Stand Firm

We are in a war and it is real. The enemy is relentless. The battle does not get easier with time and it can be exhausting. Yet in the Bible we learn that the battle is not uncertain, the turf is not individual, the enemy’s schemes are not unknown, nor is our strategy a mystery.

It is natural when under attack to fight or flee, yet what we discover is that we cannot hide from the attack and we are often too weak to fight on our own. There is another option—a better option. God’s primary battle strategy for trials, suffering, doubt, discouragement, and spiritual warfare is to “stand firm.” There are more than a dozen situations in Scripture where God or his messengers told those in difficult circumstances to stand firm. Within each of these real life stories we learn about the multifaceted battle and God’s strategy of standing firm.

Moses and the Red Sea

After the tenth and final plague, Pharaoh had lost his firstborn son. Egypt was swimming in a sea of sorrow. Moses didn’t have to beg Pharaoh to leave; Pharaoh asked Moses and the Israelites to leave in a hurry (Exodus 12:29-33).

When the Israelites arrived at the shore of the Red Sea they were stuck. Pharaoh knew this and he had a change of heart. He recruited a revenge army and chased after the Israelites.

In their rearview mirror, the Israelites saw the dust clouds from chariots and the glistening swords from Pharaoh’s army barreling towards them. They feared greatly and they cried out to the Lord. Moses responded,

“Fear not, stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:13)

It sounds like odd advice. The Israelites had no weapons. They were slaves. They had no place to run. They were pinned between the army and the sea. However, God had a plan. God asked Moses to put his staff into the sea, the sea split and the Israelites passed through on dry ground. When Pharaoh and his chariots tried to pass, the sea closed and drown them. That day the Egyptians saw who was the Lord and the Israelites learned to trust the Lord. The Lord won the day.

Jehoshaphat’s Prayer and Interruption

In a similar situation to Moses and Pharaoh’s army, king Jehoshaphat was being hotly pursued by a vicious horde. He was afraid. He knew his army was powerless. So he sought the Lord and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah to seek help from the Lord.

Jehoshaphat stood before the men, women and children, not knowing what to do other than call upon the Lord. He said,

“O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.” (2 Chronicles 20:6)

The king knew who God was. He heard stories told by his father’s how God fought for his people. He recalled from Abraham to the present day how God had driven out their enemies and they built altars to praise God. With a fierce army at their doorstep, he said no matter what they would stand before the house of God and before God (v.9).

As Jehoshaphat was speaking, the Spirit of the Lord came upon a man in the assembly named Jahaziel. He interrupted the king by saying,

“Listen everyone, including you King Jehoshaphat, Thus says the Lord, “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s…You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf.” (vs. 15-17)

After Jehoshaphat heard this he bowed to worship God knowing only God could save them. The next day the king went out before the people and charged them to believe that they heard. They sang a song to the Lord before the army, “Give thanks to the Lord for his steadfast love endures forever.” (v.21) At that exact time God set an ambush upon the enemy armies. Again, God won the battle that day.

Job’s Friend Gives Good Bad Advice

Job lost everything: his family, his home, his herds, and his health. Job’s friends came to him to offer their advice and were quick to point to his sin as the result for his calamity. In other words, you must have done something bad to have all this bad happen to you. They didn’t have great theology nor did they know God was allowing Satan to sift Job. Even though Job’s friends didn’t understand and missed the diagnosis they did give some good advice,

“Yet if you devote your heart to [God]
and stretch out your hands to him,
if you put away the sin that is in your hand
and allow no evil to dwell in your tent,
then, free of fault, you will lift up your face;
you will stand firm and without fear.
You will surely forget your trouble,
recalling it only as waters gone by.” (Job 11:13-16)

In the right place with the right proof, it would have been good advice. Job may have lost everything, but truly he had everything. He stood firm in what he knew about God,

“Then Job answered the Lord and said:
“I know that You can do all things,
and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”” (Job 42:1-3)

Indeed, God was with Job, even in the middle of such great loss and evil. His story is written for our example, “Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:11)

Ethan the Ezrahite’s Song

In Psalm 89, there is a beautiful song about the steadfast love of God. The song was written by a wiseman named Ethan who lived sometime after King David. There isn’t a lot we know about Ethan, but his song captures God’s forever faithfulness from creation through to the generations of David. A time when God crushed many enemies for his people. Speaking for God and his promises to his people, Ethan writes,

“My steadfast love I will keep for him forever,
and my covenant will stand firm for him.” (v.28)

Here God is the One who stands firm (cf. Psalm 33:11; 93:5). He is a covenant keeping God who always keeps his end of the deal. He is unchanging, immoveable, and steadfast. He is compared to as a Rock, a fortress, and a strong tower.

David also wrote a song similar to Ethan,

“I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.” (Psalm 40:1-3)

David who was in many sticky situations surround by armies and headhunters knew the steadfastness and faithfulness of God. He saw firsthand how God fought for him and kept his promises. Like David, Ethan believed God was a covenant keeping God even in catastrophic circumstance. He trusted that a Promised One would rule and reign from David’s lineage.

