In Exodus 14, Moses said to the people,
“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
There are times, in our journey as pilgrims who walk in the light of Christ, in which the battle is fierce. Occasionally, we face battles in which no human effort will bring victory for us. I recently wrote to a friend, who is fighting for her health, these words:
‘This is the time for you to stand and see the salvation of God.’
God is looking at His people, during this time- in order to be pleased- that we believe, even though we do not yet see our desired end.
I am fasting now, in order to offer constant prayer to God.
I am standing on and declaring His word, as I know you always do.
But I am not trusting in my fasting or in my prayers. My trust is in the Lord, the Most High God.
I think, the ‘pressing in’ that we need to do, now, is to stand. I am reminded of leaders in battle – Stonewall Jackson and the like – who when they took their ground, would rush forward and take a stand; refusing to bow to the fierce battle around them; refusing to look to the left or to the right.
It is with that kind of intensity that we focus on Jesus and focus on His Promises, so that He can win the day–and be glorified. In this way, spiritual strongholds are overturned and the kingdom of God comes to earth in power.’
IN THE FIERCEST OF BATTLES
In the book of Exodus, chapter 14, the Israelites had been emancipated from slavery, by the Egyptian Pharaoh. After the Pharaoh had freed them, he thought better of it and sent the full force of his might, in the form of his military, to go and recapture, or slaughter, the Jewish people. As the Jews faced the seas before them and the soldiers behind them, they cried out in terror to Moses, their leader. Their destruction seemed evident.
But Moses said to them, do not be afraid! Take your stand! Stand firm, and see that God will fight for you. He Himself will be your deliverance.
Oh in our times of struggle, can we simply trust?
Can we believe, and persevere in our beliefs, that the God of Israel, Himself, loves us enough to fight our battles for us?
As the Israelites stood, then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.’
- ‘I will work’ says the Lord; ‘I will work for you!’
“I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.”
- God Himself will gain the glory, when He accomplishes what only He can do, on our behalf.
- Next, God shifted the fight!
Verse 19 “Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel.”
“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided.”
- Deliverance came by the hand of the Lord.
“And the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.”
And though the Egyptians pursued them, their armies were filled with confusion. Their equipment failed. Their soldiers were swallowed up in the very waters that once were a barrier to the Israelites! These enemies were never to be seen again!
How much more will the Lord fight on your behalf, Beloved? For you, who are filled with the Spirit of God’s own Son!
IN THE HOME STRETCH
Maybe you are in the home stretch. You have rounded the bases, and you are running towards home! Keep it up; you are almost there!
- Stand your ground.
- Make a declaration of the words that God has given to you, His specific promises for your life.
- Refuse to give up.
- Refuse to give in to the fierceness of the battle!
Watch and see……… the miracles………. that God will do………. on behalf of the one who waits for him!!
Finally, be encouraged by these words from the book of Ephesians.
“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power! 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!”
Whenever I think about being alert, I always think back to that first cup of coffee that I drink each morning. After drinking a cup of coffee, our physical bodies are awakened, and we are more alert, and if we drink a few espressos, maybe even more so.
Unfortunately, the church in America today, needs a few espressos. We probably need intravenous infusions of something that will bring about a spiritual awakening. The scariest part is that I am convinced that most well-meaning, God loving Christians are not aware of their own slumbering state.
In my last blog, I wrote about entering the rest of God. I am concerned though, that because of our general understanding of the word ‘rest,’ we, as Christians, might misunderstand the implications of learning to ‘rest in God.’
It does not mean to lie around in slumber, or to be lazy, or to take our own ease.
Isaiah 40 31 tells us that “those wait on the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
This is a picture of the rest of God that we must enter into. This type of rest includes seeking the Lord daily, in order to obtain His peace, strength and guidance. When we take the time to wait for God’s Presence, we actually exchange our strength for His. He pours His might and power into us. He also gives us peace. In this place, The Lord can also speak instructions to our spirit. From this place of rest, we can go forth in order to take action in our communities.
So, resting in Christ is an impetus to action.
