we won’t let go of, the one we keep returning to again and again.  It has become entangled around us until it seems a part of us, to the point that cutting it off will seem like cutting off a limb. But it absolutely must go – and it is up to us to do the cutting.  Yes, it will be painful because it will involve something that has become dear and intimate to us.  It may even mean severing a relationship that is built on sin.  The writer of Hebrews says, “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood (Hebrews 12:4). That is exactly what you and I must do—fight against that sin, even if it feels like it will kill us. But that’s not what we do, is it? The truth is, we don’t really struggle with our sin. Oh, we may give a wimpy word of protest, but we still give in to it. We don’t look for “the way out” that God provides, because we don’t want to escape it (1 Corinthians 10:13). Beloved, it is time to be brutally honest with yourself about your pet sin. It is not your friend. You need to kill it before it kills you.

Weights and sins are very much within our control.  You and I need to shed every weight and burden and entrust them to the Father who loves us.  We need to cut off and kill the sin that has wrapped itself around us and surrender it to the God who calls us to run the race.   The victory tape awaits you – the prize is in the Lord’s hands – eternal life in an eternal place with your eternal Savior.

Run Beloved.  Don’t let anything slow you down.

 

The post, What’s Bogging You Down? first appeared at https://dbethandrews.wordpress.com/

 

Stop and Think About It

Selah
In the Psalms we frequently see a word, Selah, tucked in among the verses.  That little word packs a lot of wisdom.  The Amplified version of the Bible renders that word, “stop and think about that.”  The Psalmists use it as a word of warning, encouragement, and comfort.  It’s a two-step process to victory in our Christian walk.
“But you are a shield around me, O Lord, you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the Lord I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. Selah” (Psalm 3:3-4).
“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with sons of deliverance. Selah” (Psalm 3:7)
  When difficulties come, stop and think about God as your shield and your hiding place.  Think about Him placing His great hand under your chin and lifting your sorrowful head.  Thank Him for His protection and deliverance.
“How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth!  He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet.  He chose our inheritance for us, the pride of Jacob, whom he loved. Selah” (Psalm 47:2-4).
Stop and think about how worthy God is to be praised – He is the Lord Most High, the great King, the Sovereign over every nation.  Now stop and think about how He has chosen you as His own.
“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Selah (Psalm 68:19)
When you are weighted down with burdens, stop and think about God calling you to cast them all on Him so your heart can be at rest. Then do it.
If there is a “secret” to surviving life on this side of heaven it is this:  Stop and Think.  Stop worrying, stop agonizing, stop fretting, stop comparing.  Stop letting your thoughts control you and take control of your thoughts. Think about who He is, think about who you are because of Him, think about His faithfulness in the past, think about His promises, and think about what is true and right and pure and worthy.  Beloved, it’s time stop the negativity in your head, to stop the voice of the enemy speaking  doubt and fear and temptation.  It’s time to fill your heart and mind with  the Words of your Creator and Father and Savior – words of truth and hope and strength. 
Stop and Think – and step up in victory!

Advent Devotional Day 14 – Mighty God!

“The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still” (Exodus 14:14)

The Israelite people were fleeing Egypt, with Pharaoh and the Egyptian army close on their heals.  Imagine being part of the crowd of two-million plus slaves being pursued by elite military horsemen and six hundred chariots armed with deadly spears and arrows.  You stand at the edge of a vast, impassable sea knowing that Pharaoh’s army will come sweeping in on you any minute.  You look to your leader Moses for a battle plan and all he tells you is “be still.” How’s your confidence now?

The prophet declared that this Child who was born to save the world would be called “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6).  He would be a Warrior who would fight for His people.  Only the enemy is not a human army; the enemy is death – that is, eternal separation from God.  And He would not do battle with arrows or spears or any man-made weapon.  He would use a wooden cross to gain for us eternal life.  Paul well proclaimed “Death has been swallowed up in victory!” (1 Corinthians 15:54).

We like to keep the Christmas story all light and sweet – a baby in a manger, angels singing, shepherds kneeling, star shining – but the truth is, this Baby came to fight a fearsome foe.  He came with a battle plan in hand – a plan that would mean His death.

Why? Because you and I are unable to save ourselves.  When it comes to this enemy, we are as helpless as the Israelites standing at the edge of the sea.  We cannot defeat death.  This morning our church and community is mourning for a beautiful teenage girl who fought hard against this enemy but lost the battle.  Too soon sometimes, death comes for everyone.  But the blessing in this young lady’s passing is that she belonged to Jesus Christ.  While we have lost her lovely smile and her sweet spirit here, she is not lost forever.  Jesus won the victory for her and she has eternal life with Him in heaven.

