Part 9 of 12
Egged and Soaped
Quite a number of years ago, our computer contracted a virus. In the process of trying to wipe that virus clean, we lost most of our digital pictures for a huge chunk of years. What makes me the most sad about this inevitable end was that we lost a pictorial panorama of our boys growing up. As a result of that virus, they have hardly any visual memories of those important moments. After that sad loss, my husband became quite adept at storing everything in the cloud, but sadly, those pictures, and consequent memories, are unrecoverable.
Evil schemes leave a wake of inevitable loss.
I have often thought, If people would transfer all the energy they give in thinking up evil schemes to positive creative action, life would be so much better. Poverty could be averted. The homeless could be housed. We might even have a cure for cancer by now. It seems to me that life-draining and stress-inducing schemes are a dime a dozen these days. Look at these two examples we had to watch out for in Manila during our eight years in the Philippines.
The Egg Scheme
One scheme we were warned about involved eggs and cars. The traffic in Manila is horrific; it is mostly a start-and-stop experience. Poor teenagers in small gangs know that a stopped car is an easy target, so they would work in teams to target cars stuck in traffic. One group of kids would egg the car, especially the windshield. Of course, the driver would immediately put the windshield wipers on so he could see. The wipers, instead of cleaning the glass, would smear it all over, impeding the driver’s sight even more.
At that point, the second team of teenagers sprang into action. They would come at the stopped, egged car while its passengers were distracted by the egg mess, open the doors, and begin pillaging anything out of the car that they could get their hands on. Then they would quickly disperse into the traffic and slip away into the crowds. The whole attack would be over in less than a minute.
The only way to stay safe in the eye of the attacking storm was to heed the warning to keep the car doors locked at all times.
The Soap Scheme
The second type of attack was more personal. A number of our colleagues were duped by this particular scheme because the attackers blanketed many neighborhoods before the missionary population was warned.
A couple of women would come to a person’s house. They would ring the doorbell and when the owner came out to the gate, they would begin to try and sell her some soap. They had bar soap and liquid soap in all kinds of colors and aromas. The soap was actually being sold quite cheap, and that was the draw, because when the homeowner missionary heard the price, she was drawn into the scheme. The Filipino women would tell a heart-tugging story about some relative needing an operation or a dying child. Many times, that was all it took to soften the heart and open the pocketbook.
They would then ask the kind missionary if she wanted to smell the soap. The packaging indicated that the aromas were all different flower smells – hydrangea, orchid, etc – and because everything seemed so above-board, the homeowner would then take a bar of soap and put it to her nose. That was the fatal mistake, for unbeknownst to the victim, the soap was laced with a strong sleeping powder. A couple of good whiffs literally caused the victim to collapse into a deep sleep. At that point, the women “selling” the soap would call their cohorts – usually men or boys – to overwhelm the gates, enter the open house and ransack the home. All of this took place with the homeowner fast asleep on the supposed safe side of her unopened gate.
The only way to stay safe in the eye of the scheme’s storm was to heed the warning not to engage anyone selling soap at the gate.
By Way of Review
We are moving slowly-but-surely through the life story of Hezekiah, recorded in the books of 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles and Isaiah. There are many themes we could be drawing out from this great king’s life, but for this set of devotionals, we are studying trust; not a hesitant, tentative type of trust that merely survives its ordeals, but an unwavering trust that comes from a deep faith in God.
Hezekiah has both stalwartly walked and shakily wavered through some very trying circumstances, but those shaky faith moments have actually served to solidify an even greater trust. Hezekiah, by winning some victories and failing some trust-tests, has cultivated the kind of relationship with God that has learned to faithfully navigate the many storms of life.
All in all, we have studied eight principles that will help us navigate the storms God allows in our lives. As we learn from Hezekiah’s history, we, too, can walk with unwavering trust.
- A life of trust is built on intimacy, identity, and integrity in the calm before the storm. The calm before the storm is the place in which we must build our foundation of trust.
- Trust is the security that comes from resting one’s identity on the Word and the Person of God. Hezekiah stood tall when Israel collapsed because his foundation was built on truth.
- A person who trusts will respond to suffering with worship. Trust in the middle of shattered dreams becomes a healing balm when a person learns to worship despite baffling amounts of suffering.
- Trust always humbly steers toward the focal point of God. When a person loses sight of God as her focus, she will get off track. Pride always steers us awry, but pursuing humility always leads us back into God’s will for our lives.
- A trusting person fears the Lord rather than giving way to fleshly fear. A When Assyria attacked nearby Lachish, fear undermined Hezekiah’s choices. As the storm clouds gathered above his head, distrust began to ignite fear. Hezekiah learned the hard way that God, rather than man, must be his pure object of trust.
- Trust engages in the art of preparing the mind and heart for action. There is an art to preparing for war. Engaging in that hard work before the spiritual battles come, will outfit you to stand victoriously in the midst of the storm.
- Trust draws its resources from the heavenly places when war is imminent. Assyria stands at Jerusalem’s doors, but trust in God enabled Hezekiah to see the reality of his situation. We studied Elisha’s similar stance in 2 Kings 6 to reveal the true enemy and the nine heavenly resources that are available to us in the heavenly places.
- Trust employs the truths of Scripture to unveil the tactics of the enemy. We studied Satan’s agenda, his strategies and his battle tactics. Seven tactics used by the Assyrian general are also used by Satan as he approaches you. Unveiling the enemy’s tactics helps you to be forewarned to how Satan may choose to approach you.
The biggest storm clouds gathered near the end of Hezekiah’s reign with the Assyrian army camped at Jerusalem’s gates. This typhoon-proportioned storm is the ultimate test of Hezekiah’s trust. Will he stand firm and unwavering in this moment or fall down in his faith? Will he stay safe in the eye of this storm or will he bolt for unprotected safety outside the gates of God’s plan?
Storms will come; they always do. Are you prepared for their unexpected fury? Do you recognize the real enemy behind all of the storm clouds and do you know how to stand firm in the eye of your storm? In case you have not figured it out yet, standing firm is our topic for today. As a precursor to what the Lord will show us, would you take some time to read Isaiah 36:11-13, 21?
The Eye of the Storm
Have you ever wondered if there was a target on your back? Everything goes wrong and at the worst possible time? Have you ever waited for the other shoe to drop only to find out that it did…on your tender toes? Do you feel like all the forces of the universe are conspiring against you? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you have probably experienced a day in the eye of the storm.
To be in the eye of the storm can conjure up a few different connotations. Typically, the eye of a hurricane involves a minute window of peace in the midst of terrifically strong winds. The calm before the storm is a frightening place because you know the gravity of what is to come. Or being in the eye can mean that you are experiencing the most intense part of a tumultuous situation. Either way, the eye of the storm is a daunting place to be.
