Welcome to a sacred place!
For what looks like words may be life. And what is spelled out in black and white may be transformative.
“…what happens in the next few minutes borders on the holy…The quietness will slow my pulse, the silence will open my ears, and something sacred will happen. The soft slap of sandaled feet will break the stillness, a pierced hand will extend a quiet invitation, and I will follow.”
~ Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven, p. 19
The day held a sense of expectation. As I took my place in the pew at the Beth Moore simulcast, I knew God was going to do something great. But, as each session slipped by, so did the hope that God would speak to me in a personal way. Until the afternoon session…
After lunch, I engaged a woman who had prayed the opening prayer, mostly because I was interested in receiving the Bible study she had written on Nehemiah. We chit-chatted a bit and then an unusual thing happened. She looked me dead in the eyes and said, “May I pray for you?” Not knowing how life-changing the next few moments would be, I answered, “Sure”, in a rather nonchalant way. What transpired in those few moments has become the impetus for this website.
She prayed a powerful, Spirit-inspired, prophetic prayer over my life. I have no accurate recollection of the specific words that were spoken; I just had the awesome sense of being in the very presence of God and hearing Him speak directly into my soul. She prayed over my ministry. She prayed over my family. She prayed over my future, but most importantly, she prayed an answer to a prayer I had been winging toward heaven for close to six years. I had been seeking God for something I could do for the Kingdom that was tailor-made for me and this stranger named my specific niche in ministry. She called it out from the hazy boundaries of my subconscious and the oblivion of my fearful desires and she birthed in me a monumental dream: a dream of writing.
The Lord joined this dream to the trauma I had experienced through my lifetime to create something new, something bold, something transformed. He formulated a vision in me of how that dream might play out, “You will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” (Isa 48:12b)
God has taken me on a number of detours since that day: a left-turn at heartache, an underpass of pregnancy in my 40’s, a bridge out sign directing us to move countries, and a traffic jam of waiting on God. Another almost-six years have passed me by since that startling day and God is calling me out again. This call feels similar – to inhale His truths, to breathe out life through the medium of words – and yet different, because I am different. God has broken me down and has begun His good work of rebuilding me brick by painstaking brick.
I am humbled by this opportunity and greatly conscious of my inherent weaknesses. But I invite you to join me as I write with passion, with trepidation, and with, what I feel, is a powerful undergirding of the Spirit. Will you join me in helping to rebuild some walls in our lives and in the lives of those who are broken around us?
Part 7 of 7
This COVID-19 virus has really put a damper on things around the world.
Humanitarian aid is dropping off in lieu of more pressing matters like work and health and life. Morale all over the world has plummeted as jobs become more and more tenuous. The economy of many countries has already been severely damaged and surely, more devastation is to follow. The pandemic has “already outstripped the supply of crucial medical equipment in some wealthy countries such as the U.S. and as the coronavirus spreads in low-income countries, concerns are mounting that it could force a global competition for personal protective equipment, ventilators, and other essential items” (https://www.devex.com). Mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and stress, are on the rise. Borders are shut down. Planes are grounded. Many families are separated by the impacting parameters of forced quarantine.
All in all, there is literally no one in this world who is not somehow negatively affected by the tiny germ we call COVID-19. Life is hard, my friends; life is very, very hard.
Yet, I am encouraged by what the pressures of lock-down are producing in people’s lives. Ironically, some people are finding respite in song-writing. “Self-isolation is proving the catalyst for a new breed of homemade viral songwriting” (https://www.theguardian.com). All over the internet songs are popping up for public viewing. Video-game creation is on the rise. I even read an article that proclaimed the burgeoning success of on-line counseling, that the Chinese produced all kinds of apps that enabled body-soul restoration.
In our own home, as in many others, online school for our junior-age high-schooler and homeschooling for our kindergartener have become the new normal. It has taken quite a toll on us, yet we have had to rise to the occasion. Creativity has flowed from previously unknown orifices. We’ve had P.E. science walks and reading sessions while lying, feet-up, on the floor. There have been tents for language arts and obstacle courses to spur on the imagination for journal entries. Crafts and small murals have dotted our scholastic landscape, while joint cooking has been instigated for the use of math (and tasting) enhancement.
All of us have had to dig into resources we did not even know we had. And this is a good thing. But it took the pressure of a black-ice situation and the added burden of quarantine to strong-arm this creativity into being. These innovative resources would have been left untapped were it not for the black-ice situation of COVID-19.
By Way Of Review
Today we tie the proverbial bow on this series that I have entitled Facing Your Nemesis. From the beginning this set of devotions was written with the attempt to put a B.A.T.T.L.E. plan into your hands that will lead you to victory over your fleshly proclivities. It is true that the ultimate battle is the Lord’s, but just like David knew, you cannot win the Lord’s battle without hands-on engagement (1 Sam. 17:47 - ESV). Christ died to give you the ultimate victory, but you still have to face your giant, run at it in the Lord’s strength, speak the truth over the lies that rise up to meet you, and level each audacious attack with the resources God has given to you. In other words, you can pray that God gives you victory, but you will still have to do the work of walking out that victory on every battlefield of your daily life.
I have shared with you that my nemesis is discouragement. My gut instinct is not to trust God; it is instead, to doubt and fear, tremble and shake when I am faced with a black-ice experience. Over the weeks that I have been writing this series, I have had countless opportunities to face my nemesis. Thankfully, I have found that this B.A.T.T.L.E. plan has really helped me to recognize the enemy, analyze the lies that my mind feeds me, and change the outcome of my responses. I wrote this series for me, to help me to fight my doubt, to help me gain the victory over my natural distrust of God. I am so grateful for the times I have been able to overlay this plan on top of my gut-reactions. There have been days where I have succumbed to despair, mostly because I do not have the time to process this plan out. But for the days I have invested in these opportunities for growth, I am eternally grateful to God for what He is teaching me to do.
There are many more steps that could be included in this battle plan, but I have chosen to make this as simple as possible. For that reason, I have borrowed only six principles, six choices, upon which to stand firm in the battle for victory. These key thoughts come straight out of the pages of Scripture, the first being the need to choose Love. The moment you feel threatened by a black-ice trauma or temptation, it is imperative that you B - Buttress yourself with the love of God. There will be trouble in this world, but we are to take heart, for God has overcome the world (Jn. 16:33). This is the same God who calls you His child and Who lives in you by way of the Holy Spirit (1 Jn. 4:4). Everyone, my friend, who is born of God and who is loved by God overcomes the world through our faith in His truths (1 Jn. 5:4-5). His love buoys our faith to believe.
After you have centered yourself in God’s love and armed yourself with faith in His care of you, you must then choose to A - Activate a battle mentality. Satan is the real enemy in your black-ice scenario. He seeks to kill and destroy you (Jn. 10:10a), even if it means that he manipulates your own flesh and mind. You do not have the luxury of taking life easy; you must be on your guard and stand firm in the faith (1 Cor. 16:13).
When you have ascertained the culprit behind your nemesis-response, you must begin the work of addressing the attitudes (or behaviors or perceptions etc) that are keeping you from running the race. It is important that you know what is holding you back from a good fight, so face it and then begin to T - Throw off those entanglements. Paul speaks to this step in Ephesians 4:22, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires.” As you begin to assess your gut-reactions, you must ruthlessly put off whatever is making you stumble and shake.
Discarding those entanglements leads to the fourth step, which is to T - Transform your mind. You can put off the old self (Eph. 4:22), but you cannot walk in victory until you renew your mind (Eph. 4:23). Paul tells us the bad news: God’s anger spills out against the godlessness of men who suppress the truth (Rom. 1:18) and who exchange the truth of God for a lie (Eph. 1:25a). You cannot run a good race if something is keeping you from obeying the truth (Gal. 5:7). But the good news is that you can fill your mind with Scripture so that you can recognize the deceit of your enemy.
Last week, we dipped our toes into the huge body of water that incorporates Paul’s third step in the transformation process: we need to put on the new self (Eph. 4:24). We began to flesh out this important step last week by studying the L choice to Live in the truth. Not only is it important to be able to recognize the lies and overlay them with the truth, you must also begin to align your behavior with the truth. In a moment when you are attacked by a black-iced enemy, you must assess your typical response and overlay it with God’s healing perspective. So much needs to happen in your spirit before you begin to speak or act. That is why it is imperative to practice this battle plan incessantly so that it becomes more and more automatic to you.
Today, we will build on that choice to put on the new self by living in the truth. After you have become aware of a black-ice trigger and assessed your nemesis (how you want to respond out of your flesh), after you have acknowledged your feelings and attended to your fleshly hindrances, after you have analyzed the lies and aligned yourself with truth, you need to apply that truth. You E - Energize your faith-stance by activating all the spiritual resources God has given you. There are many such assets and these are the topic of our last devotional in this series.
In the few weeks that we have been consigned to our home by this global pandemic, I have been out-of-my-mind stressed. A friend of mine has likened my home and constraining circumstances to a pressure cooker and honestly, my heart wants to agree with her. Sometimes it feels like I am being squeezed beyond my ability to endure.
Yet, in all of this push-and-shove, I have been reminded of a valuable lesson, one that I have studied a great deal and taken very much to heart over the last couple of months. Hear me clearly, my friend, there is great potential in the middle of this crisis or any other trauma, for that matter. It is hard to imagine, but every section of blacktop slathered by ice has the inherent probability of being a growing experience. What that means, though this word may feel controversial to your out-of-control internal feelings, is that each trauma may have been given to you as a gift from God.
I am reminded of some explosively appropriate thoughts from The Significant Decision (part 5 of the dungeon series I began before this nemesis series). In that lesson, I shared some incredible truths from Luke 9:10-17 (Mark 6:30-44), which you may recognize by name as the story of the five loaves and two fish. For just one moment, let me remind you of some key thoughts from that passage.
The Twelve had been on a ministry trip and they returned thrilled with the impact they had had, but completely exhausted (9:1-10a). Jesus recognized their bone-weariness and invited them to come away with Him to a quiet place where they could get some rest (Mk. 6:31). They got in a boat with Jesus, content in knowing that they were going to a solitary place (Mk. 6:32). However, Bethsaida ended up being anything but solitary. When they reached the other side, the countryside was packed with people, some 5000 men plus women and children (Mt. 9:11).
Jesus welcomed the crowd and engaged in ministry to them (Mt. 9:11) because of His great compassion for them; they were like sheep without a shepherd (Mk. 6:34). But the time soon came in the late-afternoon when everyone was hungry and it was not long before the disciples entered a black-ice moment.
They had no resources of their own, so they offered the only solution they knew: “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here” (Mt. 9:12). Jesus surprised them, asking them to give the people food (9:13). As the disciples pooled their resources, all they could find were five loaves of bread and two fish (9:13b). They knew it was not enough and they were frustrated at the pressure of their dilemma. Eventually, they offered their own energies to go and get food for the people (9:13c), but Jesus had another agenda.
He told the disciples to get everybody into groups of about fifty people. Then, He took the loaves and fish, looked up to heaven, gave thanks for the food, and broke the bread. He began to distribute the bread to the disciples and they were soon amazed: everyone ate and was satisfied. And there were twelve baskets of leftovers, one basket for each tired, exhausted disciple (9:14-17).
Priscilla Shirer, in her sermon entitled, The Multitude, has this to say about the pressure of the crowd on those disciples, “The five loaves and two fish were the gift to the multitude, but the multitude was the gift to the disciples...Without the multitude, there is nothing pressing a demand on them, there is nothing taxing them, so they have no choice but to open up their drawer, pull out the treasure that they have been given, and see what God is going to do in multiplying it to feed these masses.” (https://www.youtube.com/)
Jesus multiplied the food for the crowd of people. That miracle was an amazing teaching moment about Christ’s power and glory that would have affected many in that multitude. But Jesus was very resourceful. Not only did He desire to demonstrate His divinity to the masses with the multiplicity of loaves and fish, He was resourceful enough to tweak the same teaching moment on behalf of his disciples. He chose to open up their eyes to another very personal, very glorious lesson: the multitude, the pressure of that crowd, was a gift to them, for it required them to access their own internal paradigm of faith in Him. Though the disciples were exhausted, Jesus knew that by lighting a fire under their faith, they, too, would be resourced to be unleashed. Their exhaustion could be turned into an inexhaustible supply of trust. The pressure of the multitude forced open their spiritual eyes to see that God could do the impossible through them if they just believed.
You may be spinning on some black ice even as you read this devotional. Maybe COVID-19 is your out-of-control experience. I don’t know what is troubling your heart, but God does. The trauma you are sitting in currently is not good - please do not assume I am saying so - but it can be used for good. God may have appointed this knock-down pressure for you at this stressful time in order to give you the opportunity to open up what He has placed in your heart. You can fight it out with God, by continuing to run to the nearby towns for food or by attempting to send the pressure away, but in the end, you will become infinitely more exhausted.
Instead of running from the multitude, instead of seeking to depressurize your situation in your own strength, why not follow Jesus’ lead for empowered coping, for finding the potentiality in your pressure? Follow the example in Mark and Luke of Holy-Spirit thriving instead of fleshly surviving:
- Go and see. Follow Jesus’ advice to “go and see” how many loaves you have (Mk. 6:38). Search the Scriptures to understand what Jesus’ agenda may be in your black-top experience. The Bible is full of answers to many of these why-type questions. Go to the Word. See what God richly supplies to you in your places of suffering. Find out what resources are at your disposal and present them to Jesus (Mk. 6:38b). Go and see what you have at your disposal.
- Do not belittle your offering. Offer who you are and what you have for His ultimate serviceability, but don’t disparage your gifts. The disciples found some bread and fish among the members of that multitude and in presenting them to Jesus said, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish…” (Lk. 9:13b). Only five loaves. What could possibly be done with that? Well, a miracle actually. If all you have to offer God is a half-hearted joy and a sinking faith, do it anyway without regret or shame. If all you have to give Him is a talent you desire to bury instead, offer it willingly. If all you have to present to God is a stressed-out mind, a fearful heart, and a burnt-out belief system, surrender it with expectation. My mom always used to say, “Little is much when God is in it.” Know that He does not dismiss your offering; your vulnerable surrender was what He was after in the first place anyway.
