IN THE EVIL DAY…STAND

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”
Ephesians 6:10, 13

The Christian life is a spiritual battle. As Paul warned the Ephesian church of the spiritual conflict they would encounter, we also need to realize that we have an
adversary, the devil, which wants to discourage, defeat, and even destroy us. We are encouraged to withstand and to stand in the “evil day.” There will always be spiritual attacks against those who love and serve the Lord, but some days the intensity of the warfare is noticeably stronger. These days are what could be referred to as the “evil day.” There will be evil days; days of greater than usual temptations and attack. There will be days of intensified spiritual warfare. We should not be surprised when we have periods of spiritual conflict, when the enemy relentlessly barrages us with lies, accusations, and false imaginations. If we are in the battle and are engaged in service for the cause of Jesus Christ, the enemy will do all he can to distract and discourage us.

The good news is that we have been given adequate provision for the most evil of days. We have been given God’s Spirit and power. We are challenged to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” We dare not stand against the enemy in our own power, but in the power of God’s might. Our strength is in the Lord. The battle is not ours but the Lord’s. The devil’s attacks may be more than we can withstand in our own might or power, but they are not more than our Savior can handle.

When we face an evil day, we need to make sure we are trusting in the Lord and not ourselves. We have been provided given spiritual armor to protect and equip us in the evil days. By faith, we must take inventory and make sure we are spiritually prepared for the spiritual attacks that we know will come. We do not want to face our enemies without “the whole armour of God.” We are exhorted that “having done all, to stand.” We are to do all that we know to do, and then stand. We are to submit to God, confess our sins, seek His face, ask for the Lord’s help, stay faithful to God, remain in His will, and stand. In God’s Name and in His power, we can stand against the wiles of the devil in the “evil day.”

REBELLIOUS BY NATURE

“Ye have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you.”
Deuteronomy 9:24

Moses is recalling the journeys of the Israelites, which included the all too frequent stubbornness of God’s people. They had been rebellious against the Lord for as long as Moses could remember. This is not to say that there were not times of surrender and obedience, but they were consistently insubordinate to God’s leadership and commands. This is not the kind of behavior we would want others to remember us by. Their rebellion was seen in their disobedience to God’s commandments, like when they chose not to go up and possess the land that God promised them. The Bible teaches that direct disobedience is a form of rebellion. The people of Israel were also guilty of not believing God or trusting His ability and leadership. They depended on their own wisdom and preferred their own agenda.

These characteristics are still to be found in the lives of God’s children. We all will have times when we struggle with some aspect of God’s will, but we must guard against any spirit of rebellion or unbelief. These tendencies are common manifestations of the sinful human nature that all of us are born with. We are all sinners and have all been guilty of disobeying God, failing to believe His promises, and ignoring His voice.

Thank God that through Jesus Christ we can be forgiven of these acts of rebellion. We are grateful that, at the time of our salvation, we received a new nature as the Holy Spirit of God indwelt us. The new man has a desire to obey and please God. We must learn to walk in the Spirit and hate the sins of pride and rebellion. God requires obedience from His children. Small compromises and acts of disobedience, when not seriously dealt with, can lead to habitual sin.

As parents, one of our primary goals is to teach our children to promptly obey. Because we want them to cheerfully obey God, we should require them to obey their parents. When children are permitted to disobey and ignore their parent’s commands, they are being conditioned to continue in that pattern. Also, if we expect them to obey God with their lives, they need to see this behavior in their parents. Rebellion characterized our lives before we came to know the Lord. But as believers, we need to develop lives of obedience to God and faith in His Word.

DOING MY PART

“For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality.”
II Corinthians 8:13, 14

God never intended that only a few people carry the entire burden of the ministry in His churches. God was using the Apostle Paul to teach the church members at Corinth about the grace of giving and how they should grow in this spirit of generosity. One can imagine that some might think, “But, what about me? If I am giving my resources to help others, who will help me? Should I sacrifice alone?” The answer is that God wants all of us to do our part.

Many times we have heard statistics claiming that twenty percent of the people usually contribute eighty percent of the work. This is supposedly true in many realms of professional life. If indeed this information is accurate, then eighty percent of the population is not doing its part. This should not be true among the Lord’s churches. Everyone should be contributing.