With the chaotic winds swirling around you and the consistent rains soaking your head, it is safe to say that you are being bombarded by the tactics of your enemy. How will you manage to make it through the storm in one piece? Is it even possible to come through life’s storms unfazed by all of the whirlwind elements and the flying debris? Jesus’ “deeply distressed and troubled” emotional state coupled with a “soul overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mk. 14:33-34 – ESV) answers this question for us. Jesus was not unfazed by His storm; He was literally bowed over by the weight of it, but in spite of the terror and sorrow, He desperately prayed to God, “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me…” (Mk. 14:36).
Crying out to God your Father in the midst of your storm may not still the elements or contain the flying debris. It may not change the situation, but it does help you release your attempts to control the monumental storm on your own. Jesus was not a stoic survivor; He was a struggling will-releaser. What a testament to dependence He was!
He wrestled with the elements in the eye of His storm. He grappled with the flying debris. Three times he threw Himself upon the ground in anguish. Three times He prayed fervently until drops of blood were wrung from his storm-tossed brow and three times He begged for the Golgotha typhoon to pass. But it did not…
…so He released His will. He abdicated control. He surrendered His desire to step out of the path of the storm. “Yet not what I will, but what you will,” Jesus finally, weakly gasped (Mk. 14:36). Gethsemane’s battle was the eye of the storm, and as He emerged into the swirling winds of betrayal and the tossing branches of desertion, He was calm and resolute, setting His face toward the most horrifically dark tempest ever known to man.
How was He able to do this? Because, my friend, He had learned how to stand firm. That lesson was painfully wrung out of Him in the eye of the storm.
And then He experienced the truth of the fixed and steady thoughts of trust (Isa 26:3). He then knew the Peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7). He chose to obey the Guard of His mind (Phil. 4:7). You see, the struggle in the eye of the storm was a struggle for unwavering trust. By the time He had settled His trust issue, He was able to say of His God:
In the eye of the storm/You remain in control/And in the middle of the war/You guard my soul/You alone are the anchor/When my sails are torn/Your love surrounds me/ In the eye of the storm (chorus lyrics from Eye of the Storm by Ryan Stevenson).
No, I do not think it is possible to come through a storm unfazed, undaunted, or unperturbed, but I really do not think that is the point. Battle scars from wind-tossed hurricanes tell a story of wrestling with the Almighty and acquiescing out of a deep and abiding trust. Standing firm is not for the faint-hearted or even for the giants of faith; it is for the brokenhearted who weep out their anguish and then collapse in the Arms of Power that will carry them through the eye of the storm on wings of love.
Jerusalem is in trouble; there is no doubt about it. Its proverbial tail lies pinned under the enemy’s paw like a mouse awaiting consumption by a lion. Sennacherib, king of Assyria, has already attacked and captured forty-six fortified cities of Judah (Isa. 36:1). At the present time, he is besieging the second largest city – Lachish – and winning against her: ramming down her gates; overrunning her walls; burning and pillaging the city; killing her leaders; and making slaves of the remnant who are left. Confident of his victory, the king nonchalantly sends his three most important battle commanders to Jerusalem along with a very large army (36:2a).
They stop at the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman’s Field (36:2b). Hezekiah sends out his parley party: a palace administrator, the secretary, and the recorder (36:3), an almost-laughable combination in light of the extreme odds. At that aqueduct meeting, the field commander begins to taunt and ridicule, harass and mortify these three Judean representatives (see 36:4-10). We studied this war of words last week as we dissected the verbal tactics the enemy used to break down Hezekiah’s will in order to force him to surrender.
On the heels of a very confusing statement – “The Lord told me to destroy this country” (36:10) – Eliakim, Shebna and Joah finally speak to the general. This is their first attempt at negotiation and look at what they choose to say. “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, since we understand it. Don’t speak to us in Hebrew in the hearing of the people on the wall” (36:11). Instead of refuting the general’s claims and calling his prideful bluff, they try to get him to change languages.
Wrong move, my friend. They should never have engaged in negotiations with the enemy, especially when he obviously has the advantage; they should have refuted him instead with the authority of God.
I want you to notice something else here. Though the general was speaking to the three chosen delegates at the aqueduct, they were actually in earshot of people within the city. The Passion Translation says this more clearly, “”Don’t speak to us in Hebrew, for the people on the wall are listening to us, and they will overhear our conversation” (36:11b). Look at how close the war has come. It is literally at Jerusalem’s doorstep. The soldiers watching fearfully from the battlements, the warriors anxiously waiting on the ramparts, even the untrained faithful of the city apprehensively peeking out over the watchtowers, are able to hear all that is being said. And it is clearly spoken in their own language.
The danger is that close. It is within agitating, uneasy, suspenseful, disquieting and understandable earshot.
I want you to see this truth in the spiritual realm. When you begin to dwell on lies in your head and the truth becomes veiled, when you are anxious or even paralyzed in your fear, when your heart is threatening to pound right out of your chest, you need to realize that your enemy is very near. A war of words that jackhammers at the defenses of your mind is not a war of distant reality. The battle, at that point, has already come to you. Despite the fact that you may not be experiencing physical or even emotional torment, you must know that when the lies of the enemy begin to infiltrate your mind, you are in the middle of a spiritual war. Satan is close enough to you to engage your own thinking with his deceptive rhetoric.
This infiltration of your mind is his usually-effective scheme. He is already at your gates weaving his stories, twisting the truth, trying to get you to smell his enticements. It does not even matter if you try to get him to change languages in the middle of his rhetoric; he is multilingual, completely comfortable in any language. You can engage him all you want, begging and pleading, trying to dissuade, but he will only increase his lying intensity.
My friend, know the enemy, and know the danger of his mind-playing proximity.
Though the three delegates plead with the commander to change his speech to Aramaic, he is contemptuous in his reply, “Was it only to our master and you that my master sent me to say these things, and not to the men sitting on the wall – who, like you, will have to eat their own filth and drink their own urine” (36:12). In other words, “This is not about you only. My scheme is to attack you and your king and all the people clustered together in the city’s walls. You and Hezekiah can make all the decisions you want, but it’s the people who will be destroyed as a result. Their fate is at stake here as much as – or even more than – yours.”
His scheme all along is to appeal to the masses, to bring about the most fear by applying the widest smears to their collective reputations, strengths, and abilities. And this is the way Satan works. He does not just come after you in his fury. Yes, he will besiege your mind, your heart, your accomplishments, and your faith, but he will also attack your family, your friends, your ministries, and your church. He is not content with only harassing you if he can destroy more in his sweeping endeavor. My friend, realize that if you are in a spiritual war, Satan will not confine his schemes to just you; he will attempt to bring everyone around you down with you.