- Analyze your pressure. Make your multitude sit down in an orderly fashion (Lk. 9:14c - NKJV). Jesus directed the disciples to have the men and women sit down in groups, which they did until every person was organized and settled. If you are running scared from your black-ice, stop running. Turn and face it. Set your pressures down. Order them as Jesus had the disciples order the multitude in groups of hundreds and fifties (Mk. 39-40). You cannot begin to see what God will work to heal if you do not even know what is wounded. Analyze your multitude and your responses. Organize them into clear-cut groups of problems needing to be addressed. Then you will clearly see how God touches each and every aspect of that pressure.
- Look up and give thanks. Jesus took the seven treasures that were offered to Him by His bewildered disciples and He looked up into heaven and gave thanks (Lk. 9:16a). Dear one, God is in control of your black-ice pressure. He holds the temperature gauge on your refinement. He is the Source of every black-ice lesson and the Source of all wisdom and discernment. Don’t look at the multitude. Don’t gaze shamefully at your meager offering. Look up, my friend, and give thanks for what He has chosen to give you in that pressure. Be grateful for the gifts you have relinquished and thank Him, in advance, for what He is going to do through your offering.
- Don’t stay stuck in the grief. Jesus gave thanks for the disciples’ culinary find and then He broke the loaves and divided the fish (Mk 6:41). What was already so small became even smaller. Many times in pressure situations, you are reduced to practically nothing. Ministry is removed. Finances are curtailed. Health is abbreviated. Friendships are broken. Decisions are wrested from your control. Hope is economized and joy is diminished. A breaking is painful, but one of the lessons from this story is that grief is not the finale; gladness is. You will feel grief and sorrow in the midst of a black-ice pressure, but don’t let your wheels spin in this rut too long. Remember that joy comes in the morning when the new day dawns. Today may be black and rainy, but tomorrow a rainbow will shine through the clouds. Breaking precedes a miracle.
- Share your five and two. Jesus asked the disciples to set the broken loaves and fish before the people (Mk. 6:41). It occurs to me that miracles don’t have much impact in isolation; they must be shared to change hearts. Faith grows in generous community. When one person sees you offering the little you have to be multiplied for others, she, too, will come to know the Great Multiplier. Be real with others. Confide in those who are hungry. Point them to the only One who can meet their needs as He has met yours. Don’t keep your grieving brokenness to yourself. Let your tears sow a harvest. Likewise, do not keep your joys to yourself. Share them in community and watch them multiply another person’s faith.
- Eat and be satisfied. The multitude ate, but so did the disciples: “They all ate and were satisfied” (Mk. 6:42, Lk. 9:17a). The Bread of Life is Jesus. You cannot continue to be hungry when you are feasting on Abundant Joy. Let the Word of God dwell in you richly (Col. 3:16) as you struggle and as you run with passionate abandon. Those people fed on physical bread on that amazing day, but they also fed on Jesus. The gifts you give are an extension of your filled-up-ness in Christ. Keep eating until you overflow.
- Pick up the leftovers. Everytime you surrender your all to Jesus, He will reduce you and break you. He will divide your offering into irreducible parts. That is the way of the cross. But that is not the end of the cross’s work. After the breaking and sharing, there will be a harvest. Brokenness multiples into satisfaction. Each need you have will be met in abundance. Each pain you grieve will be soothed by the hand of the Healer. And each empty basket will be filled with a surprising amount of broken pieces left over (Lk. 9:17b), pieces that can be shared with others.
Your black-ice situation, though incredibly painful and perhaps even lacking in hope, is a potential possibility, my friend. Though it seems improbable to imagine, God can and will turn your situation for something good...for you. That multitude pressing in on you is a gift waiting to be opened. Go and see what potential there is. Offer the little you have without embarrassment. Analyze your pressures and force them into a submissive stance before God. Try to look up with a grateful heart. Refuse to sit in grief. Move beyond your self-protective, flickering-faithed stance into generosity toward others. Feed on the Bread of Life, the only food that will satisfy your hunger. And expect some leftovers.
The pressure of the multitude has three potential catalysts. Like the disciples, it could work to send you running away in helpless fear (“send the crowd away” - Lk. 9:12). It could activate your fighting stance, your own attempt to handle the situation with your own resources (“unless we go and buy food for all this crowd” - Lk. 9:13). Or it could stimulate a life-changing pattern of faith-growth in your walk with Jesus (“the disciples sat them down...set them before...ate...picked up twelve basketfuls” - Lk. 9:15-17).
Your resources are not enough to gain the victory over your nemesis. You will never handle a black-ice situation in a godly way without a Spirit-filled empowerment. You must accept this truth. This does not mean that your situation is hopeless; rather, the opposite is true. When you offer your faith, your surrender, your trust to your resourceful God, He will multiply it in your favor and for His glory. This incredible, mind-bending, hope-elevating truth is the buried potential in the black ice of your pressuring multitude.
The Key to Multiplicity
There is a reason for your pressure. Actually, Scripture details the whys of suffering in many different passages. However, Paul clarifies one key rationale for his pressured predicament as he contemplated a horrible black-ice situation of his own. Listen to his words in 2 Corinthians, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us with your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many” (2 Cor. 1:8-11).
Notice that Paul, the great missionary, the “father” to Timothy and Titus, the appointed apostle, gave up hope. The troubled black-ice was too much suffering for him to handle. He had burdens that were beyond his own strength and in the process of sinking down into those burdens, he even gave up hope of living. In his heart, he truly believed that he was going to die (2 Cor. 1:8-9a - NCV). The pressure of his black-ice trauma almost overcame him.
Despair is the headline for this passage of Scripture, but as you read on in the text, you can almost see Paul’s head lift and his eyes look up to heaven. You can hear the gratefulness in his voice as he began to testify to God’s goodness. There was a reason for the pressure, a potential in his crisis: it was so that he would stop relying on himself in his spinning black-iced moments and learn to trust God totally (2 Cor. 1:9b - NLT, MSG).
To trust God, he needed to stand firm on his slippery black ice. Though the black-ice battle raged against him, he knew he needed to stand firm in the middle of it (Ezek. 13:5). Though God’s intended future was dark, he knew he needed to stand at his watch, relying on God to bring good out of the bad (Hab. 2:1). And though the black-iced crossroads was intimidating in every direction, he knew he needed to stand firm and ask for directions (Jer. 6:16). Everything around him was far beyond his ability to bear, but he knew relying involved standing. He reminded himself that he needed to stand in the presence of God (Lk. 1:19), stand with the Father (Jn. 8:10), and stand waiting for God’s way out (1 Cor. 10:13). After all, relying involved remembering and in that moment of mind over feelings, he remembered that God was powerful enough to raise the dead.
There is nothing so numb, God cannot infuse feeling into it. There are no dreams God cannot resurrect. There are no mountains God cannot level for His glory. You have a sea too wide to cross? God spans the globe with His omnipresence? Do you need an impossible solution? God is the God of the impossible. You have nothing but dead hopes leaching the effectiveness out of your faith? God can put flesh back on dead bones. My friend, He is the God who can raise the dead.
Your multitude is pressing in on you to render this truth active in your faith-life. Look back. He has already worked in your past. Look around. He is working in the lives of those you fellowship with. Look in. He’s embedded the Holy Spirit in the center of your life. Look up; He’s got you in His sights. Hope is hung on the truth of God’s resurrection power. He may not deliver you just when you ask or in the method you most prefer, but you can pin your faith on the fact that God is at work in and for and through you.
If you are hankering for a miracle - craving it so badly you can taste it on your lips and watch its absence sinking your hope - know that it will come after you have learned to rely. Your key to multiplicity starts when you offer God your trust. Hesitant and beat up as it may be, don’t disparage your gift. Surrender your faith to God knowing that He is responsible for all the work that is needed. All you are responsible to do is let go and let God. Allow yourself to be broken. Trust that He has good things in store for your heart despite all of your pain. And speak this truth over your beleaguered soul: God is the God who raises the dead. Say it again and again until you believe it. Then wait for God to tell you what to do next. He will, you know. He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6b).
Our Resourceful God
I want to make something very clear. Though I believe that God desires that we see His “good” perspective on our trials, I am not suggesting that every black-ice situation is good in and of itself. Cancer is not good. The death of a loved one is not good. The loss of a job, the moral failure of a spouse, that unexpected bankruptcy, or even COVID-19 - these are not contentment-making, praise-the-Lord-in-spite-of-pain, finger-licking good experiences. However, I believe that Scripture is quite clear that God works everything for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). These types of painful traumas and temptations are a result of our world’s “bondage to decay” (Rom. 8:21). This world is out-right broken, my friend, and so we experience broken-ice traumas. Yet, in all of our present sufferings, we can know that they are nothing compared with the glory that will be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18).
And how does that glory come to pass? It is a byproduct of continually putting to death the “misdeeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13).
And how are those misdeeds in our flesh discovered? By the revelation of what spills out of our hearts in a black-ice situation.
Our nemesis-responses reveal the misdeeds that need to be thrown off. That awesome glory we so desire is the last step in a long process of battling the nemeses that show up out of our black-ice traumas. The glory in us that is Christ magnified is the byproduct of a long process of transforming our nemesis-responses into victorious triumphs. The constraining burdens are the applied pressure needed to push us into facing our nemesis. God allows circumstantial pressure-cooker situations to cross our paths to refine us into something pretty special; He fashions a glorious diamond out of our rough troubles.
Despite your black-ice experiences, you can rely on the fact that you have a resourceful God. He can literally create good from evil. He can speak transformational light out of abysmal darkness. His all-powerful might can protect you in the midst of your boat-sinking kind of storms. His intimate knowledge of your heart’s limits helps Him to know how much pressure is just enough to create a gemstone out of your coal-like circumstances. God knows what He is doing; on this truth you can depend. And though the black-ice appears impassible, your God is a way-making God. He just lowers mountains, levels rough ground, and makes the rugged places into a plain (Isa. 40:4). He can walk you through the fire all the way to the other side, without your body being harmed, without your hair being singed, without your clothes being scorched, even without a smell of fire upon your soul (Dan. 3:27).
Not only is God resourceful in how He works in your situation, He is able to empower you with divine resources to help you stand firm. He has given you the Holy Spirit, who helps you in your weakness, interceding for you with groans that cannot be expressed (8:26-27). He speaks a promise over you, the surety that He will work for your good (8:28). He reminds you of your new identity, one that He proffered to you for the long development of glory in you: foreknowledge; predestination; conformity to Christ; brotherhood; calling; justification; and glorification (8:29-30). He offers you His protection. No one can come against you when He is on your side (8:31). He gave His Son to die for you to bring you eternal salvation and will add all good things to that generous gesture (8:32). You are special to Him and so He defends you. He chose you and justified you in order to give you a righteous leg to stand on (8:33). More than that, Christ lives to intercede for you. You have an advocate with the heavenly Father (8:34). And then, wonder of wonders, you are blanketed with the love of God, from which nothing can separate you (8:35-39).
Let me list these amazing resources again for you, just in case you skimmed that last paragraph:
No black-ice of trouble or hardship, persecution or famine, nakedness, danger or sword can separate you from God’s love (8:35). Though you may stare death in the face or feel like a sheep going to the slaughter (8:36), you can still be a conqueror through Him (8:37). God has resourced you so fully that in the midst of the most traumatic black-ice catastrophe, you can be convinced that “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate (you) from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:38-39).
Dear one, your God is a very resourceful God. And because you are His child, He offers His best resources to you. But God is a gentleman; He will not force resources down your throat, as dry from screaming for help as it may be. Instead, He offers you the resources, gives you the training manual to use them, and waits for you, praying in tri-unity that you will take the leap of faith that is needed to engage the battle you are already in.
Your black-ice is almost upon you. If you are not in the midst of a trial, one will soon cross your path. You need to be intimately acquainted with your resourceful God and you need to be incredibly knowledgeable about the resources He has given for you to use. Instead of burying your head in the sand, why not stand up, stand firm, and fight that nemesis with all of heaven’s assets at your disposal.
When Strength Runs Out
My parents served as missionaries in three different church plants in Papua, formerly Irian Jaya, Indonesia. I was born on the south coast of the island and lived the first eighteen years of my life in relatively primitive, but very adventurous, conditions. To explain the word primitive, the tribal people wore no clothes besides grass skirts and gourds. We had an airstrip, but the only contact we had with the outside world was an occasional MAF plane that flew supplies into our station at our requests as well as a two-way radio that was our only connection with other mission stations. We had no running water or electricity in the house; that is, until my dad built a hydro or sweet-talked (mechanically speaking) a generator into working. I grew up with an outhouse for a bathroom, a wood cookstove for heat and meal-preparation, and an old crank washing machine that was run by hand. Needless to say, I really hate camping to this day.
One summer day when I was home from boarding school, my dad needed to make a visit to a local village (picture grass-roof huts and pigs running around) to disciple some of the local pastors. I was bored stiff trying to entertain myself at home and begged him if I could go along on his trip. He was a bit hesitant because of the distance involved; He was concerned whether my 12-year-old legs would manage the four-hour trek. I was adamant that I could make it and out of the graciousness of his heart, my dad finally agreed.
We left early the next morning with a number of local men striding along confidently with us. The path from our house traversed the side of a mountain and meandered its way a couple of thousand feet down to a deep gorge, filled with the sound of the rushing river cascading over rapids. I managed to keep up with my dad for those two hours and even crossed the vine bridge (with some generous tut-tutting from the tribal men) without much fear and trembling. The very steep climb up out of that gorge took a lot out of me, and although I slowed the group down considerably, I was proud of myself for my efforts in actually making the trip without lagging too far behind. My dad kept up a running commentary on the sights and people to keep my mind off of my pounding heart. (We lived at 6200 above sea level so the air was considerably thinner.)
I hung out in the village while my dad talked it up with the locals. He preached a sermon in Kimyal, then proceeded to hob-nob with the elders at the openings to each of their huts. All in all, our stay in that village amounted to about two hours. After a quick picnic lunch, we began the long trek back to our house. I was pretty tired, but too shy to say anything about my physical state. After all, I had vehemently assured my dad that I could handle the trip.
Somewhere about halfway down the mountain, my legs gave completely out. The strain on my thighs from holding back my body for over an hour on a steep incline with no reprieve caused my knees to begin knocking together. I could barely stand, let alone walk; my legs were so fatigued. One of the local men noticed my discomfort and took my food and water satchel from off my back to lighten my load. He also handed over a rugged walking stick to help bear the constant strain on my thighs.
