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. Ephesians 6:12-13
Everybody should have some spiritual heroes—men and women whom you admire and respect. But I’ve also discovered that our heroes—the ones we have put on pedestals—also make us feel pretty insignificant and inadequate. It’s like the two cows in the field munching their cud. As a large new stainless steel truck, gleaming with chrome and new paint which bore the words, “Homogenized, Sanitized, Purified Milk” on the side passed by, the one cow mooed to the other, “Sure makes you feel inadequate, doesn’t it?”
Knowing some of those individuals I’ve put on pedestals helps me to understand two things about them: They are just as human as I am, and they didn’t quit when they stumbled or got knocked down. Interested in knowing how you can grow spiritually, and how your faith can take root and grow? Then today’s four guidelines are just for you.
Guideline #1: Read the fine print in the contract. What contract? In a very real sense, God’s Word defines your relationship to Himself. Have you never heard that the large print giveth and the fine print taketh away? That’s true of legal contracts, but the fine print in this book only amplifies God’s desire to use you and to fill you with His presence and strength. Suggestion: Read your Bible with a marking pen or pencil. Underline. Highlight. Put your name on the page and believe what it says.
Guideline #2: Reflect on what you have read. It’s right here that you may need to have a talk with yourself. There’s a great deal of difference between knowing your inadequacies and groveling in your failures. Three times in the New Testament we are told that God doesn’t play favorites. “There is no respect of persons with God” is the precise wording. How does that relate to you? It’s simple. What God has done for others, he will do for you.
Guideline #3: Rethink your game plan. Ask yourself, “What has God done for me in the past?” Then use that as a building block to increase your faith. David did that. When he faced Goliath, he could have said, “Wow! I’ve never faced such a formidable obstacle before. This guy is huge!” No, he reminded himself of several previous encounters with enemies—fighting the lion, and the bear which came to attack his sheep, and then he said, “God will give me this Philistine as well.” That’s the kind of encounter you need with yourself—probably every morning when you get up.
Guideline #4: Retrench. One of our greatest failures, I am convinced, based on the letters that you write to me day after day, is that we quit too soon. We give up on marriages, ourselves, and even God before we have waited patiently for Him to bring about the very answer that we have asked for.
We become our greatest enemy, and knowing our weaknesses, the enemy of our soul exploits us to the fullest. In warfare when the enemy starts lobbing grenades and the shells start exploding, soldiers dig in. It’s amazing how fast fox holes get dug under those conditions. Nobody worries about getting paid by the hour. It’s survival that counts. You need to do the same thing when you discover that the enemy knows your position and starts lobbing grenades in your path. May I say it again: Read the fine print, reflect on what God has done in your life, rethink your game plan, and retrench. Those simple guidelines not only result in survival and protection. They are the keys to building your faith in God and His power.
Resource reading: Ephesians 6:1-24