This week I was having a conversation with a friend on the phone about the difficulties of life. Something about our conversation reminded me of a passage that is often used to encourage us Christians to fight the good fight and to continue doing God’s good work in the world. The passage I am thinking of is from Ephesians 6:10-13:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 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. 13 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.
Most of the time people focus on the passages that follow this one, where it talks about the various parts of the armour of God. And that is definitely important. Yet what has often drawn my attention in this passage is the last part of verse 13, “After you have done everything, to stand.”
The thing that strikes me about it is the fact that it is so…well…underwhelming. The writer of Ephesians builds this up with drama and flare: after we have done EVERYTHING…what comes next? It must be important because it is the conclusion of our life’s work. Is it to storm the castle? To vanquish the enemy? To save the princess from the evil dragon? No. It is to simply remain standing.
The idealist in me is quite disappointed in this passage. I would like it to promise that we could vanquish the enemy. Or help justice roll through our land like a river. Or save the world by bringing them all to Jesus. The problem with my idealistic responses is that it places me as the saviour. It assumes I will be the hero. Should we work for justice? Yes, and ever more so as the world seems to get more corrupt with each passing moment. Should we point others to Jesus? Absolutely because we all need the Gospel that reveals the grace and love of God.
But after all is said and done, we will be considered a success simply if we are still standing. Still fighting the good fight. Still running the race. The longer life goes on, the more I see how difficult this task truly is. More and more of my friends and family have given up on faith. More public figures are renouncing Jesus. Even some pastors are throwing in the towel and walking away from God.
Staying standing is a lot harder and a lot more important than what it seems.
Pick a week of history and there will be more than enough bad news to remind us of the need to keep fighting for what’s right. This week is no exception. We do have a great deal of work to do. But the unfortunate reality is that nobody in the history of the world has been able to achieve utopia here on earth. When it comes time for us to shed our mortal coil, we too will leave behind a world filled with suffering and pain. The complex truth is that the goal of manifesting God’s love, mercy, and justice in this world is an impossible one to fully carry out, but it is the work we are given to do nonetheless. I find this freeing, because when we inevitably face situations where there is nothing more we can do to bring about true change, it doesn’t mean we failed, so long as we stay standing.
No matter how bad things are, keep standing. Stand in the power of Jesus. Stand with Christ alongside the vulnerable and oppressed. Stay standing! Hang on to Jesus! When the Good Lord returns to make all things new, be found on your feet, standing for the things of God. Be found clinging to the hope that God can bring restoration even when things around you seem like they are falling apart.
Be found standing. Because that is enough, and it’s not nearly as easy as it sounds.