I did manage to make it down the mountainside and I can tell you, the flat ground of the riverbed never looked so inviting in my whole life. However, I could not stand without shaking so that teeny-tiny foot bridge was an impossibility on my own. In the end, a man had to take hold of each of my hands in order to steady me, one in front and one behind. I trembled my way across that swinging vine bridge, alternately slipping from the spray that came splashing up from the rushing rapids below and from my own trembling limbs that refused to work as my brain directed them.
By God’s angelic help alone, I’m sure, I made it across that homemade bridge. I collapsed on a huge rock on the other side, panting heavily, relieved beyond belief that I was on steady ground again. Then I remembered I was only halfway home. As I lifted my eyes to the thousands of feet of mountain I still needed to climb, I literally began to sob. I had nothing left in me. My legs were jello and my bravado had been knocked out of me by my traitorous limbs.
My dad took one look at me and made a quick decision. “Honey,” he said, “I’m going to run home and get my motorbike and come back to get you. I will leave a couple of guys here with you to make sure you stay safe.”
My dad was in good shape and I knew he could probably run that mountain in half of the time it would take me to walk it. I felt awful that I had let him down, but I knew it was time to ask for help. Weakly I nodded my weary head in acquiescence and my dad took off like a marathoner. I watched him run until he was out of sight on one of the path’s switch-backs, grateful that I did not have to take one step further. In a little over an hour, I heard the throaty roar of his motorbike, and I knew that I would soon be home.
As I was thinking about what it takes to battle a nemesis, the lesson of that long-ago four-hour trek came to my mind. You see, I felt pretty confident leaving the comfort of my home when all was going well with my life. But it only took a few hours of hard-knock trekking to convince my lower limbs to conspire against me. Blind-sided by a black-ice trail, I could do nothing but sit and weep at my double-crossing legs, winded lungs, pounding heart, and the specter of defeat that overshadowed my former confidence.
My dad held off hovering over me the whole day because he knew how badly I wanted to please him. Along the way, he provided some resources to help me: sustenance for energy; lively conversation that kept my mind off of my predicament; helping hands over a steep drop; encouraging words that buoyed my spirits; and some tough, wiry local men to assist me over a treacherously slippery bridge. But even with all of those resources, I eventually came to the end of my ability to keep putting one foot in front of the other. And like any good father, my dad instinctively knew when enough was enough.
It was at that point when I had exhausted my own resources that he asked me to rest in his. While I waited for him to retrieve his motorbike, I sat and relaxed along the noisy water’s edge, trying not to berate myself into shame. Even with all my feel-bad emotions, the vroom-vroom of his bike’s engine was one of the most beautiful sounds I had ever heard. It represented, for me, safety and success even though I felt I had failed, for I knew that I would arrive home even though I had exhausted my own resources. I clambered clumsily onto the back of the motorbike and gratefully leaned my hot, tired head against my dad’s strong shoulders as he navigated the clay switchbacks of the homemade path, alternately putting a foot down to balance a turn and working the clutch and throttle like an expert. Eventually, I was even able to throw my head back and laugh in chorus with the whoops and hollers of the running tribesmen as they tried to beat the motorbike back home.
At the end of that long day, the lesson I learned was this: I needed to be willing to rest in my dad’s resources when my strength had completely faded. Though I was humbled by my inability to complete the trip in my own power, that humility opened the door to my dad’s motorbike resource, which, in the end, got me home safer and faster than my own two feet would ever have done. My willingness to surrender to his best for me required me to lean upon his capabilities when mine had completely run out.
What black-ice moments have blindsided you recently, my friend? What nemesis are you battling right now? Is your faith as shaky as my legs were that day? Are your knees knocking in fear or exhaustion? Have you come to the conclusion that you are not going to make it through this day, that your strength has completely run out?
I want you to know that if you are feeling half so hopeless as I felt on that nemesis of a trail, you are very close to experiencing a triumphant moment with God. For it is when you come to the end of your resources that you are willing to exchange your weakness for God’s strength. When you look up the black-ice mountain sides of your impossible situation and realize you are not going to make it, that is the moment when your Father knows when you have had enough. That is when God volunteers to help you, to give you some breathing room as He takes up the slack. When He offers you His divine resources, be quick to say ‘yes.’ Walk in the way He provides and find strength to help you soar (Jer. 6:16. Isa 40:31). Come to Him when you are weary and you will find rest for your soul (Mt. 11:28-29), for His motorcycle rides are easy and His resources are light (Mt. 11:30).
When your strength runs out, my friend, that is the time to let go and let God. You are not going to win any spiritual battles in your own strength. You will not face your nemesis and triumph in your own capacity. You need godly weapons. You need His resources, for they have divine power to demolish strongholds (2 Cor. 10:3-4). And that word ‘stronghold’ aptly describes the battle you are facing against your nemesis. Not any resource will do; only the God-inspired, Jesus-umpired, Holy-Spirit-empowered weapons will gain you the victory you so desire.
So, what are the resources God stands ready to hand you? This question will drive the rest of this devotional and close out this series.
Last week we dipped our spiritual toes into the final principle in Ephesians 4:22-24, Paul’s simple answer to righteous living. The first principle involved putting off the old self (v 22), because it is being corrupted by evil desires. We explored this thought in the first ‘T’ portion of our battle plan: Throw off entanglements. Then, Paul challenged his readers to be made new in their attitude of their minds (v 23), which we did as we T - Transformed our minds. The third step in this sanctifying process is that we are to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (v 24). We studied a portion of this step last week as we L - Learned to live in truth.
Learning to live in truth is a two-step process. We have to align ourselves with the truth first in our minds. Knowing the truth is essential to standing firm because Satan is the great deceiver. He will take truths written in your own Bible and twist them just a little bit until you are so confused you do not even know what is real. Knowing the truth helps you to distinguish the lies Satan weaves through the fabric of your day-to-day living.
But knowing the truth won’t matter much in the scheme of life if you do not make the choice to align yourself with truth. You must stand firm on truth not only in your thoughts, but in your words, and in your actions. Every thought needs to be taken captive to be made obedient to Christ. Every thought, my friend. Believe me, that will keep you pretty busy in and of itself, but there is that second step of applying truth to your life. You will not stand firm in truth (the action) if your thoughts are still divided. Thoughts must be taken captive and then your Spirit-empowered will must move you to deeds of obedience.
Thoughts. Words. Actions. Each of these must be submitted to the truth.
An Example of Applied Truth
“Do you think this is possible for me? I don’t want the churchy answer; I need to know the real answer,” Lauren asked quizzically.
This was the question posited to me in a meaningful conversation I had with a friend this week. We were talking about rebuilding intimacy with God and the sentence that sparked this question went something like this, “we’re afraid to trust, because we’ve been hurt. The only way out of this dilemma is to focus on healing our relationship with God until we know and feel His delight in us. This spiritual reconciliation must take place so that we can know His perfect love and then be freed to love others. Only when we’ve internalized our Father’s love for us can we push past our reluctance to trust, embracing our new identity that comes when we see ourselves through His eyes of love” (Celestia Tracy, Mending the Soul Workbook, p. 201).
Lauren’s question to me, “Is this possible, really possible?” had to do with a truth about God that seems like a fairy tale. Is it really true that we can trust others simply by having our own love-tank filled up by God? Is it really true that we can love the unlovable, slay the unbeatable, forgive the unforgivable, grace the unaccountable, all of this simply by embracing our new identity in Christ? Lauren’s dilemma arose from the fact that she could only name one person in her lifetime experience where this kind of love both filled a human vessel and spilled out of her at the same time. The dichotomy of real life versus biblical hope seemed just too far a stretch to be believable.
The simple truth here is that we must let go of our baggage and allow the love of God to flood into our hearts. When our life is so full of God’s love, we can love others and receive others’ love in a healthy way. I say this truth is simple, because the concept is not hard. However, the living-out of this truth seems nearly impossible. Why? Because of the enemy that distorts the truth so much that we hardly recognize it anymore. Or because he throws so much static into our spiritual airwaves that we cannot even hear the truth clearly.
Spiritually-speaking, God’s love is the essence of the gospel of Christ, but many Christians do not really live out the gospel message in their lives. Hurts remained unhealed. Fear runs rampant. Faith is squelched by evil. Anger allows bitterness to fester. Wrongs are not made right. People are abused. And trust is often a pipe dream. These are the top-layer truths of our broken-down world.
Lauren was honest in engaging the dichotomy between what is supposed to be true and what is played out in our lives on a daily basis. The churchy answer is that yes, God’s love is supposed to radically change how we do life. It is to so envelop our mindset that we rise above the top-layer truths of our world because we live by another set of ground-breaking, foundational, bottom-layer biblical truths.
My answer to Lauren was not churchy, I pray, but experiential. For the last twenty years, since my second salvation in 1999, I have sought to burrow deeper and deeper into the love of God and wonder of wonders, It has radically changed my life. It has changed me from the inside to the outside. If I had to say what has brought me the most healing in my life - healing from abuse, healing from lies, and healing from loneliness - it would be this very truth: God’s delight in me has reworked my image of myself. My identity in Christ is not theoretical; it is, instead, pounded out on the pavement of my daily fears, my instilled shame, my adopted lies, and my addictive mindsets.
God’s love has become everything to me. It is my joy and my safety, my identity, and my treasure. Seeking God as my refuge is a daily discipline, both in my quiet time with God in the early mornings and throughout my day as I seek to apply what God taught me in my sacred space with Him. I would not be able to write these devotionals if the principles in them were only theories. They have literally become the fabric of my faith as I have read the Bible through year after year, studied it, memorized it, so that truth literally leaps to the forefront of my mind in a black-ice experience. I have had to learn to align myself with these truths in every circumstance and I have had to apply them as I deal with small irritants and in moments of awful black-ice suffering.
Unbelief says that God’s love is not enough for you. It will not catch you when you are falling. It will not protect you from others’ hurts and it surely will not fill your every longing. Unbelief is the devil’s playground, my friend. If you are entertaining a less-than theology about your God or your ability to live fully in God’s power, you are undercutting the very resources you need to win your battle with unbelief.
The bottom-level truth is that God’s love is enough for you. Enough comfort in your sorrow. Enough power for your temptations. Enough sustenance to love the unlovely. Enough fuel to overcome addiction. Enough presence to dispel your loneliness. Enough joy to quell your despair. And yes, God’s love is much more than enough; His delight in you far exceeds, far outweighs your distrust of Him and your seeming inability to stand firm in your battles.
God’s truth stands firm. It is unshakeable and substantial. The world’s truths, on the other hand, cause you to shake and shiver. They are sinking sand. If God’s truths seem impossible to believe or practically administer to your black ice, you need to take a look at what “truths” are filling your mind. The inability to believe is directly proportional to the kind of truths - earthly or spiritual - you are applying.
I have read about God’s love from Genesis to Revelation. I have meditated on this truth, memorized verses about this truth, and written songs about this truth. Not only have I sought to align myself with the bracing, buttressing love of God, but I have also moved it from my head to my words, to my hands, and to my feet. I have experienced the love of God so filling me that I am able to overflow to others.
Paul encouraged Timothy to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 2:1). That grace, dear one, is just one of the many facets of God’s love. “Grace is the divine means by which God makes Himself everything we need to utterly abound” (Beth Moore, Entrusted, p. 82). The bottom-line truth is that there is no black-ice experience where grace will fall short. There are no battles, no temptations, no addictions, and no fleshly cravings where God’s love will prove ineffective. His love truly empowers you to face your nemesis and win.
God’s love is not a theory, dear one. It is your everything! But this truth will never become real to you - it will never fill the marrow of your faith - until you actually apply it to your black-ice battles. Stuff your mind with truth. Recall it in a moment of angst. Speak it out over your nemesis and keep standing in it while the enemy pounds against your resolve with black-ice circumstances. After you have done everything, you need to stand...firm (Eph. 6:13b). Don’t entertain lies. Don’t give way to deceit. Stand firm in the truth by applying what you know is real.
We are clay vessels, weak and breakable. But what lives in us is not clay; it is the glorious treasure of the gospel. The Person that dwells in us and works this gospel out through us is powerful enough to raise the dead, even the deadness that surrounds a struggling faith. Your job is not to win the battles you face single-handedly. No, my friend, the battles are there to remind you that you cannot win on your own. You need the extraordinary overflow of power that comes from the Spirit within to demonstrate God in your circumstances. Your job is to fill up with truth, then let the Holy Spirit take over (paraphrase of 2 Cor. 4:7 - NIV, Passion).
You will be hard-pressed on every side, but you will not be crushed. You may not know what to do, but quitting is not an option. You may be persecuted by others, but you can know that God has not forsaken you. You may get knocked down, but not out. As you die to handling your own black-ice triggers, the resurrection life of Jesus will be revealed in your humanity. Death is at work in your nemesis, but as you face that nemesis, the power of God will release life in you (paraphrase of 2 Cor. 4:8-12 - NIV, Passion).
You can win over your nemesis by first believing in the truth, then speaking out in faith. Yes, this world is broken. Yes, your outer body is wearing out. Yes, you may get a bit beaten and bloody in the battles of this life, but you are being renewed every single day. Every single battle, mighty warrior. Every single hard-fought piece of ground taken by faith. Your black-ice difficulty is the substance that produces for you an eternal, weighty glory far beyond all comparison. Don’t focus on what is seen in your top-level world. See the unseen, the possibility of an eternal realm of bottom-level truth (paraphrase of 2 Cor. 4:13-18 - NIV, Passion).
These verses in 2 Corinthians were written by a man sitting in the midst of a black-ice trauma. He knew the terror of being hard-pressed, but fortunately for you and me, he shared with us the wisdom he learned in his trial. Paul lifted his eyes to the unseen reality of eternity and rose above the pressure of his multitude. Paul was a man well-taught by his black-ice experiences and with his God-breathed letter to Corinthian church, he invites us, even exhorts us, to embrace the same hard-fought, yet faith-increasing journey.
The Why of Applying Truth
Just as Paul prayed for his friends in Corinth, I pray that you, too, will see the opportunities in your multitude. There are many, you know. As you stand firm in your black-iced traumas, you will discern...
