The last few weeks of life have been tough.
Exterior situations, interior battles.
And just maybe (!) a whole lot of spiritual growth!
There have been two very familiar verses that have strengthened me greatly, and today I want to share them with you.
"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." (Ephesians 6:13, NIV)
I love all references in the Bible that contain soldier/warrior imagery.
They always inspire me to be stronger, more courageous.
So this verse has always been a favorite.
But as I've read over it the last couple of weeks, I've noticed something different.
It's the fact that the word *stand* has been used two times, and in seemingly different ways.
I want to explore this.
First of all, I am not a Greek scholar, nor do I posture myself as being an expert on doctrine. But when I have an insight that proves helpful to me, I always feel like the Holy Spirit is in that.
So, here's my thoughts.
In the first instance I read: "stand your ground."
The phrase implies that there is an opposing force, an enemy attacking you from the other side. There is no need to stand your ground if there isn't someone or something on the other side trying to knock you down.
In legal terms, there is something known as the "stand your ground" law.
A "stand your ground" law states that a person may use deadly force in self-defense without the duty to retreat when faced with a reasonable perceived threat.
All of this makes a great deal of sense to me.
The enemy of our souls does his best to oppose us.
He desires to infiltrate our territory. To steal spiritual ground. To insert his kingdom purposes into our thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Therefore, standing our ground is actively fighting against his schemes.
It is an offensive position.
It's the second part of the verse that strikes me most:
"After you have done everything, to stand."
I am struck that there is a reason for this added thought.
Oftentimes after a particularly hard battle against the devil, I am tempted to relax and take it easy.
But honestly, does anyone ever sit on the battlefield?
A soldier who is battle-ready never lays down his weapons. And after a battle is won, he remains on alert.
After fighting the enemy and standing my ground, it is oh-so-important to then remain standing!
To be firm and resolute, on guard, prepared for the next onslaught – for it will indeed come.
It even happened to Jesus:
"When the devil had finished every temptation, he [temporarily] left Him until a more opportune time." (Luke 4:13, AMP)
Opportune: (of a time) well-chosen or particularly favorable or appropriate; done or occurring at a favorable or useful time; well-timed.
Yes, this is our enemy – *that* guy.
The one who never ceases to look for the perfect opportunity to strike.
He can wait, if it serves his strategies, but he will never go away.
So here's how I read this verse from Ephesians for me:
"The enemy is going to come after you. So when he does arrive, put on the whole armor of God so that you can stand your ground. Don't yield an inch; oppose him in the strength that God gives you. And when you have done everything against him, don’t relax your guard. Stay standing firm, always alert for his next attack."
The second verse is this one:
"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7, ESV)
I am struck by the difference between "oppose, fight" and "resist."
Resist: to remain strong against the force or effect of (something); to not be affected or harmed by (something).
Therefore, resisting the devil is standing against him.
It is a defensive position.
We are always threatened by the enemy, or by the imminent possibility of his attack.
We are always subject to his harassment, his assaults, his aggression.
We must remain defensively strong.
Sometimes it's difficult to do, as sometimes the battle involves an inner struggle in which our will is divided.
The devil has a sneaky way of trying to get us to do what we naturally want to do in the first place.
Bitterness wouldn't be such a temptation if anger wasn't so easy.
Hatred wouldn't be so persuasive if it didn't feel so good to stand up for what we think is right.
Lying wouldn't appeal to us so much if self-protective fibbing didn't feel so instinctive.
Worshiping money wouldn't be so enticing if the need for security didn't drive us so much.
Fill in your own blanks.
Satan is subtle, and I sometimes think that the most effective evil is really just twisted good.
I find it interesting that this verse does NOT say, "Fight the devil, and he will be defeated."
Two things come to mind:
1) The battle is not ours to fight alone
In Ephesians and in James, we are counseled to stand our ground, to remain standing firm, to resist.
But we cannot fight the enemy in our own power.
He is a supernatural being, and therefore, it requires supernatural ability, heavenly allies, and the LORD of Heaven's Armies Himself to fight against him.
"You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you…" (2 Chronicles 20:17, NIV)
Yes, contextually this verse was given to the Israelites upon the occasion of an impending battle.
But I think God uses this message to speak to our own hearts even today.
2) We cannot defeat the devil
Again, this outcome belongs to the Lord.
We can resist the devil, and we are admonished, encouraged, commanded to do so.
But we cannot defeat him.
This is completely up to the Lord.
However, I think it's very important to remember that our enemy is already a defeated foe. He "lost" at Calvary, and he's just frantically working now on borrowed time.
Somehow he's deceived himself into thinking that he can change the inevitable.
But he cannot.
In the meantime, all his *roaring* is really just squeaky squawking, just feeble fussing, only useless yakking.
One day he will be silenced forever.
By Jesus, the Victor who gives us victory.
The One who conquered the devil's ultimate weapon – death – and destroyed his power forever.