Daniel says that ‘those who know their God will be strong and will take action. One translation says that they will do exploits.’ Daniel 11:32
If ever in the history of the United States, there was a need for strong and obedient Christians, who are doing exploits, it is now. As a student of American history, I cannot think of a time, after its founding, in which there was such a dire need of a man or a woman to stand in the gap. We can stand in the gap in prayer, as the prophet Joel said, ‘weeping between the porch (where the people are) and the altar of God, saying “spare us oh God, for why should we be a byword among the nations.”
We can also stand in the gap with our physical beings- being present where there is an intersection of good and evil. We can use our voices to exalt righteousness, by sending letters to newspapers, by signing petitions, by speaking up. We can go to the places where contemporary issues are being decided, gathering at our city council meetings and at the capitols, where our state legislators meet. We can gather; we can protest.
We can become more active in evangelizing our neighbors. We can become more active in feeding and sheltering the poor.
How sad it is that the church is called the ‘silent majority’ in America. We have muzzled ourselves under the bondages of complacency and the fear of man.
Church people don’t want to appear unloving; I think it is our greatest fear. And while our demeanor and our words must always be filled with grace, we cannot cower any longer in the shadows.
Secondly, we must have discernment. I fear that the American church is under a deluding influence. We have gone off, half-cocked, as it were, forgetting that ‘the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.’
In short, we are a church, asleep.
Over and over in the Word of God, we are exhorted to be alert.
I Peter 4:7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.
Colossians 4:2 says “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.”
Ephesians 6:18 ‘And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.’
Jesus Himself exhorted us to be ready and to remain alert.
Luke 12:35-37 “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes.”
In order for us to wake up, we cannot be about our business as usual. We really must give much more effort into seeking, not religion, but to seeking the Lord Himself. Out of the overflow, we can understand His will for us and take action and function from a place of rest.
Hebrews 4:11 tells us to ‘be diligent to enter the rest’ that God has provided. How do we do this in the midst of trying times, in the middle of so many challenges that we face in our lives?
Over the last years, it seems that my life has been filled with challenges, most of which have to do with following Christ along the ministry path that He has for me. I have entered into a landscape of spiritual battles.
Indeed, I have been very surprised by the path that my life has taken over the last ten year period as my husband, Sam, and I have been answering God’s call to the ‘open door of ministry’ that He spoke to us about, in 2005. At that time, we moved from Houston, Texas to Charlotte, by faith, following His lead.
The years which followed have been filled with tests and trials, as we have pioneered a church plant.
The primary challenge has come because the ideas that we had in our minds were not the plans that He intended for us. It has taken much seeking of Him to find our way- to find the mold, or type, of ministry that He has for us. It has taken years for us to become the vessels that He can use to accomplish the supernatural, in order to make significant impact in our community.
This challenge has to do with God’s handiwork in our lives. It has to do with the Father putting His imprint on our very beings.
It has to do with us opening our souls, our spirit man to the heavenly funnel of the Holy Spirit, to the anointing that He desires to pour into us. This comes through much stretching and through our willingness to be conformed to His image.
And it has to do with rest. We must choose to rest in Him. We do this by waiting upon His Presence for these transformations to take place. We do this by engaging with the very person of God.
Coming into the purposes that God has for me, means that I must discern the times in which we live, and from that learn what actions I must take.
What is God saying and how must we respond?
The goal of our lives before Jesus is this: Obedience- fulfilling the assignments that we are given. Not giving up, but pursuing Him until that assignment takes a turn unto another or until the assignment’s end.
In order to fulfill obedience, we must pursue Him until we find rest, until the words ‘My yoke is easy and My burden is light’ are a reality in our daily walk. This grace, ‘the grace that is sufficient’ for the journey, comes only through His Word and in His Presence, through communion with our Creator, with our Father.
And so we seek to enter into His rest.
It is there that the great words of Psalm 23 open up before us. “The Lord is my shepherd.” He leads me into the pastures that are fresh, which feed my soul, and beside the still waters that nourish and sustain me.
It is there that He restores me. He patches me up from the daily battles. He puts a salve on my wounds. He comforts me.
It is in the place of rest that Jesus gives the sustenance that is needed to continue on the journey, and to continue in the battles, in the fight to win – so that others may know.
How do we develop faith?
The Bible tells us that God has already gained victory for us, and that we enter into these victories by faith!