It is not God’s plan that “other men be eased, and ye burdened.” The word burdened speaks of being pressured or troubled with the responsibility. We all should want to serve the Lord, but we do not want anyone to be overloaded because he is carrying more than his share of the load. God wants us to be active, but not to feel that we are required to do more than our part. The same can be true in the home when one member of the family is not willing to contribute and help ease the load of others. Family members can be greatly discouraged when they are doing all they can while others are being slack. We must recognize and rid ourselves of any tendency to allow others to carry the load that God expects us to shoulder. Unfortunately, this mentality is also seen at times in the Lord’s churches. A small minority of the congregation is responsible for the majority of what is being done.

Every member should be doing his or her part in Christian service through the church. Everyone should be praying, giving, serving, and witnessing. When you think about it, why would anyone want someone else to do what God would allow us to do? Imagine the effectiveness and influence of our churches, both in our communities and around the world, if everyone was cheerfully doing his part.

PLEASING THE LORD

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.”
Psalm 19:14

It was in David’s heart, as it should be in ours, to please his Lord. He desired that what he said and thought might be acceptable in God’s sight. This should certainly be at the center of our purpose in life, to live in such a way that He will be pleased with us.

As in all things good, Jesus is our perfect example on this subject. In John 8:29 Jesus said, “And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.” As the sinless Son of God, Jesus never failed to do those things that pleased the Father. Obviously, none of us could make such a claim; nonetheless, it is in our hearts to please Him. We know when we have behaved in such a way that the Lord is not pleased, and it grieves us. If a person is truly saved, there should be a profound interest in pleasing God. We want to please Him because of what He has done for us.

David referred to God as his Redeemer. Because He has redeemed us, saved us by His grace, and rescued us from our lost condition, we want to please Him. We have been
forgiven, and we belong to a new Master. He has purchased us with His own blood and promised to take us to Heaven when our time on this earth is finished. Not only did David speak of the Lord as his Redeemer, but also as his strength. He helps us and strengthens us daily as we depend on Him. He is our constant Companion and the
Source of our comfort.

We long for Him to be pleased with us. David mentioned two specific examples of ways that we want to be acceptable to our Savior. We want “the words of my mouth” to be acceptable in His sight. The Word of God and our personal experience testify to the importance of controlling our words. Our words should be truthful, accurate, edifying, and kind. We should not be dishonest, deceitful, condemning, or harsh with our words. David was concerned also that his thoughts, “the meditation of my heart,” would be pleasing to the Lord. Because God knows our thoughts, it is important that we keep our hearts and motives right. We should seek to keep our minds dwelling on things that He will be pleased with. What a worthy challenge for our lives, to keep our thoughts and our words such that God would be pleased with them.

TAKE THE LOWER ROOM

“But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
Luke 14:10, 11

When people were invited to a special occasion, it was customary for the more honorable guests to be seated in the higher rooms, and those with less honor to take the lower seats. Jesus used this tradition as a backdrop to teach a lesson about humility. He taught that it would be wise to take the lowest room. Then when the person who invited you comes, he can direct you to the place of higher honor.

We should never exalt ourselves, yet we know that it is a part of our fallen human nature to do that very thing. Our natural tendency is to think that our opinions, our needs, and our feelings are more important than those of others. This is why the Bible has so much to say about the danger of pride. Pride tends to exalt self, to place self before others. This was, of course, the thing that caused Lucifer to rebel against God. Jesus tells us that if we exalt ourselves, we will be abased or humbled. Proverbs 16:18 tells us that, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” Several places in the Bible describe how God actually resisted the proud, but gave grace to the humble.

In our text, Jesus is teaching about the importance of humbling ourselves. This is something we can do. This is something we must do. God can arrange for circumstances that will humble us, but we are to take the initiative against our pride and humble ourselves. We can choose to humble ourselves. This is an attitude adjustment that we can make. Pride is not just something that is publicly seen in the way we look for recognition or the most prestigious seat of honor. These things are only the external evidences or manifestations of pride. Pride should be first identified or recognized when it is in our hearts. When we see this tendency to exalt ourselves, we must be diligent to judge ourselves and deliberately humble ourselves. If we do not humble ourselves, then God will have to see to it that we are humbled. If we intentionally take the lower room, God will ensure that we are honored.

