Support System

Mackinac Bridge, Michigan; Photo by W.D. Huey

So encourage each other and build each other up. –1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT

In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out. –Ephesians 6:18 MSG

Wednesday morning found me plopped in my cozy chair for my quiet time. But I was too worn and weary to focus on praying or reading my devotional materials. The weekend had been busy, but a good busy. I’d spoken at a ladies luncheon Saturday, conducted the worship service at the church where I’m the lay pastor and delivered the sermon on Sunday, and officiated a funeral on Monday. I’d come home after the funeral and took a three-hour nap, which left no time for any other work.

Tuesday I did the usual “miscellaneous Monday” items on my schedule, which took up the entire day. By Wednesday I was, as my grandmother used to say, “all pooped up.”

How on earth was I going to complete four devotionals for a quarterly magazine due that day? I hadn’t a clue what to write. I’d read the assigned Scriptures and studied the commentary notes, but nothing jumped out at me.

“These are the worst Scriptures they’ve ever given me,” I complained to my husband.

I was also dealing with the post-speaking spiritual warfare I usually encounter after speaking engagements.

Add to that lower back and hip pain that had progressively gotten worse over the winter. I’d hoped the arrival of warmer, dryer weather would alleviate the constant ache, but it only worsened. It didn’t matter what I did—stretches, short walks, water aerobics, alternating sitting and standing—I was hobbling and hurting all day long. OTC pain relievers help some, but I have to watch what I take so it doesn’t interfere with my blood pressure medicine.

Growing old ain’t fun.

So there I sat with a heating pad on my back, without the slightest inkling of motivation.

But … it was Wednesday, the weekly prayer day for the Punxsutawney Christian Women’s Conference planning team, of which I’m a member. We’ve gotten close over the 10 years we’ve worked together and now support each other in prayer. Every Wednesday we email our prayer needs to each other.

So I emailed my precious sisters-in-Christ: “Sorry for bothering you so much. This is the time the adversary attacks most viciously—after speaking engagements and sermons, and I delivered three over the weekend. Too weary to fight the battle or even put on my armor.”

To which Margaret replied: “That’s okay. We will cover you with our prayers. Now just rest assured that you are loved, and the ONE who loves you never gets tired.”

Thursday morning I emailed them:

“Your prayers made all the difference yesterday. In the morning I was weary and worn, wondering how I would meet my deadline. I wanted to stay plopped in my cozy chair all day. I had no idea what I was going write on the assigned Scriptures. I faced the day drained mentally, physically, and emotionally.

“This morning I re-read what I emailed you. ‘Was that only yesterday?’ I thought.

“Not only did I meet my deadline of four devotionals (and was amazed at how they came together!), but I took a short walk around the garden after lunch and made a pastoral visit to the hospital in the evening. Where did the energy come from? Your prayers!”

And now that I think of it, my back didn’t bother me at all Wednesday night.

Just like a bridge needs a support system for it to hold up and do what it was designed to do, so do we.

How about you? Do you have a support system?

Thank you, Lord, for those who help us over, under, around, and through each day with their faithful prayers. Amen.

Read and reflect on Ecclesiastes 4:9–12.

The Deathbed Perspective, Part 1: Fighting the Good Fight

Christian soldier 1I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. – 2 Timothy 4:7 (NIV)

Call me crazy, but I tend to make important life decisions from what I call “the deathbed perspective.” I imagine myself on my deathbed, looking back on my life. At the end of my earthly sojourn, would I regret this decision or rejoice I chose to go that route?

Of course, we know when faced with a decision, we can always ask God for wisdom, and He’ll oblige (James 1:5). Perhaps this is God’s way of giving me that wisdom, because from the deathbed perspective, my priorities are clear, and I know the way I should take. So far, I’ve never regretted a decision made from the deathbed perspective.

In his second letter to the young pastor Timothy, the apostle Paul also had a deathbed perspective—and it truly was his deathbed. He was in his last days on earth—imprisoned in a cold dungeon, chained like a common criminal, alone, as he awaited his martyrdom.