Applied truth is a powder-keg of possibility. It is true that Satan will try to pull the wool over your eyes, but you are a truth-warrior. You will see through his schemes; you know that Satan will be unable to outwit you.
It is true that other people will hurt you with their words and actions, but you are a truth-warrior. You will persevere and watch hope grow out of your suffering.
It is true that black-ice circumstances will litter your pathway. They will cause you to despair in your emotions, but you are a truth-warrior. With God’s help you will face that nemesis of despair and dispel it with the truth.
It is true that your flesh will work to prevail over the Spirit, but you are a truth-warrior. You will see the way out of your situation. You will discern God’s path forward.
As I said in the introduction of this devotional, “The COVID-19 pandemic has pressured all of us across this globe to dig into resources we did not even know we had. And this is a good thing. But it took the pressure of a black-ice situation and the added burden of quarantine to strong-arm this creativity into being. These innovative resources would have been left untapped were it not for the forced pressure of a global virus.”
The same is true of your spiritual black-ice situation. Without its pressure, you would be content with your level of godliness, content with your present relationship with God, and content with the complacency that may be blighting your faith. God wants to take you further from your nemesis and deeper into intimacy with Him. He knows that the pressure of your multitude has the potential of strong-arming your untapped faith into dipping into His spiritual resources for your battle.
So, with all of that background information out of the way, let’s study the Word of God to discover what those resources are. Let’s dip away, my friend, in a concerted effort to energize our faith stance.
E - Energize Your Stance of Faith
Because of the environment in which I grew up (missionary kid in a dormitory), I think I am probably one of the privileged few in this world who did not have a television in the home. In fact, I never watched a sitcom or a program before I turned twelve. As a result, I learned to entertain myself. I tried my hand at writing, reading, drawing, creating, building - all because I did not have an electronic babysitter. As I watch my kids today struggle to occupy themselves without media, I am so grateful to the Lord for my unique upbringing.
Some time in my middle elementary years, my dad built a set of stilts for me. I don’t remember if I asked for them or if he thought I needed a diversion, but when I saw them I remember feeling a sense of excitement. I knew walking around with pole-feet was going to be quite a challenge, but I felt up to it.
When my dad handed the stilts to me, I immediately tried to get up on them, but quickly realized that there had to be a little more finesse in my approach. You see, the small platforms for my feet were about twelve inches off of the ground and the poles extended about a foot above my head. Twelve inches may not sound too high, but when your body is suspended on an unsteady foundation any distance from terra firma, even an inch can cause some shakiness.
After I had unsuccessfully tried to mount the stilts, my dad said, “Now, Heather, there are some things you need to know about these stilts.” Since I had already tried to walk on them and had fallen off, I thought it was a good time to listen to some wise advice. What my dad told me that day did eventually help me to stand firm - and walk confidently - on those stilts. And his advice has a lot of bearing on our topic today of standing in confident faith against our fleshly nemesis.
Step 1: Gather your resources.
For walking on stilts without handles, it is important to have a ladder, some foam, some material strips, some velcro straps, tennis shoes and a good friend. My dad made me stilts that had a platform attached to the handle, which is a much easier way to learn. All I needed was a good starting block, a friend, and some umption in my gumption.
Step 2: Strap yourself to your stilt.
Again, if your stilts do not have handles, it is imperative to strap yourself to the stilt behind your knees and across your feet. This is where the foam, material strips and velcro come in handy. The stilt should be so tightly attached to your leg that it feels like an extension of your own body. I just needed a way to keep my feet on the platforms my dad had built.
Step 3: Use a support to brace yourself.
The hardest part of stilt-walking is getting up. That’s where the ladder or a solid wall or cabinet comes into play. You can sit on the ladder at the height that is needed, then, just stand up and begin walking. If you end up using a wall like I did usually, you can brace yourself against the wall as you maneuver the transfer, then walk away.
Step 4: Never stop moving.
Standing still is the death of stilt-walking. Taking tiny steps back and forth on the feet or tiny steps forward is imperative to staying upright. Huge steps will throw you off balance, so maintaining a steady, marching rhythm between the feet is the best course of action.
Step 5: Use a spotter.
It is important to have a friend help you in this process. If you stumble, they can catch you if you begin to fall. They can also support your hands as you learn to become comfortable on the stilts.
Step 6: Learn how to fall.
Just like anything that involves balance, you need to know that you are going to fall. It is inevitable, but accidents do not have to hurt you. Learning to throw your legs wide apart and bend one knee as you come down will greatly lessen the impact. Learning to roll as soon as you hit the ground will bring you away from a fall completely unhurt.
Step 7: Practice a lot.
Stilt-walking is a skill that needs methodical practice. The best way to learn to walk is to walk.
As a young stilt-walker, I embraced the challenge in a very simple way. First, I tied my knees to the stilts and my ankles to the platforms. This kept me from falling off of the stilts. I then leaned against a wall and practiced mounting the stilts. When I could navigate the mount easily enough, I leaned on the wall and began marching in place against the wall. After I felt comfortable with that, I asked a friend to walk with me as I began to leave the safety of the wall. I had some falls, but not as many as I expected. It wasn’t long before I could mount without the wall and walk all over the yard. My stilt-walking stance was greatly energized as I took my dad’s advice and implemented the seven “how-to” steps he gave me.
Your battle with your nemesis is very similar to my “battle” with those crazy stilts.
- In order to be successful, you are going to have to know your resources. We will spend quite a bit of time in the rest of this devotional fleshing out what those resources are, but for now, you must adopt the fact that they are imperative. You cannot have an energetic faith-stance, one that is victorious over your nemesis, without them.
- You will need to strap yourself to those resources, secure yourself with their support, and make sure that you do not leave one of them out. They must feel like an extension of your walk with God.
- You will also need a support to brace yourself. That support, my friend, is the buttressing love of God. It will enable you to mount your battle. It will bolster your courage and it will undergird your strength.
- Just like walking with stilts requires movement, your stance of faith must not ever stop. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all (Isa. 7:9). You need to know that your faith must keep moving, must keep growing, must keep stretching out over the confines of your circumstances. If you stop believing in God or in His ability to empower you, you will fall. Belief is what keeps you moving forward. Never stop moving by the uplifting help of faith.
- In your battle, it is important to have spotters. That is what the Body of Christ is for. Call in your reinforcements. Have them walk the journey with you, ready to catch you when your faith does fail. They can sustain you with the Word or just their watchful presence.
- Falling is part of the journey of faith. It is an inevitable fact of an imperfect world. You are going to blow it. You may lose a skirmish or two...or many more. It is so important that you learn how to fail, how to fall, without disqualifying yourself from the battle. The key is grace. Wear the protective covering of grace and you will land softly on the cushion of God’s delight.
- Of course, you must practice faith-standing a lot. If you fail one time and give up the whole fight, the enemy will waylay you with guilt that will enervate your walk with God. Getting up again after a fall is one of the most important steps you can take in the process of energizing your stance of faith.
You have a chance to win in the battle against your nemesis, whatever it may be. Black-ice situations will always rise up before you out of the pavement of your life. And so will your nemesis, unless you know how to handle your fleshly responses. You will need to put off that typical nemesis (Eph. 4:22), be made new in the attitude of your mind (4:23), and put on the new self (4:24). Knowing the truth of your new man is not enough; you will need to apply that truth to your fleshly reactions. And, as we will study today, you will also need to act in faith. You can do this by activating your spiritual resources.
Spiritual Resource #1: The Armor of God
The Bible gives us many spiritual resources to help us fight our battles. They are sprinkled all over the text from Genesis to Revelation. We will not be taking the time today to study every asset that is available to you; that is a whole Bible study in itself. However, we will be tackling the most common resources, found in Ephesians 6:13-20. (I will be tackling these resources in the order they are given in this chapter; not necessarily in the order of their importance.)
We begin first with the riches entitled the armor of God, a multi-faceted resource that is proven to help you gain the victory over your nemesis. I can say that you will be triumphant because the armor is a gift from God. It is a step you can take to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power (Eph. 6:10). These “weapons” from God have divine power to demolish strongholds (2 Cor. 10:4), especially the strongholds that enslave your fleshly nemesis. The armor is based on the Word of God, which is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). With these truths in mind, let’s briefly remind ourselves of these incredible resources and how we can strap them on in our black-ice battles.
The Belt of Truth
Satan’s main scheme against the children of God is deception. He will weave his lies and half-truths all through your black-ice scenarios. He will attempt to cement those lies into the fabric of your faith. All it takes is one well-placed blanket of ice, one terrible circumstance laced with deceptive whispers and you will be hooked.
Satan is a liar and the father of lies (Jn. 8:44). He will try to confuse you, to entice you to choose something that seems desirable, but is ultimately, very empty. Satan will try to upset your firm stance through your cravings, the lust of your eyes and the pride of life (1 Jn. 2:16). None of this information is new to you, I’m sure, but the question is, what are you doing about what you know to be true?
God’s truths are not just arbitrary principles that help you make moral decisions. No, my friend, they are the foundation for your battle stance of faith. Truth is the key component to all the rest of the armor. You must believe in those truths, hold to those truths as you act them out. These two steps will help you to really know the truth. Then, if those three truth-abiding steps are firmly in place, the truth will set you free from your nemesis (Jn. 8:31-32).
Before a black-ice trauma hits you from out of the blue, you had better already be seeking to bone up on the truth. You must strap yourself firmly to the truth, girding up your other armor, so you can stand in faith. When a lie is whispered into your heart through your circumstance, do not engage it. Do not respond out of your nemesis. Instead, remember the truth. Process the circumstance through until you can find the lies driving your fleshly response. Then, speak out the truth over those lies.
God’s belt of truth is your resource against every lie of the devil, which fuels a nemesis-response. You can respond differently when you hold desperately to the truth.
The Breastplate of Righteousness
Your fleshly response is simply that: the old man rising up within you. If you have accepted Jesus as your personal Savior, you are covered with the blood of Christ. Jesus, the One without sin became sin for you, so that in Him, you might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). This is the truth of your Christian status. You are no longer a sinner, but a saint in God’s eyes (Rom. 8:27). This is a fundamental belief that you must stand on in black-ice situations, because Satan will try to convince you of another kind of “truth,” that you are guilty, sinful, and doomed to repeat your past.
When you are blind-sided by black ice, Satan will begin to whisper lies into your mind. You are a failure. You will always fail, always fall. What is the point in struggling against who you are? I know what you did in the past. You are doomed to repeat, so why bother trying to fight it?
When Satan’s lies begin to swirl around in your mind, you need to remember the truth that you are a saint. You have an imputed breastplate of righteousness that covers your vital organs. Your heart is safe from the condemnation of the past. Your mind is free from guilt. You are not that person anymore; you are a washed, cleansed child of God. All you need to do is walk in light of that truth.
Don’t give in to Satan’s lies that you can’t fight the person you once were. Don’t allow Him the luxury of one second of game-time. Capture the thought (2 Cor. 10:5). Overlay it with the truth of your identity in Christ, then, go into battle by standing firm in that truth. Don’t give in. Don't stop the outflow of your faith or you will fall. Keep moving in the truth of who you are.
God’s breastplate of righteousness is your resource against your past nemesis-actions. You can respond differently in the posture of a saint.
The Shoes of Peace
Before you were adopted as Jesus’ child, you were separated from God. You were without hope in this world. Every black-ice situation sent you reeling in self-disgust and despair. But then God initiated a change: He brought you near through Jesus’ blood (Eph. 2:12-13). Literally, He is your peace and became the access point to the Father by way of the Spirit (2:14, 18). Because of the cross, you have been given peace with God and the power to create peace with man.
However, you have an enemy; one whose scheme is to destroy your inner peace in any way that he can. He wants you to believe the lie that you are incapable of experiencing peace with God, that somehow you are so bad that God wants nothing to do with you. Not only does Satan desire to destroy the peace you enjoy with the Father, he wants to shatter the harmony that should exist in your relationships with others.
Black-ice triggers usually come from two directions: negative circumstances or hurts at other people’s hands. Negative circumstances can be used by Satan to disrupt your peace with God. He will try to convince you that God is at fault, that He is not good and that He has got it in for you somehow. Believe me, your sense of abiding peace in Christ will fly out the window when the unholy stench of negativity and doubt wafts into your soul. Peace with God by way of the gospel will be hard to hold onto while you simultaneously entertain derogatory images of your heavenly Father.
The other way Satan seeks to derail your peace is through the hurtful words or actions of others. A demeaning word here, a slanderous word there, and you have got a recipe for dissension. Stir in a little anger and bitter resentment and your recipe takes on far-reaching and very tasteless, consequences. In a black-ice moment, whether the lie is about God or about your ability to reconcile with others, you need to capture that thought. Remind yourself that Christ died to buy your peace with Him and that one who just hurt you. Remember that your response as a bought and redeemed child would be for the preservation of peace. This is not a fairy-tale; this is reality in the heavenly places. When you respond out of who you are, not out of who you have been, you will gain a mighty victory over your nemesis and Satan.
God’s shoes of peace are your resource against your nemesis. You can respond differently when you remember what Christ did to obtain your peace.
The Shield of Faith
At one point in your life, you were dead in your transgressions. There was nothing you could do about it. The ruler of the kingdom of the air worked in you as you acted in disobedience. You gratified the cravings of your sinful nature and followed its desires and thoughts. You were, in actuality, an object of God’s wrath (Eph. 2:1-3).
But God - I adore those two words - loved you so much that He chose to do something about your sinful state. He initiated a relationship with you. Because He is rich in mercy, He made you alive with Christ, raised you up with Him, and seated you in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:4-6). You have been saved by grace through the gift of God (v 8). There is nothing you can do, no works that you can enact, that will shield you from Satan’s schemes. God saved you and only God can protect you because that is His character. He is faithful through and through.
God’s faithfulness is your shield. You will never be able to muster up enough faith to stand firm on your own; that is a “work” of the flesh. “No, the shield that extinguishes Satan’s flaming arrows is not the strength or the measure of your faith, your trust in the Lord. The shield is and always has been the faithfulness of God as that faithfulness is revealed in a salvation rooted in God’s grace and love” (Larry Richards, The Full Armor of God, p. 60).