I want to back up a moment and make a point clear to you. What were the people of Jerusalem doing while they were listening to this fearsome conversation? Look at verse 12 again and you will see that the commander noticed something unusual about the people on the walls. Instead of hiding, instead of remaining upright, instead of being watchful or expectant or battle-ready, they were sitting.
Sitting, mind you.
Sitting as the army gathered around their walls. Sitting while the commander and his two cohorts trudged up pompously to their aqueduct. Sitting while their own delegates went out to parley with the enemy. Sitting while the enemy threw his poisonous lies all over the heavenly places. Sitting while the commander offered his insidious invitations to compromise. Unbelievably, they were just sitting.
And then observe what the commander did. “(He) stood and called out in Hebrew, ‘Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria!’” (36:13). Did you see that word, ‘stood?” Up to that point, the commander must have been casually relaxing. He wasn’t even exerting much effort in the lies that he spoke, but when he saw that the people were merely reposing on the walls, he upped the ante: he stood and began to attack more aggressively.
He called out in Hebrew, in direct contradiction to the delegates’ request. He spoke slanderously against Hezekiah, trying to cause dissension in the people’s minds. He reinforced distrust on many accounts. He offered an enticing way out of the siege. And he topped off all of this deception with huge doses of blasphemy, “No god can rescue you from my hand” (36:14-20).
My friend, internalize the truths of these few verses. The stance that you must avoid in any spiritual preparation or battle itself is the stance of relaxation. To sit around in the midst of conflict may invite more conflict. To relax while under siege can open you up to increased attack. To disengage the mind from the gravity of the battle is to make an informal request for further engagement.
You must be vigilant. The stance you must acquire is one of mental readiness, physical adaptability, emotional fortitude, and spiritual expectation. Always, always, always be on your guard against the schemes of the enemy (Mt. 10:17, Mt. 16:6, 11; Mk. 13:9, 23, 33; Lk 12:15; Acts 20:31; 1 Cor. 16:13; 2 Tim. 4:15; 2 Pet. 3:17).
Precious warrior, instead of being a wall-sitter, you must train yourself to be a consistent, persistent, and dependant wall-stander. Of all the things you need to learn in this faith-walk of life, you must learn to stand firm in unwavering trust.
Ephesians 6:10-20 reveals to us the spiritual battle in our world. It tells us how to respond to the enemy’s attacks and how to handle this spiritual warfare. Fortunately, for our memory’s sake, there are not many items to remember. Two commands. A few sentences of description. Five pieces of defensive armor. One offensive weapon for the “evil day” and one key to make victory a success. That is all we are given to be able to stand firm in the eye of our battle-storms. But boy, do we ever need to know this information backward and forward, being prepared to apply it on any given day, in any given circumstance, and through any given season.
The whole theme of this passage is not about fighting. It is not about engaging the enemy or even how to counter-attack when he comes against you. My friend, that would be very foolish. No, the theme of this passage is standing. Look at these three verses with me:
- “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (v 11).
- “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything to stand” (v 13).
- “Stand firm then, with the belt…breastplate…and with your feet…” (vv 14-15).
Notice that the armor helps you to stand against the tactics of the devil. This hint is given in all three verses. Somehow, wearing all of the armor God gives helps you to stand strong against Satan’s schemes. There may be especially blatant attacks when a day of evil comes upon you, but the call to stand and wear the armor does not change. The same strategy (standing firm) and the same armor are to be used in regular preparation and when you are under attack. The encouragement is upgraded to a command in verse 14: “Stand firm then,” but, once again, it is coupled with the armor that if worn, will help you to fulfill that same command.
How do we stand?
The question is how? How do you and I stand firm in battle and how does the armor help us to stand firm? The answer comes from verse 10, “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” “You stand firm by appropriating God’s strength, not your own determination, positive thinking, or even self-discipline.” (Tony Evans, Victory in Spiritual Warfare, p. 38).
I do not know about you, but there are two reactions I have when under attack. I either want to fight back immediately in my flesh and act out of my innate strength, or I want to run away as fast as I can. Fight or flight responses tend to rule the body…let me give you an example.
In 1997, my husband and I were serving at Faith Academy in the Philippines. We lived in a tiny apartment under a 90-year old Filipino woman. Living more underground like we did seemed to invite a myriad of tropical creatures, which, honestly, became a big distraction for me. We had ants of every size and color. Spiders seemed to make their home in our part of the house. Butikis, little lizards, roamed our walls and ceilings at will. Larger geckos made their appearances every once in a while and then, there were the cockroaches.
The lizards I basically left alone. The ant problem, however, I attacked with a vengeance. We tried sprays, little ant houses, ant powders, water under desks, and special tupperware. I even imported a special ant powder from Jakarta. For me, it was a full-scale war that I attempted to win in my own power. I will say that the Indonesian powder eventually did the trick…but unfortunately, only for one kind of ant.
What I could not abide were the cockroaches. When I would walk into the room and flip on the light, they would scurry across the floors at lightning speed. Nothing was sacred: food, clothing, even cardboard. They lived in everything and took over the house, multiplying faster than bunnies. One time, I had one crawl across my abdomen in the shower. Another time, one flew directly at me from the toilet roll when I when for the paper. It got so bad that I was afraid to walk barefoot at night or even go to the bathroom in the dark. One huge, crawling, scurrying, flying cockroach could reduce me to a melted puddle of fear on the floor. I would run to escape them, screaming the whole while. Those cockroaches were the last straw for me.
When circumstances conspire against us, when the storms gather and the rains begin to fall, our bodies respond in one of these two ways. We will either try to tough it out in our own abilities, in our own wisdom and strength, or we will run away as fast as our legs will carry us. Satan is smart. He knows this about us and will bluster and intimidate us to get one of these ungodly, independent reactions out of us.
God’s answer to Satan’s tactics is clear. We are not to fight Satan in our own strength. We are not struggling against flesh and blood, God says; we are struggling against rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. In and of ourselves, we are unable to win this kind of war. We are mortals who can only fight spiritual battles with spiritual weapons wielded in God’s power.
We are also not to run away. Running away opens up your back to attack. It leaves those standing with you vulnerable to more engagement. No, my friend, running actually leaves parts of you unprotected as well as those around you.
So if we are not to fight in our strength and we are not to run away, what are we to do? We are to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power (v 10). This is not a suggestion; this is a command. You will not engage the enemy in victory if you do not obey the Lord on this matter. Do not fight on your own. Do not run away in fear. Be strong in God’s amazing and miraculous power.