Here he penned the words I told my husband I wanted on my tombstone: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

But those aren’t just words to die by—they’re words to live by.

This week we’re going to look at the first part of that verse: I have fought the good fight.

This tells me the Christian life is a battleground not a playground.* (See “For Further Study” below) The life of faith is a fight because faith doesn’t come easy and it doesn’t grow easily.

As believers we are in a war with God’s infernal enemy** (See “For Further Study” below), and we do battle daily in three arenas of warfare: the world, the flesh, and the devil (yes, he does exist).

The world is the spirit of the age, the anti-Christ attitude, the realm of the God’s enemy. Paul accurately described the spirit of the age in his letter to Timothy—read 2 Timothy 3:1–5.

The second arena is the flesh—our human, or carnal, nature, prone to sin, which is constantly at war with our spiritual nature (John 3:3; Romans 7 & 8; 1 Corinthians 2:6–14). Just look at the temptations to sin you face daily. This war will rage until our spirits are freed from our earthly bodies.

The third arena is the devil. When you receive Jesus as your Savior, you immediately switch sides in a war that goes back to Lucifer’s rebellion in heaven (Isaiah 14:12–15; Ezekiel 28:11–19; Luke 10:18). The enemy has been prowling around ever since, seeking the destruction of believers (1 Peter 5:8).

sword-of-the-spirit-tamer-elsharouni1But we are not left without weapons.

First, put on your armor (Ephesians 6:10–18). After all, why would the Word advise us to put on our armor if we weren’t to do battle?

Second, pray. A praying Christian terrifies the enemy.

Third, know God’s Word. It is your sword (Ephesians 6:17). Learn to use it and use it often and well.

Fourth, resist. The Word tells us to “resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9).

Fifth, remember that “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world”(1 John 4:4).

Finally, remind yourself that the war is already won. It was won when the Son of God died in your place on a Roman cross then burst out of a sealed tomb three days later. Don’t believe me? Read Revelation.

I know, there are times you feel anything but a victor. You feel beaten, weak, small, forgotten, and alone.

But you’re not. Remember these verses:

Onward and upward, soldier. Keep fighting the good fight.

Remind me, Father God, I’m in this world not to frolic but to fight the good fight of faith. Help me to use my weapons often and well. Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on 2 Timothy 4:6–8

NOTE: Next week, we’ll look at the second part of that verse: “I have finished the race.”

FOR FURTHER STUDY: 

*”In the early days (of the founding of America), when Christianity exercised a dominant influence over American thinking, men conceived the world to be a battleground. Our fathers believed in sin and the devil and hell as constituting one force; and they believed in God and righteousness and heaven as the other. These were opposed to each other in the nature of them forever in deep, grave, irreconcilable hostility. Man, so our fathers held, had to choose sides: he could not be neutral. For him it must be life or death, heaven or hell, and if he chose to come out on God’s side, he could expect open war with God’s enemies. The fight would be real and deadly and would last as long as life continued here below. . . .

“How different today: the fact remains the same but the interpretation has changed completely. Men think of the world, not as a battleground but as a playground. We are here not to fight, we are here to frolic. We are not in a foreign land, we are at home. We are not getting ready to live, we are already living, and the best we can do is to rid ourselves of our inhibitions and our frustrations and live this life to the full. This, we believe, is a fair summary of the religious philosophy of modern man.”

– A. W. Tozer, “The World: Playground or Battleground?” from The Best of A. W. Tozer, pp. 84–86.

the Fight

** “You have also established a new relationship with the powers of darkness. Whatever you were before you became a Christian . . . you are now a sworn foe of the legions of hell.

“Have no delusions about their reality or their hostility. But do not fear them. The God inside you terrifies them. They cannot touch you, let alone hurt you. But they can seduce and they will try. They will oppose you as you obey Christ. If you play it cool and decide not to be a fanatic about Christianity, you will have no trouble from them. But if you are serious about Christ being your Lord and God, you can expect opposition. . . .

“You may have periods of darkness or of doubt. You may encounter painful struggles and discouragement. But there will also be moments of exultation and glory. And most important of all, you will become free.”

–John White, The Fight