WHO ARE THE TROUBLEMAKERS?

“And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.”
I Kings 18:17, 18

We can certainly relate to this understanding gap, or the difference in opinion in Elijah’s day. Elijah had announced to King Ahab that due to the sin of the king and the disobedience of the people, God would be sending a drought upon the land. More than three years later, Elijah went to meet Ahab. At this meeting, Ahab suggested that Elijah was the source of Israel’s trouble, questioning, “Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” Elijah saw it in a completely different way. He said that Israel’s trouble was not caused by himself, but was due to the disobedience of Ahab and those like him.

This is very typical of what we see and hear in our world every day. To the unsaved, one of the greatest problems in society is the presence of conservative Bible believers. You can honestly hear more criticism from many liberal politicians against the conservative Christians than you will hear against the terrorists, abortionists, or those who produce and peddle pornography.

We would have to respectfully disagree. We do not think that calling for an end to abortion on demand is troubling America. Nor, do we see that clarifying our position on marriage, as being legal only between a man and a woman, is causing trouble for our country. We do not believe the posting of the Ten Commandments in public places will have a destructive effect on the United States. We do not believe that we are the troublemakers. We believe that the troublemakers are those who deny the moral absolutes and traditional family values that have been a part of the fabric of this nation. Those who are troubling our society are those who reject the absolute standard of truth in the Word of God. Our country has been troubled by those who have removed the Bible and prayer from the public schools.

This cultural war and moral disconnect have been growing in our beloved country for many years. None of us want to be troublemakers, and no one should be deliberately
antagonistic. However, it is vitally important that we stand for truth, let our voices be heard, and not be intimidated by those who call us troublemakers.

MORE AND MORE

“Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.”
I Thessalonians 4:1

Paul is admonishing the members of the church in Thessalonica to “abound more and more” in the way they were walking and pleasing God. We all are to be increasing in our spiritual growth and development. There is never a time in our lives when we should think we have arrived, or have no interest in growing in our knowledge of God, application of biblical principles, or obedience. Numerous times in the Word of God, we are challenged with the responsibility of progressing in such things as brotherly love, pleasing God, holiness, etc.

The word abound is used to describe an overflowing or superabundant increase. We are challenged to become more and more godly. What a great challenge for every sincere follower of Christ! There is always room to grow in grace. Even if we love more than we have ever loved, we can love even more. If we are more deliberately seeking to please God, there is still room for improvement. The basic lesson is that we should never take the position that we have no room for progress. How much patience do we have? How diligent has God helped us to become? Have we learned to endure and persevere in difficulties? Have we found the grace to love those who criticize? Are we responding to those in authority better than before? Have we been trusting the Lord more and worrying less? Praise the Lord! However, that does not mean there is not more work to be done and more grace to be experienced.

This lesson provides for a balanced approach to our view of spiritual progress. We need to realize that maturity will take time, and progress is sometimes measured in small steps. At the same time, we must never become satisfied with our spiritual level – realizing that should be increasing more and more. Complacency and apathy are the enemies of spiritual maturity. We must be careful to remember what the goal is for our Christian journey. The objective is not simply to have better character than we had before we were saved. God’s will is that we be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Let’s accept the challenge to cooperate with God’s plan of continual progress, and be willing to “abound more and more.”

LITTLE BY LITTLE

“I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee. By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land.”
Exodus 23:29, 30

God had delivered His people out of their Egyptian bondage and eventually brought them back to the land that was promised to Abraham. He protected them and led them along, and drove out their enemies before them. Interestingly, God would not have the occupation of the land be accomplished suddenly. It would be done gradually, little by little. This is not the way we would prefer that things be done, but it is most often the way God wants it done. God made it clear to Moses that they had neither the number nor the might to maintain the land if they inherited it at once. They needed to increase, that they might be able to occupy the land successfully.

This rule of occupation aptly describes the way things sometimes progress in our lives. Recent generations have been characterized by many as “instant” generations.
Innovation has changed the way we live and has reduced the time for many common things. We can be anywhere in our country in only a few hours. We send e-mail
correspondence to friends in other countries in a matter of seconds. A microwave oven can heat a meal in a couple of minutes. Digital cameras can produce instant images, without the need for processing. However, if you desire to use the old-fashioned way, you can still have your film developed in less than an hour. Packages can be delivered, almost anywhere, overnight. We are not accustomed to waiting or exercising patience. There are some things, however, that will never be instantaneous. No matter how many generations come and go, “by little and little” will always describe the pace of things like the building of character and spiritual maturity.

