Publication: Pastoral Letter, May 2005
Dear Friend in Christ:
My father used to tell a story about a small boy who insisted on standing up in the church pew. His father told him to sit down but the boy continued to stand. Finally, the father physically put him down in the pew. The little boy said, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but inside, I am still standing up.”
I have often thought, “Submission is when we sit down on the inside.” There are times, however, when our Heavenly Father tells us to stand up on the inside. Even when we feel “knocked down” by circumstances, He tells us to “stand up” and do battle against our enemy. Proverbs 24:16 says “The righteous fall seven times and rise again.” Righteousness is no guarantee that we will not be knocked down, but it does insure that we can rise again.
Bad news, tragedy, and disappointment can momentarily put us down. Recently, my dear wife, Carolyn, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The news was hard to bear. Seeing her suffer was the worst pain that I have ever felt. But I quickly realized that I had to get up on my feet and help her up as well.
Not only does God want us to stand up, He tells us to stand. We cannot fight from a prone position, we must stand. When we make the effort to resist evil and get back up, He meets us with His power (see 2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
The enemy wants you down; God wants you up. That fact alone should be enough to motivate us to make every effort to rise again in faith. Your decision opens the door for God to show His power. You cannot stand in your own strength, but you can decide to fight with His mighty power_the same power that raised Jesus from the dead!
HAVING DONE ALL
The Apostle Paul told the people in Ephesus, “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” He continues, “Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil…and having done all to stand…Stand therefore…” (see Ephesians 6:10-18). Sometimes it takes our all to stand. We have to muster all of our strength, courage, and the encouragement of friends, but when we do so, we receive the power of His might.
The first step toward being able to stand before adversity is to stand before God. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. The Apostle says, “Looking unto Jesus…” (see Hebrews 12:2). Elijah was able to stand before God before he stood in front of the king (see 1 Kings 17:1). In the presence of God, we find the power to stand before our affliction and our enemy.
I love the old hymn, “Higher Ground.” The powerful chorus says, “Lord lift me up and let me stand by faith on heaven’s table land. A higher plane than I have found, Lord plant my feet on higher ground.” The second verse continues to point us upward with these words: “My heart has no desire to stay, where doubts arise and fears dismay. Thou some may dwell where these abound, my prayer, my aim is higher ground.”
It is our stand before God that matters most. According to Proverbs 28:1, “The righteous are as bold as a lion.” And the writer of Hebrews tells us that we can come boldly before His throne (see Hebrews 4:16). Realizing that we have received the righteousness of Jesus Christ by faith in Him, we can go to the Father in confidence.
STAND UP TO BLESS THE LORD
There is a touching scene in the movie MacArthur. The General has returned victoriously to the Philippines and has entered the hospital to visit the wounded. As he enters, the wounded soldiers_emaciated and badly treated by their enemies_struggled to stand. One such soldier gave his all to stand before his General and fell into MacArthur’s arms.
The book of Nehemiah records the story of how the exiles returned to rebuild Jerusalem which had been plundered and burned. They had to war while they built and also had to overcome the taunts of the enemy. Finally, the wall was completed and they had a time of celebration, and then fasting and confession of sin.
In Chapter 9, the Priests told all the people to “stand up to bless the Lord your God, forever and ever.” We stand to worship. It is our demonstration of honor to the One Who enables us to stand. He is our Conqueror; our Captain Who has given us the victory. Wounded we may be, but He is worthy of our total effort to stand and worship Him.
STAND UP AND WALK
Luke 5:17-26 records the story of the four men who brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus. Because the crowd was so intense, they removed the tiles off of the roof of the house where Jesus was, in order to lower their friend to Jesus’ feet. When Jesus looked up and saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven.” The theologians watching were upset at this statement. “Who can forgive sins, but God?” they asked. But Jesus responded, “Which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk?’” Then, He told the man to stand up and walk.