Scripture exhorts us that by believing “we can conquer kingdoms, work righteousness, obtain promises, stop the mouths of lions, escape the sword and become strong.” These are lofty achievements. The Bible also tells us that we can move mountains, see the blind healed, and see those who do not know Christ, come to the saving knowledge of Him- by and through faith!
But how do we obtain faith?
One of the most important tools to utilize, in order to get on this path towards victory by faith, is Scriptures itself. In Ephesians, the Word is spoken of as a sword. In Hebrews, the word is spoken of as something “alive and powerful,” and from which “no creature is hidden.” In the first verses of book of John, we are told that Jesus Himself is one in the same as the Words of God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” These are mysteries that the natural man does not comprehend. But when we discern things by the Spirit, we can begin to understand.
Here is the truth for most of us: We need to focus more on the words of our Bible. Jesus said that it is literally akin to the very food we eat. I am sure that if you or I missed food for an entire day, or for a few days, we would notice our hunger and our need. Some of us might notice after missing only one meal!
But are we as keenly aware of our need to consume the words of God, as we are our needs to consume natural food? Jesus spoke to us about this need and provided His life as an example of one who lived continually by Scripture.
So, here are just a few of the results of being famished for God’s words.
- Too many people walk around worried and anxious.
- Too many needs for wisdom and understanding are unmet.
- Our physical needs are not met; we experience lack and have poor health.
- There are too many broken relationships in our lives.
- We are addicted to other things.
- We lack joy, hope and confidence.
So, that is all of the depressing stuff, but the good news is that we can grow!
By giving attention to Scripture, we can gain strength, wisdom, understanding and even health and peace. I firmly believe this.
So, I can see that I need to be more intentional about my approach to Scripture consumption: reading, studying and meditating on God’s word as a diet for my spirit. Maybe you do too.
I need to eat God’s word like it is my food for life. From there, I can learn to use God’s specific words like a sword– to fight the enemies of my soul and to be an instrument to extend God’s Kingdom, bringing light and life to the world around me.
Much more about that, soon to come….
As Christians, we don’t like to admit that we sometimes feel uncertain about our future. The shifting nature of our lives leaves us feeling vulnerable. Maybe we have anxiety about our financial situation or concerns for the health of a loved one. Maybe we are experiencing a season where the answers to our prayers seem to be delayed, where the battle has been long, hard, relentless.
But when we find ourselves in difficult situations, in the middle of life’s toughest battles, do we allow God’s peace and rest to fill our souls? This can be a challenging thing to do.
The Bible offers encouragement to us through the lives of men and women who faced obstacles, but approached these challenges with hope and faith. King David is an example of one who found peace in the midst of his battles. David had a high calling on his life, but he faced opposition to his destiny at every turn.
We can learn much by observing the remarkable journey of a young King David. From the time that he was anointed king, by the prophet Samuel (around age 15), until he actually began to reign as king (at age 30), David faced many perils. It was during these fifteen years that David’s enemies pursued him. The future king hid out in caves in the wilderness. He experienced the doubts of whom to trust and of how to move forward. In this time of darkness, David penned Psalm 121. “I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help?”
David made the decision to lift his eyes away from his circumstances unto something greater. He sought help from the One whom He knew to be greater than the natural world.
David, who lifted His eyes, knew how to draw close to the Lord and to gain God’s perspective in all of the battles that he faced. Even though there were many times when victory was a long-shot, David moved forward with courage, strengthening Himself in the Lord. King David’s life was filled with impossible circumstances, giving way to the possible.
During my deepest times of struggle, I sense the Lord drawing me unto Himself. He encourages me to lift, lift, lift! In obedience, I lift my eyes to Him. I lift my face to him, as a child would lift his face unto a parent. I lift my heart to Him and know that He desires to take away my anxieties and fill me with His peace.
In order for us to obtain victory in the challenges our own lives, we must lift our vision. Above the natural realm, above what we see and understand, there is the power of a supernatural kingdom that is available to us. This kingdom and its King supersede our natural world. As we lift our eyes, God can reveal His will to us, His thoughts being above our own; His perspective being complete and perfect, in contrast to the limits of our understanding.
