A very Merry Christmas to you and to all your family. My prayer is that God will bless you with His presence this Christmas more than you've ever experienced before. What a perfect time of year for all of us to reflect upon the blessings that God has bestowed upon us -- His Love, His faithfulness, His mercy, His grace, His peace, His wisdom, His strength and all the other thousands of things that we can think of to be thankful for.
Over the past several months, we have been sharing a series about faith -- faith in the night seasons. We've noted how imperative it is that we learn to see in the darkness, not so much what God is doing, but rather what He desires of us during this time.
We must continue to walk abandoned to His will without anxiety and without hunger for any experience. Our dependence must rest completely in His Love and His faithfulness so that, no matter what events are transpiring in our lives, our spirit and our inner man will remain at rest.
God's whole purpose for night seasons is to strengthen our spirit, so that what happens to us on the outside (in our soul), does not determine our composure on the inside.
We've shared that the way we respond to these difficult times in our lives determines our whole spiritual walk. Whether we advance, withdraw or simply stay where we are (which we mentioned is really impossible), will determine our degree of intimacy with the Lord. The more passive and peaceful we can remain, the quicker we will advance. (See Isaiah 50:10-11)
What are the steps we must take in order to cooperate with God and make it through our dark nights? In previous articles, we have reviewed how we are to: stand still, rest in His promises, stop asking why, cease doubting and guard against discouragement.
In this issue, we want to examine how we can stop blaming others, put on the full Armor of God and praise Him in all things.
Stop Blaming Others
One of the most important things we must do during our difficult times is to stop blaming others. When God has appointed us to suffer, He permits even the most virtuous people to be blinded towards us. Thus, it's important that we harbor no resentment or bitterness against those involved in our trials. By blaming others, we really only condemn ourselves and that, of course, breeds more insensitivity in us towards God. May we not justify our own feelings or be governed by our own self-righteousness anymore.
God will repay those truly responsible for our troubles in His timing and in His way. Scripture tells us that He is our defense and our avenger. As Psalm 94:22 says, "The Lord is my defense; and my God is the rock of my refuge." Only God knows the real truth and only He knows how to weave our lives together perfectly. We must try neither to vindicate ourselves nor help Him along. He promises to fight our battles for us. Our responsibility is simply to stand still and watch.
It's important that we pray for the others involved; don't blame them; just leave them in God's care and in His hands. Thank Him in advance for delivering you out of their hands. And, above all, don't give way to grief.
Also, don't speak about your problems to anyone else. It only deepens your bitterness, programs those negative thoughts in more deeply, and gives the enemy another entrance. Therefore, try to speak well of the other people involved. As Ephesians 4:29 tells us, "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers."
I know how difficult this is, especially when we are justified by the world's standards for being very angry and bitter. But, giving way to our feelings and emotions about others at this time only makes us more miserable, the enemy happier and the whole process prolonged. I know! I've been there!
Submit to the confusion, the not knowing, the not understanding and the not being right. Put your reason aside and look only to God. Our reason cannot cope with the dark night that God allows. We must live by faith and wait for the Spirit to resolve the darkness for us. We must remain receptive and positive, not expecting to understand God's ways, but simply trusting Him in them.
Put On The Armor of God
Another very important thing we must do to endure -- in fact, to stand effectively -- in our night of faith is to daily put on the whole Armor of God! As Ephesians 6:10 tells us: "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might." (Ephesians 6:10)
God is the One who furnishes us with the armor; however we are the ones who must constantly choose to put it on. Let's read Ephesians 6:13-19 and see God's Armor of Light perhaps in a little different perspective than we have before.
Ephesians 6:13: "Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."
This verse teaches that the only way we can stand in the battle against the enemy of our souls is by having on the whole armor of God. There's no way we can put on just a few pieces and be protected. This Scripture exhorts us to put on the whole armor -- every piece.
Verse 14a: "Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth..."
In the Bible, God's Word and His Spirit together are spoken of as the truth and this is what we must have securely fastened about our loins. Loins mean the energizing source that brings new life into being. Throughout Scripture, God's Word and His Spirit are what quicken new life in us. (John 6:63)
Verse 14b: "And having on the breastplate of righteousness..."
This breastplate refers to God's righteousness, His Holiness and His Love (1 Thessalonians 5:8) that we receive by faith in Him -- it's His Life in our hearts, not our own. (Romans 10:10)
Verse 15: "And your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace..."
Our souls (or our feet) are shod with the Gospel of peace by our constant faith choices. God has given us His authority and His power to choose to put off the debris, dirt and filth in our own lives and to put on Christ. This is what prepares our feet (our souls), for walking. Remember in John 13:8-10 when Peter says to Jesus, "Thou shalt never wash my feet."
Jesus answers him, "If I wash thee not [your feet], thou hast no part with me." Jesus is saying that unless we choose to allow Him to daily wash our feet (our souls), we'll have no part of His Life.
Verse 16: "Above all, take the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked."
There are two parts to our willpower: not only God's supernatural will and power (spoken of above), but also our own free choice. It's possible to possess God's supernatural authority and power in our lives and yet, never choose to use it. This Scripture tells us that only our constant faith choices will shield, cover and protect us from the attacks of the enemy.
Did you know that the shields that the Roman soldiers used were the size of a door? This shield was so effective and so strong in protecting the warrior, that the enemy's arrows were not able to penetrate it.