It takes time to develop character, and it takes time to produce maturity in the life of a believer. It is realized “by little and little.” Little decisions, little steps, little lessons, and little acts of obedience are the things that will eventually be recognized as maturity. God wants us to learn to be patient and persistent. We should not expect overnight maturity and godliness, but we should be pleased with consistent and noticeable progress. Little by little, with God’s help, we will see the victory.

HE KNOWS WHO IS TRUSTING

“The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.”
Nahum 1:7

In Nahum’s prophecy, he announced the utter destruction of Nineveh. The Scripture describes the time as a “day of trouble.” People who do not know their Bibles have no concept of the severity of God’s chastisement or judgment that will one day be poured out on this Christ-rejecting world. In spite of the terrible judgment that Nahum pronounced, he reminds us that God is also merciful. The Bible declares, “The LORD is good.” What a true statement! God is good. It cannot be overstated. God is always good. We may not always understand what He does and what He allows, and we may not always agree with the things He does; but we know that He is good. Even in times of trouble, God is good.

Goodness is not just what God does, but it is what He is. Nahum also says that God is “a strong hold in the day of trouble.” He is an anchor in times of difficulty and uncertainty. Trouble can come to any of our lives. As a matter of fact, it will come to all of our lives. We live in perilous times. International terrorism has awakened us to the reality of trouble, both at home and abroad. Thank God we are not alone to our own resources or devices in times of trouble. God is our strong hold. He is an anchor in the time of storm.

Nahum also tells us that the Lord observes our faith: “he knoweth them that trust in him.” The nation would be dealt with severely by the hand of God Almighty. Yet, wherever He could find those who were trusting Him, it would not go unseen. Of course, we realize that nothing escapes the all-seeing eyes of our Creator; but it is comforting to know that whenever we are trusting in the Lord, He is aware. Maybe you have wondered if God knows where you are and what you are going through. He does know; and if you are trusting Him, He knows that as well. He is able to show Himself strong on behalf of those who are depending on Him.

What are we to do in times of conflict and affliction? When chastisement comes to a people, God’s people are not exempt from the consequences. Famines in the Bible
affected the righteous as well as the wicked. God wants us to trust Him when troubles come. We cannot please God without faith. When He sees us relying on Him in our days of difficulty, He knows “them that trust in him.”

WHERE ARE THE NINE?

“And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?”
Luke 17:15-17

Thanksgiving Day is one of the favorite holidays in our country. It encourages each of us to do something we know we need to do more of – offer thanks to God. Thanksgiving should be something we do daily, and even continually, not annually. The act of giving thanks reminds us to take inventory and see how good God has been to us. It is good for us to count our blessings and remember the many benefits God has provided. Where would we be without the good hand of God working in our lives?

The Scripture records the story of some lepers who failed to give God thanks, and it is a personal warning to all of us about the danger of ingratitude. Leprosy is a truly dreadful disease, and one can only imagine the joy that would come from being completely cured. Such was the case in this Scripture. All ten of these men cried out to Jesus for mercy, and He answered their plea. However, only one of them returned to give thanks and glory to God.

How could this be, that nine of the lepers failed to return and thank the Great Physician who healed their diseased bodies? There are probably many explanations, but let’s consider just one. It is very common for men to focus more on the blessings received, than on the One who sends the blessings. If we try, we can imagine how it must have felt to be healed of leprosy. The lepers had been isolated because of the disease, separated from families and friends. They lived a life of loneliness and rejection, and endured continual pain. When they found themselves cured, perhaps all they could think about was seeing their families, visiting friends, and making up for time that was lost.

There is nothing wrong with appreciating what God has done, but how wrong it is to think more of the gift than of the Giver. God has been so good to us. He has blessed us immeasurably. Of all the benefits we have received, none can compare to the gift of salvation, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life. As leprosy is a truly dreadful disease, so is the dreadful disease of ingratitude. May God help us to always be mindful of the One who has healed our souls.