How are we strong in God’s power?
This second command helps us fulfill the first command. We are strong in God’s power when we put on the full armor of God (v 11a). This helps us to stand firm or hold our ground. We do not want to give the devil any foothold, so we must learn to remain upright in the truths of God’s Word. We hold our ground by training ourselves to live in the spiritual protection God has given us every single day of our lives.
I am not a Bible scholar, but my sources tell me that the verb here is different than the verb in the first command. The tense of this verb, “put on,” refers to a specific point in time and it has a sense of urgency. We may not have a choice about when the evil day comes, but it will come, and it will come fast and hard. This, then, is an urgent call of God to put on this armor…now and always.
“This verb also implies something we do for ourselves – there is nothing passive about it” (Chip Ingram, The Invisible War, p. 28). We cannot wait for God to do this for us, or our spouse, or our good friends. We are responsible for the outfitting of our spiritual resources. This is also not a once-and-done affair; we will need to put on our armor continuously. We must be actively involved in a lifestyle of wearing this armor if we hope to be prepared for the “evil day” that will come upon us.
Standing firm is God’s greatest desire for you when the storm clouds begin to gather or even when full-on attack is imminent. But, my friend, in the eye of the battle’s storm, there will not be time to put on your armor, piece by piece. You must prepare for the day of battle by living daily in this armor. You must learn to stand firm every single day of your life.
There are, essentially, six pieces of armor mentioned in this Ephesians passage and these pieces are divided into two main categories. The first category includes the first three pieces of the armor and the introduction coming into those first three uses the verb “to be.” This is more clearly seen in the ESV, NASB, and NKJV Bibles, “Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace…” (vv 14-15 – NKJV).
Hopefully, you can see that these first three pieces of armor are ones that you need to wear all the time. You put them on every day, regardless of whether you are in a battle or not. This requires a concentrated, meditative, approach to your day, knowing that the lack of armor could be detrimental in handling the day-to-day circumstances you might face: an unkind word from a boss; a child throwing a temper tantrum; a co-worker asking you to cheat on your records, and I could go on and on. You need to live in these three pieces of armor constantly to withstand the lure of this world and your flesh that long to give in.
With our focus on standing firm in the normal hardships of life, these three pieces of armor will be the theme of our devotional today.
The last three pieces of the armor are given to you to pick up as the situation demands. We are to “take up” these portions of armory whenever we are in an “evil day,” when we are undergoing a concentrated spiritual attack. “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…” (vv 16-17 – ESV).
There will come a day when you are backed against a wall, under siege, and experiencing all the fury hell can throw at you. That is the “evil day,” my friend. You will know when you are entering this level of spiritual warfare. Then, you will need to take up these last three pieces of armor in order to stand more firmly in the face of Satan’s direct onslaught. Those pieces of armor will help us understand Hezekiah’s responses more clearly next week.
For now, let’s take a brief look at the armor we need in order to stand firm in our everyday life, much like the Judean response in Isaiah 36.
The Belt of Truth
My eldest son had quite a propensity for lying when he was younger. One time, his math teacher approached me and told me that she believed David was changing his answers on his test as they were going over it in class. Then he would go up to her afterwards and say, “I had this answer right. You should not have marked it incorrect.” She knew he was lying, but it was his word against hers.
When she told me, I was quite upset with David. In my flesh, I wanted to get in his face and start lecturing, but instead, I went to the Lord in prayer. Knowing I was on a time crunch, for David was leaving for a five-day trip with the rest of his middle school friends, I prayed over this matter for a little bit in my devotions the following morning. What the Lord gave me to do was absolutely brilliant.
I began compiling five sets of verses on honesty, lying, and the consequences of lying and wrote them up in a question form. I gave the questions to David before he headed out to school that day and told him they must be completed when he returned from his trip. Then I sat back and prayed.
When he returned five days later, I did not see a different attitude in him at all – no guilt, conviction or sorrow. Though I was discouraged, I decided to trust that God was at work so went ahead and began to work through the questions together with David. He had all the answers correct, but it was when we got to the last day of questions that he finally broke down.
“I know what you are doing, mom,” he said.
“What is that?” I asked all innocently.
“You’re trying to show me that I have been lying and cheating and that I need to make things right.” And wonder of wonders, he began to weep.
I was actually surprised, although I should not have been, since God’s Word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). All I had done was refuse to act in my flesh, prepare a place for God’s Word to move, and pray a whole lot. The Holy Spirit did the rest: He softened the heart, spotlighted the sin, and revealed the deception.
Satan is not called the father of lies for no reason. At one point, Jesus spoke to the Jews quite sharply, “Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies…He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God” (Jn. 8:43-45, 47).
Deception, if you will recall, is one of Satan’s three primary strategies to cause you to fall into sin and discredit your God. He does not care how he wields this strategy or whom he hurts in the meanwhile. He will tell a “white lie,” mix some truths with a lie, or deceive you outright if you are not discerning. He only cares to see you defamed, destroyed, and discouraged.
Just like a Roman soldier would tuck all of his armor into his belt, along with his tunic, this belt of truth holds up all of your spiritual armor. Truth defined is simply anything that God says in His Word. If God said it, you can believe it. That is the hanger from which all of your life must dangle. If something is spoken in God’s Word, you can bank on it. That is why God’s promises must be sought out and claimed. They are your belt of truth, the piece of armor that girds up all of the other portions of your faith.
Many of you have been hurt by abuse, neglect or harsh words and actions. As a child, you may have been wounded in ways that have shaped your whole life. Satan, the father of lies, loves that kind of hurt. He will take those moments and weave lies all through the fabric of your belief system; lies that will affect how you respond to people and to God forever after.
Despite the fact that God knit you together in your mother’s womb just the way He wanted to (Ps. 139:13b), you may have been bullied mercilessly by classmates in your younger years about a scar or your weight. That lack of compassion may have been used by Satan to tell you all of your life that you are worthless and odd. You need to know the truth and stand in it.
Regardless of the fact that God says you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14), you may remember that one time someone told you how ugly you were. That lie will ring in your head the rest of your life, fueled by the lies of Satan, if you do not stand firm in the truth.
If you do not camp on the fact that you are chosen by God, predestined to be his child, forgiven of your sins, included in Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:4, 5, 7, 13), Satan will use your failures, your lack of acceptance, your doubts about your salvation against you. He will convince you of a lie. My friend, you must know the truth; you must know what God says about you. That is your belt of truth.
