Stand & Withstand Part 1 of 8
1st of 8 messages delivered at the ERCS Family Camp, 19-22 Jun 2006
"10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand" (Ephesians 6:10-13)
A very fierce and terrible war is on-going today. I am not referring to the war in Afghanistan or Iraq. These two wars are insignificant compared to the war I have in mind. I am referring to the war of the ages.
This war has been raging since the Fall of man. It is the war that God declared against His enemy in Genesis 3:15—
"And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Gen 3:15).
Most of us will recognise this verse as the protoevangelion, the first giving of the Gospel. But few realise that the Lord is not only speaking about Christ on the cross, but about a conflict that would exists between Christ and His church on the one hand and Satan and his adherents on the other hand.
This war, which began on the very day that our first parents fell into sin, has continued to rage until this day.
Many specific battles have been fought in this war. You cannot miss reading about this war if you read the Old Testament with your eyes opened. The war has, for example, manifested itself in the conflict between Abel and Cain; Noah and the pre-flood people; Isaac and Ishmael; Jacob and Esau; Israel and the Philistines; David and Saul; Elijah and Jezebel, etc.
It is clear that in all these conflicts, the seed of the serpent was attempting to destroy the seed of the woman.… for if you think about it, you will realise that underneath all these conflicts was Satan trying to prevent the birth of Christ our king.
But Christ has come; and by His death on the Cross, He has crushed the head of Satan. Satan has suffered a mortal wound.
The War of Ages, has entered its last days. Christ has conquered. Yes, He is still conquering, but all that remains are moping up battles. The gates of hell cannot prevent the church militant as she marches on until the day when Christ would be presented as King of kings and Lord of lords, and every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord. The victory is secured! But make no mistake: though the victory is secured, the battle is still fierce. Satan, the seed of the serpent, is desperately trying to regain lost ground.
He is doing all that he can to draw believers unto himself and to bring shame unto the name of Christ if possible. And he has a lot of resources under his disposal—for a great multitude of people in the world is enrolled in his army. All who remain in unbelief are in his army. And these have invented many things to entice the children of God so as to lead them away from their Captain.
For this reason, the Christian life is a constant battle. We are engaged in a spiritual warfare. It is a warfare that touches every aspect of our lives.… whether we are in public, at work, at school, at home, or even in church.
Unless we are aware of the war, and are fighting the war effectively, we shall easily fall for the devices of the wicked one and bring shame to our Lord and deep suffering and loss to ourselves and to our loved ones.
It is for this reason that it is necessary for us to learn about spiritual warfare.
And, one of the best ways for us to learn about this warfare is to study the armour of God in Ephesians 6. This passage is, I believe, relevant not only to the believers of the first century, but equally applicable to us today.
The strategy and weapons that the wicked one uses against us may have changed in their outward appearance, but they are in essence still the same as the strategy and weapons which he used in the first century. Likewise, the equipment that is available for us to use to fight against the wicked one is the same as those available in the first century.
We are about to enter into the armoury of the Lord where we can draw and study the equipment that we need for the battle we have been enrolled to fight.
But the apostle Paul, our quartermaster has some words of introduction and encouragement for us before we enter into the armoury. These are the words we must now consider.
We may summarise what Paul is saying under 5 headings:
First, we need courage to fight this battle; ‘Be strong in the Lord’ says Paul.
Secondly, we need to understand that the battle will be very intense, and so we will need the strength and equipment that only the Lord our King can supply: "be strong… in the power of his might" says Paul.
Thirdly, we must understand that it is a spiritual warfare that we have to fight.
Fourthly, we must understand that the war we have to fight is a defensive war, and therefore we must be good defenders.
Fifthly, we can only fight this war effectively if we put on the whole armour of God.
1. We Need Courage in the Lord
We have been enlisted in the army of Christ the King. There is a battle already raging. We will be joining the troops already in the field. Please note that this battle is not for the faint hearted.
Too many have enlisted to fight this war. But they have gone AWOL (absence without official leave) or MIA (missing in action).
Many of them enter the fight full of vigour; but you know what they lack? They lack courage! For when they see the Goliath of the army of Satan, their hearts grow faint. They hide behind the rocks and bushes. They began to murmur about having to leave Egypt. They miss the leeks and cucumber. Life in the army is too tough for them. They are tempted to part ways like Orpah did to Naomi. And many do.
But when they do, they do so at what tremendous cost, for only those in active service of the Lord’s army can drink from the fountain of the water of life. Those who depart have to drink stagnant water from the broken cisterns that the enemy supplies.
Beloved brethren and children, you need to be strong to remain in the battle.
