Imagine standing, dressed in armor with a drawn sword, in the middle of a path. In front of you, a powerful band of marauders is sizing you up, menacing with their own swords and clubs. Behind you is a small, sleepy village unaware of the harm intended for them by this band of thieves and thugs.
That picture jumped into my mind this morning as I was thinking about the phrase “stand firm”. Ephesians 6:10-14 commands us to “stand” four times (in the ESV). Instead of standing against the devil, it’s easier to…
… Turn and run. Flee from the fight, hide and let evil have its way.
… Lay down. Become passive in the face of evil.
… Join up. Instead of standing firm against evil, agree to join its ranks.
Any of those options mean death for those you have somehow been tasked to protect. We are all given the responsibility to stand against evil – not only for our sakes, but also for those behind us. Parents stand firm against evil for the sake of their children. Teachers stand firm for the sake of their students. Leaders for the sake of their followers. All believers for the sake of those who need to hear the testimony of a victoriously freed life. The nature of evil means that one person’s failure to stand is costly for many more than just the one.
Yet standing firm is costly for us. Evil doesn’t fight for a draw – Satan is out to devour all he can.
Jesus said a true shepherd is one who protects the sheep even at the cost of his own life. It’s a fake shepherd – a “hired hand” who runs away or stands passively while the sheep are devoured. Through prophets like Ezekiel (34:2-6), Zechariah (11:17; 13:7) and Jeremiah (23:1-3), God warned and judged those who were supposed to protect His people and instead fled or even joined “the dark side”. They did not follow the pattern of a true shepherd – Jesus, who gave up His life for our children, students, and followers.
And it’s in the True Shepherd’s strength we stand against all evil forces. We’re not standing in the middle of that path alone – but “in the Lord and in the strength of his might”. I never realized the picture that Eph. 6:13 paints until I read up on it in some Bible commentaries. As the battle smoke clears from the field, those who withstood are the ones found still standing – victorious.
Wherever we are today – let’s be “steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,” because our “labor is not in vain”. If we withstand evil, our children will know righteousness, our fellow believers will grow in grace and truth, and unbelievers will see the power of God. When the smoke clears – we will be the ones found left standing.
So stand firm. That’s my prayer today… for myself and for you.