Your enemy, Satan, knows God’s character. He is very aware of God’s faithfulness to His children, so Satan will work very hard to convince you that you are not shielded by God’s faithfulness. He will use black-ice situations to convince you that God is not good or loving. Your stance in a black-ice situation must be a stance of faith in God’s faithfulness. You do not need to conjure up some inner strength to grow your faith. You need only to reiterate the truths of God’s faithfulness out loud over your black-ice battle.
God’s shield of faith is your resource against your nemesis. You can respond differently when you lean on the faithfulness of God.
The Helmet of Salvation
God’s original purpose for you was one of beautiful craftsmanship and creative relationship. He knit you together in your mother’s womb. He made you wonderfully unique. He wove you together in the depths of the earth, seeing all that He designed you to be even before you were formed. He ordained all of your days before even one of them came to be (Ps. 139:13-16). God chose you to be you. He designed you for great works and He intends that you have an abundant life.
Satan hates that thought. His goal is to seek you out, kill your dreams and hopes for your future, and destroy your identity (Jn. 10:10a). He has no intention of allowing you to experience abundance at God’s right hand, so he will try to block your faith’s forward movement by convincing you that you are used goods. Worthless. Insignificant. Flawed. Incapable. Weak. Trash. These are the lies he will whisper to you in your black-iced moments.
But God has given you a helmet. It is the helmet of salvation, a helmet that protects your head from the deception Satan tries to use to distort your image in Christ. God sent His Son to die to bring you into relationship with Him. That is how significant you are. That is the essence of your salvation. You are special to God, so special He killed His own Child in your stead. As a result of your salvation, you have a new identity in Christ.
Earlier in this devotional, I mentioned resources that are named in Romans 8. These resources are part of the package of your salvation. They are the truths you speak over the lies Satan throws at you. These truths become your helmet. They protect your new identity in Christ, an identity that is further spelled out in Ephesians 1: you are chosen (v 4); you are holy and blameless (v 4); you are a son/daughter of God (v 5); you have been blessed with redemption (v 7), forgiveness (v 7), grace (v 8); you are the praise of His glory (v 12); you are marked with the Holy Spirit (v 13); and you have a guaranteed inheritance (v 14).
God’s helmet of salvation is your resource against your nemesis. You can respond differently when you speak out the tenets of your new identity in Christ.
Spiritual Resource #2: The Word of God
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul listed six pieces of armor. You will notice that I only dealt with five armor components above. The reason for this is that they are all a defensive type of armor. They are resources you are to continually put on, black-ice circumstance or not. In a battle, you will certainly need to make sure that you are covered by all of those pieces of armor or you will open yourself up to Satan’s schemes. The armor of God will help you stand firm in a black-ice situation. They are imperative to your safety on any normal day of battle.
However, there are times when Satan pulls out all the stops. He doesn’t just blindside you with a hurtful comment or a circumstantial accident; he comes against you with all the fury he can muster. People are killed. Marriages end. Children walk away from the Lord. Devastating events occur that are undoable. This type of black-ice trauma works against you from a whole new level. This type of trauma is what is referred to in Ephesians 6:13 as “the day of evil.”
On the day of evil, it will be much harder to stand firm. You can stand in truth, stand in righteousness, stand in peace, stand in God’s faithfulness, and stand in salvation’s new identity, but honestly, reiterating these truths to yourself may not be enough to give you the victory on the day of evil. You will need more than defensive weapons; you will need a weapon that attacks back. God has supplied us with such a weapon, the sword of truth, which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:17b). This is the only offensive weapon listed in Ephesians 6, which should make you sit up and take notice.
Jesus showed us by His consistent example what we are to do in a day of great evil. Luke’s gospel recounts how the Lord wielded the sword of the Spirit against the lies of the devil, and eventually, sent him packing. You all know the story, but I pray you will look at it with me through fresh eyes. I pray you will realize the inherent power in the resource of the Word of God; realize it for the divine resource it is.
Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert, where He was tempted by the devil. He had nothing to eat for forty days, so you can imagine how hungry He was (Lk. 4:1-2). Satan threw a flaming arrow at him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread” (v 3). Jesus saw two temptations in Satan’s allurement: the temptation to doubt that He was God’s Son and the temptation to use His power for selfish purposes. Jesus stood firm in His identity (helmet of salvation) and spoke out a passage from Deuteronomy 8:3, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’” Jesus knew that He needed to help people with more than their material needs; His ministry would require Him to also provide for their spiritual needs.
Satan came at Jesus again, but this time with a partial truth, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours” (vv 6-7). It is true that Satan is considered to be the “prince of this world” (Jn. 12:31). At this present time, he has been allowed the authority over mankind on earth, but Jesus saw right through the temptation. He knew that had He “accepted the devil’s offer, our salvation would have been impossible” (Expositor’s Commentary).
First, He would have sinned by worshiping the devil, thereby nullifying the sinless sacrifice needed to redeem sinful man. Second, Jesus knew that He had to suffer first, then “enter His glory” (Lk. 24:26). And third, taking Satan up on his offer would have been a choice to step around the cross in order to accept an immediate kingdom. Jesus parried Satan’s deceptive thrusts with the Sword of the Spirit, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only” (Deut. 6:13). Jesus knew He could not give in to evil in order to obtain power. He needed to remain pure in order to redeem us to be pure in God’s eyes.
The last attempt recorded in Luke was after Satan took Jesus to a high point of the temple. He told Jesus to throw Himself down if He really was the Son of God (v 9). He even quoted a segment of Psalm 91:11-12 to Jesus, using Scripture to try and add weight to his illusion (vv 10-11). Jesus countered with His sword, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Deut. 6:16). Again, His identity came into question and Jesus stood firm with His helmet of salvation on His head. He knew that He was also being challenged to misuse His power to prove that He really was the Messiah and that God cared for Him. Instead of being tempted by Satan’s half-truths, Jesus looked to God’s Word for His guidance. He knew that His ministry could not consist of petty uses of power to obtain popularity. He had to look to God to fill Him with power whether people followed Him or not.
There is much to learn here from Jesus’ example, but I want to focus on just three thoughts. There is a subtle order to the layers of these temptations. Notice that the temptations built upon one another: the temptation for bread; the temptation for power; and the temptation for worldly recognition. In this stair-stepping set of temptations lies the “order of temptations that a soul suffers when it decides to move forward with living a spiritual life” (Father Fortea, spiritualdirection.com).
The devil first tempted Jesus with things of the flesh, symbolized by the bread; he appealed to Jesus’ senses or flesh. I believe this is also the first line of defense Satan will try to attack in your life. I’m going to call this the battle of the senses. He is after your bodily appetites. If you can stand firm against the fleshly attack, like Jesus did, there would be no reason for Satan to continue tempting you in this way because the soul is fortified against it.
Satan then attempted to tempt Jesus with the world. Power. Prestige. Honor. These are the trappings of the world and they appeal very strongly to your mind, will and emotions; in other words, your soul. “The soul feels the beauty and attractions of the world that it has left” (Father Fortea). If Satan cannot get at you through the battle of your senses, he will attempt to get at you through the battle for your soul.
The last temptation is the most subtle of all, for it appeals to your pride. Jesus was tempted to take pride in the gifts He had received from God. Abilities. Reputation. Protection - all of these were being defended as Jesus wielded His last words of Scripture. If Satan cannot get at you through your fleshly appetites or your emotional desires, he will come at you through your faith and walk with God. I am calling this the battle for your spirit.
At least one of these three approaches - and maybe all - will be used against you on your day of evil. You need to be prepared. You need to know your Bible, my friend. Satan will not hang around long if you are a mighty warrior skilled in the use of the Sword of the Spirit. When you are slipping around on a black-ice attack of your senses, of your soul, or of your spirit, you need to wield your Sword. Get comfortable speaking the words, “it is written” along with the Scripture needed to press your holy advantage. Yes, the Prince of Darkness is grim, but you do not need to tremble. As Martin Luther wrote in his song, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, “one little word shall fell him.” That little word is the holy Word of God spoken in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Spiritual Resource #3: Prayer
Our family has endured the grueling year of home service twice already, in 2010-2011 and in 2015-2016. Both times we have left the field very under-supported and received the news from our mission that we had a huge amount of finances to raise for the upcoming term. We’re talking an impossible amount of money, like 4000 dollars in monthly pledges. Each time I receive our FRC (Financial Requirements Chart), I feel a panic rising up in the depths of my stomach. It is a fear-filled anxiety that needs to be laid at the feet of Jesus over and over throughout our furlough year.
Our first furlough had an added complication. In January of 2011, I crash-landed my body in a sledding accident, shattering my L-1 vertebrae and our support-raising efforts in one fell swoop. My only thought capacity for 1½ months was to somehow survive the pain that immobilized me. Raising support was pushed way down the totem pole of importance. But after the agony became more manageable and I had weaned myself off of all my pain medication, I had more time to think about my future.
The hardest times for me were between 1 and 3 A.M. in the morning, when the house was asleep, but when my own physical discomfort was too intolerable for me to find rest. That’s when I wrestled with the Lord. My brain began to scream at my heart, “How are you going to raise these funds? You are stuck in a chair; how are you going to get back to the field by June?”
The fact was that I couldn’t do anything to raise our funds. It was enough for me to maneuver my walker around the house or even to get out of bed. Tony couldn’t go out and raise support. He was too busy attempting to run the household in my place. 1 Peter 5:7 became a mainstay for me in those months, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” Daily, sometimes hourly, I needed to do some casting. The Lord reminded me often that I could do nothing to solve our money problems. I was going to have to let Him care for me by providing our huge needs.
So I prayed. In those early hours when the darkness around me worked to overshadow my faith, I wept and I prayed. When the pain was more than I could handle, I lay in my bed weeping and praying. When I was unable to make my son’s birthday cake or complete the Bible study I had been asked to lead at our church, I laid these things before the Lord, with many tears and a great amount of fervent prayer. Those five months were hard months, but through it all, I had a growing sense of the goodness of God. For miraculously, funds started coming in. The miracle was that we were fully supported by early June, our target date to leave, without hardly leaving the house between January and April.
I still look back on those excruciating-yet-revelatory months with amazement. God cared for me while I learned to cast my cares on Him. Those physically-paralyzing months were the catalyst that released my prayer life to soar. I have never prayed so much in my life nor experienced such a great return on my times of prayer. My body was immobilized, but my spirit was freed as I begged the Lord for favor...and He answered with the physical manifestation of His caring presence.
After Paul discussed the various armor-resources that are at every disciple’s ready usage, he went into a brief discourse on prayer. “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions,” he said, “with all kinds of prayers and requests…” (Eph. 6:18a). Paul did not list prayer at the end of his chapter on spiritual warfare because it is the least important resource. Instead, he placed it strategically after the armor because it is the resource that releases all the power of that armor. As Richard A. Burr so cleverly stated:
Precious woman of God, hear this: you will not stand firmly in your black-ice circumstance if you are deficient in prayer. You cannot be a 5-minutes-a-day pray-er and hope to withstand an onslaught of the devil on your day of evil. You must become a prayer warrior, one whose first instinct is to cast your cares and whose second instinct is to snuggle into the care of your Father (1 Pet. 5:7). Your “praying needs to be pressed and pursued with an energy that never tires, a persistency which will not be denied, and a courage that never fails” (E.M. Bounds).
Peter suffered an awful black-ice trauma when Jesus was captured and taken to trial. His nemesis was fear and in that fear, he denied that he ever knew the Lord. But before the black ice even hit, Jesus had worked to mobilize Peter’s spiritual resources. He let him know about the trial to come and warned him to activate a battle mentality, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat” (Lk. 22:31 - NLT). Then Jesus spoke of His intercession on Simon’s personal behalf that Simon would throw off his entanglements, transform his mind and live in the truth, “But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers” (v 32 - NLT).
Later on in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus again sought to equip His disciples with this very resource, so desperately needed to manage the upcoming black ice. Before He got alone with His Father, He told His friends, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation” (Lk. 22:40). He took Peter, James and John along with Him deeper into the garden and told them that He was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. He asked them to “stay here and keep watch” (Mk. 14:34). They were not to be sleeping; they were to be praying, alert to the Spirit’s leading and watching out for a coming black iced moment.
In all of Christ’s admonitions to His disciples to be watching and praying, He went one step further: He prayed as an example, “Sit here while I pray” (Mk. 14:32). You see, He knew the danger of prayerlessness; He knew it could literally derail Him. But He also knew the power of His heavenly resource. Over and over He prayed to His Father, with vulnerability and gut-wrenching honesty, asking God to change His black-ice situation. The prayer did not give Him what He wanted, but it helped His heart to yield to what God wanted. And because God knew the real need of His Son - strength for the upcoming trial - He sent an angel to strengthen His heart (Lk. 22:43).
Jesus prayed earnestly and specifically and persistently about His black-ice trauma that was to come. And fortified with that prayer, He stood firm throughout His horrific ordeal. Simon, on the other hand, faltered and failed because he was too sleepy, too complacent, too proud to bend his knees and pray.
What about you? Would you call yourself a prayer warrior? Do you know how to storm heaven’s gates? Do you see answers to your prayers? Are you learning to watch and pray?
I can tell you that learning to pray is a huge investment with an even bigger return. You may not receive all that you ask for, but I can guarantee you that you will receive more than you ever imagined. And this resource will fuse all of your armor into place as you lean on God to stand firm in your black-ice ordeal.
Spiritual Resource #4: The Holy Spirit
Buried in the summation of prayer at the end of Ephesians 6, there is an obscure mention of a powerful resource. This is a resource that fills every believer’s life, whether they are aware of it or not, but is usually either greatly overemphasized or very under-utilized. Paul tells us, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions…” (v 18a).
The Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity; not because He is least important, but because He is the third One to be revealed in the timeline of Scripture. At salvation, the Holy Spirit moves into a new Christian’s life and takes up residence in her heart. She does not earn this resource; it is a gift of grace.
There is so much controversy over this divine resource and this devotional does not have the scope to manage all the questions that emerge when the Holy Spirit’s roles are brought up, but I believe that the Holy Spirit is the most important resource you will ever have at your disposal. It is imperative, then, that you know what the Spirit's role in your life is to be. Then you will be able to accurately follow Paul’s admonition to pray in the Spirit on all occasions.
- The Holy Spirit is a helper that teaches and reminds (Jn. 14:26). Jesus knew that He was going away and His disciples would need a helper to remind them of his teachings. That is why the Holy Spirit was sent at Pentecost, to be a Helper (ESV), Advocate (NIV), and Counselor (KJV).