Jesus took this man from being paralyzed to carrying his own bed. Note the process: First, some friends had faith and brought him to Jesus. They would not be denied. Then, Jesus forgave him and healed him. Finally, the man was told to get up and he obeyed. God was glorified.
We need to know that our sins are forgiven (see 1 John 1:9). Cleansing brings confidence. Then we need to obey and stand in that confidence. Once we stand at His command, we can walk and carry our own burdens (see Galatians 6:1-5).
STAND TO ENTER GRACE
The Apostle Paul writes to the Romans, “We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God (see Romans 5:2). Faith accesses the grace to stand. We exercise faith; God gives grace.
Grace is undeserved blessing. It is God’s response to our trust and obedience. Grace is tangible, powerful, and amazing. It is the blessing we did not have before we trusted and obeyed. It is joy after sorrow, the peace after fear, the strength after weakness, the prosperity after poverty, and the hope after despair.
When we stand before God in honor of His worthiness and to bless His Name, we enter another state. We cross the boundary between defeat and victory, between our frailty and His might power. We have entered the land of grace and promise, filled with the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, and so much more.
“Woe to the one who is alone when he falls” (see Ecclesiastes 4:10). This verse says when he falls, not if. At some point, we all need friends. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together” (see Philippians 1:7).
I recently watched the movie Rocky III, starring Sylvester Stallone. This film told the story of how Rocky lost his heavyweight boxing title, due to growing soft. The challenger, Clubber Lang (played by Mr. T.) beat Rocky badly and for the first time, Rocky became fearful. He feared losing what he had and he feared the menacing Clubber Lang. He began to see himself as a loser.
Rocky’s new manager, Apollo Creed, also a former champion, challenged Rocky to get back the “eye of the tiger.” Finally, Rocky’s wife confronted him over his fears. In this confrontation, he changed and became determined to win back his crown – which he finally did. He first defeated his own fears, and then his worst enemy.
We need friends who believe and can help us believe. Fear brings torment, but love casts it out (see 1 John 4:18). The love of God and love manifested by our friends enables us to overcome our fear and our enemy.
STAND IN THE TRUTH
Truth prepares us even before we see the challenge. Sometimes we think of teaching as merely acquiring knowledge. It is more than that; it is God’s provision for times of trouble and testing. Biblical foundations are essential for surviving the storm.
The Apostles were “foundation” men who prepared the Church for centuries of trials (see 1 Corinthians 3:10-11). Over and over again the Apostle said, “Stand fast” (see Galatians 5:1; Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 3:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:15). A strong stand on the foundational truth of the Bible equips us to endure and overcome. Never let the winds and fads of “new teaching and revelation” remove you from tested truth. Our task is not to “improve” the Gospel_it is to stand upon it.
Even when we have been knocked down physically, we can stand up on the inside_that is the beginning of victory. Whatever you are facing, I urge you to stand before God, worship Him, and stand with godly friends in the truth to achieve victory. It is His will and His grace that will give us all we need to triumph.
Here at CSM, we are in a time of testing. The opportunities and challenges are numerous. This year marks 50 years since I began ministry; I can say that, only because of God’s grace. This year also represents more than 36 years of publishing. As you know, we have launched Covenant Institute, with 24 hours of video teaching already recorded and more on the way. It has not been easy, but we have done this by the leading and power of the Holy Spirit and with your help.
We continue to publish in other nations and distribute teachings designed to produce leaders. God willing, I will continue to travel to many nations to teach and help and establish believers and churches. Soon, I will travel to Siberia in Russia for a gathering of key leaders. And, as I have shared previously, I expect to speak to approximately 1,000 Middle Eastern believers this summer_mostly ex-Muslims. I will do so at my own expense.
I need for you to stand with me and with CSM. Please keep this ministry in your prayers and in your budget. It is impossible to tell you how much I appreciate your faithfulness_may God bless you.
Scripture Reference: Proverbs, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Hebrews, 1 Kings, 1 John, Galatians, Romans, Philippians, Ecclesiastes, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians