Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 6:11e (cont.) “. . .to stand. . .”
“To stand” involves no fright. Christians, be “in nothing terrified by your adversaries” (PH 1:28). Refuse to let Satan unnerve us. Robed in God’s armor, unceasingly take advantage of our heavenly seat, thanking God in advance for the victory He has already won, and for the evidences of it He shall reveal.
In addition to no fright, “to stand” entails no flight. Our call is to hold out, as opposed to quitting the field and taking flight. Nothing more dishonors an army than a frenzied retreat. One of Joshua’s darkest hours occurred when his routed troops fled Ai in disarray. The commander cried out, “O Lord, what shall I say when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies?” (Joshua 7:8). One of the most humiliating moments in U.S. military history took place at Bull Run in our Civil War. Union troops broke ranks and ran pell-mell.
Flight is also a humiliation in spiritual warfare. Jesus, our Commander in Chief, offers believers no backdoors. He fixed the standard, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (LK 9:62). Christ ordered His embattled church at Thyatira, “Hold fast until I come,” and commanded the Philadelphia church, “Hold that fast which thou hast” (RV 2:25; 3:11). Our orders are simply stated–surrender nothing God has won for us. “Keep living by that same standard to which we have attained” (PH 3:16). We must face the enemy till death, never looking over our shoulder.
For believers, retreat and defeat are not options. Cortez, once his men were ashore in the new world, burned all his ships. His troops were trapped. They had no possibility of retreat, and thus never considered it as an option. This desperation helps explain why they fought with excessive fury and cruelty.
We Christians, too, must never count flight an option. Retreat is disastrous. Hell rejoices every time a Christian quits. It shames God, and allows Satan time to have his way with the deserter. In the Christian panoply, no armor protects the back. Thus, Satan wants us to desert our worthy walk (4:1), and expose the one part of our body unprotected by armor. Anyone who gives up and flees is totally defenseless, and will experience a cataclysmic fall.
Weary warrior, please don’t quit. I know full well that the battle is often fierce. Blows come hot and heavy at times. The strain can seem unbearable. My brother, Charles, rightly once said in a sermon on our text, “Sometimes it is a great victory just to be able to stand.” We hunker down at times, nurse our wounds, and collect ourselves, but we never quit. We say with our beloved Apostle, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (2 C 4:8-9). We will not leave our seat, quit our walk, or take off our armor.
Ivor Powell tells of the two animals emblazoned on the Australian coat of arms–the emu, a large bird that cannot fly, and the kangaroo. These less than illustrious animals were selected because neither can move backward. If the emu tries to go backward, its big three-toed feet cause it to fall. The kangaroo is kept from going backward by its long tail. Both animals cannot retreat; neither can fully armored Christians who remain in their heavenly seat and continue their worthy walk. Victory is assured to all who choose no flight.
“To stand” entails no fright, not being dislodged from our heavenly seat, and no flight, not being swayed from our worthy walk. “To stand” also entails only fight. “YHWH is a warrior” (EX 15:3a) and His call is for soldiers, not diplomats, for regiments, not embassies. Victory is fought out, not negotiated.
Christians are engaged in warfare, but some wrongly believe God saves us to make us happy without a care all the way to heaven. The moment God redeems us, a terrible, ferocious enemy declares war on us. We remain under constant bombardment from this foe until death finally brings rest. The Christian walk is a battle, not a life of ease. Stay ready. Never lower our guard.
The Kingdom of Christ is, by its very nature, an advancing attack force. In the beginning, God’s creation was perfect, but in Eden, Satan wrought ruin and rebellion, and usurped the throne of this world as his own (2 C 4:4). Fortunately, God has not forsaken mankind. Through His Kingdom He attacks the pirated realm, reclaiming what originally was, and rightfully is, His. Jesus said of His Church, “The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (MT 16:18). This implies the Church is advancing. The word “prevail” means to stimy, to hold down. “Gates” do not attack, they merely withstand. The challenge to Israel at the Red Sea applies to the Church today, “Go forward” (EX 14:15).
With fearless and reckless abandon, God has ever taken the battle to the devil. This assault climaxed when our Lord attacked Satan in the evil one’s premiere strongholds, sin and death. Courageously daring the devil to do his worst, Jesus became sin itself (2 C 5:21) and entered death’s dominion. In the very moment demons thought they had crushed Jesus, He was triumphing over them. His resurrection made a mockery of Satan, publicly humiliated the forces of darkness (CL 2:15), and vaulted Jesus to a position of authority, far above principalities and powers (PH 2:9-11). Christ now demonstrates the victory He has won at Calvary by using His Church to attack Satan’s usurped territory.
Though the ultimate victory has already been won at Calvary, the defeated foe never willingly yields one inch of his usurped territory. He launches fierce counterattacks in the only sphere left to him. Satan can do no harm in Heaven, for he and his demons were thrown out of paradise and cast down to earth (RV 12:7-9). He also knows he cannot destroy the Church (RV 12:13-16). Unable to strike God or to kill the Church, Satan connives to embarrass God and the Church by causing Christians to sin. Satan musters all his cohorts to attack Christians as individuals (RV 12:17). He cowardly unleashes his fury on the weakest link in the kingdom advance, the individual soldiers–believers. Thus, the battlefield is in our hearts. The war of the Universe rages within us, and our role as individuals is “to stand,” to fight, keeping the enemy at bay.
Our situation is illustrated by what happened to the Allies in the last year of World War II. After the D-Day invasion, Germany’s fate was sealed. V-Day was inevitable, but in one last ditch all-out effort, Hitler counterattacked, hurling his forces at the middle of the Allied line. The assault was fierce, and bulged the center of the Allied line back until the counterattack was repulsed. This Battle of the Bulge was fury let loose, for it was a desperate do-or-die situation for Hitler. This pictures our dilemma as believers. Calvary was D-Day. Our victory is inevitable. In the meantime, we experience the fury of the Battle of the Bulge, Satan’s relentless counterattack. He cannot win the war, but seeks to humiliate God by making life miserable for the foot soldiers.
It is vitally important for us “to stand”–no fright, no flight, only fight–because in our bewildered world, in a society tossed to and fro by every new idea or whim which blows our way, people need calm and steadfast role models who understand what life is all about, and who have it all together. We make a strong statement for God and His Church, and honor both, by simply standing. As others are collapsing, “stand!” People will see and be influenced. Our strength will inspire many, causing them to look unto Christ for strength.