- The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin (Jn. 16:7-8). That niggling conviction on the inside of you is not indigestion; it is the powerful, yet gentle, work of the holy and righteous Spirit.
- The Holy Spirit guides to truth, including things that are to come (Jn. 16:13-15). Not only does the Spirit reveal truth to you, He works to tell you about future events; He will tell you of things yet to come. How incredible this thought is to me. If we are tuned in to the Spirit’s wavelength, He can guide us carefully through the quagmire of the unknown future.
- The Holy Spirit emboldens you to witness (Acts 4:31). It happened first at Pentecost, but being a gospel witness is one of your primary jobs as a believer (Mt. 28). The Spirit is the One who enables that process
- The Holy Spirit makes believers new and gives them eternal life (Rom. 8:10-11, Gal. 5:16-21). The Spirit works very hard in you to sanctify you after you become a Christian. The process of becoming more and more like Christ is mostly the Spirit’s work.
- The Holy Spirit helps in a Christian’s weakness and intercedes for her (Rom. 8:26-27). There are times you may not be able to go on. That is when the Spirit begins to help you. In your weakness, He becomes strong. Even when you are so confused that you do not know how to pray, the Spirit will pray to the Father on your behalf.
- The Holy Spirit is a source of revelation, wisdom and power (1 Cor. 2:10-11, Acts 1:8, Eph. 1: 17-20). You cannot know the thoughts of God, but the Spirit does and He works to reveal those things to you. Additionally, He empowers you to live for God with the same power that raised Christ from the dead.
- The Holy Spirit dwells in believers and fills them (1 Cor. 3:16). You are God’s temple and house the presence of God in the form of the Spirit.
- The Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to believers (1 Cor. 12:7-11). Every believer has at least one spiritual gift, but often, has more than one. The Spirit is the One that both gives the gifts and then empowers you to use them.
- The Holy Spirit works in you to bear fruit (Gal. 5:22-25). You are not in charge of growing any fruit. That is the Spirit's job. All you need to do is work to abide in the Vine and fruit will multiply under the careful watch of the Spirit
- The Holy Spirit is a seal in the lives of believers (Eph. 1:13). The Spirit is a mark of your adoption in Christ. He also seals you so that you are guaranteed an inheritance in heaven.
These eleven tasks do not fill out the Holy Spirit’s job description, but they should give you a good idea of the powerful resource living inside of you. In a black-ice moment, it is very tempting to listen to Satan’s lies that you are alone and helpless. These statements are simply not true. You have to remember, my friend, that Jesus did not leave you alone. He asked His Father to give you a Counselor to be with you forever - the Spirit of truth. The world around you cannot accept this resource, for they cannot believe in what they do not see. But you know Him, for He lives on the inside of you. Jesus did not leave you as an orphan; instead, He promised to come to you in the form of the Holy Spirit (paraphrase of Jn. 14:15-18). And He is with you now, ready to guide and comfort, heal and restore. Don’t forget or ignore this powerfully-resourced Person of the Trinity.
Spiritual Resource #5: Other Believers
Paul ended the powerful letter of Ephesians with one last reflection, the encouraging thought that you are not alone in your battle. He highlighted one name, Tychicus, as a dear brother and a faithful servant in the Lord. And he indicated that he sent Tychicus to the Ephesians for two reasons: so that the church would know how Paul was doing and that he would encourage the church (6:21-22).
This concept of solidarity is not new to the post-resurrection era. Solomon had some wise words to say about teamwork. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecc. 4:9-12).
When you are in a black-ice situation, you will immediately feel cornered, abandoned, and alone. Instead of sinking down in despair, crippled by your feelings of isolation, you need to remember that you have a very powerful resource in the Body. Calling another person you trust to your side in your hard trial lifts the pain of the suffering just a little bit. Work becomes easier. Getting back up is more doable. Sharing an emotional pain warms the heart. And defense is more manageable. You plus a godly friend plus God is an unbeatable combination, says one of the wisest men that ever lived.
Paul was aware of this resource. In fact, he availed of good men and women in the Body on many occasions. Many of his letters end with personal greetings to people who encouraged him in difficult situations. Phoebe was a great help to many people, including Paul (Rom. 16:2). Priscilla and Acquilla risked their lives for him (16:3). Tryphena, Tryphosa and Persis worked hard alongside Paul (16:12). Rufus’ mother had been a mother to him as well (16:13). Tychicus was a great encourager (Eph. 6:22). Jesus (or Justus) was one of the few Jews on Paul’s side and proved a comfort to him (Col. 4:11). Epaphras wrestled in prayer for his fellow-workers (Col. 4:12). Timothy was a dear son (2 Tim. 1:2). Luke, the doctor, stayed with him to the bitter end (2 Tim. 4:11) and Mark was helpful to him in his ministry (4:11b).
Not only was Paul resourced by others’ encouragement, help, risk, hard work, mothering, comforting, wrestling, personal bonding, and loyalty, he was also greatly helped by others’ prayers. In fact, in Ephesians after he exhorted his readers to pray in the Spirit, Paul urged them forward with these words, “be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18b). Paul understood that it is important to pray, and pray in the Spirit, but power is released when the church Body bands together to pray for others. We call this team-appeal intercession. It is a power-packed resource because it emulates Christ’s example as he lives to intercede for us (Heb. 7:25).
Paul sought to avail himself of the same resource he gave to others, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the gospel...Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (6:19-20). Paul believed in the effectiveness of this resource enough to ask to be a recipient of it as well.
Do you need some help? Call on a fellow-believer. Do you need some comfort? You cannot do without a good friend. Is your job too overwhelming, your black-ice too formidable? Pick up the phone and ignite a flurry of comfort. Do you have a few mountains that need to be leveled? Enlist a few prayer warriors to spend some time on their knees for you. “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective (Jms. 5:16b).
You may have been hurt in the past by another believer, but I urge you to consider the value of this resource anyway. There are no Lone Ranger Christians. You cannot make it on your own. Pray for a few good friends to become your mentors, your cheer-leaders, your accountability partners, and your Barnabas encouragers. Two are better than one, my friend; two are better than one.
Spiritual Resource #6: Worship
If you study through the book of Ephesians, you will notice that the last part of the sixth chapter is really a microcosm of the entire book, but in reverse order. For instance, the helmet of salvation is fleshed out in Ephesians 1:1-23; the shield of faith in 2:1-10; the sandals of peace in 2:11-4:16; the breastplate of righteousness in 4:17-5:7; and the belt of truth in 5:8-6:9. The last verses are simply a summary of all that Paul had described, but in a visual form (the armor).
We have been steadily working down through the resources found in Ephesians 6:18-24, but you may be a bit confused to see that worship is not mentioned in these last verses of Ephesians at all. However, if you spend a bit of time perusing the other sections of this incredible book, you will notice that the concept of worship comes up over and over.
I believe that worship is made up of two similar components: praise and thanksgiving. When you tell God how much you appreciate His names, character, and ways, you are engaging in praise. Praise is God-focused awe and reverence. It has the capacity to lift your heart and mind above the earthly troubles you are facing and deifies God’s greatness and sovereignty over those troubles. It is a way of acknowledging that you have been raised with Christ; it is agreement with truth by faith. It is also an act of obedience in that you set your heart and mind on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1-2). Praise dispels your soul’s anxiety as you look around at your black ice by exercising your faith while you choose to reverence the only One who can keep you safe in that same black ice. Praise is a much-needed resource to help you get going when the going gets tough.
Thanksgiving is very different, however. While praise acknowledges God’s sovereignty over your troubles, thanksgiving looks to find the silver lining in your troubles. It is a way of reshaping how you view your black ice. I am not saying that your suffering is good, in and of itself. What I am saying is that God wants to work that suffering for your good. You can participate in that process by asking God to help you view your trouble from His perspective. Giving thanks in all circumstances is not only God’s will for you, it is His treatment for your attitude’s healing (1 Thess. 5:17).
Though Paul does not mention worship - praise and thanksgiving - as a clearly-delineated resource in his list of heavenly assets at the end of Ephesians 6, he makes a point to sprinkle this important concept all through his letter. I want to point out the importance worship has in reinforcing the other heavenly resources God gives you.
The Helmet of Salvation (Eph. 1:1-23)
In the first chapter, Paul lists many of the spiritual blessings you can experience in Christ. Honestly, the whole chapter reads like a huge list of praise and thanksgiving, and to be sure you know that, he headlines salvation’s benefits with these words, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). After a beautiful run-down of those spiritual blessings, Paul brings things to a great crescendo, “in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory” (1:12).
Praise must be raised to God for the resources He gives us, but worship would be anemic and weak without the realization that you and I were made to praise. Even our black-ice situations are to make us praise-warriors; we are literally to be the conduit of praise for God’s glory...even in the midst of black-ice trauma.
Later on in verse 16, Paul makes it clear that the Ephesians’ black ice is high on his prayer list. In the midst of his prayers for them (remember resource #3 and #5), Paul bursts out into thanksgiving. He does not try to wring good out of their situation; indeed, it was anything but good. Instead, he looks at their situation through another perspective. Their black ice was not good, but their faith has been good. They have kept the faith and loved all the saints in the midst of some slippery conditions (v 15). Paul is full of gratitude to God for the preservation of their character in the midst of their black ice. Note that his thanksgiving both elevated the miracle God was doing in the situation, but also the perseverance he saw in the Ephesians’ lives.
God’s gifts of spiritual blessing should ignite in you a fervor of praise while the good, growing character of others should give you reason to give thanks to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ (2 Cor. 2:14).
Shield of faith (Eph. 2:1-10)
Nowhere in this segment of Scripture will you find either the word praise or thanksgiving, yet these short verses read like a worship service. You were dead in your transgressions, but God loved you so much. You were a sinner, but God is rich in mercy. You used to live in the ways of the world, but God made you alive with Christ. You were a person who gratified the cravings of your sinful nature, but you have been saved by grace. You were an object of wrath, but God raised you up with Christ and seated you in the heavenly realms (vv 1-6).
How is it not possible to burst forth in praise of this awesome, gift-giving God? How is it not possible that thanksgiving would erupt from your heart as you perceive what He has done for you? His grace is a rich treasure that is incomparable. His kindness has fully flowered in the Person of Christ. You are saved by grace, through faith. In this marvelous gift, you have done nothing to earn it. And all of the riches of this treasure are because God has fastened His favor on you: you are God’s workmanship, created in Christ to do good works, which God prepared in advance for you to do (vv 7-10).
Ahh, even now my heart wells up in thanksgiving. You see, that is the power of worship. It transforms beleaguered, anemic hope into burgeoning faith. It steeps the bone-weary soul in Holy-Spirit caffeine. It jumpstarts a belief system broken down by the catastrophic danger of black ice. It imparts an Other-centered focus to a blind beggar, giving her the eyes to see more than just people like trees walking around. Jesus’s hands of goodness and kindness can touch your eyes through worship and your eyes open, your sight is restored, and you can see everything clearly (Mk. 8:24-26).
God’s faithfulness in saving a wretch like you and me is the most incredible impetus for worship. Your clear-sighted vision of God’s faithfulness is a perfect reason to thank God for his indescribable gift (2 Cor. 9:15).
Sandals of Peace (2:11-4:16)
One in Christ. Paul the Preacher to the Gentiles. A Prayer for the Ephesians. Unity in the Body of Christ. These are some of the headings that fly like a victory banner over the verses of this long section and they alone are fodder for praise and thanksgiving.
At one point you were separate from Christ. You were without hope and without God in this world. But now you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ (vv 12-13). He Himself is your peace. He reconciled you to God through the cross and gave you access to the Father by one Spirit (vv 14, 16, 18). You are now a fellow citizen with all of God’s people and a member of God’s own household (v 19). And in Christ you are being built into a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit (v 22).
As you fill your heart with these truths, you should feel the overwhelming urge to give glory to God. Inhale grace. Exhale praise. Inhale grace. Exhale praise. This is the essence of intimacy. This is the heart of worship. These are the seeds of peace.
The natural overflow of all this divine CPR is a peace-driven mindset to those around you. Sowing the seeds of God’s peace in your life will naturally reap the harvest of peace with others. Heavenly peace will spill out on those around you. You don’t have to concentrate on it nor do you have to weed or water or cultivate. That is the Holy Spirit’s job. All you must do is stay at peace with God and surrender to the process: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (4:2-3).
Peace with God is a natural rationale for praise. But peace with man? That gives you every reason to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18).
Breastplate of Righteousness (Eph. 4:17-5:7)
Those without Christ live in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts (4:17-19). But you are not like that. You are a believer that puts off your old self, renews your mind, and puts on the new self (vv 22-24). You are not a person living in darkness, but you are growing into the creation you are meant to be, the one who is like God in true righteousness and holiness (v 24).
Praise be to God that He has rescued you from the dominion of darkness (Col. 1:13) and thanks be to God that He gives you the victory over sin through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:57). He enables you to speak without obscenity, foolish talk, coarse joking in order to speak thanksgiving (Eph. 5:4).
Belt of Truth (Eph. 5:8-6:9)
Darkness typified your former life, but now you are light in the Lord (5:8). Now your fruit consists of goodness, righteousness and truth (v 9). You do not have anything to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather, you expose them to the Light of God (v 11). It is like you have been woken from sleep, risen from the dead, in order that Christ would shine on you (v 14).
What does the belt of truth have to do with all this talk of light? It is because there is a strong link between truth and light. “Truth refers us to reality, to seeing things as they really are, to things as God knows them” (Larry Richards, The Full Armor of God, p. 119). But in this world, Satan spins illusions and even believers of many years can be turned from the light by un-truth. We desperately need a light to reveal our present reality. Jesus is the Light of the world and so He shines His truth for us to see.
God’s Word is that truth, that light, that moves us into clear paths. The rest of this Ephesians passage enlightens us as to practical ways to live in truth: do not get drunk on wine; make the most of every opportunity; understand what the Lord’s will is; submit to one another out of reverence for Christ: wives, submit to your husbands; husbands, love your wives; children obey your parents. All of these admonitions are rays of truth that shine from the Light. And not surprisingly, there is a reference to both kinds of worship. “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:19-20).
