by Mike Ratliff
4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4 ESV)
The role of a Christian writer primarily focusing on the growing apostasy in the church is a tough one. As the Lord shows us what is really going on in the church that is Christian in name only it is easy to become overwhelmed. If we focus on the these things to the exclusion of our devotion to our Lord we will find in short order that these battles take a heavy toll. They cannot be fought in our strength alone. Fortunately, we can remain in the fight in obedience to our Lord as long as we are doing battle while yoked to our Lord.
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)
In the context of Jesus’ command in this passage we see clearly that our obedience as the Lord’s servants is easy and refreshing, even restful, as long as we do what we do by starting with our Lord. We must come to Him, submit to His Lordship by taking on His yoke and learn from Him. No matter what our ministries are, if we start with Jesus and do what we do entirely within His Lordship, we will find that we can fight the good fight, dig out the truth no matter how well our enemy has concealed it, rebuke false shepherds, and point the Lord’s sheep to the right path. We can do all of this in terrible fights that sometimes seem endless and can appear to be no-win situations. We can do this as good soldiers who do not fall even if those outside of the God’s light see what we do as hopeless while being in continual dire danger. We can do this full of joy and peace and hope because we are obeying our Lord and He has promised that when we are obedient within His Lordship that the burden is easy and light. All Christians are called to get into the battle.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 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. 13 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. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 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, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:10-20 ESV)
Wearing our godly armor we can be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. We can stand against all the schemes of the devil and not fall. However, if we attempt to enter this battle unprepared with only our reason and self-confidence as our armor, we will soon find ourselves overwhelmed and running away or falling. I’m sure all of us could relate times we have had that horrible experience.
Christians live between the two comings of Christ. We are to look backward and forward. Looking backward we see the manger, the cross, and the empty tomb. Our salvation was won for us there. We must never lose sight of these things. Looking forward to our meeting with Christ outside of this world, our personal resurrection, and the joy of being with our Saviour in glory for eternity, we see the fulfillment of our salvation. Again, we must never lose sight of these things either. Our devotion to our Lord and our willingness to fight these heavy battles are both consistently related to our hope. Christ is “our hope” (1 Timothy 1:1) and we serve “the God of hope” (Romans 15:13). Faith itself is defined as “being sure of what we hope for” (Hebrews 11:1).
17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:17-20 ESV)
The writer of Hebrews defined Christian commitment as having “fled for refuge we might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope… as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.” Jesus commanded his disciples to not lay up treasure on earth, but in heaven because “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) This is vital if we are to have the proper commitment and focus that it takes to stand and not fall in these battles. When our hearts are on our eternal hope rather than on what we see here and now we can step out on faith into the thick of the battle. When we do that aren’t we setting our hope fully on the grace to be given to us when Jesus Christ is revealed? (1 Peter 1:13)
The message of the New Testament is one of hope for those who embark on the pilgrimage to the Celestial City. Pilgrims are traveling through a land that is not their home. (1 Peter 2:11; Hebrews 11:13) When our hope is in heaven rather than here on earth then we can seem other-worldly to those mired in the temporal. Why? Those whose focus is eternal rather than temporal keep themselves pure. One of my favorite passages is 1 John 3:1-3.
1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3 ESV)
Those with this hope can be fearless in the battle because the enemy cannot demoralize them with attacks against their purity. A clear conscience is a very healthy and vital thing in this battle. On the other hand, if a warrior continually falls into temptation the enemy can fairly well neutralize him or her with his fiery darts of doubt and shame. They have fallen victim to having split treasure which has divided their hope. Those whose hope is in heaven will also keep themselves prepared to meet their Saviour. They are prepared to leave this world to be with Him for eternity when the summons comes. (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:21-24; Luke 12:15-21)
A sure sign of split treasure is a lack of patience. On the other hand, those whose treasure is in heaven wait patiently for it. (Romans 8:25; Romans 5:1-5) Their perseverance is again, other-worldly. It is an outcome of abiding in Christ and working alongside their Lord yoked up with Him. His rest and refreshment flows from the knowledge and light that they learn in His presence.
In order to fight the good fight, to stand and not fall in the thick of the battle there must be a power there that is greater than the enemy’s weapons. Our hope gives us the strength and confidence it takes to obey our Lord by standing and not falling even when our enemy is doing all he can to take us down. We can do this because the Holy Spirit energizes us enabling us to endure the “light and momentary affliction” (2 Corinthians 4:17) that we must endure as long as we remain in this body. (Romans 8:18; Romans 15:13; 2 Timothy 4:7-8)
If our walk is free of suffering, affliction, persecution, or troubles then it is more than likely that we are not in the fight. We are not in the battle. We are not stepping out on faith as the Lord leads. However, if we abide in our Lord we will also obey Him. That means that we will take on His yoke and pull the plow alongside Him. That does not mean that we will be free from suffering. Instead, it means that we have our treasure in Heaven rather than on earth. It means that our hope is there, not here. It also means that our hope is sure and our mood should be one of unquenchable confidence because we see both our salvation accomplished by looking back and the fulfillment of it by looking forward. We are on the victory side.
Powered by Qumana