by Mike Ratliff
4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4 (NASB)
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 are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble 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 (NASB)
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 full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, 19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. Ephesians 6:10-20 (NASB)
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 share when 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 In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, 20 where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:17-20 (NASB)
The writer of Hebrews defined Christian commitment to fellow believers as we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil. 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 how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 1 John 3:1-3 (NASB)
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.
Soli Deo Gloria!