August 13, 2014

Challenges and Overcoming Them

It is fair to say that yesterday morning I felt like I was crumbling beneath the weight of insurmountable challenges. I was overwhelmed to the point of breaking. I believed (in error) that the responsibilities I was carrying around were too much for me, too heavy for me to hold, and too great for me to drop (that they would break should I let them go).

In my heart I cried out to the Lord. I begged Him for mercy, for relief, for the ability to withstand the pressure. I was sick to my stomach. I was reeling from the expectations of what I was asked to do. I thought, "Lord, I cannot do this. I cannot handle what is on my plate."

I was facing a giant of enormous proportions. I was like David, a little person with great faith, who was armed only with five smooth stones. And like David, in my momentary fear, I saw myself as overwhelmed, under prepared, and lacking the proper provision to head into battle. I was facing a giant that seemed impossible to defeat, impossible to stand against.

Then the Lord reminded me of this verse from Zechariah 4:6:
So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.
Yes! Oh, Lord, YES! The battle I face cannot be fought by might or power (human), but only can be won by the power of the Holy Spirit. The challenges on my plate (my schedule) are not insurmountable so long as I trust in the Lord to handle them for me. I must lay them at His feet again and again and rest in His security and provision. It is not as if I don't do this, as if I choose to hold onto this To-Do list -- it is more that this battle, this particular battle, cannot be won at the first skirmish. Let me explain...

In the past, over the course of my life, I have had to face many giants in my life. Some of them were nastier and meaner looking than they really were -- they were big and scary -- but just a poof of the imagination. Once I saw them for what they were, not real but imaginary, they vanished. Other times, I faced more persistent giants, the kind that didn't go away at the first clash of weapons. Often these challenges, these mountains involved people -- people I worked with, lived with or come into contact with during the course of my day. I couldn't always wish them away, recite Scripture and pray they would leave me alone. Sometimes I had to let them go, literally let them leave my life. Sometimes I had to be the one to change, to forgive, to let go (as in attitude or mindset). Sometimes I had to submit, to surrender to another person's will in order to survive. Yes, I have faced all types of giants, all shapes and all sizes. Most of the time, though, the battles were short lived. 

Yesterday's battle though was different. It didn't just go away when I confronted it. It didn't vanish as soon as I lifted my shield of faith and the precious and powerful sword of the Spirit. No, this time, the battle was raging on around me and no matter what I did, I didn't feel better. I didn't feel empowered. I didn't sense freedom. In fact, I still do not feel better today. I still do not feel free from my opponents glancing blows.

What do you do when the challenge you face doesn't back down, go away, or relent?

I think the first thing you have to do is recognize your enemy. Sometimes we see our enemy as flesh and blood, bone and bone, human. The WORD tells us this is not the case. Our enemy is not human. The WORD says this in Ephesians 6:10-18:
A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
 
Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.  For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
Yes, the battle and the enemy we face is not human, but it is spirit.

Secondly, we must fight using the weapons that work against a spiritual enemy. How often do we use human weapons to fight against the spirit of this world? Human weapons will work against a human enemy, but we can only use spiritual weapons against a spiritual enemy. It makes sense to us, when we stop and think about it. Human to human; spirit to spirit. The passage in Ephesians clearly tells us what we need to defeat a spiritual enemy attack:

The whole armor of God is required, not pieces, but all of it. We have to be fully clothed for battle.
  1. The Truth About God (the belt of truth)
  2. The Righteousness of Christ (the breastplate of righteousness)
  3. The Peace of Christ (the sandals of peace)
  4. Living by Faith (the shield of faith)
  5. Salvation of Jesus Christ (the helmet of salvation)
  6. God's WORD to counter doubt and deception (the sword of the Spirit)
When we put on the full armor of God we begin to see ourselves differently. We first identify who we are in Christ Jesus. We are saved, and therefore, we are no longer enemies of God. We have right standing before God. The peace of Christ guards us, our minds, and helps us to understand the truth of God in Christ Jesus. Our faith in God is what sustains us, and the Word of God, which is active and alive, is what counteracts the lies of the devil.

Often I will take up my shield and the sword, but I forget the other parts of the armor. I forget to put everything on, and then I go out into battle unprepared for the enemies attack against me.

Today, I decided to stand up and to defend myself against this latest attack. I know that this time, I will need to stand defensively for a while. This will not be an easy battle. This is not a quick little skirmish. No, this is going to be a prolonged battle, the daily in and out, of a long campaign being waged against me.

Why is this so?

I think it is because I have made the Lord my sole focus, my whole life. As such, as I move closer to the fulfillment of His will for my life, I am being put into more situations where I have the ability to influence directly other people's lives. In short, as I am called deeper into ministry, I will face more attack. The enemy doesn't want me to win. He doesn't want me to encourage others, to build up the church, to preach the GOOD NEWS to those who need to hear it. No, he would much prefer to see me cower in a corner, to be ineffectual for Jesus Christ, to shrink back in fear, to give up, and to run home (even if I am running home to God). He doesn't want me to be the warrior princess I am called to be -- in my life, in my home, in my ministry, in my classroom. No, he wants me to feel overwhelmed, anxious, fearful, and unprepared.

I refuse to believe his lies. I refuse to listen to his accusations. I stand up, fully clothed in the armor of God today, and I face my enemy with the power of the Holy Spirit, with the tools and weapons that have been given to me to fight spiritual warfare.

So I confess along with the prophet today: Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit!

Yes, Lord, yes! I pray today to be equipped with everything I need to stand and to fight against the enemy. I trust you Lord, I look up to you, and I rest in your provision. This battle belongs to the Lord, and I will not use human might or power, but I will let your Holy Spirit have His way in me. Yes, Lord, Yes! Have your way in me this day. I ask this now in Jesus' Name, Amen.


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