God has been impressing the above verse on me today. Hammering it in, really. I have been sick every weekend since the 3rd weekend in December and so have missed going to church. Even now my right ear is beginning to hurt again. I recently finished a 2 week bout with an antibiotic that made me dizzy and nauseated and yesterday the back of my hands broke out in a rash. It seems since August I have been battling one kind of illness or another--insomnia, low thyroid, sinus infections, high blood pressure, or reactions to medications--sleeplessness, sleeping too much from sinus medications, fuzzy-headed, headaches.
My hands were itching this morning so I put vaseline on them and thought, there is no way I can go to church with vaseline on my hands! Plus, I only slept from 9 pm to 2 am and was up the rest of the time, and had not slept much the night before, so I was tired. At 2 am, I had prayed to God to help me sleep because I wanted so badly to go to church and worship Him with my church family, but sleep did not come. I began thinking about Paul's writing of his troubles in 2 Corinthians 11:24, telling us he was flogged 5 times, beaten with rods 3 times, stoned almost to the point of death, shipwrecked 3 times, spent a night and a day in the open sea, been constantly on the move, in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from his own countrymen and Gentiles, in danger in the city, country, at sea, and from false brothers; he often gone without sleep, had known hunger and thirst, and had often gone without food, had been cold and naked, and faced the daily pressure of his concern for all the churches all the while.
So about 5:30 am, I opened my Bible and eventually came across Isaiah 7:9. I thought that, yes, I needed to stand firm and I would stand firm and trust that God was still with me even though I didn't understand why I was not being allowed to go to church for so many Sundays. I closed my Bible and told God if He would help me sleep, I still had two hours before the alarm went off. I tried to sleep but just tossed and turned. Later, about 7:30 am, I went into the back bedroom for my regular time of prayer and Bible reading, and the devotional reading for today was Isaiah 6:8 in My Utmost for His Highest. I backed up and began with the first verse so I could get the context and read through verse 10. When I read the words, "Send me", the tears began to flow. I wanted God to send me, but I seemed to be stuck in my house with one illness after another. How could He use anyone like me? I told Him through my tears that I felt like the enemy was all over me and had been for some time and that I needed His help. Then I continued reading in Isaiah and before I knew it, I had read past chapter 6 and into chapter 7. Once again the words of verse 9 faced me: "If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all." I was so sleepy it took a minute for me to remember I had read it just hours earlier.
I have come to know that when God allows a repetition like this, I am to take heed of it. I copied it on a 3x5 card and was suddenly reminded of another verse that mentions standing firm-- Ephesians 6:13-14--"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...." So I wrote Ephesians 6:14 down on the card as well. As I meditated on those verses, it hit me what I needed to do to stand firm. I needed to go to church despite the rash and despite the lack of sleep--even though I am the type of person who needs at least 7 hours or I can't talk straight. So I prayed and told God that if He would supply the strength, I would go. I got up and got ready, applied a light hand cream to my hands and opened the door. It was raining. I went and put on my raincoat and left anyway. However, during Sunday School my hands began to itch and my s. s. teacher, who is a retired nurse, told me to go get Benadryl to put on it. So I left church and went to Walgreens feeling down because I didn't stay for the worship service.
I came home and applied the Benadryl, sat on the couch, and turned the tv on to the Gospel station. The first sermon I heard was about Daniel which was interesting but I had never heard the preacher before, and I was waiting for someone to come on that I was familiar with so I listened with my head bent down while I was knitting. Then I heard the preacher say you could get his series on Daniel in a dvd series called: Standing Firm. You better believe my head jerked up! (check it out here if your interested.)
But that's not all. The next sermon was Bayless Conley. I had never heard him before either but God now had my full attention. I picked up my pen and began to take notes. His sermon was on Tests of Maturity (referring to spiritual maturity) and the first test was the test of small tasks, based on 1 Tim. 3:8-10--how God requires us to be faithful in the small things before He puts us in charge of larger things. I know that sometimes I get impatient and want to do great things for God, but those are my plans, not His.
The next test was the test of stubborn enemies. Again my ears perked up. I had cried out just this morning for help with my relentless enemy. The Scripture reference was Judges 2:20-3:1-2--the premise was that God tests us so we will be battle-ready and learn to fight. Mr. Conley said that we've been promised victory in the end, but we still must fight the good fight of faith. Then he asked, "Have you ever had afflictions that just won't go away? Yep. Have you ever looked about you and wondered what God was doing? Yep. Wasn't He paying attention? Was your problem, your life of unconcern to Him?" Then he said that of course that was not true. That is not what God's Word tells us. So do we let our enemy determine our theology? No! We double up on our intake of God's Word and our prayers to Him; we strip away any hindrances to our faith. We believe God despite unchanging circumstances. He led us to 2 Corinthians 12:7-8 where Paul talks about his thorn of the flesh. He said that Paul's thorn represented a stubborn enemy, a messenger of Satan is what Paul called it. And that Jesus did not remove it but told Paul "My grace is sufficient for you."
He said the word "sufficient" in Greek was the word that meant "barrier, a protecting wall". We lean on the grace of Jesus when faced with a stubborn enemy, and we abide in His protection so that His miracle power in us is made perfect in our weakness. His power enables us to do what we cannot do on our own. He said God is attracted to weakness, so like Paul we can glory in our weaknesses because then Christ's power will rest on us.
The next preacher that came on was Jeff Schreve--another new one to me. His Scripture passage: Ephesians 6! Topic--Is Your Shield Up? And he had a model of the armor that Paul talks about in Ephesians 6. I had just read about it this morning. He talked about the series Star Trek, how when the enemy approached the USS Enterprise, the order was always given--"deflector shields up!" He applied that to our spiritual enemy who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. (He longs to steal the believer's faith, kill the spirit in us, and destroy our witness.--my addition) But God has given us armor so we can stand firm. God's Word says the shield of faith will extinguish all the flaming missles of the evil one. So this shield provides complete protection. The word shield in Greek means a large, door-shaped shield. The kind Romans took into battle. You could actually get behind it and crouch down and be completly hidden. He said Paul was saying our shield of faith is like that. 2 Corin. 5:7, we walk by faith, not by sight.
Then Pastor Schreve asked--what are the flaming missles of the evil one, who is also known as the accuser, the destroyer? Lies. Lies are the flaming missles he aims at us. John 8:44 says he is the father of lies; Satan wants to get us to distrust and disbelieve God. Romans 10:17 says that faith is rooted in the character and word of God. Jesus said to God, "Thy word is truth." The devil tempts you to believe that God is not telling the truth, that the devil is telling the truth.
But Hebrews 6:18 tells us it is impossible for God to lie. So the flaming missles come in--lies that tempt you to let sight guide you--look at your fears and your circumstances and not at your Lord. But we need to be like David who at age 15 or 16 faced a seasoned warrior standing over 9 feet tall who shouted lies at him. David lifted up his shield of faith and shouted right back at him with the Truth of God. David knew His God intimately--he knew His character and His Word. And so must we. So must we if we want to stand firm in Christ Jesus!
Hallelujah! I praise You, Lord! Thank you for teaching me how to stand firm in my faith! There is no other god like You. I cry out to You and in Your great mercy and love and compassion, You answer me. You are the Almighty One; the Faithful and True; the Father of my spirit; my Refuge and my Strength!
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.