Solomon’s Wisdom

Solomon picked up where his father David left off. When God offered Solomon anything he wanted (cf. 1 Kings 3) all he wanted was wisdom. This pleased God and God made Solomon the wisest man ever to live. In his book of wisdom, Solomon says, “When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever.” (Proverbs 10:25)

In other words, tempests of trials will come. The wind will gust, the rain will pour, the lightning will crack, and the floods will rage. The wicked will be swept away because they have unsure and untested footing, but those who are firm in God will endure forever.

Notice the proverb doesn’t shirk from the reality that life has storms or the consequences of not standing firm God. This small proverb offers hope and assurance as an anchor for the soul during the storms life brings.

Isaiah and the Sign of Immanuel

In the reign of king Ahaz, when he was marching to fight against Jerusalem to no avail, the Sovereign Lord gave a promise, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” (Isaiah 7:9) So the Lord gave a sign to Ahaz whether he asked for it of not.

By his messenger, Isaiah, God spoke and he said, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (v.14) What might have sounded like brief word then, was chalked full of meaning. Isaiah foretold a time when a Messianic hope would come and make all that’s wrong in the world right.

For king Ahaz and Israel the call was to stand firm in the faith that God who would deliver his people. Whether that was to happen immediate or not in their lifetime was unsure, but what was sure was God’s promise.

Isaiah and the Idols of Babylon

What Isaiah saw was horrific. He saw Israel ransacked and taken into captivity. Although he prophesied and warned Israel to turn back to the Lord, they ignored him and sadly what said came to pass. The people of Israel were shackled as slaves and ushered to Babylon. God was using a wicked nation to punish the apple of his eye. Yet in the midst of the chaos and confusion, God bring a clarifying promise,

“Remember this and stand firm,
recall it to mind, you transgressors,
remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like Me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all My purpose” (Isaiah 46:8-10)

God promised to accomplish his purpose, which was to purify his people. A remnant would remain that would not bow to foreign gods, but would trust in the Most High God as in the days of old. As the people were walking from the rubble and destruction of Jerusalem to an unknown land Isaiah was calling the people to remember God, his unchanging character, his wise counsel, and stand firm because,

“I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off,
and my salvation will not delay;
I will put salvation in Zion,
for Israel my glory.” (v.13)

Ezekiel’s Warning

Ezekiel the prophet had just as difficult a job trying to convince the people of Israel to listen to God. He was alone standing against the flow of humanity. The other prophets of God had scattered and become scavengers in the land. They, like the people, turned from trusting in the Spirit of God. Worse yet, they led the people astray and into captivity. The Lord didn’t have good words for them,

“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! Your prophets, Israel, are like jackals among ruins. You have not gone up to the breaches in the wall to repair it for the people of Israel so that it will stand firm in the battle on the day of the Lord.” (Ezekiel 13:3-5)

When the prophets should have unified to help the people fortify their faith and prepared the people to stand firm they acting as the enemy. In reality, they were playing into the hand of the enemy. It was a hard lesson for the people of God. In the end, God would win the day, “I will save my people from your hands. And then you will know that I am the Lord.” (v.23)

Jesus Prepares His Disciples for Persecution

Jesus ministry on earth was short. He came as the Messiah, but not to fulfill that role completely. He came to prepare his followers by saying the last days will be difficult. Nations will be at each others throats. Wars will be commonplace. Creation will be in upheaval. Persecution will be escalated. Families will be torn apart. Believers and followers of Jesus will be hated as they hated Jesus. It will not be a pretty picture.

Yet in the midst of the doom and gloom Jesus promises that not one hair will be missing from the heads of his followers. He says, “Stand firm, and you will win life.” (Luke 21:19; cf. Matthew 10:17-22; 24; Mark 13) And continues, “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” (v.36)

Paul Encourages the Young Churches

Paul knew that following Jesus was difficult. He experienced firsthand the physical, emotional, and spiritual battle from the front lines. He also knew the joy of walking with Jesus in the most wretched of circumstances.

Paul was pastoral and cared deeply for the young church. Paul would encourage these first generation Christians was by writing letters as he traveled. The letters were sent throughout the Roman Empire from modern-day Turkey to Greece to Rome. The beauty is that we still have these letters today and can be encouraged by them generations later.

Writing as one who had been-there-and-done-that, Paul frequently encouraged the church to stand firm. As Pastor Paul shepherds struggling souls of the young church allow him to shepherd your soul.

On the resurrection:

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:56-58)

On rapid-fire commands and last words:

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13)

On a change of plans:

“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come… Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.” (2 Corinthians 1:21-24)

On the freedom we have in Christ:

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

On the armor of God:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 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, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,” (Ephesians 6:10-18)

On a life worthy of the gospel:

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him,” (Philippians 1:27-29)

On straining towards the goal:

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” (Philippians 3:20-4:1)

On one’s identity in Christ:

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation — if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.” (Colossians 1:21-23)

On encouraging gospel partners:

“Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” (Colossians 4:12)

On the responsibility of the community of faith:

“But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-17)

After reading through these snit bits from Paul’s letters, we find our faith being bolstered too. If Paul encourages the early church this way, how much more should we be encouraging one another to stand firm?

