An unpredictable uphill struggle. A fight for what you believe in, a fight for what is right, a fight for your dreams and the list goes on. Even the Bible tells us to fight the good fight of faith and put on the full armour of God. Hectic, right?
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place - Ephesians 6:13-14
The repetition of ‘stand’ in this passage suggests that actually, a fight may not be as stressful and onerous as we would expect. What if there is more to it than running head-first into battle with arms flailing and ready for war? What if the most effective way to deal with this rollercoaster called life is to simply stand?
Standing on the firm foundation
When we imagine a battle or a tough situation, we picture someone giving it all they’ve got to overcome the challenge. The same happens when we’re faced with difficult, confusing or generally tough situations. It’s easy to revert to ‘doing the most’ to prove yourself. While being proactive is obviously important, it can be directionless and ineffective if we don't rely on the right foundation. A good foundation is the core values that we base our lives on, the foolproof principles that keep us upright in every situation.
“Watch closely. I’m laying a foundation [Jesus], a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic”. - Isaiah 28:16 (MSG, NIV)
In construction, a good foundation is unshakeable, never thrown off or worn down by environmental factors that happen above the ground. The metaphor relates to our lives as well; no matter what is going on, good or bad, planned or unplanned, there is an underlying force that holds it all today : God's reliable, unchanging love and care for us. It’s God saying, ‘I’m here no matter what. When everything is perfect and when it’s spiralling out of control. I’ve got you, you can trust me’. This is why the man who built his house [life, hopes, plans, beliefs] on the rock was safe when the storms came, but the man who built his house on the sand wasn’t so lucky. Remembering who God is to us and putting this at the core of our belief system transforms how we live our lives and means that we don't need to ‘be stricken in panic’ even when everyone else is going nuts.
See it, experience it and stay with it
Knowing that God is reliable isn’t anything new, it’s how we live with this information that counts. Do we stand still and believe that God has got us, or are we easily swayed by the demands that life throws our way?
Standing means we hold on. Hold on to the promise of who God is, the One we can count on.
Standing means we stay. We stay when everything else says 'run and hide, run and lash out, run and do your best to please everyone else'.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
- John 15
It's easy to read this and focus on what we can do more to ‘bear fruit’, but what we really need to do is remain right in the centre of God’s unconditional love. A love that says, ‘I know you, I think about you and I’m working on it to make things come together beautifully.’ Remaining doesn’t mean we become passive and inactive in life, it simply means that we do everything from a place of God-based confidence, instead of a desire to prove ourselves, please other people or ‘keep up’.
"Don’t throw it all away now. You were sure of yourselves then. It’s still a sure thing! But you need to stick it out, staying with God’s plan so you’ll be there for the promised completion" - Hebrews 10:32-39
Life is filled with opportunities to trust
Everything I write is just as much a lesson for me, as it is for you. And every time I start to understand this God-life a bit better, life happens.
I’ll give you an example: this post came directly out of revelations of God's unchanging nature that I got from Bethel Music's worship night last Monday. The very next day, I had an important meeting where - almost immediately afterwards - I went into a panic, dissecting everything I said, and thinking about all the areas where I fell short. Despite there being absolutely nothing I could do to change things, I kept replaying everything that had happened. I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t focus. Talk about being stricken with panic.
On Wednesday morning, with a little help, I remembered what I had written in this post, and how focusing on Jesus is the solution to a sturdy, weather-proof life. Remembering this quieted all the worries that were screaming in my mind, and a wave of calmness washed over me. Getting our minds right doesn't magically transform our situation but it helps us to handle life better. As it says in James:
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life [your core value system, the deep-rooted truths that you rely on] is forced into the open and shows its true colours [...] Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way - James 1:2-4 (additional comments inserted)
It’s funny how life works, right? Every situation is an opportunity to recall and stand on the truth of who God is, and the Bible gives us the tools we need to do this well. While the socio-economic context has changed from Biblical times, the human condition hasn’t. We still live with doubt, fear, pressure, joy, love, excitement and everything else in between. The difference between fight (stand, rely on the truth) or flight (revert to panic, stress and other things that gnaw at our sanity) is our foundation. Once we recognise and accept that foundation we stand on it. Then stand some more. It’s not about how quickly we can find a new solution, it's all about whether we are affirming the 'sure thing' that we already know. The questions may change, but the answer remains the same: Jesus, who has been right here all along.
Thanks for reading as usual folks, does any of this resonate with you? What do you think? Let me know in the comment section below, and don't forget to follow the blog for special subscriber-only content, recommendations and inspiration.
© FreelyWritten, 2016