I know that you are praying and petitioning God for your family and friends and for other situations in your life. Maybe some of the circumstances in which you find yourself are challenging; some may even seem impossible. In each of the areas where you are fighting a battle of faith, it is God’s will for you to find the steady path of revelation, wisdom and peace. These revelations of light will give direction to your prayers and steadfastness to your confession.
Here are a few scriptures to encourage you:
Psalm 16: “I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; My heart also instructs me in the night seasons.I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope.”
Psalm 45: “God is in the midst of us; we will not be moved. God will help us when the morning dawns.”
When we understand that our faith has overcome this world, then we can face our battles with an unshakable confidence knowing that He will never leave us or forsake us. As we, like David, lift our eyes to heaven, He is sending us help. Our impossible situations are becoming possible victories!
Psalm 121: “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
“Look up, my child, your redemption is drawing near. Your victory is on its way. Hold fast to My words of comfort and encouragement. Soon you will see a great advance. As you run to the battles, as you face them head on, I, as I did for David will add supernatural power to your weapons of warfare. Take these weapons in your hand—take the Word of God as your sword and faith as your shield. Know that I am backing you up. I will never leave you, as I have promised. I am not a man that I should lie. With Me there is no shadow of change. As I was with David, so I am with you now, only in greater measures says the Lord.
Take the five smooth stones and hurl them at your enemy. See that he will be routed and great victories shall be won. Though you face the enemy on several sides, your enemy shall be slain. You will gain promotion and blessing and all will marvel at the triumph and the goodness of the Lord. I the Lord hasten this in its time.”
“In your strength, I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall.” Ps. 18:29
When we are in the battle, when we face a wall before us that seems insurmountable, we all have the tendency towards retreating to a comfortable place. We move towards the places of greatest comfort or shelter. These tendencies manifest themselves in various ways, but in ways that are familiar to each of us as individuals.
Sometimes, we are tempted towards unbelief or doubt. It is easier to believe that the battle is too difficult (unbelief) or to have doubts about something that we, ultimately, know is true about God. For example, we might doubt that He really loves us or doubt that He is really capable of changing our circumstances. We gravitate towards thought patterns along these lines. Others are tempted to fear. When we are facing mountains and are in the struggle of faith, our souls are tempted to go down familiar paths; our minds tend towards these familiar, natural thoughts.
When we are in battles, we must fight with the weapons of warfare that God has said will give us victory. We need discernment to know which tools to pick up, at which times. Being adept with the weapons of warfare at our disposal takes time, and it takes practice. The more you study and meditate on God’s Word, the more we will understand God’s ways and the remedy that He has for every life situation, trial or trouble. Likewise, the more we pray and spend time listening to God, the more skillful we will be in utilizing the Word of God to pray. On a side note, this is why it is so important to have mentors in our lives, those who are more battle tested, who discern and understand, who can stand with us in the fight.
We must learn to discern when to fight in prayer; when to act; when to fast; when to petition God; when to sing and when to stand still and to see the salvation of God. At all times, we must cast down the thoughts of our minds that exalt themselves against what we know about God and His will, “casting down thoughts that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God.” 2 Corinthians 10:5. In fact the Bible tells us to ‘demolish these arguments’ that set themselves against the knowledge of God. Sometimes, these thoughts have built a ‘web in heads,’ and have become a stronghold that we cannot seem to circumnavigate or break through.
This is where fasting and prayer come in. We fast so that God can expose these strongholds to us; so that we might enter into warring against them and tearing them down and replacing them with God’s truths. God tells us in Isaiah 58 that, in response to our prayers and fasting, that God will untie every yoke of bondage; break every yoke; and let the oppressed go free!
Unfortunately, most Christians do not understand much about fasting and are ignorant to the victories brought through fasting. So, many continue under the bondages of oppression. The Good News is that Christ died to set us free from oppression and from fear and doubt and unbelief.
I have fought for my freedom for many years, but it is worth the fight. And it seems to me that God is bringing new light to the power that He has given us. This really encourages me for those whom I shepherd and for those whom I love.
Let me encourage you today that there really is no wall that is too big for us to scale, when God is on our side. “In your strength, I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall.” Ps. 18:29