Everyday, every hour, every minute, you need to be standing in the truth. You must fill your mind with the Words of God, whether by reading and studying, or by meditating and memorizing. God’s character must be clearly etched in your mind. God’s ways and His love for you must be your plumbline. All else besides God’s truths are lies. If you are struggling with feelings of shame, worthlessness, bitterness, unresolved anger, fear or a myriad of other negative emotions, you can know that the father of lies has been at work in your life.
Get into the Word! Live as a child of the light. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. Understand what the Lord’s will is, His truths and absolutes for your life (excerpts from Eph. 5:8-11). Then walk in them, having your eyes peeled for the light of His Word to shine upon your next step (Ps. 119:105).
Truth, precious lie-dispeller, is the foundation on which you can stand firmly and securely.
The Breastplate of Righteousness
The third church plant my parents launched was on a remote station in Irian Jaya called Sela Valley. It sat at about 6200 feet above sea level and received over 200 inches of rain each year. All I remember about the weather during those years was that it rained every day for hours and we had to contend with horrific amounts of fog that rolled up the valley and obscured our vision. Living on that station, with all of the gloom and wet, was very depressing for me. I always looked forward to the time when I could go back to the sunny coast where I boarded for school.
Because of the soggy weather, not much grew there except sweet potatoes. In fact, sweet potatoes were the main crop of the Kimyal people. Everywhere you looked there were five-foot sweet potato mounds rising up out of the clay on every hill as far as the eye could see. As I played with the local children, we would often play a form of ‘tag,’ jumping from potato mound to potato mound.
One day, as I was running through the rain, jumping from one mound to another, I saw a piece of bamboo sticking up out of the ground. But it was too late; I was already launched. When I came down, the weight of my body drove that bamboo stake right up into my foot. I carefully pulled it out and kept playing, continuing to run around barefoot, like I always did.
My foot hurt but I ignored it for a couple of days, thinking it was no big deal. Finally, the pain began to be intense. I decided to show my foot to my mom and asked her, “What is this red streak, mom?”
She immediately freaked out, saying that the red streak was infection, and that if it hit my heart, it would kill me. She gave me an antibiotic shot after she dressed the wound, clucking at me all the while for my lackadaisical attitude toward a dangerous situation. I remember having to soak my foot in salt water for a couple of days, trying to draw the toxins out of my body. I can tell you that I received a stern scolding for letting that wound go on for so long without medical attention.
You see, the bamboo was not the problem. The sore was not even the problem, but the conditions of an untended wound and the germs from the dirty ground created an environment that became toxic. I didn’t have to do anything further to exacerbate the effects; the environment of the injury plus the germs just invited the infection.
The same is true with your spiritual life. One jump into a potato mound of sin could be your undoing. You may have only engaged in a “little” sin, but that wound will begin to fester if left unattended. Add to that injury a few unholy germs lurking about your life and the environment is perfectly set up for toxins. Eventually, a red streak of out-of-control rebellion will race straight for your heart, guided by the father of lies and the author of condemnation.
Unrighteous living, my friend, is the enemy’s playground. It is the perfect environment for him to do his dirty, infectious, and potentially disastrous work. The only way you will be able to stand firm among the hundreds of enticing potato mounds of this world is to constantly wear the breastplate of righteousness. Then, and only then, will his strategy of denunciation and condemnation fall impotent to the ground.
If you are a child of God, you are considered righteous in God’s eyes. You did not earn it; you cannot even maintain it. Without God, we are completely unholy, unrighteous people. But God, in His grace, has given us truth and that truth helps to foster an environment of righteousness in our lives. But we must hold on to the truth: put off the old unrighteous self, be made new in the attitude of our minds, and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:22-24). This new environment of righteousness becomes the antibiotic against the infections of Satan.
Righteousness, precious infection-killer, is the foundation upon which you can stand firmly and securely.
The Shoes of Peace
I am the Queen of Thrift. One of my favorite pastimes in the States is to go to a thrift shop, spend just a little bit of money, and get a whole lot of clothes. Almost everything in my closet has come from a great deal at a second-hand store somewhere.
One time on furlough, I had not gotten to a thrift store yet to outfit my family for winter. (Living in the tropics, we have precious few long-sleeves or closed-toe shoes.) I wore my sandals to church one day in November and a precious woman approached me and asked, “Don’t you have any winter shoes?”
I honestly did not, and told her so, although I meant to eventually go out and get some when I had the first opportunity. The next time I was in church, she slipped a one-hundred bill into my hand and said, “Please go out and get a nice, new pair of winter shoes.” After I picked my jaw up off of the floor, I figured to keep the peace, I had better go and do as she said.
That week, I took my crisp new bill to my favorite thrift store, praying all the while that the Lord would provide something. I meandered around the store until I got to the shoe section and wouldn’t you know it? Right there waiting for me was a beautiful, almost brand-new pair of Clarke’s closed-toe boot shoes. I tried them on and they fit perfectly, so I happily put them in my cart.
I proceeded to spend the next couple of hours in the store, picking out clothes for my boys and me for the coming winter. I have to tell you that her one-hundred dollar bill outfitted most of my family for the whole winter and those “new” shoes cost me less than five dollars. When I showed her my shoes the next Sunday, she was absolutely delighted at my find. I have to say, to further keep the peace, I did not tell her what they cost me or that she had literally clothed three members of our family for an entire season.
Those shoes, which I still wear to this day, are shoes of peace to me. They represent peace with God. Because of the truth of the Gospel, I am chosen and adopted as a child of God. Because He is now my Father, He takes care of me. By tapping a surrendered woman on the shoulder and prompting her to offer some money to a missionary to get something as small as shoes, God demonstrated His and my peace-filled relationship. Because of the cross, God cares for me as one of His own.
Not only do those shoes represent peace with God, but they represent the peace from God. I needed shoes. It was not a matter of if, but when. Based on the truth of Philippians 4:19, that God would meet all my needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus, I knew my cold feet were on God’s agenda. Instead of being anxious, I knew to pray about my need, because God cares for me (1 Pet. 5:7).
Part of my inheritance in Christ is peace with God. Those shoes mark a time when God saw me as His child and acted out of the peace of the Gospel, but they also mark a time when God saw my need. Instead of allowing me to give in to anxiety, God instructed another woman in the Body to be the hands of Jesus in extending peace from God by way of provision and care. Her gift to me lived out the truth of the Gospel that I am at spirit-peace with God and can live in soul-peace, despite any anxious emotions I may feel.
A Roman soldier’s shoes, caliga, as they were called, had long nail-type protrusions on the bottom of the sole. After being laced up, the shoes were then able to keep a firm grip on the ground despite the instability of the terrain. The soldiers were not knocked off of their feet because they were firmly entrenched in the soil by those stable shoes.
