Thoughts on “STANDING FIRM” without regard for the outcome…

In 1992, theBean & I were visiting friends & ended up tagging along to an event at their church where Dick Mills was speaking to the church leadership. If you aren’t familiar with what that would entail, Dick would usually do some sort of Bible-rooted message & then have people in the gathering stand up if he had a specific word of encouragement for them… & those encouragements ALWAYS came in the form of Bible verses (which he would quote from memory,) & then he’d apply it to his targeted person(s.) TheBean & I were there just as observers, but Dick didn’t know that, & sure enough, he stopped his message & had us stand up together. He quoted 2Samuel 23:11,12:

When the Philistines banded together at a place where there was a field full of lentils, Israel’s troops fled from them. But Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field. He defended it & struck the Philistines down, & the Lord brought about a great victory.

He then said something to us about being made/created to people who “stand firm,” & that we’d come out of all sorts of situations “smelling like a rose.”

Both of us really didn’t know what to do with all that… but we’ve also found what he said to be a hallmark of our lives, both personally & in the context of our ministry service/church lives. I read everything I could on “STANDING FIRM” in the Bible, & spent a lot of time trying to work out what it might mean & how it might look for us to STAND FIRM. I came to understand that part of the standing firm was worked out in our lives when we’d be in a hard spot, seemingly alone, with not much hope or encouragement, other than the promise of God being WITH us as we’d stand with/for/in Him. We both got the sense that our STANDING FIRM was about contending for a coming inheritance/the promises of God, & that part of the STANDING FIRM was for a people who weren’t there yet… people who would come later.

And for us, it made sense. So when we’d find ourselves in situations where STANDING FIRM through hard spots, that encouragement from Dick Mills served as a little bit of extra push of purpose, like we were doing not only what we were SUPPOSED to be doing, but what we were MADE to do. And that was enough.

We stand firm.

Over the last several months, I’ve been sensing something more for our call to be STANDING FIRM… & that is a call to STAND FIRM, but without holding on to an expectation that somehow, as a result of our obedience, there would be a specific, desired, EXPECTED outcome. Like, “we stand, God brings victory.”

But what if STANDING FIRM is the point & there’s no promise or expectation of a desired result? Check out the full text of Ephesians 6:10-20: 

Now, what stands out (no pun intended) to me are these verses especially:

Finally, be strong in the Lord & in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your STAND against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh & blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world & against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to STAND YOUR GROUND, & after you have done everything, TO STAND. Ephesians 6:10-13

Notice anything about that passage (the whole thing, in context)? I did… I’d been reading something into it, an outcome, an expectation, a desired result of the STANDING FIRM. Victory. Awesomeness. Good stuff. Cause & effect(?).

But there isn’t one.

All that is promised is that as we are strong in the Lord (His version of strength & power) & as we put on the full armor of God, we will be able to STAND against our enemy, the devil, & his schemes. And that WITH this full armor of God, even through the coming of the day of evil, we’ll be able to STAND OUR GROUND, & after doing everything we can, to STAND.

That’s not bad news. It’s good news.

It makes me reconsider & rethink that my (our) call from God to STAND FIRM doesn’t hinge on me/us seeing a specific outcome; it hinges on my/our obedience. It doesn’t stop the day of evil or keep the attacks of the enemy from coming, but obedience to God’s call allows me/us to remain STANDING THROUGH it all & AFTER it all.

In His strength. In His mighty power. For His glory. For His purposes. And that is enough.

Can I handle the truth?

There’s a scene in the movie, “A Few Good Men” where Tom Cruise’s character is questioning Jack Nicholson’s character in a courtroom. Cruise’s character pushes at Nicholson’s, demanding the truth until Nicholson finally snaps & yells, “You can’t handle the truth!”  I’ve been thinking a lot about that in the context of God’s truth & insight into my own life.

I’m on ‘Day 2’ at the Center for Spiritual Renewal in Christiansburg, Virginia. (You can find out more about it HERE if you’re interested.) So far, my time here has mostly consisted of grocery shopping, eating A LOT of BBQ, reading, pondering life, & a whole lot of quiet & alone time. But the highlight of each of the last 2 days for me has been when I get to sit with Chuck, my mentor/counselor/friend, & wrestle through “that which plagues my heart, mind, & life.” Chuck serves as one of my “healing relationships.” (You can find out more about what a healing relationship is HERE.) When we talk, he doesn’t just sit there like a bump on a log & ask inane questions, like, “How does that make you feel?” or go Dr. Leo Marvin on me. Instead, Chuck listens. Asks pointed questions. He draws stuff out of me that I hadn’t even consciously thought about, let alone verbalized. And then he speaks God’s truth to me.

Granted, it’s not always easy to hear the truth; & the Holy Spirit is always good about confirming what he’s said or whispering to me that I really need to pay attention to what was just said – that God was using Chuck to speak life, health, wholeness, & growth to me. That if I could handle the truth & respond to it with appropriate actions, I would continue to see God’s purposes for me & my life continue to grow & develop.

There have been times where Chuck said something & the Holy Spirit nudged me & STILL I was tempted to gloss over what I’d heard. To deny it. Justify or make excuses about WHY I am the way I am. To point fingers at others. To ignore it. To feel sorry for myself. To come face to face with truth & want to turn & run from it to avoid having to do something difficult.

The truth, spoken in love, challenges me to examine & be open to change/be transformed in my thought patterns, behaviors, &/or ways I see myself & my role at home, work, with friends, & others. God’s truth invites me to grow up into being like Christ in my relationships & interactions with others. To leave my childish sin & flesh-encrusted ways behind in order to  intentionally  embrace Christ-likeness, without regard for how (or if) others might act or respond.

The truth isn’t always easy to hear – but when it is spoken in love, with God’s heart for redemption, restoration, & transformation fully evident, it is a lot easier to handle. And the alternative is stagnation. Becoming set in my ways. A gradual(?) deterioration into the results of me living for me. The loss of the ability to hear the still, small voice of the Lord calling me to come to Him to be being made new.

My 2 cents: Find someone who will speak God’s truth to you, in love. Then, handle the truth by responding to God’s instruction. It’s worth it.