"[God] canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross." (Colossians 2:14-15, NLT)
So, here's how I read this verse from James for me:
"Submit to God, for He’s the One with all the power. Push back when the devil pushes you. Take a defensive stand. He will be surprised at your resistance, and he will run away."
I'd like to add some extra thoughts that I came across as I explored these verses. I think they help expand the concepts of opposing, fighting, standing, resisting:
to stand opposite or against
to take a complete stand against – a 180 degree, contrary position
to establish one's position publicly by conspicuously "holding one's ground"
to refuse to be moved or pushed back
to forcefully declare one's personal conviction where they unswervingly
to keep one's possession
to ardently withstand, without giving up or letting go
And, some more information I discovered as I did a little research about the Greek words that I've looked at:
The Greek word "anthístēmi" was a military term in classical Greek (used by Thucydides, etc.) meaning "to strongly resist an opponent" and to "take a firm stand against."
The Greek word translated "withstand or stand your ground" in Ephesians 6:13 is "antistēnai" – and it is found in these other verses: Matthew 5:39, Luke 21:15, and Acts 6:10.
The Greek word translated "to stand" in Ephesians 6:13 is "stēnai" – and it is found in these other verses: Mark 3:26, Acts 8:38, Ephesians 6:11.
The Greek word translated "resist" in James 4:7 is "antistēte" – and is only found one other time in 1 Peter 5:9.
(See, maybe I'm not a Greek scholar, but I like being a Greek searcher!)
And I thought these commentaries were quite interesting, and very helpful:
"Spiritual strength and courage are needed for our spiritual warfare and suffering. Those who would prove themselves to have true grace, must aim at all grace; and put on the whole armour of God, which he prepares and bestows. The Christian armour is made to be worn; and there is no putting off our armour till we have done our warfare, and finished our course. The combat is not against human enemies, nor against our own corrupt nature only; we have to do with an enemy who has a thousand ways of beguiling unstable souls. The devils assault us in the things that belong to our souls, and labour to deface the heavenly image in our hearts. We must resolve by God's grace, not to yield to Satan. Resist him, and he will flee. If we give way, he will get ground. If we distrust either our cause, or our Leader, or our armour, we give him advantage…Our enemies are mighty, and we are without strength, but our Redeemer is almighty, and in the power of his might we may overcome. Wherefore we must stir up ourselves."
(Matthew Henry commentary on Ephesians 6:10-18)
"Resist the devil, and he will flee from you – while you yield to God in all things, you are to yield to the devil in none. You are to resist and oppose him in whatever way he may approach you, whether by allurements, by flattering promises, by the fascinations of the world, by temptation, or by threats…Satan makes his way, and secures his triumphs, rather by art, cunning, deception, and threatenings, than by true courage; and when opposed manfully, he flies. The true way of meeting him is by direct resistance, rather than by argument; by steadfastly refusing to yield in the slightest degree, rather than by a belief that we can either convince him that he is wrong, or can return to virtue when we have gone a certain length in complying with his demands. No one is safe who yields in the least to the suggestions of the tempter; there is no one who is not safe if he does not yield."
(Barnes' Notes on the Bible, James 4:7)
So yes, the last few weeks of life have been tough.
But oh, how the Lord is stretching me and strengthening me.
He is teaching me the nuances of battle – the truth about how to do it well, how to rely on His power to fight a supernatural war, how to stand my ground, how to resist – and how to stand strong and firm in the aftermath.
And speaking of the aftermath – the *to stand* part – one of my devotionals last week added this important knowledge to what I like to call *the fight after the fight.*
Every victory must lead to occupation.
It does not take the enemy long to recognize an unguarded post and take advantage of it.
I must follow up triumphs with seizing the territory so the enemy cannot recapture it.
I must nail down my victories so that counterattack is impossible.
There must be no vacancy after victory!
(Thoughts taken from "Daily with the King" by W. Glyn Evans)
Dear friends, none of us are in this battle alone.
We battle together, and God fights for us.
Let's withstand the attacks.
Let's stand our ground.
Let's remain standing after the battle is done.
Let's claim the *new ground* of victory.
Let's take the banner of Christ, the Victor, and plant it firmly in our hearts.
And let's never, ever give in, give over, or give up.
(Latin for "possess the land.")
(Hebrew for "the LORD is my banner.")
Having done all, let's stand.
What is your battle today? Are you standing strong?
O enemy of mine
You will not cross this line,
Here I take my stand
And claim it as "God's land."
"Moses answered the people, 'Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The [enemies] you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.'" (Exodus 14:13-14, NIV)
"He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me." (Psalm 18:17, KJV)
"'Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'" (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)
"Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid. Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident." (Psalm 27:3, NLT)
"O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me…
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked."
(Psalm 3:1-4, 6-7, ESV)
"Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith…" (1 Peter 5:8-9, NIV)
"A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God's armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground…" (Ephesians 6:10-14, NLT)
"What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31, NLT)
"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:37-39, NLT)
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