This month my husband and I are traveling back to the States for two months. Nairy Ohanian has sent an encouraging, strengthening word for all of us who are serving overseas.
Please, No Running Allowed!
Remember watching a baby learning to stand? Hesitantly he grasps any steady object beside him and laboriously pulls his weight up to a vertical position. Wobbly and clumsily, baby slowly lets go of the props and in wonder, attempts to stand all on his own. Those watching this exciting ordeal hold their breath to see just how long the wobbly baby can stand before tumbling down like a tower of blocks. Upon falling to the ground, he gathers his courage and tries again, hoping to remain vertical just a few seconds longer than before. After endless hours of practice, standing becomes second nature and then walking becomes the next life hurdle to master. But standing tall and firm is the key to any further action. As adults, standing is an essential aspect of our spiritual lives as well.
One of the most well known passages concerning standing is in Ephesians 6:10-15 and the armor of God.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”
Recently, my pastor preached on the armor of God and shed some fascinating insight into the armor covering the feet. The footwear was no ordinary Roman sandal but a leather half-boot strapped to the ankles. They had exceptionally thick soles, heavily studded with nails. As you can imagine it was nearly impossible to run with such footwear. Even if the soldier attempted to run, he would falter and fall with such thick and rugged soles. But the half- boots were perfect for planting his feet resolutely in the ground, and remaining balanced for fighting or to advance firmly without stumbling. Further, these half-boots were designed to bring him comfort as well as stability. Paul calls these cleated half-boots the readiness given by the Gospel of Peace. Readiness implies firmness, and peace helps us to keep our ground (Rev. Curtis J. Young, Maryland, 7/6/13).
Ladies, I was so struck by the fact that we can’t run in these cleated boots. In the thick of battle, arrows flying in every direction, I just want to run and hide! But this passage is telling us that running is not allowed. It is even made difficult. We will stumble, trip, fall on our faces and look like a fool. Imagine how funny a fully armored warrior would look tripping on his own feet, and his armor twisting and clanking about him.
But let’s face it, as we fight the good fight on our various fields, we are so tempted to run. On countless days on the field I just wanted to run as fast and as far as possible. We want to run from the long to-do list of each day, from the cultural norms and patterns that just seem to make no sense to us, from the expectations of teammates and/or nationals, from the language blunders we keep making after so much practice, from the pressure of raising financial support back home, from the endless, thankless laundry piles and dish stacks, from silly team conflicts, from administrative reports, and the list goes on. “The flaming arrows” in verse 16 are precisely these things which evoke fear, doubt, anxiety, and stress in our lives. Each of our field battles is unique but also very similar and understandable amongst committed women on the field, advancing the Gospel of Christ.
God is asking us to dig our heels in, position ourselves firmly, and stand our ground to fight. The reason we can stand and fight is because we are fully dressed in our armor. We must not forget this. Not only do we have these awesome boots on our feet but we have our head, chest, and waist protected and a shield and sword in each hand. God does not send us into battle unprepared. Of course, while he has supplied all the armor, we still must dress ourselves for the battle.
As I studied “standing” in the scriptures, over and over we stand “in the Lord, by faith, in faith, with courage, strength, and watchfulness.” We also stand in humility and in the grace of God. (1 Cor 16:13, 2 Cor 1:24, Phil 4:1, 1 Thes 3:8. 1 Peter 5:12) Standing is not for the faint hearted. You may not think of yourself as courageous but you most certainly are! You have remained in your present battle until today – without fleeing – and that takes courage and humility.
Interestingly, I discovered that the evil one does not stand, but just the opposite, he sits in lurking places, he crouches, he lays low, he prowls, and sneaks about. (Ps. 10:8-11, 1 Peter 5:8)
What a contrast to the woman of God who dresses in her armor and stands ready, firm and with Gospel peace.
The best news is that ultimately our “redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand on the earth.” (Job 19:25) And “The God of heaven will set up a Kingdom and it shall stand forever.” (Daniel 2:44)
Whatever awaits you this day on your current field, fasten up your ankle boots, take your position, dig those heels in, and by faith, grace, and humility, confidently face every arrow that flies your way. Today is a bright new day to practice spiritual standing in Christ. Please ladies, do not run, I don’t want you to fall! No running allowed.
Thank you, Nairy, for your timely word. Nairy has been involved in cross cultural service for the last 23 years. For 18 years she served university students & pioneered student works in Armenia and Turkey. Currently she serves as a cross cultural pastoral counselor with Barnabas International.