Peter Encourages the Persecuted Church

Peter’s early life was a rollercoaster. He was impulsive, his mouth and temper often got him into messes and he blew it bad. As difficult as it is to read Peter’s life we can easily relate.

It is beautiful to watch Peter’s relationship with Jesus. Through it all, Jesus never give up on Peter. He loved Peter. He worked with Peter where he was at.

Later in the book of Acts, we see a new Peter. A Peter who has repented, redeemed from past shame and is restored with God. Peter grows bold in his faith, shares it unashamedly, and becomes a conduit of grace. Peter went on to write two letters still in the Bible. It is clear from his words he became a counselor and pastor who deeply loved people (aka: sheep). From a pastoral heart he writes,

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Pt. 5:6-11)

The audience to whom Peter wrote were experiencing persecution from outside the church, inside the church and within their very souls. Peter doesn’t encourage the hard-pressed to fight or flee, but to simply crawl under the mighty hand of God who promises to crush their foe at the proper time. God is the safest haven in times of suffering.

James Eyes the Lord’s Coming

James was the younger half-brother of Jesus. According to James, growing up next to Jesus was a little over-the-top, but as he grew older he realized that Jesus was who he claimed to be. His brother, Jesus, became his Savior too. Just read how he writes about him,

“Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” (James 5:7-11)

James’ tells his brothers and sisters in the faith to stand firm. If Jesus said he will return surely he will keep is word. Jesus has kept all his words and promises and hasn’t gone back on any of them. Just as he waited for the right time to reveal God’s plan, he endured the cross despising the shame and the result was the salvation of our souls. Perseverance through pain, trials and suffering promises great results.

It is waiting that is often the hardest, especially if in the waiting one faces hardships. One can question, “When will it end? When are you coming?” Or like the Psalmist, “How long, oh Lord?”

Application: How to Stand Firm

Surely you can find yourself somewhere in the stories above where God’s people are encouraged to stand firm in difficult situations. The scenarios and the enemy is universal. These stories are a goldmine for the soul. They are bricks for fortifying the faith. Yet applying the charge to stand firm can be easier said than done. How do you stand firm?

Standing firm is active.

Standing firm is an act of readiness. Think of a soldier who has a shield and sword in hand, even when asleep his weapons are at his side. When awake his feet are firmly planted in the soil. The weapons of warfare in Ephesians 6, all but one (the sword), are weapons of readiness. The weapons ultimately focus on Christ and what you have in him, not what you have within yourself.

Standing firm is an act of endurance. Standing firm is not the same thing as standing still. To stand firm means you embrace faith while you wait out the storm of trials and suffering or while you await the coming of the Lord. In your relationship with God, he is the strongman. He does the fighting for you. He gives and grows the faith. When you stand firm you get a front row seat to see how God acts on your behalf.

Standing firm is directly attached to belief in the character and promises of God.

Standing firm is founded on what you know about God and his Word. God’s character is sure. His promises are kept. The two are not to be separated. For example, if we believe in the promise that God will deliver we must also believe that God is good, merciful, and loving while we wait to be delivered.

Standing firm is the opposite of fearing. When we are not standing firm we are freaking out. We have the same response as Israel when they saw Pharaoh’s army or Jehoshaphat in hot pursuit. When the odds seem stacked against us and defeat seems inevitable we are tempted to fear by fighting or fleeing. Both responses show our eyes are on what we can do and not on God with us.

Standing firm is never done alone.

Standing firm is only possible by the power of Christ. On our own we are weak, but with the Spirit of Christ we have the power to stand. Jesus knows the full weight of temptation, suffering and hardships. He endured through the power given to him by his Father. That same power is available to us who are in Christ. If we stand alone we will will falter, but with Christ we will have victory.

Standing firm is best done with other believers. An army of one does not mean one soldier, but an army of one is a massive global community of soldiers standing firm together under the banner of Christ. The life of Christ is meant to be lived in community with other followers of Christ. Standing together is better than standing alone. It is so encouraging to know that there are others who are enduring with you. Timothy calls this life the “good fight” (1 Timothy 1:18; 6:12) One day the enemy will face his certain demise, but until then standing firm against the enemy is necessary.

Standing firm adamantly resists the wiles of the world.

The enemy is cunning, crafty, and relentless. Yet God is sovereign, powerful, and wise. God has Satan on a leash. God has his purposes for Satan in the world. This does not mean Satan is not powerful and good at what he does. He is, therefore we must be adamant about resisting the enemy (1 Peter 5:9; James 4:7), refusing to give him an opportunity (Ephesians 4:27), and standing firm against his schemes (Ephesians 6:11).

