by Mike Ratliff
8 The LORD is their strength,
And He is a saving defense to His anointed.
9 Save Your people and bless Your inheritance;
Be their shepherd also, and carry them forever. Psalms 28:8-9 (NASB)
The Genuine Christian walk is actually part of a war. Each believer’s walk is a battle or skirmish in that war. As we see in Ephesians 6:10-20, this war is not specifically against other people. Even if heretics or apostates rant and rave against us or terrorists from some pagan religion threaten our lives, our war is against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. The people who attack us are in some way controlled by these evil forces.
The list of ways these evil forces can attack us is beyond our conception. However, we must not become discouraged and withdrawn from the battle. Yes, we do need to spend time alone with our Lord for refreshing and rest (Matthew 11:28-10). However, we must fight the good fight, not allowing evil to have its way where God has led us to minister. How do can we stand and not fall away from the evil onslaught? We must have the Joy of the Lord. (John 15) Without Jesus with us, we can do nothing.
Praise and worship is a huge part of getting spiritually in place to stand and not fall. That is why the Psalms are so important to God’s people. Let’s look at Psalm 30. Verse 5 in this Psalm has been called one of the most worshipful testimonies from the scriptures. The principle in this passage is found also in Isaiah 54:7,8, John 16:20-22, and 2 Corinthians 4:17.
1 I will extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up,
And have not let my enemies rejoice over me. Psalm 30:1 (NASB)
Those pseudo Christian leaders who are all about creating their own “church empires” through marketing techniques and being culturally relevant are constantly accusing us of divisiveness. Why? We point out the areas of their words which are contrary to the clear teaching from the Word of God. We must do this. This is mandated in scripture that we do not allow false teachers and false prophets to be proclaimed as valid when they aren’t. As a result, the wrath of these people is something to behold. Their attacks are personal. They seem to have homing devices in their war heads aiming right at our vulnerable areas. Sometimes these fellows say something very clever and their buddies all rejoice and pat each other on the back as if they have won a great victory, but it is an illusion. They say it’s wrong for professing Christians to be opposed. Unity is what is most important. However, this verse, Psalm 30:1, tells us that Christians do have foes. What is tragic is that the ones we seem to have to battle the most are other professing Christians who have infiltrated the Church.
2 O LORD my God,
I cried to You for help, and You healed me.
3 O LORD, You have brought up my soul from Sheol;
You have kept me alive, that I would not go down to the pit. Psalms 30:2-3 (NASB)
When the attacks seem about to overwhelm us, who do we call? Shouldn’t we start by crying out to God for help? The attacks can seem to take our life away. The spiritual oppression can even make us ill. I am not a fearful person.
I inherited part of my personal makeup from my Great Grandfather, Robert Ratliff. He was born in 1850 in Texas. He was 5’4” tall and not afraid of anyone or anything. My Grandfather, James, told my dad a story about a trip he made with his father in the 1880’s from Georgetown, Texas to the Great Salt Plains in what is now Oklahoma to get salt to sell to the cattle ranchers in Texas. They had two wagons. One was driven by Johnnie the eldest and the other by Robert. James rode with his older brother. On the way there they camped by the Washita river one night. They were cooking bacon over the camp fire. My grandfather told my dad that they started hearing Coyotes howling. The howling got closer and closer. Robert just stayed calm and kept the boys busy. Then they saw the Coyotes surrounding the campsite. They must have been starving because they even came into the light. The smell of the bacon was driving them crazy. They were gnashing their teeth at them, growling and snapping their jaws.
James told my dad that he was terrified. Johnnie was asking their dad what they should do. Robert calmly looked at the Coyotes then looked up at the night sky. Then the looked each of the boys in the face and said, “Well, I guess we’ll just have to sleep in the wagons tonight boys.” This man participated in one of the land runs in Oklahoma. That is how I came to be an Oklahoman I suppose. In any case, I inherited that character trait from my Great Grandfather Ratliff in that I am not fearful. I never panic. When the spiritual attacks come I do get concerned. Usually, I am very surprised. I react sometimes in anger, but never fear. However, I have found that I can only stand and NOT SIN if I start with God when the attacks come.
Several years ago I wrote a series of posts on obedience. Back then the ones in opposition to nearly everything I wrote was a group of post-modernists called “emergents.” During that series of posts their attacks resembled those Coyotes. They seemed at times to be all around me. They seemed to be coming from every direction. At first I could not think of any reason for them to be so upset. I was not afraid of them. However, I was very afraid of saying the wrong thing and sinning. As I did my best to handle that situation the way God wanted me to I was amazed that the best reaction to their attacks was to simply not get involved in unfruitful discussions with them. Instead, I simply wrote the truth, as I prayed for wisdom and discernment. When I reacted calmly and did not feed their voracious appetites God gave me peace. My conscience was clear. I went from utter confusion when that started to calm assurance.
4 Sing praise to the LORD, you His godly ones,
And give thanks to His holy name.
5 For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for a lifetime;
Weeping may last for the night,
But a shout of joy comes in the morning. Psalms 30:4-5 (NASB)
Sometimes, God does allow things to happen to us that are hard or even hurtful. When I preached at a church in northern Missouri several years ago there was a man in that church who was paralyzed from the neck down. His place was right in the front of the church. As I preached, he was right in my line of sight in front of the pulpit. He was a prayer warrior. What a wonderful testimony this man had. When I started preaching on sanctification and how those horrible things we hate in our lives seem to be about to destroy us, but the Lord takes us through them and it end up being the best thing that ever happened to us I could see the joy in this man and I knew that described him completely. A tree branch fell on his head and broke his neck. However, since that day, he had become devoted to prayer. He prayed the whole time I preached. It was amazing. This life is short. Someday we will be with our Savior and then our joy will be full and complete.
6 Now as for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I will never be moved.”
7 O LORD, by Your favor You have made my mountain to stand strong;
You hid Your face, I was dismayed.
8 To You, O LORD, I called,
And to the Lord I made supplication:
9 “What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise You? Will it declare Your faithfulness?
10 “Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me;
O LORD, be my helper.”
11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness,
12 That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever. Psalms 30:6-12 (NASB)
We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. God does allow things to happen to us that seem to about to destroy us at times. Despair seems to be awaiting us at each turn. If we looked at all the heresy and apostasy that is passing for Christianity these days without being empowered by the Grace of God, we would indeed be like David here pleading for mercy and deliverance. However, when we are Spirit-led, we have eyes that can see that God is Sovereign and He will never stop building His Church. We must simply obey Him in all things fully trusting that He will work this out for good.
Soli Deo Gloria!