Ephesians 6:15 says that our feet are to be fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. The Gospel of Christ is the shoe that helps us to dig into the unstable terrain of this life. That Jesus died to cover over your sins, that He was buried like you were in baptism, that He rose again from the dead – these are the essential elements of the Gospel. These elements demonstrate your peace with God and they form the stable foundation of your salvation. But there is more.
Salvation was just the beginning of your story with the Gospel. There is also the weighty matter of sanctification, where peace continues to work in and through your life. As you continue to live in truth, you will live out the principles of peace found in Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Because you have experienced peace with God through salvation, you can also know the peace of God in your stressful circumstances; peace that passes all understanding.
Satan will come at you with all kinds of doubts. Remember that is his second strategy. He will try to introduce doubts about your salvation, forgiveness and cleansing. He will bring circumstances against you that will cause you to feel anxious and uncertain. He will come against your peace with God and the peace you experience from God in your day-to-day life.
Truth again is your anchor. Find the lies behind the doubts. Renounce them, speaking out the truths of the Gospel and the truths behind your solid footing. Pray to God, asking Him to guard your heart and your mind. Then stand securely in the peace that is your Gospel footing.
My black pair of Clarke’s was given to me. They were free; all I had to do was take the money to a store and pick them up. But I also had to put them on my feet to experience the peace that comes from pleasing my benefactor and the absence of anxiety that marks the peace of nice, warm tootsies.
The same free gift of the Gospel was proffered to you and, in your acceptance, it has covered your past with peace. But like my black shoes, if you do not wear those shoes of peace, if you do not stand firmly in the Gospel message of forgiveness, redemption, justification, and sanctification, to name a few of those benefits, you will never experience the solid footing of peace. And if you do not cast your cares on God, if you do not avail yourself of the offer of daily peace, you will not remain upright in the eye of the storm.
Wear the shoes, my friend. Accept the gift. Peace, precious anxiety-diffuser, is the foundation upon which you can stand firmly and securely.
With that, we return to Jerusalem…
A Shortcut To Standing
We left the saga of Jerusalem in a tenuous place. The people of Judah were literally sitting down on their spiritual jobs. The field commander, aware of their lax attitudes, stood to begin a stronger attack on their mental defenses. He spoke words of deception to induce doubt and castigated them with denunciation (vv 13-20). He pulled out all the proverbial stops to convince the people of Jerusalem that they were safer with him rather than cooped up behind their reinforced walls.
And then there is verse 21. What an amazing verse! It rings of power. It exudes confidence. And it breathes out hope. Listen to these words, “But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king had commanded, ‘Do not answer him.’” (v 21). As I meditated on this verse, I was struck by its clear and pure simplicity. In these straightforward words, there is a clarion call to you and me; a call to stand firm.
We’ve briefly outlined the three pieces of armor in the paragraphs above. These enable us to stand firm when the storm clouds begin to gather. Many people make the armor of God a complicated affair; so intricate and convoluted, filled with option after option, that it becomes a confusing mess. It cannot be confusing, dear one, for you need to know what each piece of armor means so that you can put them on and stand firm.
Verse 21 of Isaiah 36 gives you a very simple shortcut to remember the first three pieces of armor. As the commander spewed his insulting, intimidating rhetoric into the ears of the hearers, they stood firm. At first glance, this verse seems very passive and weak, but I submit to you that in this one verse, there are three concrete actions that you can do when you need to stand firm. Each of them is connected to a piece of armor and will clarify how that armor helps you to stand firm in the eye of your storm.
The Bible is full of godly principles, statements made by God that we are to implement in our lives. I understand those principles, but they sometimes do not seem to compute to my day-in, day-out living. If you are like me at all, you may struggle in applying the principles of God to your daily life. They seem to work for the characters in the Testaments, but maybe not so much in the twenty-first century.
That is why I read Scripture as if God is talking to me. I put myself into the characters and ask God to speak to me through them. When I see a verse with application potential, I begin to meditate on it, asking God to open it up to my life. Hezekiah has been my twin through these last weeks: revealing how and why I act the way I do, demonstrating the pitfalls of unbelief, and modeling the path of trust. The people of Jerusalem act like I sometimes act, so when I studied verse 21, I took notice of its potential.
This verse seems to act as a bridge between the armor and the concept of standing firm. The principles of the armor sometimes are quite vague and complicated. I am a simple gal; I need simple application. So as I asked the Lord for clarity, this verse popped out to me as a simple guide on H.O.W. to stand firm in our armor under pounding rains. So that you have all of the information in one place, here is a chart for quick reference:
H.O.W. To Stand Firm
|Acronym||Piece of Armor||Strategy of Satan||Discipleship Hook|
|H – Hold your peace||Shoes of peace||Doubt||Intimacy|
|O – Obey the king’s commands||Breastplate of righteousness||Denunciation||Integrity|
|W – Wait on God||Belt of truth||Deception||Identity|
H – Hold your peace
Three times in this one verse, the author comments on the Judeans’ hushed stance: they remained silent (v 21a), they said nothing in reply (v 21b), and they obeyed the command not to answer him (v 21d). Obviously, lack of verbal engagement is the main thrust of this verse.
The NKJV translates the opening phrase of this verse differently than other version, “But they held their peace and answered him not a word.” Read those words again: but they held their peace. This phrase is actually an English idiom which means to avoid an argument by remaining silent. (Don’t confuse this phrase with another – hold your piece – which means to brandish a gun.)
As the field commander struck verbal blows with his tongue, the people of Jerusalem held their peace. They chose not to respond. Notice this non-response translated to a lack of defense, lack of denial, and lack of blame. No return judgments were hurled. No negative names were called. No back-biting or gossiping or threats were thrown. All was silent in response to the enemy’s verbal attacks.
Precious fighter, you need to embrace this simple application. The enemy will throw all of his energy into creating doubt in your mind about who God is, what He can do, who you are by way of the cross, and what you can do through Christ. This verbal whiplash will cause great turmoil on the inside of you. It will begin to affect your intimate relationship with God. You may start to distrust Him and doubt His former words and promises. You may walk away in defeat without ever opening up the Book of Peace to discover your own steady gift of peace.
At this point, you have two choices. The first involves running around like a chicken with your head cut off, crying ‘foul’ to everyone who will listen. You can talk the hurt to death. You can gossip and belittle, demean and embellish. You may even engage in a whole monologue inside your head of negative self-talk and devastating self-demoralization. You can do these things, but they will not help you to stand firm in your shoes of peace.
Notice the wisdom of Solomon in this matter of keeping silent:
- “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise” (Pr. 10:19)
- “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Pr. 12:18)
- “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered” (Pr. 17:27)
- “Do not speak to a fool, for he will scorn the wisdom of your words” (Pr. 23:9).