“Resist the devil, and he will flee from you!” (James 4:7). It is interesting that as we stand firm by resisting it is the devil who flees not us. Again, the power to resist is not our willpower, but the power is in the blood. Look at Revelation 12:11, “They have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Victory is possible in Christ by his blood. The blood of Jesus conquered the grave and wiles of Satan. It is by the blood of Jesus that we have power to resist too.

As this world keeps on spinning and Satan keeps raging, Jesus calls us to wartime prayer, “Watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36). Also, Peter encourages a similar end-time prayer, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7).

Jesus himself battled against the devil on our behalf with the weapon of prayer. He said to his friend Peter in Luke 22:31–32, “Satan has asked to have you that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” Isn’t it powerful to know that Jesus intercedes this prayer on our behalf?

Summary

The call to “stand firm” appears throughout the entire Bible from cover to cover, especially in critical moments of battle, temptation, persecution, or societal decay. It is a powerful and encouraging little phrase.

We are in a war and the war is real. The question is not whether you want to be in the war. You are in it. Everyone is in it. Either you are living defeated fighting in your own strength and fleeing in fear or you are standing firm.

Standing firm in faith has good results. Paul, a man who knew a lot about suffering for the sake of Christ, encouraged his younger colleague, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3), and “wage the good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18). Did you notice he called the warfare ‘good’? Why would he use that adjective? You might think of a million others words other than ‘good’. Yet Paul is on to something true. As Paul looks back, he sees how God used all the hardship, discouragement, endurance, suffering for good, particularly the good of his faith.

Jesus was the champion of Paul’s faith. He is also the champion of our faith. Jesus is no less a warrior today than in the days of Paul, Moses, Peter, Job or Jehoshaphat. So I call you as God and his messengers did: Stand firm in your faith as willing soldiers fixing your eyes on Jesus the Prince of Peace and the King of kings.

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Questions for skeptics and contradiction seekers

I realize skeptics are the ones with questions. However, wise Christians should have good questions too, especially for skeptics. Questions help those with questions to think and reason out loud. Here are some good questions to consider when dialoging with a skeptic or contradiction seeker:

1. In the light of modern science, can you give reasons why Christians can continue to believe the Bible? This question turns the science debate on its head and seeks to help them think how is the Bible and Christianity is logical and rational scientifically.

2. Do you have a hard time accepting history as fact? Do you have a hard time believing that old things can be as true as new things? If so, why? This questions tries to get the hearer to consider new is not always better and old is not always bad.

3. Have you recently read the Bible through in its entirety? How have the alleged contradictions affected the theology or overall message of the Bible? This is a good question because most skeptics have not read the Bible through completely or chronologically. The Bible has an amazing cohesiveness when read altogether.

4. How do you explain the preservation and reliability of the Bible? Can that help answer some of your questions? If not, why? This question gets people thinking about how the Bible has stayed around so long and changed so many lives through the centuries.

5. What would make the Bible and Christianity more believable to you? This question helps you see where their doubts or questions really are rooted.

I am sure there are more questions you could ask. Do you have other questions that you’ve asked that help open up the heart of the skeptic or contradiction seeker.

6 suggestions when talking to skeptics or someone with doubts

If you care about people and risk talking to the doubting, the skeptical, the confused, and the angry, you will soon run into a person who says to your counsel: I’ve tried that. Whatever you say, they will minimize it and say it doesn’t work or is unbelievable. Do not be surprised at this response. This is what it means to be doubting, skeptical, confused, and angry. It means that whatever they hear sounds pointless. Here are six suggestions when dialoging with people like this:

1. Keep Calm.

Resist the temptation to be offended. Don’t pout or take your ball and go home. That’s what you may feel like. They wanted to talk; in many cases, they gave you a question airing their doubts or concerns. Don’t leave. Don’t give up. Not yet. “Love suffers long” (1 Corinthians 13:4). Be humble and teachable too. God might have something to teach you through their questions and doubts.

2. Listen.

Listen to their responses. This is the number one way to show you care about what they are saying. Part of your power is not only what you say, but how they feel about the way you listen. If your truth produces empathetic ears, it will feel more compelling. This listening will be a witness. In 2 Timothy 2:24–26, Paul describes the kind of engagement that may set people free from sin and error. One feature is “patiently enduring evil.”

3. Don’t Panic.

Sometimes we don’t have the answers, or easy answers. As Christians we think we should have all the answer because we have the Bible and the Holy Spirit, but there are a lot of things the Bible does not explain fully or the Holy Spirit does not reveal. Some answers will have to be left undone. If there is an answer, but your just don’t know or remember be humble enough to say, “I don’t know, but I will get back to you on that.” Just make sure you do get back to them on that.

4. Let the gospel lead your answer.

It is tempting to try to win an argument, but that’s not winning them to Christ. In fact, you might be driving them away. Being defensive and saying the doubters doubts are stupid repels people away from your message. Let the gospel Christ’s amazing grace shine through your words and actions more than your polished answer to their question. When you have spoken all the counsel you can think of, and they seem to have no effect, don’t let them have the last word of despair. You leave the last word of hope.