Christ, the Truth revealed to us, is a catalyst for praise. Thanks is our response to His Word that is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Ps. 119:105).
Examples of Resourced Worship
One of my favorite stories in all of the Bible is found in 2 Chronicles 20. Jehoshaphat is the main protagonist up against not one, but three, enemies: the Moabites; Ammonites; and Meunitues. The king knows he is outnumbered. He has no hope apart from a miracle, which is why we see him very early on in the story fasting, seeking God, and praying with all his heart (vv 1-12)
The Lord gave Jehoshaphat an answer of victory by way of a discerning Levite and the king believed this man, Jahaziel. He bowed down in worship as did all of the people of Judah and Jerusalem. The Kohathites and the Korahites stood up and praised the Lord with a very loud voice (vv 14-19).
But the promise from God did not negate their need for action. Early the next morning, they still got up and left for the battle. But Jehoshaphat, whether under the guidance of the Spirit or not, decided to make a stand of faith. Instead of his greatest warriors leading the battle, he chose his best singers. Placing them at the head of the army, they sang out, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever” (vv 20-21).
God loves to hear praise. If nothing else proves that statement, this story does, for as they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the enemy who turned on one another and ended up completely destroying each other. When Jehoshaphat arrived on the scene, there were dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped. All he and his men had to do was carry off the plunder (vv 22-26).
I just finished a Beth Moore Bible study and in light of what I am writing this week, her example of praise-under-fire really spoke to me. I will share her story in its entirety as a real-life, non-biblical example of the powerful resource worship can be in the life of a believer:
“I vividly recall sitting on the hearth one morning while it was still pitch black outside beaten up emotionally and worn down spiritually. I’d come under vicious attack the day before and had hardly slept all night. I rested my head in my hands and slumped my shoulders, considering how much easier life could be for my family and me if I had a less public ministry. I’d been happy all those years ago in that small Sunday School room with a handful of women to teach. I longed in that moment to go back and lock myself in that room with them. After a few miserable minutes of feeling sorry for myself, I began to whisper the words, “Worthy is the Lamb.” I said them over and over and, with each repetition, my voice grew a little stronger. Then my weary body followed suit. I lifted my head off my hands and sat up straight and said the words again. “Worthy is the Lamb.” Then I stood to my feet and proclaimed them with robust volume. Soon I paced across the floor of my den, full of faith and confidence in Jesus, praising Him with everything in me. The sense of His presence was so thick in that den for those few minutes that I wanted to hold onto it forever. The change it brought in me was swift and dramatic. It could only have been Jesus.” (Beth Moore, Entrusted Bible study, p. 175).
It could only have been Jesus.These words encapsulate every one of your heavenly resources. Jesus is the string that draws all of them together.
The armor you are encouraged to wear was made possible by the blood of Jesus. The Word literally became flesh and dwelt among us. Now, you breathe in that Word and speak it out in the power the Living Word imparts . Prayer is the conduit that turns the face of God, but were it not for your Intercessor, who sits at His right hand, your prayers would only hit the ceiling. The Holy Spirit is Christ in you, the Counselor who knows the mind of God. Other believers are mini-temples that house the Spirit of God; they are only as effective as they are surrendered to Jesus. And worship is the mind of Christ, the mind that helps you take up your cross like Jesus did and follow hard after the God you revere.
Precious warrior, your battle is not hopeless. It is not trivial or unworthy. It is instead an opportunity to grow, to rise, to soar in faith. Therefore, my dear sister, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know your labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). Every battle is important. Every choice you make resonates in heaven. So choose Jesus and all that He entails. Choose to stand firm in your B.A.T.T.L.E. today.
The Unexpected Journey
I have recently been captivated by the Restorer Series, a quartet of books written by Sharon Hinck. In the first book, The Restorer, Sharon’s main protagonist is a normal housewife, Susan, who is battling depression and a sense of growing insignificance. She is pulled into an alternate world through a portal where she finds out that yes, God does have a plan for her life - one she never would have imagined. Along her incredible spiritual journey, she faces all kinds of battles, mind-poisoning enemies, and incredible loss and discovery.
The concept that has most hooked me is this: the world Susan is thrust into is a place where spiritual realities take physical shape. This series is a discerning depiction of our spiritual battles in the heavenly places, but in a way that makes them touchable and practical. Enemies are real and can harm and destroy. Swords wielded cause real death. Lies that are spoken become physical infirmities and mental disabilities. Abundant life is experienced by following the One. Those who trust in the counsels of the hill gods fall to their enemies. Lives are completely healed by the truths of the Verses. The Restorer is given in times of need and through it all, every person waits in hope for the Deliverer to come.
Susan’s first encounter with a Rhusican seemed innocent enough. A beautiful child walked up to her while she waited for a transport and began to speak to her.
“‘You’re far from home.’ It wasn’t a question.
I nodded. “Yes, and I was just missing my children. I have a daughter about your age.’
Her eyes grew sad and full of sympathy. ‘You are so alone here.’
The pain inside me suddenly had a name: loneliness. It felt so good to have someone understand, to clarify it for me, even if it was just a little girl. ‘That’s true. I don’t belong here. It’s...hard.’ Tears welled up, but I blinked them back.
‘Away from everyone who loves you. No one to trust. It isn't’ fair.’
I looked into her bright eyes. She was the first person I had met on this strange world who really understood what I was feeling. It was silly. She was only a child, but I found myself wanting to ask her all my questions about what had brought me here and what my purpose was.” (Sharon Hinck, The Restorer, p. 79).
Susan was ripped away from that encounter by her guide, Tristan, and told that that innocent child was a Rhusican, one who from a tender age was tutored in the art of poisoning people with lies. Susan did not believe it, but time proved Tristan’s words to be true. On the long walk to Tristan’s home village, Susan fell further and further behind the others. Soon, she was alone.
“Great. Just walk away and leave me. I’ve been ripped away from my family. I’m completely alone. I'm in a dangerous place - and there's no one to help. I’m alone.” (p. 87).
Susan’s thinking spiraled downward very quickly. Soon she was stumbling back the way she had come, trying to distance herself from her friends. “Away from everyone who loves you. No one to trust. It isn’t fair, breathed a sweet voice into my thoughts. Yes, It wasn’t fair.” (p. 87)
Tristan deduced that she had been poisoned and so he and his friends began to help her fight for her mind. Susan could think of nothing but her isolation, but from somewhere she heard the sweet voice of melody in a minor key: The eyes of the One / Are always on His people; / His arms surround us, / And we are not alone (p. 89). Over and over, Linette, the song keeper sang truths from the Verses while Susan’s mind fought against it, Let me go. Let me go deeper into the aloneness. It’s where I belong (p. 90).
Eventually, the Verses began to overpower the lies. Susan began to speak truths from her world, truths that spoke of God searching and knowing her. The combination of each world’s Words of Life began to restore her mind and though she was weak and susceptible ever after to the suggestion of the Rhusican’s implanted deception, she knew how to fight it in her mind with the truth of the Verses.
My friend, you, like Susan, are a normal, everyday type of person - maybe a housewife, a secretary, or a school teacher - but also like Susan, you have extraordinary potential. God has a plan for you, one that requires you to be adept at spiritual warfare. You have an enemy who seeks to destroy you. You have a world that desires to shape you into its mold. And you have a flesh that you must conquer. All of these battles are stepping stones of faith on the way to your destiny. Your mission, whatever good work God has in store for you, requires that you know how to fight spiritual battles. Without this skill in your arsenal, you will continue to fall along your path toward glory.
Listen to me, you need to learn to stand firm in your fight. Face your nemesis in the power of the Lord and with His resources at the ready. Victory in battle gives a mind-blowing joy. It brings peace and intimacy with God. Slaying the dragon of your fleshly reactions helps you to partner with God’s best for you. Activating a B.A.T.T.L.E. mentality in the unexpected black-ice struggles of your life and winning is the unexpected journey for the expectant God-seeking believer.
I want to close off this seven-week devotional with a reminder to remember. Over and over the Lord challenged the Israelites with their propensity for forgetfulness:
- “They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them” (Ps. 78:11).
- “They did not remember his power - the day he redeemed them from the oppressor (Ps. 78:42).
- “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children - with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts” (Ps. 103:17-18).
- “When our fathers were in Egypt, they gave no thought to your miracles; they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea (Ps. 106:7).
- “May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy” (Ps. 137:6)
- “Remember these things, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel. I have made you, you are my servant’ O Israel, I will not forget you” (Isa. 44:21).
- “Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me” (Isa. 46:9).
We all have short-term memory loss and if you read Psalm 78 and 106, you will see that a faulty memory leads to rebellion eventually. It behooves you and me to remember: remember God’s name, HIs character, and His ways; remember whose you are; remember what your inheritance entails; and above all, remember how to fight.
God exhorted the Israelites, “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land…” (Deut. 11;18-21a).
So because the weeks have been long since the first day I began to write this series, because there have been pages and pages uploaded, and because you are a busy person, let me give you a brief rundown as we close out this series. Feel free to print out these words. Pin them to a board or a fridge that you will see often. Memorize the acronym and a verse to back up each point. And above all, do not forget.
Remember These Truths
- Be aware of black-ice triggers. They will come. On this truth you can depend. Even now, before you begin to slide on some slippery ice, you need to prepare yourself for its inevitability. Be in the Word. Grow in faith. Engage in spiritual disciplines, but only for the sake of adding fuel to the fire of your divine resources. Watch and pray, my friend, that you do not fall into temptation.
B - Buttress yourself in love.
Before you begin to panic, before you react, let this response become your soul’s instinctive first move. Even if you are scared or tearful, hunker down into the safety of your Father’s arms. He loves you with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3); don’t ever doubt it. Know that “he will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart” (Ps. 91:4). Whatever you do, do not react until you are abiding in Love.
A - Activate a battle mentality.
Your black-ice trigger is not an accident; it is probably a scheme of the devil either ordained or allowed by your heavenly Father. You need to acknowledge the reality of your battle. Demonic activity is real. So are godly spiritual beings. Accept that you have an enemy who is out to destroy you (Jn. 10:10a). If your black-ice situation tempts you to sin by way of a nemesis, you can know that Satan is somehow involved, whether directly or indirectly. Be aware of his schemes. His goal is murder and he will try to destroy you through deception (Jn. 8:44). Always be careful to analyze the direction of the assault, whether it be from the world, from the devil, or from your flesh (Eph. 2:2-3). Take note of these three types of assaults and realize that your flesh will respond to all of these. Anticipate the enemy’s moves. Know when you are most vulnerable and be ready to assume a warrior’s position by first adjusting your posture to a standing one and second, adopting a stance of faith.
T - Throw off entanglements.
You are involved in the race of your life and are called to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” (Heb. 12:1). If there is a sin in your life that niggles at your faith, throw it off. Weighty encumbrances like a bad attitude, personality flaw, a burdensome person, a negative circumstance, weighty emotions, or wounds that pain you have to be dealt with as well. Besides these things that hinder your race, there are other hindrances to plain old standing firm: bad company; inward division; unforgiveness; unrepentant; arrogance; deceit; and fear. Each of these dark soul-areas must be put off (Eph. 4:22) so that you can stand firm, unhindered by burdensome weights.
- Assess the nemesis. Before you respond in any way, look within. What are you feeling? How does your heart want to truly react? If your response stems from fear or anger, doubt or powerlessness, you can know that your flesh is raising its ugly head. Write down what you are feeling and what your flesh wants to do, so that you are aware of the target of your focus. Then begin the work of annihilating its power over you by acting in opposition to what you feel.
- Acknowledge your feelings. Many people struggle defining what they feel. While it is important not to get stuck here - mature faith moves beyond simply feeling - you cannot face your nemesis and win if you do not know what feelings are driving your actions. Sink deep into what you feel. Behind those emotions, you will probably find a lot of powerful reasons that need to be processed.
- Attend to your fleshly hindrances. Make a list of what might be burdening your life. Sit before the Lord with that list and ask God where you have gone wrong. He will show you how to get back on track, but just to warn you, surrendering those hindrances is probably one of God’s top agendas. Be open to dying to self so that you can live to Christ (Jn. 12:24).
T - Transform your mind.
After you have put off the old reactions, the old nemeses, the old self, it is time to turn to the mind, which is to be made new (Eph. 4:23). The catalyst for all of this hard, exhausting, and exhilarating work is truth. You must bathe in the truth of God’s Word, asking for His wisdom to illuminate your lack (Rom. 16:27, Eph. 2:27, Col. 2:2-3). You must fill your mind with God’s names, His character and His ways. You must know the foundational truths about you, your stance with God, and the power of the gospel. Mind renewal by way of soaking in the Word will build up your truth foundation and give you a solid, Christ-like wisdom.
L - Live in truth.
This is the step where the rubber hits the road, so to speak. Just knowing the truth will not help you in a black-ice situation; you must learn to live out the truth on the daily tarmac of your spiritual journey. Otherwise, you will fall in sin like King David did, one compromise at a time.
- Analyze the lies. When you are sliding on black ice, truth must already be your foundation or you will not be able to stand firm. The emotions that you identified earlier are key to recognizing the lies that dot the landscape of your faith. Priscilla Shirer lists nine main lies believers fall prey to. See if any of these sound familiar to you: I am unworthy; I am unloved; I am incapable; I am undesirable; I am unforgivable; I am unknown; my life is insignificant; I am a mistake; and I can lose my salvation (Priscilla Shirer, The Armor of God Bible study, p. 161).
Here is another longer list of Satan’s lies. I am giving you so many lie-statements because sometimes it is difficult to recognize a lie when you’ve been hearing it play in your head for so many years. Pray over this list carefully. Perhaps God will open up a bit of revelation for you that will be the key to some freedom: I’m so stupid. People would be better off if I were dead. I don't deserve to be happy. I’ll never amount to anything. It’s always my fault. I’m useless. God must hate me. No one will ever love me. I’m ugly. There’s no use trying. God can’t love me. I’m not good at anything. I’m weak, no good. I hate myself. I might as well kill myself. Nobody cares. I’ll never change. I’m going to die alone. I have never done anything worthwhile. I’m a bad person. Why should anyone care? It will never get better. Nothing I do is important. I deserve to be miserable. (Larry Richards, The Full Armor of God, p. 32-33).
