Our lives are the accumulation of our small actions and thoughts, one way or another our choices add up to something greater than the sum of their parts. As we stand firm in life's difficult seasons, we must learn to stretch, to turn something tough into something transformational. Through the journey of life, we must learn to move away from the easy wins of quick comforts and rediscover times of reflection and solitude.
We each have a longing for more, the knowledge of eternity in our hearts, the desire for justice, for renewal. Things we may not see this side of Heaven. From time to time we live in tension. In these moments we must become resilient, embrace the stretch. Stand firm.
Faithfulness; steady in allegiance or affection; loyal; constant.
For the penultimate instalment of our teaching series: Stand Firm, we interview Heather Crate and John Aust on what faithfulness and standing firm looks like for the long term.
Slow down as you set up for the long haul. The armour of God is not fast fashion. It is crafted and built over time as the pilgrim dedicates themselves to the lifelong journey of faith. As we look to pursuing God for the long haul, three challenges emerge. The challenge to commit to Christ. The challenge to commit to church. And the challenge to commit to our own spiritual growth. ⠀
Too many Christians walk around with an unawareness of the Holy Spirit. A Spirit which leads us into all truth, convicts us of sin, empowers us with gifts and affirms us as sons and daughters. As we awaken to the reality of God's Spirit we partner with a Spirit of potential, a Spirit of resurrection. When we prayer in the Spirit we intercede into the world behind the curtain - a world not of flesh and blood but of spiritual forces. As Paul reflects on the armour the Roman Empire - a national and religious enemy that has him in chains - he gains a deeper revelation of his own freedom. His spiritual reality is far greater than his physical reality. This is the challenge of Paul and the invitation of Jesus; to pray at all times, all occasions and with all kinds of prayer.⠀
We live in a post-truth culture that places value on what we feel and doesn't believe in objective truth. Piercing through this perceived reality is the Sword of the Spirit - which is, of course, the Word of God. The Sword of the Spirit is the only offensive weapon in the Armour of God as described by Paul. The Bible, the Word of God, is an unmovable, unchangeable truth - a rock on which to build a life, a family, a community.
Faith in the Bible is described as being ‘sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see’. So, faith is being sure, certain, confident of what we can’t see with our physical eyes but what we know is there and then acting upon that confidence by what we do and the choices we make. ⠀
Now, the truth is we can’t see God. But if we look, we can see the effects of God, the evidence that He is real - whether that be the beauty of creation and precision of the universe, whether that be answered prayers and miracles that we experience or hear about, whether that be the authenticity and credibility of the bible that recounts the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, or whether that be our own story of the difference that having faith in Christ has made in our lives. ⠀
Faith is what drops into our hearts as we consider the multiple evidence that God exists, that He loves us and showed us the extent of that love by sending His Son to save us. Faith allows us to believe that by Jesus dying on a cross 2000 years ago on our behalf, that salvation is possible.
Life is hard and we are in a battle against a real enemy, but the final victory has already been won by Jesus.
Therefore in our resistance to the spiritual attacks and challenges of life, we are called to stand our ground. We are not called to run after the enemy - he will flee from us. The armour that is given to us to wear provides the tools to protect us in this battle.
As Christians, our righteousness is a gift that’s given - when anyone puts their faith in Jesus and chooses to follow him, trusting in him as our saviour - by faith we are made right with God. But Paul is also talking about living a righteous life - which is choice and a journey of holy transformation that takes a lifetime. This righteousness offers us protection.
This doesn’t mean we won’t be attacked - but it does mean our lives are not exposed to the danger of wounding that comes from believing the enemies lies and the wounds that come from an ungodly living that exposes us to the enemy.
We can never get going without shoes. When you are not prepared to go, we can miss the moment. So, just as we daily, put on our physical shoes, let’s find the peace with God and have this as our foundation - stand in it.
There’s a fresh commissioning - to go. Make your time available to the holy Spirit, make your mouth ready to speak hope and peace into others lives. Be prepared: good news needs to be taken out of the door - into the street - into your workplace. Let’s be people who are ready to go - ready and empowered.
Where will your faith be in 5 years time? 10 years time? 50 years time?
This is the challenge of worldly culture. If there's no resistance from us, there's a chance we may be moving. In Ephesians Paul gives us a visceral imagery of warfare - the armour of a Roman soldier - and reframes it as a toolkit for lifelong faith, starting with the belt of truth. Our faith is in Jesus, the white hot nucleus of truth, whilst our fight is against the enemy, the father of lies. Pete Sisson began our teaching series with the challenge: what are we feeding ourselves with? The truth of scripture or the world?