You might consider saying some like, “I know that you don’t feel very helped by what I have said. I think I understand some of what that’s like. I don’t mean to be offering a quick fix, as though your questions or doubts can be turned around that easily. But I have more hope than you do that God’s truth is powerful and will have its good effect in due time. May I share one more thing before you go?

I simply want to make sure you hear the best news in the world. Jesus said He spoke so that we would have peace (John 16:33). And Paul said that faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). You don’t feel this right now. But God says peace and faith come from hearing. I will pray that the obstacles to peace-filled faith in your mind will be overcome by these truths. Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Meditate on these verses. May the Lord give you light.”

5. Pray.

Remember, it is not your savvy answers or smooth oratory that will convince the skeptic or contraction seeker of the truth. It is solely the Word of God by the Spirit of God that can change a heart and mind. It is difficult to understand truth if one does not have the indwelling Holy Spirit. Pray for the blinders to be lifted from their eyes and His light to come into their darkened understanding.

6. Pray and pray again.

Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices

SATAN’S DEVICES TO DRAW THE SOUL TO SIN

  1. By presenting the bait and hiding the hook [4 remedies]
  2. By painting sin with virtue’s colors [4remedies]
  3. By the extenuating and lessening of sin [7 remedies]
  4. By showing to the soul the best men’s sins and by hiding from the soul their virtues, their sorrows, and their repentance [3 remedies]
  5. By presenting God to the soul as One made up all of mercy [5 remedies]
  6. By persuading the soul that repentance is easy and that therefore the soul need not scruple about sinning [6 remedies]
  7. By making the soul bold to venture upon the occasions of sin [2 remedies]
  8. By representing to the soul the outward mercies enjoyed by men walking in sin, and their freedom from outward miseries [8 remedies]
  9. By presenting to the soul the crosses, losses, sorrows and sufferings that daily attend those who walk in the ways of holiness [7 remedies]
  10. By causing saints to compare themselves and their ways with those reputed to be worse than themselves [3 remedies]
  11. By polluting the souls and judgments of men with dangerous errors that lead to looseness and wickedness [7 remedies]
  12. By leading men to choose wicked company [4 remedies]

SATAN’S DEVICES TO KEEP SOULS FROM HOLY DUTIES, TO HINDER SOULS IN HOLY SERVICES, TO KEEP THEM OFF FROM RELIGIOUS PERFORMANCES

  1. By presenting the world in such a garb as to ensnare the soul [7 remedies]
  2. By presenting to the soul the dangers, losses and sufferings that accompany the performance of certain religious duties [5 remedies]
  3. By presenting to the soul the difficulty of performing religious duties [5 remedies]
  4. By causing saints to draw false inferences from the blessed and glorious things that Christ has done [5 remedies]
  5. By presenting to view the fewness and poverty of those who hold to religious practices [6 remedies]
  6. By showing saints that the majority of men make light of God’s ways and walk in the ways of their own hearts [3 remedies]
  7. By casting in vain thoughts while the soul is seeking God or waiting on God [7 remedies]
  8. By tempting Christians to rest in their performances [4 remedies]

SATAN’S DEVICES TO KEEP SAINTS IN A SAD, DOUBTING, QUESTIONING AND UNCOMFORTABLE CONDITION

  1. By causing saints to remember their sins more than their Savior, yes, even to forget and neglect their Savior [6 remedies]
  2. By causing saints to make false definitions of their graces [4 remedies]
  3. By causing saints to make false inferences from the cross actings of Providence [4 remedies]
  4. By suggesting to saints that their graces are not true, but counterfeit [2 remedies]
  5. By suggesting to saints that the conflict that is in them is found also in hypocrites and profane souls [6 remedies]
  6. By suggesting to the saint who has lost joy and comfort that his state is not good [5 remedies]
  7. By reminding the saint of his frequent relapses into sin formerly repented of and prayed against [6 remedies]
  8. By persuading saints that their state is not good nor their graces sound [3 remedies]

SATAN’S DEVICES TO DESTROY AND ENSNARE ALL SORTS AND RANKS OF MEN IN THE WORLD DEVICES AGAINST THE GREAT AND HONORABLE OF THE EARTH


  1. By causing them to seek greatness, position, riches and security [6 remedies]
  2. By causing them to act against the people of the Most High [5 remedies]

DEVICE AGAINST THE LEARNED AND THE WISE

By moving them to pride themselves on their parts and abilities, and to despise men of greater grace but inferior abilities [4 remedies]

DEVICE AGAINST THE SAINTS

By dividing them and causing them to ‘bite and devour one another.’ [12 remedies]

DEVICE AGAINST POOR AND IGNORANT SOULS

By causing them to affect ignorance and to neglect and despise the means of knowledge [4 remedies]

FIVE MORE OF SATAN’S DEVICES

  1. 
By suggesting to men the greatness and vileness of their sins [8 Remedies]
  2. By suggesting to sinners their unworthiness [4 Remedies]
  3. By suggesting to sinners their want of certain preparations and qualifications [3 Remedies]
  4. By suggesting to sinners that Christ Is unwilling to save them [6 Remedies]
  5. By causing sinners to give more attention to the secret decrees and counsels of God than to their own duty [2 Remedies]

Adapted from Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by Thomas Brooks. [download PDF] It’s time to read a classic book. There is nothing like an old Puritan book from the 1600’s!.

not alone

Have you ever been picked last during the gym class lineup? In elementary school, I used to be skinnier than a twig, but as fast as a gazelle. You’d think I would be an ideal candidate for dodge ball, but all the strong guns and smack mouths got picked above me.

