Withstanding the Storms

Ephesians 6: 11 – 12

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Do you want to be able to stand against the storms of life? Do you want to be able to remain firm when all around you the tempest rages? Well then, the first thing you need to understand is that the fight is against the devil and his gang.

There are two problems I see with people distinguishing their enemy. First, they do not know who their enemy is because they do not have a realization of the devil. There are many people in our society who do not even believe there is a devil much less that he is at work in this world all of the time. And even though this scripture is about as plain as it can be; even though the Bible clearly tells us that our problem is the spiritual forces at work, many Christians are just as misled as the rest. This works very well for Satan because if we don’t even acknowledge his presence then we cannot fight against him. So, he just wanders around uninhibited. That is a real problem.

Second, people generally focus on the people who seem to be the cause of their trouble instead of penetrating the sheath and recognizing that it is the devil’s crew behind the scene that is manipulating the whole mess.

If you are going to win against the schemes of the devil, you first have to recognize who your enemy is. Once you have done that, we have some answers about how to deal with his shenanigans. Verse 11 tells us that putting on the armor of God will give you the ability to stand against him. What is the armor of God? Verses 14 – 17 hold that answer: truth, righteousness, preparation in the gospel, faith, and salvation. You must put on truth and wear it like wearing a pair of pants. Wear righteousness as your shirt. Your shoes are the time you spend in the word. Faith is your shield. It completely encompasses you and everything you are. Faith is in everything you say and do. Finally, salvation, the precious blood of Jesus, is your hat. It crowns you and covers all. It is the top and everything else is beneath the saving grace. You wear these pieces of armor as part of yourself. Any piece you leave off, though, leaves you exposed. Do not leave truth out of your wardrobe. Don’t forget to put on your shoes of the Word. Every piece is important, and they will guard you and help you.

Gospel Boots

Romans 8:37           (NIV)

In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

In 2002, I went through a terrible time. It was months’ and months’ worth of crazy challenges. Just one of the situations I had to deal with was three car accidents in as many weeks. Then there were the big national banks whose checks to the Law Firm bounced. It went on and on like this, one thing after another. Then my pastor reminded me of Isaiah 54: 17 which reads, “No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper.”

That was the beginning of my breakthrough. I needed to be reminded that Jesus had made a way for me to overcome this turmoil. I began to recall the Word to my mind and mouth. It was if a ray of light broke through the darkness and all I had to do was follow it. Then I was able to open wide the crack through which that light shown and my life resurrected out of the chaos.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that I saved me but in remembering what Jesus had already done for me I was able to stand against the storms that were battering my life. I didn’t have to stand there and get battered by the storms, I had the rock and as soon as I began standing on the rock again, those storms had nothing for me and they went away. It is just as amazing and exciting looking back on it as it was then. I took quite a beating until I realized that my Father and my Jesus were well able to protect me and to defeat every weapon the enemy sent against me. I don’t know, but it seems like the devil just realized he couldn’t get at me any longer so, as he did Jesus, he left me for a more opportune time (Luke 4: 13). I am not saying I am bullet proof, I just have a clearer understanding of Jesus’ victory in my life and that I don’t have to tolerate the devil’s shenanigans. Now it is a matter of applying what I have learned.

It is a difficult paradigm to grasp in its fullness. There is a balance which must be struck between understanding that Jesus has already defeated the devil and knowing what we must do in order to live in that victory. It almost seems like it should be one or the other. If Jesus beat the devil, why do we have to fight at all? Here is an illustration that may help.

If you sue someone and win your case the Judge will enter a judgment in your favor. That judgment represents the victory. However, until the order is executed, it makes no practical impact. You have a judgment in your favor the minute the judge rules but the effect of it is not immediate. It will be of little or no value if not executed. This is the way it is with Jesus’ victory. You already have a judgment against the devil. You have an order entered in your favor against every one of his tricks, attacks or fiery missiles. However, if you do not enforce, or ask the authorities to enforce, your rights under the order then there is little practical effect.

We have the victory. Jesus already won it for us but we must hold that order up in the devil’s face and refuse him access to our lives. We have the choice whether to enforce the judgment or not. If we do not, the devil will run all over us. This is why knowing the truth is so important. Once you know that he does not have any legal authority over you, then you can push back and resist him. When you resist, he will flee as he did with Jesus and as he did even with me. You have to know your authority though. When you do, you are the overcomer Jesus gave you the right to be.

There is no demon or devil in hell that can overcome the blood of Jesus and you knowing that is the power of Christ in you. Overcoming the schemes of the devil is a partnership between you and Jesus. So, put on your armor. Shine up your gospel boots and stand against the schemes of the devil. Put him to flight because the one who is in you, already won. Yahoo!

Rock and Sand

Matthew 7: 25

And the rain descended and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock.

Have you seen the movie, The Perfect Storm? Maybe you can picture a storm as described in this verse. Picture this: flooding, gale force winds and torrential rains. Against all these, who can stand? Jesus has an answer. He said this house stood because it was built upon the rock as contrasted with the house which was built upon the sand.

