Solomon started right. Right after being crowned king over Israel, God asked him what he wanted. Solomon said he wanted just one thing, wisdom. God loved this response and gave him wisdom and more. Solomon ruled for many years, but eventually something happened. Something changed. See, Solomon loved women. And when I say he loved women, I am really not kidding. The Bible says he had 1000 wives and concubines (2 Kings 11:3). God didn’t want Solomon to marry outside of the nation of Israel because they would lead him astray, they would become an idol. God knew Solomon better then he did and warned him about a temptation he couldn’t withstand. The combined influence of 1000 ungodly women was too much for him and Solomon began building alters to other gods to please his wives and lovers.
How could he do this? God appeared to Solomon on two separate occasions. How could he throw it all away? Solomon knew something about faith. But he was lacking in what it took to walk in faithfulness. Faithfulness requires more then just a moment of faith, it requires the stubbornness, determination and guts to keep standing when all else says to sit back down. It requires supernatural strength to not just stand but push through all barriers that the world and Satan can put in front of you. It requires everything you have, everyday until God takes you to heaven. Because falling before the end is not an option on the table.
The last few months God has really been speaking to me about faithfulness. I was thinking about what I wanted to be remembered for when God takes me to heaven a while ago. I decided that I want to be known for my faithfulness. I want to known as the guy that never gave up on anything until the proper time. If anyone in the Bible knew what it was to stand until God took him home, other then Jesus, it was Paul. In his letter to the Ephesian church, Paul tells them what he believes to be the keys to standing in a world that hates you.
First of all, Paul makes it clear in chapter 6 verse 12, that our fight is not against physical thing. It is against the temptation and sin around us. This needs to be fully understood or there is a danger of becoming Christian hermits, never leaving the safety of our churches and church friends. Paul uses an object lesson that everyone in Ephesus would understand to describe the keys to standing.
The first piece of the armor is the Belt of Truth (Ephesians 6:14). Truth is essential for accountability, which is in turn essential for faithfulness. We all fail. That is just a fact of life. It is incredibly important to be in relationships where we are honest with our faults, failings and victories. We need people in our lives that we can both celebrate victories with and that will kick us in the pants when we need it. I know that I cannot be the man God intends me to be without a group of close friends that will kick me when I am being stupid. Truth is also what keeps us safe from lies. We all know that Satan is a liar. There is no question about that, it is in the Bible. But the scary part is, sometimes it is so subtle that we believe it. We need Truth in order to be able to stand against those lies. If Satan can’t topple you by force, he will attack your foundations. He will come at you with lies saying you cannot stand. If you doubt in the strength of God to keep you standing and the strength God has given you, you will fall. It is just a matter of time. You must know and understand the truth of your identity and the character of God in order for you to remain faithful to the end.
The second piece is by far the most important, I firmly believe. It is the Breastplate of Righteousness. This is what Christ gave you the day you accepted Him as Lord and Savior. The breastplate is what protects your heart, the one thing that pumps your blood and keeps you alive. Christ has covered it with the one thing that can never be pierced by anything on this earth or heaven or hell, His blood. His blood has made you righteous before God and just like the breastplate, it is the core of every protective system. If you have nothing else, you have to have this one piece. You must be saved by Christ in order to have any chance at standing until the end.
The third piece is “your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15). You have got to be ready to move when God calls you to. Sometimes it is a small move, just enough for you to dodge an attack that Satan or the world is throwing at you. But, it could mean something larger. God doesn’t always want you to stay standing in the same place and if we are too stubborn to move when God calls, we will be knocked over. And we need to have the peace about moving on when we need to. It is one of the hardest things. I have done a lot of work in my church with youth and I have built a lot of relationships. When God told me He was sending me to England for two years, it was very hard. I didn’t want to leave those I had invested so much time in. I didn’t want to leave those that needed me. But I had to come to peace about it and learn that on the battlefield, there is a time to stand and hold the line and there is a time for units to move in order to cover or attack other areas.
The forth piece is the shield of faith. In Paul’s letter, it is a piece that is used to protect you from flaming arrows. It is a mobile piece that takes a lot of hits. Our faith takes a lot of hits as well. Sometimes in the line of duty it takes hits that never should be taken. Sometimes arrows put holes in it. Life tends to do that. I know in my life I have had many tests of faith. Times like when my friend almost lost her life to a flesh eating bacteria. It was hard and a hole was made in my shield. But that is what a shield is made for. Life tests our faith. It is the only thing that can be damaged under “normal” circumstances. But, a shield is much easier repaired, but it takes time. In this fight, you are going to need to back off and repair that shield sometimes. And that shield is going to have to change and evolve as the fight continues to withstand the type of attacks it needs to. But the rest of the armor stays the same.
The last armor piece is the Helmet of Salvation. This piece is closely linked to the breastplate. Both protect the things that are essential for your survival and both come from Christ’s sacrifice. The head is what controls the rest of the body. Salvation by grace is the greatest thing on this earth. It is what makes Christ different then all other religions. The Bible tells us that it is grace that teaches us to say no to ungodliness (Titus 2:11-12). It is the greatest gift.
The last thing that Paul talks about is the only offensive weapon in the set. It is the Sword of the Spirit that is the word of God. Now to properly understand this piece you must know that this refers to the spoken word. The Greek word is rhema. Having the spoken word of God is so incredibly important. I cannot stress it enough. There are times in my life where I have been on the bottom and God pulls me to a section of Scripture or a promise He had me and just says, “Son, I have not left you” It is the only thing that has kept me standing at times. Knowing Scripture is vital. Remember that Christ used Old Testament Scripture to confront Satan after the 40 days He was in the desert. An old friend of mine told me once that if I wanted to be a man of God, I had to be a man of God’s word. I have stuck to that for years and I cannot tell you how many times simply knowing a piece of Scripture has helped me, both in strengthening me to continue to stand and to say the right words to someone.
This year, I want to encourage you to stand. Stand in situations you would normally run from. Stand in the gap for those in need. I know that Christ has given you all the tools you need to stand. But the choice is ultimately yours. Will you stand until Jesus takes you home? Or will you fall before the end like Solomon? The choice is yours.