Or have you ever been ignored from participating in an important project at work when you thought you’d be the one for the job? Or have you been left out of a discussion at church when you thought you had the gifts to help? It might be that in a similar situation it is common for you to become angry, fearful, or lonely.

When Jesus died. He left the disciples all alone, but not really. Though He promised a Helper would come, He was nowhere to be found, at least to their eyes. So they did what anyone would do. They went back to work, mending the nets. They did not know they were supposed to carry on the work of Christ ASAP. Like little kids, who had just been asked to do their jobs might have thought, “You mean when you said, “Go therefore and make disciples,” You meant, right now? Oh!”

So after Jesus rose from the grave He came to His followers and gave them some last words. His last words were a charge to the troops, an assignment to His students, and order from the throne,

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)

Like the disciples, you are not alone. You have the power. The power and the presence of the Holy Spirit. He goes with you always until the end of your life.

can you rewind the tape please?

I used to live with my grandparents during my elementary years. I remember my reward for good behavior was a trip with grandma to the mall and visit to McDonalds. Now McDonalds back in the day was not like the massive metro-play-lands that they are today. It was just a sit-down meal in a box with a toy, commonly known as a Happy Meal. I would always get the fish filet, fries, with orange High-C. I loved those Happy Meals with grandma.

The Bible talks about another Happy Meal [John 6:1-14]. Jesus had performed a fish filet and French fry Hebrew Happy Meal miracle for 5000 people. His popularity was at an all-time high. After this miracle everyone wanted to crown Jesus King [not the burger King, v.15]. Jesus had something else in mind. How about taking a boat trip? What? So Jesus’ 12-followers boarded a boat across the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum and Jesus meets them later taking a stroll on the water [6:16-24].

Meanwhile all the people who received the Happy Meal were looking for Jesus. What about another free meal? The crowds caught up with Jesus on the other side of the sea. Jesus was not looking to draw a big crowd. When crowds showed up Jesus would get all OCD [Operation Crowd Deduction]. Jesus says something really strange, “I know why you are here. You want another free meal.” [6:25-26] I could imagine what the disciples were thinking, “Jesus cool it. You got all these crowds captivated and you go ahead and say something crazy like this?” Jesus continues to talk about food, rather spiritual food and what really matters is relying on eternal food that on He can offer [6:27-29]. This brings about some serious questions in their minds:

“What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” [6:30-31] This brings up a Hebrew History 101 lesson. Do you remember the Sunday School lesson when the people of Israel were wandering in the wilderness and God miraculously feed them? The manna miracle proved to the Jewish people that Moses was their leader. The people were making the same connection with Jesus, but wanted more proof. However, Jesus was not interested in being some miracle producing David Copperfield, rather he answered their doubts and corrected their wrong thinking [6:32-33]. Doubts or questions either draw us to God or away from Him.

Jesus now gets controversial by removing the cape from a Jewish superheroes: Moses. And makes one of the most radical claims of all that either labels Him a lair, lunatic and/or Lord: He says He is the cosmic carbohydrate [6:35]. The disciples must have thought He flipped out. He even goes on to say cannibalistic things like, “eat my flesh and drink my blood.” Surely Christ’s career is over.

Sometimes it would be nice if life and God’s plans were recorded on DVD. Could I have season 8 please? There are times when watching a movie that I miss an important line or did not completely understand something. It is easy to rewind and replay. At times you want to fast forward to the good part. What happens when God does something you do not understand? What on earth are you doing here God? How should we respond?

Don’t press pause [6:60]. Don’t get all bent out of shape over unanswered questions. For Jesus’ followers it was a tough day. They had a lot of questions. I have felt like that after reading some of Jesus’ words. Pausing in our questions and doubts can handicap us. If you are in a boxing match and you pause for a moment you will become a TKO. Why pause? Is it because you do not want God to look under your hood and see all that is broken?

Don’t push eject [6:66-67]. Many bailed on Jesus even after they saw His miracles and heard His teachings. They were not ready to commit after counting the cost. Stay to the course.

Press fast forward [6:68-69]. Look ahead. Consider the long-term benefits of following Christ: Life eternal. What are the alternatives? “The only thing more difficult than having a personal relationship with an invisible God is having no such relationship”—Phillip Yancey. Is it a personal relationship? Yes, really personal.