So it is with our choices. The only way we can protect ourselves from the onslaught of the enemy's arrows is by choosing, by faith, to trust God, regardless of what we think or feel. If we don't make faith choices, but simply go along with the tide of our emotions, then we'll drop our shield and open ourselves up for the devil's schemes.
Verse 17a: "And take the helmet of salvation..."
Salvation means to save or to heal, to deliver or to bring into safety. Salvation not only means freedom from the penalty of sin, but also freedom from the power of sin. As we choose to put on that helmet of salvation over our surrendered soul, we'll be freed from Satan's attacks and God's Life will be able to come forth.
Verse 17b: "...And the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God..."
Ephesians 6 now switches from focusing on internal issues to external things. Paul is telling us that it's imperative to always carry God's two-edged Sword (His written Word in our hands, confirmed by His Holy Spirit in our hearts).
Verse 18: "Praying always, with all prayer and supplication in the spirit and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints."
It's critical that we constantly pray and beseech God on behalf of our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Prayer is our communication line to God, not only for ourselves but also for those we love, even for those who have spitefully used us.
And finally, verse 19: "And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the Gospel."
This is always my prayer just before I give a lecture. I pray that God would set a guard over my mouth and that nothing would come forth from me that is not of Him. In other words, that His Spirit might inspire all that I say and that He might convey the message by His Spirit to those listening.
A final and yet most critical step we must do at this time is to have a loving, blind desire to praise God in everything. We need to thank Him, by faith, for what He is doing in our lives, for all that He has done and for what He will do in the future.
Praising Him for these things will turn your mind from the depths of despair to being fully focused upon Him.
Recently, the Lord has done this in my life: He has renewed my attention to the importance of praising Him in all things and, as a result, my life has changed radically. What an ideal season to renew this principle in all our lives.
As 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."A Scriptural Example:
Jonah did this very thing.
God had told Jonah to go and preach at Nineveh, but Jonah refused and, instead, fled the presence of the Lord in a ship. God loved Jonah, however, and had a plan for his life, so He took matters into His own hands and allowed Jonah's ship to encounter a storm at sea. The men aboard the ship knew that Jonah was at fault for fleeing the presence of the Lord, so they threw him overboard. God, however, had prepared a great fish that came along and swallowed Jonah.
Jonah literally hit bottom (pun intended). Now, he certainly had sufficient reason to believe that God had totally abandoned him. But Scripture tells us that when Jonah began to praise and thank God from the bottom of the sea, God heard his prayers and had the fish vomit him out onto dry land. Jonah passed God's test of praising Him in all things and, thus, God released him. (Jonah 1; 2:9)
And the same thing applies to us. When we begin to praise and thank God in the midst of our difficult situations, God promises to hear us and to answer us. We're not necessarily praising Him for the bad things, but like Jonah, we are thanking Him for who He is and for what He is doing in the middle of the hard times. By doing so we will pierce the darkness, and the evil spirits that are trying to drown us will flee away.
Many of us have heard of the Biblical term a sacrifice of praise or a sacrifice of thanksgiving. This means being thankful or praising God when, in the natural, we don't feel like doing so at all. Thus, it's our love offering to God. By faith, we can praise Him and thank Him because we know that He does love us and that He will be faithful to eventually work out all of the circumstances in our life according to His will and for His glory.
An Incredible Example
Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie, who helped Jews escape Germany in the 1940s, relate a wonderful story of praising God in all things in their book The Hiding Place.
They had been caught by the Gestapo and thrown in prison. In the process of moving to new barracks, Corrie screamed to her sister, Betsie, this place is crawling with fleas! How can we ever live in such a room? Betsie responded, God has already given us the answer. She pointed to the Scripture she had just gotten that morning, "In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God...." (1 Thessalonians 5:18) This is God's answer, Corrie.
Corrie couldn't believe her ears. There's no way on earth God can ever make me thankful for these fleas! she thought to herself. She was sure Betsie was wrong this time. But, eventually, she chose by faith to be thankful anyway.
The new building was a large dormitory, with many rooms adjacent to it. Corrie and Betsie's room held nine women, but was accessible to the main hall. As the ten Booms read their Bible each night, others soon began to join in. Soon, women from other wings of the dormitory also came. Some women would translate the Word, as they heard it, into their own language, so even more women could participate. Night after night they held their Bible studies and no one ever bothered them. No guard even came near. In fact, there was no supervision at all!
One night, months later, Betsie said to Corrie, "I finally understand why we never had any interruptions to our Bible studies and why we had so much freedom in the big room. It was because of the fleas! The room is crawling with fleas, and the guards won't step through the door!"
God does love us and He will work out all the circumstances of our lives for His glory.
It's important to remember that God never mortifies or crushes us without giving us life as a result. In other words, He never humbles us without bringing glory to Himself through it. Thus, we are not lost in our night seasons, as we sometimes feel we are, but actually found.
The darkness does not come from the enemy who hates us, although he definitely tries to use it to annihilate us, but from God who loves us. Thus, He will not lift the darkness until He has accomplished through it all that He needs to do in our lives.
The question boils down to: Will you let Him do His will in your life? In other words, can you pass your night of faith without lighting your own fires? (Isaiah 50:10-11)
* * *
This article has been excerpted, in part, from Chuck and Nan's book Faith in the Night Seasons. The section on the Armor of God can be found in greater detail in their book Be Ye Transformed, pages 340-345.