- “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself” (Ps. 26:4).
- “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down” (Pr. 26:20).
- “As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife” (Pr. 26:21).
- “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words…Do not let your mouth lead you into sin…Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God” (Ecc. 5:2, 3, 6a, 7).
As you can probably guess, the second option you have in the face of spat-out, in-your-face intimidation, is to remain silent before your accuser. Jesus is our example in this. Even though He was oppressed and afflicted, He did not open His mouth. Like a sheep before her shearers is silent, He chose to hold His peace (Isa. 53:7). His strong, silent stance was a testament to the firm grip He had on His God-given peace as a child of God and a recipient of God’s loving care.
All of the above verses caution us to keep quiet under duress. Too many words – unrehearsed, un-prayed-through, and unsurrendered – become a gateway for more sin. Sin upon sin creates a bulging wall that will collapse (Isa 30:12-13). To keep a firm grip, to make sure your shoes of peace are stoutly solid, you need to clap a hand over your mouth. Solomon exhorts us that many words are meaningless anyway.
So what should you do to keep your peace? In your heart, lift the oppressive lies to heaven. Cry out with your soul to the only One who really matters (Ps. 55:17, 57:2). He knows your heart. He sees your oppression. He understands your hurt. And He can and will do something about it (Ps. 34:17, 72:12). Peace with God guarantees a Father who will act on behalf of His child. Peace from God infuses that same child with a stalwart, unwavering trust, even under stormy fire.
Precious believer, stand in awe of the God who has given you the sturdy, firm shoes of peace. Holding your peace is the first practical step for how you can stand firm.
O – Obey your King’s commands
The people of Jerusalem held their peace. It was probably not their first inclination, but they were following orders. Verse 21 says that they said nothing in reply to the field commander because their king had commanded that they refrain from answering the Assyrian.
Imagine an entire city, silent before its accusers. Thousands of people; some of them even new to the city because they were seeking asylum from the demise of Lachish. People who were cramped, backed into a corner, and tired of besiegement. People who were displaced from their homes, living on charity, and sharing with strangers. Jerusalem was a powder keg of negative possibilities. The environment was ripe for unrighteous thoughts, words and actions. All that was needed to ignite an inferno of unrighteous behavior was for one spark of bitterness, one raised voice in anger, and one person to go through those gates half-cocked.
But that spark never came. Why? Because they humbled themselves under their king’s authority. Because they surrendered to his wishes. Because they chose to listen to his wise counsel not to engage in the war of words. Friends, the spark was never lit because those Judeans put on their breastplate of righteousness. All in all, except for the power of God in that city and on their hearts, they could never have pulled of this great feat of obedience. It was a righteous miracle.
Just like those folks in Jerusalem, our King has given us many commands. The Torah has 613 commands, while the New Testament contains 1050 commands for us to follow. The Christian Assemblies International has compiled all of these 1050 commands into 800 sub-headings, which “cover every phase of man’s life in his relationship to God and his fellowmen, now and hereafter. If obeyed, they will bring rich rewards…if disobeyed, they will bring condemnation and eternal punishment” (www.abc.net.au).
I do not know about you, but having a huge list of do’s and don’ts does not motivate me to obey. Even knowing that disobedience leads to condemnation and eternal punishment is a not an incentive to drop my desires in order to obey God. Yes, God wants us to obey Him, but the obedience must grow out of an intimate relationship. When I actively live in the peace of God, I come to know His love. This sure and steady knowledge of His everlasting love for me keeps me on the path of integrity; it guards me in righteousness. I remain in His love by obeying His commands (Jn. 15:9-11).
Integrity is not the ability to follow a list of do’s and don’ts. It is a lifestyle of walking in God’s intimate peace. It is a constant state of hearing the King’s voice say, “This is the way; walk in it” (Isa. 30:21).
Every day, as I sit in the Scriptures and allow the King’s logos to flow over my wayward heart, He speaks rhema words into my life, “Heather, confess your pride. Heather, speak this word of encouragement to that person. Heather, pray for this need. Heather, come and sit in my arms.”
You see, the King is intimate. The King is loving. The King is personal. All you have to do to put on the breastplate of righteousness each day is come into your King’s presence. Stand at the crossroads of intimacy every single morning. Look at what God has ahead for you. Ask for the ancient paths. Ask where the good way is. He will show you the way you should go (Ps. 48:14). All you have to do is walk hand-in-hand with Jesus in the path that He offers, in order to find rest for your soul (paraphrase of Jer. 6:16).
There will be times when you do not listen. Satan’s voice of denunciation will ring the loudest in your ears at that moment. More than doubt, more than deception, Satan will use words of condemnation and guilt to paralyze your integrity. Don’t believe a word of it. If you confess your sin, God will forgive it and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9).
I did use the word ‘all’ for a reason, because that is what Love does. It forgives all. It washes all. It welcomes, embraces, and forgets all, except for the fact that He will never forget you. You are engraved on the palms of His hands (Isa 49:16). He will restore your soul and guide you back into the path of righteousness – for His name’s sake (Ps. 23:3).
So what should you do to maintain your righteousness? Keep very short accounts with God and others. Get to know this righteous God of yours; I mean, really know Him, so that you are completely satisfied with His likeness (Ps. 9:8) Ask Him to lead you in righteousness (Ps. 5:8) and deliver you from unrighteousness (Ps. 31:1). Pray for His precepts to sink deep into your heart (Ps. 119:40) so that you can stand in the full integrity of His spiritual armor.
Dear one, stand in awe of this One whose righteousness is like the mighty mountains (Ps. 36:6). They do not shake under gathering storm clouds and if you embrace God as your mighty Stronghold of integrity, you will stand firm, covered in the breastplate of righteousness. Obeying your God is the second practical step for how you can stand firm.
W – Wait on God’s truth
After the people of Judah held their peace, and after they obeyed their king, they chose to act in one more firm way: they waited. The NIV version of verse 21 reads like this, “But the people remained silent…”
That word ‘remain’ has many meanings, but three of them are important to our text today: a) to continue to exist, especially after other similar or related people or things have ceased to exist; b) to stay in the place that one has been occupying; c) to continue to possess a particular quality or fulfill a particular role. Synonyms for this word include endure, last, abide, persist, prevail, stay, wait, linger, hold on, rest, continue to be, go on being, etc” (google search for definition of remain).
Waiting on God is hard, especially when your body is pushing you either to fight or flee. Imagine the butterflies of fear in the stomachs of these Judean survivors. Destruction is waiting at their door. The enemy is calling them out. Their nerves are shot. Their anxiety is through the roof. The flesh’s tendency in this nerve-wracking time is to charge into the fray in one’s own strength, or to run away as fast as is possible.