Press rewind. Look back. Remember what God has done. He has a proven track record. For Peter the changes were dramatic—from fish to following Jesus. What is your story? How has God changed your story? [ie. David; 1 Sam.17:37 & Ps.77:11-12]

Push play. Press on. The best remedy for questions and doubt is “faith.” In the boxing match and blows to your faith, when you are against the ropes faith is the where we can regain strength. Sometimes God and our faith are difficult to understand. Like many who have gone before you and will come after have said, “God this is hard for me to accept, but I have faith you are who you say you are and you will do what you say you will do because you have already done so much.”

Does God really care for me? Even when my life seems to be falling apart? He cares more about me than I care about myself [1 Pt.5:7]. During my freshmen year of college I had major doubts. Why am I here? Does it really even matter? I have distant friends, my grades are collapsing, my family is splitting again, and God seems distant. I was to the point of taking my own life to escape the misery. I was at a crossroads: I am either going to throw away my faith and life or come running to God. I had a heart to heart with a professor. In that moment, my pride crumbled, I didn’t have the answers. I wept in relief, broken before God. God has given us the church to encourage our faith, to ask questions to one another and build on our faith.

a plastic faith

Doubt can be a good thing. Some are taught never to question God or their faith. That is silly. Even Billy Graham had doubts. Doubt can strengthen and secure your faith. They can also drive you away if you are unprepared. Stats say that 50% of Christian teens will abandon their faith by the end of college. Jesus was more comfortable with doubt than most Christians are.

You can take some major blows your can take for your faith. Like a boxing match we can take intellectual upper cut, this is when you are sitting in science class at school and your view of creation is challenged, or in philosophy faith is reasoned as irrational, or spirituality is stated as not for the smart. Then there are psychological gut checks, which can happen when you experience a flawed view of fatherhood, have a bad church situation, or observe hypocritical Christians. The most common is the sinful right and left hook. By its very nature sin separates us from God. Sin fuels pride, arrogance, or invincibility from God.

When we receive these blows it can leave our faith damaged, bruised, and scarred. When I was in high school I took a baseball to the face. My nose was even more crooked and broken than it was today. I visited my doctor Rocky, and the he said the only way to fix my face was through plastic surgery and a face-lift. When we take blows to our faith we need a faith lift. As a messenger of truth I need to help bandage and repair sagging faith and God’s Word comes into your life like a surgical knife. How do I know if I need a faith lift? Can you answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions?

Are you convinced God doesn’t listen to doubters? God never says doubting is dumb. He never calls us stupid for using our brains to question or consider our faith and relationship with God. It really takes faith to enter a relationship with Him. God is more comfortable with our doubts than many Christians are. Take the example of Thomas from the Bible [John 20:24-27]. Thomas had good reason to doubt. His friend, teacher and Savior had been unrecognizably beaten to death and executed on the cross. People were saying Jesus was alive. How could he believe that after all we saw? Jesus didn’t give Thomas all the answers for how He rose from the grave, but He did give Thomas enough to believe and relieve him of doubts.

Are you searching for absolute proof? You want every questioned answered to satisfaction before you make the leap of faith. Truth is, having every questioned answered removes the need for faith. Jesus did not answer all of Thomas’ questions [John 20:28-29]. Doubt and faith go hand in hand. If you have no doubt, you have faith. If you doubt, you do not have faith. [note: Abraham had endless examples faith mixed with doubt.]

Faith is attached to trust. I have faith every day and I often take it for granted: I have faith my alarm will wake me up in the morning because the electricity works. I have faith my car will start. I trust my office chair will keep me sitting up straight. All of these have failed me from time to time, but over time they have been faithful. I do not understand electricity, mechanics or the engineering behind an office chair, but I trust they will work. I do not have to have all the proof before I trust. That is faith.

We may not have proof that Jesus rose from the grave, but we do have evidence. What is some of the proof or evidence we have that Jesus rose from the grave? Christianity has some very compelling evidence, but what it comes down to is do you have faith that it is all truth? What I have found is that sometimes people can have all the facts before them, all the proof and evidence to their questions, but they still doubt because they want to keep their lives hidden from God. They do not want to change their lives because they are too comfortable in their sin and keeping God distant.

Are you waiting for a miracle? You say, “If God would just speak to me, or write it in a book, or come down here to my level, then I would believe.” Do you really? People posed that same question in Jesus’ day. God did speak to them, He did write them a Book and He did come down to their level, and many did not believe [note: miracle of Lazarus; John 12:9-11]. A miracle does not guarantee faith, but assists it [John 20:30ff].

Are you waiting until it feels right? You might think to yourself, “It just doesn’t feel right. I will know in the moment. If Jesus is really for me then I will feel it.” As a good friend once told me, if you are looking for a warm and fuzzy feeling, wet your pants. Feelings are often a byproduct of faith, but not always. Feelings can be freaky. There are some songs and movies that really move me, but they do move me the same as my wife. The other night I was watching Rudy with Sarah, I was in tears at the end, Sarah said with a straight face, “He should have quit the team.” Does that mean I have more feelings than her? No. We are all wired differently. God is emotional and emotions are not wrong, but faith is not anchored in feelings.

