(Warning – this is a long post!)
Last week a friend at work came into my office and shared about an amazing series of teachings that she had recently listened to and I had a strange reaction. The series was about being a “Soldier for Christ” and she had been so impacted by the content that she thought they would be of great benefit to anyone who took the time to listen. I believed her! But I also had a strong and immediate sense of aversion in my gut. Basically, I felt like I would rather have my toenails pulled off, slowly, painfully, one by one, than to sit and listen to an entire series of sermons on being a good “soldier” for Christ.
I’m sure they are wonderful teachings and a wonderful resource for the Body of Christ, but it’s pretty safe to say I won’t be sitting down to listen to them anytime in the near future. The whole thing did getting me thinking, though. Why did I have such a negative reaction? I certainly don’t disagree with the concept. There is a battle going on all around us and it’s not against flesh and blood. We absolutely do need to fight spiritual battles with spiritual weapons and be alert and ready at all times. Absolutely no one needs to convince me of that – so what gives?
That’s just it – no one needs to convince me because I’ve been living on the front lines for years. And I’ve seen the fallout of war. There have been many victories to be sure, but there have also been some incredibly painful losses from battles that were extremely hard fought. Battles where retreat was never an option. Battles where it was obvious God was leading. Battles where I truly believed for victory. Battles where I did absolutely everything I knew to do and believed every way I knew to believe … but still lost.
Some of the hardest fought battles have been in recent months and years. As a result, I’ve been in kind of a funny season. It’s been a time of resting and recharging to be sure, but I have also felt like it is a time of regrouping and waiting – of listening and learning. I want to be fully equipped and ready the next time I’m sent into the fray. And I’ve learned that the very best way to prepare is by staying close to the heart of my “commanding officer.”
Resting in Him is key. There are always many “good” things to do and to be involved in. And there are always many battles raging around us, but I only want to do what I see Him doing. It’s a strategic thing, really – I only have the grace and stamina for the things He is specifically inviting me into during this specific season. I think that is why I have been almost repulsed by a lot of “church stuff” these days. I know that is a strong word but it is the only one that accurately describes what I have been feeling. It is not meant – at all – as a “dig” against any individual or any group. Yes, I’m still part of the church and yes, I’m still in fellowship – that’s not what I mean. What I do mean is that I have been keenly aware of being on a very different page than much of the church at the moment.
For me, there was a time for listening to all the great teaching I could get my hands on. There was a time for being at church whenever the doors were open. More recently, there was a time for initiating and engaging in lots of ministry, and for plowing through spiritual barriers with intense and focused intercession. But the season has shifted and I am now in a very different season.
Several times recently, I’ve heard myself saying, “I’ve done everything I can do and I’ve given Him everything I can give Him – it’s either good enough, or it’s not.” I realize it is never been about being “good enough” but my point is that if I have to listen to one more sermon, read one more book, pray one more prayer, master one more principle, or engage in one more act of “warfare” to “get the victory” then the whole thing is over because it’s simply not going to happen. If I really believed that’s what it was all about, I would quit! But I’m not quitting. I’m not burned out. I’m not depressed. I’m not even discouraged. Instead, I have sensed a quiet confidence building, and literally bubbling up, within my spirit. It is a confidence that is far greater than anything I have known before. And it’s there because I know I’ve done everything I can do and now, all that’s left to do – is stand.
I may not spend a lot of time listening to tons of great teaching series’ these days, but I do still listen to the ones Jesus highlights to me here and there. This morning He was certainly on target and I listened to a message that couldn’t have been more timely or encouraging. The text was, of all things, Judges 20. It would take too long to try to give it any kind of proper context, so I’ll just cut to the chase – the heart of the passage was that, not once, but twice, Israel inquired of the Lord about going into battle and both times He said to go. They obeyed and did everything the Lord said to do – but instead of victory, they got their butts kicked and suffered heavy losses both times. This is a unique battle scene in the Old Testament in that, usually, if Israel lost, there was a specific reason. Either they did something they shouldn’t have done, or didn’t do something they should have. But this time, there was no reason. They did everything right – and they still lost.
They lost the battle – but not the war. They didn’t give up. After their second defeat, they encouraged one another, inquired of the Lord for a third time, and then once again took up their positions. And sure enough – this time – God gave them the victory.
Like Israel, there are times when we don’t have victory because we’ve given hell the legal right to work in our lives through open doors of sin or, especially, through unbelief and unforgiveness. But there are also times when you do everything right – not perfectly, but aligned as best as you possibly can be with His heart and His kingdom – and you still don’t see the victory. That’s the season I’ve been in – in some ways for a very long time – but it will not be the end of the story.
It’s funny because over the last couple of years I’ve gotten some rather strange prophetic words. Other people get these wonderful promises about their future and destiny and what do I get? “Keep standing.” “Keep on keeping on.” Oh, and my personal favorite? “What you do, you do well – keep doing it.” And more of the same. All of these from random places at random times and often from random people I don’t even know. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for anything Jesus desires to tell me through someone else, but sometimes I’ve kind of wondered if maybe there wasn’t something a little “meatier” He might want to share with me!
But when God takes the time to tell you the same thing over and over again, you can be sure there is a reason. I had already realized that these little nuggets of encouragement were, in fact, important, but this morning it was like all those words crashed together and hit my heart with a force that almost knocked the wind out of me. And I got it. This is why my confidence has grown even in the face of heartbreaking losses and delays. I am in this season, not because I’ve done something wrong or missed something somewhere, but because I’ve done – and I’m doing – something right.
This might not sound like a big deal to some, but for me it is. Confidence, of any kind, does not come easily for me. Let alone confidence that flies in the face of what has been my outward reality. Yet it’s true, I have more confidence in His promises and His faithfulness than ever before. Confidence despite the losses. Confidence despite continued delays. Confidence, to keep believing – even without outward signs of encouragement and often with just the opposite! So yeah, to know that I know He thinks I’m doing just swell and He just wants me to “keep on keeping on” is a big deal. A really big deal. After all, faith is the assurance of things hoped for – in other words, the confidence to know that faith will become sight.
I will keep on keeping on. I will keep standing – whatever that does or doesn’t look like through the different seasons of life. I will find encouragement in Him and amongst those who know His heart. I will keep inquiring of Him and I will position myself yet again. And when I ask Him if I should go up to battle again, I already know what the answer will be. Not only will He say ‘yes’ but I also fully expect to hear – “Go, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands.”
Yes, a few battles have been lost. And some key victories have been delayed. But the bowls of incense that hold the prayers of the saints have to be getting really full right about now. And when they tip, we will not only win the battle, but also, eventually, the war.
Until then – I’m still standing.