This is the flesh’s response, but you and I are called to live by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 25). The Spirit enables us to put to death the natural misdeeds of the body (Rom. 8:13). He enables us to refuse the gratifications of the sinful nature. We do this simply by keeping in step with the Spirit.
Keeping in step with the Spirit is a synonymous thought with remaining, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you” (Jn. 15:4). Don’t jump off of the Vine. Don’t move ahead of God’s timing. Satan will try to hoodwink you into thinking that you have got to do something – NOW! But it is a deceptive ploy. Just keep telling yourself to maintain equal step with the Spirit. Keep walking in truth.
The belt of truth must be attached around your vital organs at all times. Truth begets belief in the Gospel of peace and intimacy (“To the Jews who had believed him…are really my disciples” – John 8:31a,c). Intimacy fosters integrity, which covers the heart with righteousness (“If you hold to my teaching…” – John 8:31b). This intimacy and integrity lead to a greater knowledge of the truth of your identity (“Then you will know the truth…” – John 8:32a). And that knowledge of truth will set you free (John 8:32b).
All along the way, Satan will come at you in a war of words. He will cause you to doubt your peace. He will denunciate your integrity, bringing up sin after sin that is already covered by the blood. He will deceive you into thinking you are nothing in Christ, instead of being a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).
So, instead of giving in to fear and running away, and instead of acting in pride and fighting your battles in your flesh, you need to stand firm. Standing implies no movement forward or backward. You must remain stationary, maintaining a firm upright position, established in peace, righteousness, and truth. In short, you will need to learn to wait on God.
Waiting seems like a very passive stance, but I can assure you from life’s hard experience, that waiting is far from passive. It requires aggressive action; not in the body, but in the mind. Until God gives you a command to fulfill or a promise to act on, you must remain, but remain in truth.
So what should you do to wait on the Lord in truth? You can start by praying, “In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation? (Ps. 5:3). Cast your cares on Him because He cares for you (1 Pet. 5:7) and while you are waiting for the answer, you cultivate that beautiful attitude of expectation. He will answer; be sure of that. So while you are remaining, wait on that truth with expectation.
Another mindful action you can take while you are waiting on God is to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Be brave and courageous, not in your strength or ability, but in God’s almighty omnipotence. “Don’t give up; don’t be impatient; be entwined as one with the Lord. Be brave and courageous, and never lose hope. Yes, keep on waiting – for he will never disappoint you” (Ps. 27:14 – The Passion Translation)! Wait on God by taking courage from His Word, His truths.
The psalmist further encourages us in this active mode of waiting, “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and shield” (Ps. 33:20). Hope is an explosive word. It galvanizes the powerless, ignites the dampened fires. Hope stirs the sleeping and prods the weak forward. It is our hope in God’s unfailing love that keeps our spirits alive in times of hopelessness (Ps. 33:18-19). Hope, then, is a powerful attitude to inculcate into your arsenal. Wait for the Lord and put your hope in His truth (Ps. 130:5).
Waiting also includes patience. “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes” (Ps. 37:7). When you make the choice to stand firm in your circumstances, you are consciously choosing to be still before God. In case you did not know, being still before God helps you to know Him better. As you focus on knowing Him in the waiting period, you will come to know Him as God. You will see Him exalted among the nations and in the earth (Ps. 46:10). Being still without fretting opens up all of your senses to perceive the work of God all around you. Cultivating patience in God’s timing and ways helps you to stand still in truth.
Lastly, waiting on God requires obedience. Your breastplate of righteousness is no good to you if you are fraternizing with the enemy. Waiting on the Lord means you will have to keep His ways and follow His commands (Ps. 37:34, 119:166). But then, if you do obey, He will exalt you to your inheritance and you will eventually see the demise of your enemy (Ps. 37:34b). Obedient waiting is a must if you are ever to stand firm in the truth.
O firm-standing child, remain in awe of the Spirit of truth, for He will guide you into all truth (Jn. 16:13). Deception may roll at you in waves, but if you are trained in the art of waiting on God, you will withstand the onslaught. Waiting on God in truth is your third practical step to stand firm.
Standing Firm – Today
So there you have it. H.O.W. can you stand firm in the Lord? You must learn to hold your peace. You must desire to obey your King’s commands, and you must maintain a wait in truth. If you can keep these three thoughts at the forefront of your mind, words and actions, you will understand true intimacy, abundant identity and sound integrity. All of this leads to Principle #9: In the eye of the storm, trust stands firm in truth, righteousness and peace.
This has been a hard week. I have needed to write to fight the spiritual battles assaulting my mind. One morning I came down from my devotions quite overwhelmed by all the expectations I felt God was laying before me; impossible expectations I did not feel I could fulfill. My desk had not been a Gethsemane moment. There had been no surrender and I felt sick about my inability to comply with what I felt God was asking me to do.
I turned on my phone, which miraculously transmits the streamed sounds of my local Christian radio station in Pennsylvania. The first song that came over the air-waves stopped me in my tracks. You’ve got to have a premonition of what I am about to say, don’t you? The first words I heard were: “In the eye of the storm/You remain in control/In the middle of the war/You guard my soul/You alone are the anchor/When my sails are torn/Your love surrounds me/In the eye of the storm” (see lyrics by Ryan Stevenson).
How like God to comfort instead of exhort, to encourage instead of rebuke. I was uplifted in the core of my soul by the knowledge of a God who could wrap my own devotional theme around the tattered edges of my storm-tossed mind. Peace like a river swamped my mind. Righteousness – God’s gracious righteousness – became my undoing. The tender truth of my Abba soothed my inner turmoil. I was safe in the eye of the storm and standing there on my kitchen floor, with my spatula in my upraised hand, I gave myself up to the only One who could guard what I have entrusted to Him.
Precious reader, you may be in the eye of the storm today. Do not give up! God has a good plan for you on the other side of the whirlwind. Stand firm, for as you hold your peace, as you obey, and as you wait on God, you will experience fruit (Jn. 15:3), answered prayer (Jn. 15:7), a show of discipleship (Jn. 15:8), a life of obedience (Jn. 15:10), complete joy (Jn. 15:11), a supernatural love for others (Jn 15:12), and a knowledge imparted from Jesus (Jn. 15:15). Your life will be free of doubt, denunciation and deception, for “Love and Truth (will) meet in (your) street, Right Living and Whole Living (will) embrace and kiss! Truth (will) sprout green from the ground, Right Living (will) pour down from the skies” (Ps. 85:10-11 – MSG)!
You also, by the way, will be safe in the eye of your storm.