One of my earliest athletic experiences involved a brief career as a junior high wrestler in the 89 lb. weakling weight class. Brief as it was, my time on the mat taught me an unforgettable lesson. Three minutes is an eternity when your face is buried in the armpit of a pungent pre-teen who has never applied even a whiff of Right Guard. Time cannot only stand still, it can move backwards.
Writing from a prison in Rome, Paul challenged his friends to let him hear that they were…
“…standing firm, in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, in no way alarmed by your opponents.” Philippians 1:27
Every mat monster in Mill Lane Junior High would have understood what these words meant.
Stand Firm: When you face your opponent, your feet need to be firmly planted before you make your move. Leverage, more than strength, is the key to success. One of those ancient Greek philosophers/scientists who discovered the lever/fulcrum said, “ Give me a place to stand, and I can move the world.” He may not have lifted the entire world up, but he was right on the mark when it comes to taking an opponent down. The one who has his feet firmly planted can shift the weight of his enemy, and gravity, not brawn, will do the rest.
Paul made a similar reference regarding the shoes a soldier must wear if he was going to war against the enemy. “stand firm…having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.: Ephesians 6:15
During the Napoleonic Wars, the English introduced the Sharp’s rifle to combat the conquering armies of France. When efficiently loaded it could effectively fire three rounds a minute. The key to victory was not in the theory of firepower. The soldier must stand in the face of an attacking force and fire it until the enemy retired from the field. In the aftermath of the Six Day War, when Israel defeated a host of Arab nations and secured the city of Jerusalem, there was cartoon circulated in the Israeli papers. It read like a classified ad,
“For Sale: 500,000 Arab rifles. Never fired. Dropped once.” Get the picture?
Stand firm means facing an opponent without giving ground. It requires an act of the will that refuses to believe that the enemy is in control of the conflict. Regardless of Satan’s powerful propaganda, it is possible to claim victory that has already been won. Jesus made peace with God on behalf of those who would receive Him as their Savior and Lord. The empty tomb settled the outcome of the power struggle launched by Satan when he challenged God for the lives of men. The real war is over. Standing firm on the victory of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ builds up momentum in the heart of the wrestler and courage in the heart of the warrior. Victory is not only promised. It has already been delivered.
One Mind: There is only one reason to be on a wrestling mat, facing an opponent wearing tight leotards and a tank top. Pin him before he pins you. In junior high the first round in a match lasted three minutes. The nature of the conflict caused this brief time span to seem endless. When grappling with another person blocking and pressing against your every move, negative energy drains away strength in a matter of seconds. This one on one struggle creates a sense of isolation, and mind games can be very effective in turning a chance for victory into a sure defeat.
A clear mind focuses on the truth of the Word of God, not the mind games of the enemy. There is a real enemy who seeks to sap your strength and drain the joy out of your life. This enemy is not flesh and blood, and it takes a clear mind to defeat him. Satan’s favorite mind game is to get believers to doubt the truth. From his first recorded words in The Garden, “ Yea, hath God said…”, to the last lie he told, God’s Word has been challenged. Jesus said …
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage. I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Striving Together: Striving together is translated from a Greek word made by combining the preposition “with” and the word used in English to form the word “agony.” Striving together literally mean “with agony.” It describes a tag team effort to gang up on an opponent rather than turning on one another. Who would have thought Paul knew anything about “WWF Smackdown.”
Jesus called upon His disciples to take courage in the fact that He had already overcome the enemy. The most effective way to take hold of the victory is to get in touch with The Victor. Jesus taught His followers to pray, and He sits at the right hand of the Father making intercession for those who have received Him into their hearts and lives. The enemy tries to isolate the believer into thinking he is alone in the conflict. He will agree that the word of God may be theoretically and theologically correct, but he plants doubt that it can be effectively applied. This sense of isolation and doubt evaporates when the believer “tags” Jesus, and through prayer calls on Him to team up to take down the enemy. The enemy trembles when he hears courageous prayers calling on Jesus to come along side of the person he is trying to intimidate. He knows he is down for the count when he looks into the eyes of a believer convinced of victory.
In No Way Alarmed: Sporting events are influenced by what is called a home court advantage. Few places can be as intimidating as a wrestling arena. A few years ago a popular ad carried the punch line, “Never let ‘em see you sweat.” That commercial was never field tested at a junior high wrestling match. When visiting another campus you were forced to walk to the center of the mat through a room packed with screaming, cursing Clearasil poster boys. While facing your opponent you could not hear yourself think much less hear an encouraging word. The opponent you faced would be looking into your eyes to see if fear had registered. His ego was inflated by the cheering of his “homies.” To a scared kid in a hostile house, the Rapture would have been welcomed as a great way to leave these guys behind.
Paul knew that his disciples faced an intimidating world. While they were praying for his release, Paul wanted them to know that he had arrived at a critical point in his journey of faith. If he died in prison he would be thrilled to be with Jesus. If he were released from prison he would be pleased to see his friends. Only those who believe they have nothing to lose have reached this state of contentment.
He wanted his disciples to accept with a joyful abandonment all that life dished out and death threatened to take away. He did not want their opponents to be encouraged by hearing a tremble in their voices or see any fear in their eyes. If their knees buckled, he encouraged them to pray. It is possible to stand firm from a kneeling position and still take down the enemy.
Satan cannot read minds or change minds. He only knows what he overhears. When he clouds clear thinking, he can influence decision-making. His intimidating shouts in the dark are meant to frighten the believer. He is encouraged to continue when he hears fear in a complaining or murmuring voice. This alerts him to the effectiveness of his lies. He is only weakened and stricken with fear when he hears a believer praising God, declaring His character. He trembles when he hears a courageous saint praying for Jesus to come to his aid.
Instead of murmuring and complaining, Paul urged his disciples to pray and praise. When Satan hears prayers steadied by the practice of praise it takes away his home court advantage. Prayer is God’s plan for His children to team up with Jesus to take down the enemy.
© Dr. Gary Miller, 2006
Lead Pastor, The Whitestone Fellowship, Runaway Bay, Texas
For over 40 years, Gary and Dana Miller have invested their lives in the pastoral ministry of churches in Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Georgia. Gary and Dana believe the hope of the world is the local church, and the strength of the church is sustained by praying people.
They have taught extensively on the role of prayer in spiritual awakening, counseled people to build strong marriages by equipping husbands and wives to pray together and have ministered internationally in Hong Kong, Japan, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia and Switzerland through their TALK LESS! PRAY MORE! Prayer Conferences.
Gary and Dana live in Fort Worth, Texas and have been married for 40 years. They are parents of two grown daughters, Ashley and Allyson.