This is a metaphor for life. Jesus said that our lives can be compared to these two foundations. The house built upon the rock can bear the storms of life and will not fall. Of the house built upon the sand Jesus said, “Great was its fall” (v. 27). It is tragic seeing someone’s house crumble under the pressure of a storm; much more so when their lives cannot withstand the pressures of life.

Clearly, we all want to live in the house built upon the rock. We would all readily agree that a life built upon the rock means a life built upon Jesus. So often, though, these ideas turn into platitudes. We agree at a high level but what does it mean in practice, in real, everyday life? Fortunately, Jesus answered this question.

Everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to the wise man, who built his house upon the rock,” (v. 24). There are three distinct pieces to this statement: 1) a foundation built upon the rock, 2) the acts of the wise, and 3) how we handle Jesus’ words. A wise person is the one who hears Jesus’ words. We must put ourselves in the position to hear Jesus’ words spoken into our ears and our hearts. Of course, this involves reading the Word for ourselves but I also hear Jesus saying for us to hear others speak his words. We have many opportunities in the nations where most of us reside for Bible studies and to hear as many preachers as we want on either television or the internet. The opportunities are there, we need only avail ourselves of them, and this is wisdom.

Jesus did not stop with his admonition that we hear his words though. The next directive he gave us is the divider of people. He said in order for us to have an unshakeable foundation such that we will be able to bear the storms, we must act upon his words. Wouldn’t you say this is the real meat of the parable? Think of it this way. Jesus was a carpenter so let’s pretend we all attend his seminar on building a sturdy home. He tells us all about the foundation and building upon rock instead of sand. We all diligently take notes on every word he says. Then we go home. Some people take the notes and file them away. Some people leave them right on their dining room table for weeks where they see them frequently but eventually, the notes get lost or discarded. Then there are the few. Those few actually take every piece of instructive advice Jesus gave at the seminar and apply them. They build according to all Jesus has said. These people end up with an unshakeable house and unshakeable faith while the rest of us wonder what makes them so special and why this works for them but not for us. Didn’t we all hear the same Word?

Jesus has given us the wisdom of the Kingdom but in order for it to work in our lives, we must apply it. He is not going to build the house for us, he is not going to force us to use his wisdom. He gives freely but he will not take away our choices. He has pointed out the way. He has lit the path. Let’s learn how to take his teachings and turn them into application rather than theology. This is the way of the wise.

Standing in a Storm

Matthew 7: 24 – 27

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall.”

Jesus spoke these words. He says that anyone who hears his words and acts on them is like a wise man. The rain, floods and wind represent the storms of life. Those people who hear and act on Jesus’ words will be able to withstand the storms of life. Those who do not listen to and act on Jesus’ words get battered and destroyed by every storm that blows. Do you want to be able to stand in the roughest of times? Then you must commit yourself to the Word of God. God’s wisdom is contained in these pages and through your relationship with him, he reveals the deep truths contained therein. Is there anyone foolish enough to say that he/she does not want God’s wisdom? There probably is though it is very difficult to understand. Obviously, he is without wisdom if he would say such a foolish thing. Therefore, since most of us do want the wisdom of God, let us dedicate ourselves to reading his word. This need not be tiresome. Get a version that is more readable than the King James if it helps you. Go to any Christian store and read the same passage in several different translations. There are plenty out there these days that are not written in Elizabethan English. There is also the One Year Bible if you are ready to commit to reading the entire Bible. It also comes in a couple of translations. Do yourself a favor; start reading a little each day and let the Lord of Hosts bring life and wisdom to you.

Dig Deep

Luke 6: 46 – 49

“And why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me, and hears My words, and acts upon them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation upon the rock; and when a flood rose, the torrent could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard, and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house upon the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.”

The first sentence of this quote is arresting. The easiest way to read it is to pretend that Jesus is speaking to someone else. Otherwise it is just too painful to read. However, it is true that most of us have fallen right here at one time or another. It is enough of an indictment on its own but when taken with the rest of today’s passage we begin to understand that some of the stormy times when we were washed to and fro were because we failed to do what Jesus said.

The other side of the coin is for us today. The past is the past and thank God for that. Today we turn over a new leaf and decide to dig deep. That is what Jesus is calling us to do. He said that there is one whom the storms of life will not rattle. This person is the one who dug deep and built a solid foundation. So the question would seem to be, “How do we build a solid foundation?” We dig into the Word of God.

Jesus said it, the strong foundation is what allows us to weather the storms. The man with the strong foundation, Jesus said, is the one who “comes to Me, and hears My words, and acts upon them.” So, there are three parts there. Hearken to Jesus, to his words and then do what he has said. This is the first of all things which he said. If you will obey him in what he said in today’s verses then all else will follow therefrom. You are going to be able to stand while others fall. The people around you will bow with every breeze but you will be a strong fortress in the Lord. 

I have a saying that I would like to share with you. There is an easy way and a hard way to do everything. Whenever possible do things the easy way. This advice from Jesus today is the epitome of doing things the easy way. You can fight and strain against the wind or you can just stand in the strength that is the Lord. The choice is yours. If you want to be able to withstand hurricane force storms, then you must dig deep.