There will be many temptations and afflictions along the way. There will be things that will distract you from fighting the battle. The cares of the world, poor health, relationship problems, covetousness, materialism, laziness and doubt are among the obstacles or the weapons of Satan that you can expect to encounter.
Unless you are strong, you will fall. And you may be tempted to switch sides in the battle, for such as fall out of the army of Christ are usually captured by Satan and made his slaves. Or you may be tempted to be despondent or depressed so that you find yourself too weak to fight on, when you see the army marching on.
Beloved brethren and children, do not be surprised by tribulation and temptations and even injuries. Be strong. Be strong for service, strong for suffering, strong for fighting. Be strong in the Lord.
This battle that you have enlisted in to fight is very intense, for the enemy is very strong and well-equipped. You can be sure that if you rely on your own strength, you are not going to make it. You will be overwhelmed.
But thank God that He does not leave us to fight alone. The battle is not yours. It is the Lord’s battle. Christ the King is leading the battle Himself as the captain of our salvation.
You must draw strength from Him. Some of the most successful soldiers of Christ understood this very well. Moses taught the people to sing…
"The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation" (Ex 15:2).
David likewise teaches us to sing:
"The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower" (Ps 18:2).
"Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight" (Ps 144:1).
But what is it to be strong in the Lord or to appropriate the Lord as your strength?
Well, let me briefly note three things:
First, it is to be in Christ. Now, this ought to be very obvious, but I am afraid, it is not so obvious to many. Many have enlisted in the Lord’s army but are not in Christ. How can they expect to fight the Lord’s battle when they are not in Christ, "for without me ye can do nothing" says the Lord (Jn 15:5)? So he who would be strong in the Lord must be born again. "Ye must be born again," says the Lord.
Secondly, to be strong in the Lord is to recognise your own inability and so to constantly seek grace from the Lord. The apostle Paul says: "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God" (2 Cor 3:5). You must seek His help in all things, whether you are praying or reading God’s Word or seeking to do good works in His name. You must depend on Him.
Thirdly, to be strong in the Lord is to look to the Lord for inspiration and direction.
"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb 12:2).
You must study His Word; you must hear His voice through the preaching of His Word; you must seek to follow His example and His instructions; and most of all you must live and fight the battle for His sake. The Lord your Captain laid down His life for you. Let a grateful heart strengthen your resolve to serve.
But now, secondly, Paul would have us understand that the battle will be very intense, we will need the strength and equipment that only the Lord our King can supply: "be strong… in the power of his might" says Paul.
2. We must Depend on the Lord To Supply.
Understand that the Lord does not leave you alone to fight the battle. He who calls you to the battle is almighty and that mighty power is engaged in your defence and to enable you to fight the battle. "be strong… in the power of his might" says Paul.
Elsewhere, he says:
"But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Phil 4:19).
He who has called you to battle has His storehouse filled with the food, equipment, weapons and ammunition that you need for the battle. You must avail yourself to the supplies.
Remember that as long as you are fighting the Lord’s battle, you will never run out of supplies. For Paul also says:
"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Phil 4:13).
Now, notice what he is saying: It is Christ who strengthens. It is Christ who will personally supply all you need for the battle.
He is not a king who sends his troops out without adequate supplies. He has a great storehouse of supplies. And His supplies are not locked-up unused because there is no re-supply plan. Neither does He require you to carry any unnecessary burden with you.
No, no; Christ your king is also the Captain of your salvation. He does not send you into the battlefield alone. He goes ahead of you. And not only so, but He brings the supplies that you need day by day; and at the same time, He actually carries the burdens that you bring into the battlefield. By His Spirit and providence, He strengthens you with His mighty power day by day; and by His Spirit and providence, He carries the burdens that you may have.
Only be strong and continue to fight the battle. Do not give up, do not be discouraged.
When you feel weak and weary, do not allow yourself to slip into despondency; all you need to do is to cast your burdens on the Lord and stretch out your hands and call unto the Lord and He will fill you with what you need for the battle.
The apostle Peter, referring to this same war that we have to fight, encourages us:
"6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you" (1 Pet 5:6-7).
One day we shall have no more burdens to carry. But today as we fight that spiritual warfare, we will have many burdens because of sin and the cares of this present world. We must learn to humble ourselves and to cast our anxieties upon Him.
You must not fight on as if you are able and self-sufficient. No, no, you must rely on the supply and support of your captain. You must fight humbly. You must not fight like a gung-ho soldier who is too proud to rely on his captain to re-supply his needs or to carry his burdens. No, no; you must rely on your captain. Cast your burdens upon Him; and draw the strength and supply you need from Him.
Oh what a blessing to fight with our captain and king.
… to be continued