June 12, 2015

Battle-Hardened Biblical Phalanx

The world is currently a maelstrom swirling around me. I am trying to keep my head low and not get hit at this point. It feels as if someone threw a rock at a wasp nest that I just happened to be standing under and I am now trying to avoid being mercilessly stung. Frankly, it is scary stuff. I know it’s in God’s hands but that hasn’t been a real comforting place lately as He has seen fit to burn off a lot of dross in my life. The burn-off has left me seared and in pain. Sometimes, just sometimes, the center of God’s will is in the fire where he can clearly been seen plucking you out…to His glory.

Please bear witness to that fact now.

Everything is in disarray in life. Work, relationships, you name it. Even the church I’ve been preaching and teaching at is under direct spiritual assault. They are in danger of losing their lease to stay in the building they’ve managed to tenuously hold on to for 10 years. This is an unprecedented tidal wave of attack. Some of the front-line is collapsing and I fear I/we might be flanked and consumed anyway.

So… today watch an enormous amount of my coworkers get laid-off around me this week I realize (once again) that we are all only one decision away from sudden-death and finality. I have to admit this is the most severe and decimating layoff I have ever seen at any employer. I’ve been through my share of them on both sides. At times they all seemed to be based on capriciousness and whimsy but as I observe the proceedings I realize every decision was painstakingly made by the owners. At this point they are trying to right a severely listing ship that is in danger of capsizing. It has become a stratagem of survival for what remains. Damn the torpedoes we're moving ahead with what is left onboard. The industry we work within has fallen on hard times and those hard times are being passed down the supply chain to vendors. Not only is our company struggling, the whole aviation industry is in a downward death spiral and they cannot currently pull the nose up and level off. The ground is quickly coming up to meet the diving corporation.

The question in these situations is always the same: Did I do anything that warranted mention that will save me from termination? The same is true for those that are let go and those that are spared the "polite firing". Was there anything I did in my tenure that warranted merit? Perhaps in my work situation there might have been but I realize, in God’s view of my sin, no, there is no merit. It is only the work of Christ on the Cross that warrants mentioning and bears repeating. As for our deeds…they are a sum total of the work that God does in us. Either that or they are a complete lack of God working in us if we are unrepentant sinners.

So I sit and wonder as I watch people file out of the building one by one: Why them and not me? Then it occurs to me it is the sovereignty and divine acts of God that make the world go around. His decision, not mine.  His decision, not my employers. My employers are only fulfilling God’s will as conduits of secondary cause.  I see the coincidence of man’s will or decisions aligning with God for whatever reasons God has planned (Genesis 50:20).

I also realize that I have absolutely no control over how this all shakes out. I then encounter the humility of submission to the will of the Father. I encounter a non-divine kenosis or self-emptying as described in Philippians 2:5-11. I realize that even if it is my time to make the walk of shame and employment death out the door in the next few days, it’s better to suffer a little now than to suffer forever thereafter. It is in our inability to carry ourselves that God does the heavy lifting. It is in the forfeiture of our rights that God appears to strengthen our faith. It's what He must do because we cannot do anything to help ourselves. We are spiritual invalids.

Even with stronger faith it is an intimidating place. I don’t need to believe God exists, I know He does. But the truth of how much I believe He exists resides in how much I will trust Him in these unstable situations and uncertain times. It’s like saying you love and trust your children only to hover over them constantly not allowing them to live their own lives. My mind says God is there but to not trust this situation will turn out for my best interest says just the opposite through my actions. It is here I realize I run smack dab into Paul’s conundrum of Romans 7. I delight in God but my flesh is weak. It also occurs to me that I’ve been placed directly in this maelstrom intentionally. Not by the Devil either…but by God. Perhaps not placed here but I’ve been allowed, through my own will and actions to walk into the heart of the storm. I've ventured directly into the center of the enemy lines...because that is exactly where God wants me.

Like Daniel, I am not saved from the lion’s den, I am saved in the lion’s den. I am not saved from the cross but by it. Saved from death by death and Resurrection. Forging steel with heat and a hammer looks as if the elements used to do it will destroy the metal when in reality it augments and strengthens it. To strengthen a muscle one must first tear it down and traumatize it. For a human to learn and grow, they must inevitably experience pain and discomfort. Since the Fall, it is the way the world works. It is the path of sanctification.

Genesis 3:17-19 ~ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

John 16:33 ~ “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

2 Timothy 3:12 ~ “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted….”

James 1:2-4 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Since the beginning God warned us things would be difficult. It is here I have another revelation. If pain and toil are the normal state, then peace and prosperity are the exception. If they are the exception, then the peaceful non-tempering periods are divine acts of mercy and grace not to be taken for granted. Instead of focusing on the maelstrom when it swirls I should be giving thanks for the times of peace as they arrive. This is exactly what the Bible tells us to do too. Peace, mercy and tranquility are gifts of grace from God to us wretched sinners that deserve torment and death for our sin. In other words, in a fallen world, paradise and perfection are not the normal state of affairs. Quite the opposite really. The world is deliberately difficult for the true believer specifically so it drives them to the only one that will carry the burden we cannot. God.

Isaiah 43:2 ~ “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”

Please note it says when you walk through the fire, not if. Please note it says you will not be consumed either, you will not be destroyed by your trial. It even says you will not be burned, you will not be permanently disfigured. You WILL be changed though. You will be changed in matters of faith. You will be tested. Sorely tested at times as I can attest to
(as can others). It must be understood that any reliable tool or weapon of warfare that we trust and depend on in the heat of battle needs to be battle-tested for failure so it doesn't fail when it is needed most...in a pitched battle. Why would it be any different for the church if the church is Gods proven and chosen method to wage war against the powers and principalities of this world? The church...made up of people like you and I.

We are the tempered spear point of the Body of Christ. Honed to a razors edge through the sharpening of the word of God. We are prepared for every spiritual battle that lay before us. It is no accident, it is vigilance of an eternal God for our benefit. God wants battle-hardened veterans to lead the charge against the opposing forces. Spiritual blades are made useful by abrasion. He is conditioning us to win the war that lays before us in this sinful world. Like I’ve said, this isn’t chastisement so much as it is battle-hardening. Let us now lift our spears, shields and swords in a Christian phalanx and drive the enemy back from which it came...Hell and the dark corners of this world.

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