Can you confidently say “I am not afraid of death!”?  Are you assured of the same victory as this precious girl?  He came to fight for you, to give you victory over your fiercest enemy.  He came to win eternal life for you.  More than a mere Baby in the manger, Jesus is indeed our Mighty God – our Warrior and our Victor.

“Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory though our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Read I Corinthians 15:50-58

This devotional is dedicated to the memory of Anna K.

Clearer Vision

“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?”                Psalm 27:1

 What happens to our faith when our vision becomes clouded by fear and doubt?

In Numbers 13, the Israelites, having been freed from Egyptian slavery, now stand at the edge of the Promised Land.  Moses selects 12 men, one from each ancestral tribe, to explore the land of Canaan. After forty days, they return with samples of fruit – including a cluster of grapes so heavy it had to be carried on a pole between two men.  They declared the inhabitants “powerful and their cities fortified and very large.” While Caleb and Joshua declared, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” (v. 30), the other ten spies “spread a bad report. We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (v. 32, 33) They saw themselves as piteously small against the enemy who lived in this wonderful land that the Lord had promised to them.

I know this one, because I have spent far too many years looking at the giants in my life through the eyes of a grasshopper.   I am learning the key to overcoming fear – we have to develop clearer vision.  We have to look through eyes of faith.

First we have to have a clearer vision of our God.  When I feel the enemy pressing me, I turn to Psalm 18 where I am reminded that God is “my Strength, my Rock, my Fortress, my Deliverer, my Refuge, and my Shield.” (vs. 1-2)  He is a MIGHTY GOD! His power is beyond comprehension.  Psalm 66:3 says “So great is Your power that Your enemies cringe before you.”  When I recognize the truth that the power of God exceeds the power of any enemy force or circumstance, I can rest my heart – and mind in Him. He is also my Protector and Defender.  No enemy dares approach me with the Lord on guard. David said in Psalm 20:7, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”  The enemy trembles and flees at the name of the Lord.  Learn His Name and use it!

We also need to have a clearer vision of our giants.    The giants you and I fear loom so large and terrifying to us, but how do they compare to our God?  David certainly had the right perspective.  In the famous battle of David and Goliath, the enemy towered over the Israelites at over nine feet tall with massive armor and weapons. (1 Samuel 17:4-7).  Day after day, he taunted the Israelite army,
“This day I defy the ranks of Israel!  Give me a man and let us fight each other.  If he is able to kill me, we will become your subjects, but if I overcome him you will become our subjects and serve us. (1 Samuel 17:8-10) And how did the Israelites respond? “On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.” Goliath’s threats had broken the spirit of the Israelite army and they believed themselves powerless against him. Isn’t that just like us?  We become consumed with fear as we focus on our enemy who taunts and defies us.  But the little shepherd boy David looked, not at the size of the enemy, but at the size of his God.  David told King Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” As David approached, with no visible weapon or armor, Goliath cursed him and shouted insults at him. But David responded with spiritual armor and weapons that Goliath could not see, and he said “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will hand you over to me…and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! (1 Samuel 17:45-46)” I am sure you know the rest, “David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone. (1 Samuel 17:50)” I want that kind of faith!  I want faith that knows the power of the Lord.  I want faith that is confident in God’s promises to defend and deliver me from all the giants in my life. I want faith to meet every challenge the enemy throws at me with my head held high and my eyes firmly fixed on God.

Finally, we must develop a clearer vision of ourselves-as God sees us.  If you are in Christ, God has declared that you are “His child (Romans 8:16; 1 John 3:1); sanctified (1 Corinthians 1:2); valuable (1 Peter 1:18-19); chosen (1 Peter 2:9); His workmanship(Ephesians 2:10);  His dwelling place (Eph. 2:22); dearly loved (Colossians 3:12); children of light (Eph. 5:8); a holy & royal priesthood (1 Peter 2: 5, 9) – and that is just a small sampling of what the Bible says you are to God.  The enemy will always try to make you feel small and defenseless.  He will always try to attack you with words of condemnation: “Look at you! Look at the mess you have made of your life! Look at your sin! You are worthless to God, He could never love you!”  But you need to know and believe that under God’s loving and protective gaze, you are a priceless treasure, His priceless treasure, and He loves you with an everlasting, never-failing, all consuming love.  When God looks at you He doesn’t see your mess, He sees your Messiah.

To stand strong in the face of fear, we must look to our God for strength and perspective.   “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes and we looked the same to them.”  But how do you look in God’s eyes?  Victorious!

Holy Father, the giants are big, but You, Lord are bigger. Help us keep our vision clear and our eyes “fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).  God give us eyes to truly see.