This is April’s ‘thought for the month’. (You can read March’s ‘thought for the month’ here, February’s here, and January’s here, with the latter including an explanation about why I’m interspersing these thoughts, with my stories, on the blog this year.)

***

In recent weeks, I’ve been praying for two Christian families who are facing distressing situations.

One is a former colleague and friend, whose toddler daughter has just had surgery to remove a brain tumour and is now undergoing intensive chemotherapy. The other is an old friend from childhood, whose teenage son has been contemplating suicide and is now being monitored 24/7.

For both these families, the doctors and other professionals are declaring a particular prognosis – while God’s faith-filled people are rising up in prayer and pronouncing, and believing for, the opposite.

The darkness is real, but God is shining light through the cracks.

***

Challenges to our faith are an inevitable part of being a Christian, and they seem to come from three main directions:

  1. Trials – when grief, loss, pain, sickness, or disappointment make us waver in what we believe about God.
  2. Temptations – when it feels like the Enemy knows our specific areas of weakness and targets our vulnerability.
  3. Peer pressure – when it’s easier to compromise and fit in, rather than be counter-cultural in what we say and do.

When these challenges come, one thing is certain: “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” (Isaiah 7 verse 9b)

Or, if it’s easier to grasp: “If you want to stand, and keep standing, you must stand firm in your faith.”

But what does it mean to ‘stand firm’ in our faith, and how do we do it, in the midst of life’s challenges? I’d like to suggest you have to ask yourself two questions.

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FIRST: HOW FIRM IS THE GROUND BENEATH YOU?

The firmest foundation you can stand on is God’s Word.

The Bible is ‘God’s Word’. So is Jesus (John 1 verses 1-2). Both the Bible and Jesus are eternal, immovable, and unshakeable.

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God stands forever,” we are told in Isaiah 40 verse 8. “Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens,” declares Psalm 119 verse 89. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away,” Jesus says to the disciples in Luke 21 verse 33.

But also, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever,” says Hebrews 13 verse 8.

You get the picture.

If we ‘stand firm’ on God’s Word, we are promised: a rock beneath our feet (Psalm 40:2), God’s love and faithfulness (Psalm 89:2), deliverance (2 Chronicles 20:17), freedom from fault and fear (Job 11:15), freedom from burdens (Galatians 5:1), righteousness (Proverbs 10:25 and 12:7), salvation (Matthew 10:22 and 24:13), faith (2 Corinthians 1:24), life (Luke 21:19), and God’s plans and purposes through all generations (Psalm 33:11).

What an amazing set of promises upon which to ground yourself and stand firm!

***

SECOND: HOW FIRM ARE YOUR FEET?

Once you are grounded on the firm foundation of God’s Word, you need to make sure you won’t slip off it.

One way to do this is to make sure you are wearing the full armour of God.

The armour of God is described in the Bible in Ephesians 6, and includes the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

Christians are given the armour of God to put on, because we are all engaged in a spiritual battle: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith,” we are told in 1 Peter 5 verse 8-9. “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith,” St Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 16 verse 13, and, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,” in Ephesians 6 verse 12.

So, how does this work in reality?

It means that, as soon as we recognise trials, temptations, or peer pressure, seeking to influence our thinking, we have to ‘stand firm‘ in our faith. We have to intentionally choose to guard our minds from deception. We have to declare the truths of God’s Word into the situation, despite what the circumstances are dictating – something we can only do in God’s strength, might and power.

This is why St Paul calls us to, “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6 verses 10-11) 

But you know what stands out to me? (No pun intended!)

It’s the call to ‘stand’.

Four times in the space of four verses, the call comes to ‘stand’:

“Take your stand against the devil’s schemes … so that, when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground … and, after you have done everything, to standStand firm then … “ (Ephesians 6 verses 11-14)

The devil’s schemes will come. The day of evil will come.

But you have to do your part to make sure you stay grounded, stand firm, and don’t slip.

You have to put on the full armour of God. You have to use each and every piece of the armour that God has given you. You have to do everything you can.

And then, after you have done everything, you will be able to stand your ground.

***

As I pray for my two friends and their families, I know that it’s not what God wants – for a toddler-age girl to be dealing with intensive chemotherapy, and a teenage boy to be suicidal – but I also know the spiritual battle is real, and both these young lives are being contested.

So, I am choosing to stand firm in my faith, on their behalf, trusting that Jesus will heal and deliver them.

I am grounding myself in God’s Word, and declaring His promises over their lives, based on what the Bible tells me to be true.

And I am daily putting on the armour of God, so that I can stand firm, and keep standing.

***

Are you, or any of your loved ones, facing trials, temptations or peer pressure at the moment?

If so, how firm is the ground beneath you? Are you grounding yourself in God’s Word? Are you standing firm on the promises of the Bible? Are you standing firm on your faith in Jesus?

And how firm are your feet? Have you put on the full armour of God? Are you using it to take your stand against the devil’s schemes, when the day of evil comes?

My prayer is that those of you reading this, if you are Christians, will be able to ‘stand firm’ in your faith.

As ever, if you have any thoughts, reflections or stories to share, do please log these in the comments below.

Photo by Alejandro Luengo on Unsplash

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5 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing so eloquently about this Jo. As I read it, I am thinking how hard it is to do this in those initial first stages of being a Christian, and how wobbly the ground ‘feels’ because it is untested. But like a child learning to walk, as you grow older and more mature in your faith, how much firmer the ground gets. You learn to trust God’s promises more because you can look back and remember – but it isn’t easy! This is where Christian community is so invaluable; to encourage others to trust the ground that they are walking on.

    • Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Betty Boo. You’re right, it isn’t easy. But the more we can look back and remember, the easier it will become.

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