- Align yourself with truth. When you have discovered the lie, it is time to overlay it with truth. I can tell you with confidence that I have never discovered an insidious lie that was not somehow enlightened by a truth in the Word of God. Take your lie to God. Ask Him for His light to guide your way through His book. Then take that revealed truth into your circumstances. Write down that truth over top of the lie that seems to undermine your faith. Put that truth on a note card and carry it around with you ad nauseam. That truth needs to become your new normal so read it, memorize it, meditate on it, sing it, and speak it out over your situation.
E - Energize your faith-stance.
God has given you many, many divine resources to aid you in your struggle against your nemesis. He has not left you alone, but has gifted you almost beyond comprehension. Ephesians 6:10-24 outline these resources, but for your quick reference, here they are again: the armor of God (belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation); the Word of God (sword of the Spirit); prayer; the Holy Spirit; other believers; and worship. These resources are useless unless you apply them to your situation.
- Apply the truth. It’s not enough to recognize the lies, or even find a truth to replace the lies if you choose not to stand in the truth on your day of battle. This is the most crucial moment of your black-ice trauma. Will you give in to that nemesis or will you override its power through the divine resources God has given to you?
- Act in faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God, Hebrews 11:6 says. There is something about the stance of faith that makes God smile. Yes, He is gracious when we fail. Of course He forgives us when we act out of the flesh, but there is a special place of intimacy and love reserved for those who choose to stand against their nemesis in the truths and resources they do know. “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching...If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (Jn. 14:23-24; 15:10-11).
Three Last Stands
The crux of this whole devotional series rests on your stance. Will you run away from this fight with your enemy, Satan, and with your fleshly nemesis? Just run away in despair and defeat? Will you give in to your nemesis because you believe you are not strong enough to withstand its onslaught? Will you cave into compromise and complacency because you truly believe you are unable to overpower its firm grip on your soul? Or will you follow Paul’s good advice in Ephesians 6? Will you “stand firm” by strengthening yourself in God’s mighty power? (Eph. 6:10).
I pray by now that your desire - and earnest ambition - will be to stand firm on your day of battle. It matters, you know. You have a destiny and all three Persons of the Trinity are in your corner, working to help you fulfill it. But you cannot fulfill the “good works” God is preparing you to do without applying this important, foundational lesson of standing firm against your nemesis. In case you are still not convinced of the momentous gravity of standing firm in love, in obedience, and in your heavenly resources, let me give you three more pictures of a firm - or not so firm - stance. Which of these three last stands typify your method of engaging in your fight? Which of these three last stands draw you to your feet in hope? My friend, which stance will you emulate as you face your nemesis, activate your B.A.T.T.L.E. plan, and stand in confident expectation of a triumphant victory?
Our Papaya Tree’s Last Stand
This past week I was sitting at our kitchen table working on a word game with my kindergartener when I heard a huge THUMP! Startled, I looked up and quickly surmised the noise’s source, since our last remaining papaya tree was laying cock-eyed on the ground, green papayas strewn all across our back yard. Since Timmy was so unsettled by this papaya travesty that he could no longer concentrate on his sight words, we decided to go out and take a look.
We have lost two other papaya trees over the last four years, but both of them yielded their stance to a black-ice moment. Both of the other trees succumbed to storms: great winds whipped their branches; lightning flashed around them; rain pounded down upon them, and they just fell, unable to withstand the onslaught. But the day this tree decided to give up its stand was very different.
We had experienced no wind, no rain, no stormy sky - just a beautiful, sunny, balmy day. There was literally no reason for this tree to fall, or so I originally thought. But as I began to investigate a little further, I noticed three possible reasons for the tree to give up its firm stance: its roots were skimpy; its trunk was hollow; and its fruit was too heavy.
This particular tree grew very close to the wall at the back of our property. As I looked closely, I noticed that the tree had literally grown away from the wall in its attempt to stretch toward the sky. Instead of buttressing itself with the solidity of the wall, it had turned away from this man-made support in order to find nutrients from the soil. As a result, there was only one large root that held it up. When the tree grew too tall for that one large, shallow root, it took very little pressure to convince it to fall.
Additionally, we noticed that the trunk was mostly hollow. As my middle son took a look down the center of the tree, Robert noticed that it was made of a highly porous membrane rather than a solid, stable, secure unshakeable mass. It was a wonder that the tree had stood against the elements for as long as it did; it was weakened by its own hollowed-out makeup.
I also noticed that the formerly heavily-laden down branch facing our house was empty of its fruit. In looking around the yard, we counted up eight papayas, all growing off of that same little branch. It seemed to me that since all the fruit was clustered together on one small branch that was leaning at a precarious angle, the fruit itself was the catalyst for the tree’s fall. The weight of the tree’s own harvest literally ripped the tree off of its one unstable root, causing it to crash to its demise.
My conclusion as a self-ordained tree investigator was that the tree gave up its firm stance because of its own composition. There was no outside nemesis, no outward pressure or enemy. Instead, the tree’s own root system, its own trunk’s formation, and its own fruit-bearing design caused it to fall. It literally could not withstand its own make-up; our papaya tree was its own nemesis.
Is your stance against your nemesis like our fated papaya tree? Are you wrestling against God, refusing to buttress yourself with the strong parameters of His love? Are your roots so eroded by compromise that you are barely able to withstand a day’s normal pressure rather than a black-ice storm? Are you hollowed out by so many lost battles? Have you forgotten to fill your mind’s trunk with the substantial Word of God so that you are weak and shaky? Is the fruit of your life, the harvest of what you have planted, literally pulling you off of your feet? Are you losing your firm grip on the truth because of no other enemy but you? My friend, are you sabotaging your own battle stance?
My friend, despite the lies that you are entertaining, your fate is not defeat. Your inability to stand is not because you are somehow the only one in the world overlooked by God’s divine resources. Your stance may be like our papaya tree - lacking a firm root, eroded on the inside by lies, and overbalanced by the fruit of your flesh - but you do not have to fall...again and again. You have a God who loves you deeply and longs to buttress you with His love. Don’t grow away from that love; lean into it. You have a God whose Word is life and breath and health. Don’t ignore it; steep yourself in its truths. You have a God who desires to grow spiritual fruit in your life, fruit that will not rot or fall or unbalance your stance. Let go and just abide. Abide in the Vine that will sustain you. Abide in the Spirit that will grow the fruit that is needed. And abide in the grace that is available to you 24/7.
Do not let your own self-confident root system be your only foundation. Fill your core with truth and let the fruit of faith grow as you yield to the Lord. Your own flesh does not have to be your nemesis. You can stand firm by remembering that you are loved, chosen, saved, called, gospel-drenched, and invited to partner in the glory of Christ. Stand firm, then, and hold to the teachings you have heard in this series (2 Thess. 2:13-15). Whatever you do, stand firm!
Custer’s Last Stand
On June 25, 1876, Lt. Colonel George Custer and 210 men of the U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry Unit confronted thousands of fierce Sioux and Cheyenne warriors in the Battle of Little Bighorn. It took less than an hour for the Indians to win this battle, massacring Custer and every one of his men in what is dignified by another name: Custer’s Last Stand. In truth, so much controversy surrounds this battle that it is hard to determine what is fact and what is fiction.
Fact #1: Custer was a foolish warrior. Originally, he earned a degree to teach grammar school, but within a year had enrolled in the military academy at West Point. He did not stand out much at the academy, finishing last in his class. His early years of fighting did earn him some promotions because he was competent and reliable and not afraid to get his hands dirty. He did show bravery and the rumor goes that he had eleven horses shot out from under him without sustaining more than one wound. But in 1867 he was court-martialed because he deserted the campaign to be with his wife. This desertion proved him to be a man who made rash and foolish decisions.
Fact #2: The Indians were backed into a corner and chose to fight back. America wanted the land in the Plains for their colonists moving west. Unfortunately, the Indians already lived there and made their living off of the buffalo that roamed the land free. The American government worked to push the Indians off of their own land and place them on reservations. Additionally, they began killing off the buffalo so the Indians were cornered between extinction or a reservation; it was an impossible situation. Of course, the Indians fought back and that’s when Custer was brought on the scene. He made a name for himself as an accomplished Indian killer when he massacred all the Indians in a village governed by Chief Black Kettle. The government signed a treaty recognizing South Dakota’s Black Hills as part of the Great Sioux Reservation, but when gold was discovered in those hills, the government reneged on their treaty. All the Indians in the surrounding area banded together to protest this deception in battle.
Fact #3: Custer never had a chance to win the battle. Three columns of soldiers were dispatched to round up the Indians and force them back to the reservation. These soldiers were under the command of four men: Brigadier General Alfred Terry, Colonel John Gibbon, Brigadier General George Crook and Custer. The other leaders decided to find the Indians, surround them and force their surrender. Although Crook was delayed, Custer was told to move in, surround the Indians and await reinforcements.
Plans changed when Custer found the Indians’ camp and decided to engage in a surprise attack. He divided his men up into four groups; one group was to watch the supply train; two groups under Captain Frederick Benteen and Major Marcus Reno were told to wait for the Indians to the South; and his group of 210 strong went North to flush the Indians out.
Reno’s group attacked first but retreated quickly when they realized how badly outnumbered they were. Benteen’s troops went to help Reno at Reno Hill, but even on hearing an order from Custer to join him and help, they remained. Much about that day is unclear since there were no surviving members of Custer’s cavalry unit. “What is known is that neither Benteen or Reno helped Custer despite admitting later they’d heard heavy gunfire coming from Custer’s position.” Some historians have argued that Reno and Benteen were simply cowards who ignored Custer’s orders. Others believe that they thought following Custer’s orders was a suicidal choice. Still others believe that the defeat was all Custer’s fault, since he foolishly forged out on his own without waiting for the backup that was to come (thoughts pulled heavily from www.history.com).
Custer fought battles with crushing stressors on the outside of him. There were incredible black-ice pressures working against him: the government wanted results; the colonists wanted land; the Indians were willing to fight to the death; and a court-martial was imminent. It appeared that Custer had no choice but to give in to all the pressure. He could not stand firm on anything but what his commanding officers told him to do and in the end, he gave his life for someone else’s desires. Some needless and foolhardy last stand!
But Custer also fought battles within. He struggled with mediocrity, although he covered his commonness with hard work, fierce determination, and some lucky wins. However, he was known to make foolish decisions and even earned a court-martial because of his rash choice to desert his men. Foolishness. Snap-decisions. Rashness. Suicide missions. Custer appears to be ruled by his flesh. After all, a man with a less-than chip on his shoulder will do anything, even send men to a needless death, to prove he is more-than. His last stand proved that there was nothing firm without or within him and so he lost his life.
Black ice battles will come against you. There will be crushing pressures to conform or be eliminated. But like Custer, your demise probably will not come from those outside pressures. It may come, instead, from the pressures that well up within you. The lies you listen to may make you feel insignificant. Those lies may push you to try and compensate for the insecurities you feel. Instead of relying on truth, on wisdom, or on the Spirit of God, you may choose to forge ahead, make your own way, and defy your Commanding Officer’s guiding orders.
Do you really want your spiritual battles clouded with controversy like Custer’s? Do you want your loved ones to make up heroic illusions about your reputation because it is so marred by your foolishness? Of course you don’t! You don’t want your life to be eaten through with compromise like King David experienced.
What can you do to ensure your last stand is not in vain? What should you do to face up to the inward and outward pressures to fold? My friend, the answer is simple, though its undertaking is much harder: you need to stand firm. Root out the lies that erode your integrity. Know the truth. Align yourself with those truths and live them out on a daily basis. Custer found that one foolish decision on a day of black-ice battle cost him his life. Your consequences may not be so severe, but they will cost you, especially in the sphere of your faith.
Paul’s Last Stand
Paul is thought by many to have written 13 books (there is some controversy over this if you do the research): 1 and 2 Thessalonians on his second missionary journey around 50-51 AD; 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans in 55-56 AD while on his third missionary journey; Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians, and Philippians between 60-62 AD while imprisoned in Rome the first time; and 1 Timothy, Titus, and 2 Timothy in 66-68 AD while released and then imprisoned again (www.foundationsforfreedom.net).
This puts the writing of 2 Timothy at the tail end of a life well lived. Paul’s words to his “dear son, Timothy” (1:2) were his Last Will and Testament, so to speak. We do not know if Paul was under house arrest for his last years or if he suffered in a dank prison. What we do know is that Paul did not waste a single moment of his last years. He wrote. He encouraged. He taught. He exhorted. He preached. He loved. And he did all of these incredible ministries with a passion in strong defiance of his black-ice circumstances and the feelings that might have been his nemesis.
These are some of Paul’s last words, revealing the faithfulness of Paul’s last stand. “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8).
How did Paul stand strong when it came to the end? He stood surrendered. He stood prepared. He stood fighting a good fight. He stood persistently until the end. He stood keeping the faith. He stood anticipating his reward. He stood gathering all of His disciples under his own umbrella of faith.
Precious child of God, when you are overtaken by a black-ice circumstance, this is how you want to face your nemesis. No regrets. No compromise. No “what ifs” or “if onlys. Just full-out, passionate, other-centered integrity and a no-holds-barred kind of ministry. You don’t have to be a Paul. You just need to be the most dependent, trusting, faithful you that you can be. That is God’s criteria and these words are the ones you want to hear when you cross your finish line, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Mt. 25:21, 23).
You could run your race like a worldly competitor. You could compromise like King David and blight your godly career. You could try and take your stand against your nemesis without strong roots, solid trunk, and disputable fruit like our papaya tree...and fail. You could rush into your battles, making fleshly decisions like Custer did...and again, fail. These last negative stands would predict your battles to follow this less-than-auspicious path:
Or you could stand in faith, completely aligned with truth and have your battle sequence end in victory:
What does it look like to stand in faith? What solid roots, stable trunk, and burgeoning fruit will grow from your life if you choose to stand firm on your day of battle? Here are just a few of the blessings that will accompany your faith-filled stance:
This list is not complete. You can add to it. You can grow new roots, fill your trunk with new truths, and grow newly-inspired fruit. Dear one, you can buttress yourself with God’s love as you activate a battle stance. You can throw off those entanglements and transform your mind. You can live in the truth and energize your faith-stance with God’s resources. You can do it, my friend.
Above all, precious truth-warrior, stand firm in all the will of God!