Are you bargaining with God? You might think that if you have faith you will get everything and more from God. Just because you have faith doesn’t mean you will all of a sudden ace all your future exams, your family will be pieced back together, you will never again struggle with sin, and a new car will show up in the driveway with you name on it. You cannot use faith to bully God to get what you want. So what is in faith for me? Life. Eternal life. Being with God forever, and being spared from His ferocious wrath that would shun me out of His presence forever.

So tell me what I need to do to get a faith lift? Get off the couch of doubts and talk to someone who has a strong faith. Get into good books: Bible, apologetics, and more. Go to church and immerse yourself into some good teaching and relationships. Faith is a gift [Eph.2:8-9]. You do not earn it or deserve it. God gives it to you because He infinitely loves you. From God it is a gift, but for us the decision is to take it or leave it, to receive it or reject it, to give up on trying yourself, and give your life over to God in faith. Is your faith borrowed from your parents? Is your faith real? Do you see your faith lived out everyday? Do you love the world more than your faith? Will you keep your faith?

faith TKO

Do you ever feel like your faith is getting a gut check? Or that doubts and question plague your mind? I like to ask questions. When I was younger my mom would get so annoyed with all my questions, “Why…?” “What if….?” “How come…?” At times she would pleasure me by giving answers, but when it just got to be too much 20-Questions she would say, “That’s enough.” I still ask a lot of questions. Just ask my wife and she will agree. I am curious.

I am glad that God does not say, “That’s enough,” when we come to Him with questions. He doesn’t get annoyed or have a question quota. He welcomes our questions and doubts. The older I get I ask God more and more questions. Truth be known, many of our heroes of faith in the Bible had serious questions and doubts they poses to God. If you were honest, I would guess you struggle with doubts at times. What are your biggest doubts?

There are different levels of doubters. First, there are doubters with the little “d” who do not have major doubts they are fight with at the moment, but they might one day. Second, there are Doubters with a big “D” who actively doubt, doing battle with nagging questions that come in like a ferocious front line attacking over and over again. Third, there are those who are dead. The only way to not have doubts is when you kick the bucket.

Since God is invisible we bound to have periods of doubt. We will have times in our life when our have has gone flat like a 2-liter bottle of Coke or when our faith has the full-blown flu. We ask questions like: Does God really love me? Can He really forgive the bad I’ve done? Why does He allow such pain and suffering? How can evolution and biblical creation be at odds? What about other gods from other religions? What if I were born somewhere else in the world? These are real and good questions.

Overcoming doubt is all about what we do with our questions and where we take our questions. Dealing with doubt can electrify our faith. Here are some truths about doubt:

Doubt is different than unbelief. Doubt does not mean you do not believe. I seriously believe in a God that saves, but I do have some serious doubts about God at times. The word doubt comes from the Latin, “dubet re” which means wavering between two issues or bouncing back and forth between two options. The word, believe means to be in one mind about something I agree or trust. The words are different in nature.

Doubts can become unbelief. If we do not deal with our doubt in the right way it can become unbelief. Doubts can become like bunnies, you might have two today, but tomorrow you will have a thousand if not deal them urgently. Doubts can choke out your faith like an uncontrollable weed. Remember, it is where we take our doubts. If all your questions were answered there would be no need for faith. Faith says, “I do not have all the answers, but I know One who does.” [Mark 9:24, “Immediately the boys father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me to overcome my unbelief!”]

Doubts are not a cosmic crime. Doubting is not the same as sinning. When John the Baptist saw Jesus he said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”  He saw the Holy Spirit descend like a dove. Later he was thrown into prison. For Johnny-B this is where the rubber met the road. How did the baptizer of Jesus respond? He doubted [Luke 7:18-19]. I love the way Jesus responded to John’s questions [7:28]. Note where John goes with his doubts and questions, to Jesus. Remember, it is what we do with our doubts that matter. Who do you go to?

Doubts can distance us from God or can draw us to Him. I love my wife. I definitely take her for granted when we are together. I do not concentrate on her character, voice, beauty, her sweet spirit, and all that has drawn me to her. I do not fully appreciate her until we are apart. It is when I am sitting in my office working or away on a trip and she is not there, then I appreciate her fully. It is the same way with doubt. When we feel distant from God, He uses those times to draw us near to Him.

What are you doing with your doubts? Are you allowing them to defeat you? Or are you allowing God to deepen your faith? How can you win the bout with doubt when your faith fizzes flat? First, Go to God. Ask God, “What is my driving doubt?” Admit you do not understand, but are willing to listen. Second, if you have not already, receive Jesus Christ. Beginning a relationship with God brings you close to Him. Sin separates you from Him, but forgiveness brings you freedom. Third, get off the island. Don’t doubt alone. As a kid I would watch Gilligan’s Island. It was the same story every week. Even thought the Professor could build satellite dishes our of bamboo and radios with coconuts they could not get off the island. They tried too much on their own. Do doubt in church, small group, with others you trust in the faith.

If you don’t deal with doubt it will deal with you. The result will be a TKO punch to your faith.