Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore…—Ephesians 6:13–14
We are frequently told that these are terrible times for the work of God and that little if any progress is possible for those who take a sound and scriptural position. The most we can hope for, some suggest, is to maintain our ministries until Jesus comes. I call these dear people, who come from various segments of fundamentalism, the “hang on ‘til the Rapture” crowd.
The Situation Analyzed
Comments: A preacher once said at a meeting where he and I were preaching, “It seems like there are fewer and fewer churches today who are willing to take a stand, and it seems like their ranks are thinner than ever. But Jesus is coming and we must be faithful until He does.”
Another Christian leader once said to my staff and me, “Maybe we’re not starting the churches, maybe we’re not beginning the schools, maybe we’re not building the buildings, but if we can just hang on to what we have, we’ve done something. After all, at the end of his life, Paul didn’t say much about winning the world to Christ. He just said, ‘Having done all, to stand.’”
On another occasion, I heard a preacher address a group of pastors by saying, “I’m trying to encourage you. Things are difficult; times are tough, but God is calling out His bride. I don’t know many men who are interested in a large bride, but they are interested in a pure bride.”
The Cause: What is behind this discouraged and almost depressed attitude which prevails in so many places? Why have so many good men given up? Why are so many simply going through the motions, expecting nothing from God and finding those expectations met every time? There are several possible reasons I would suggest.
1. These are difficult days. There can be no question that the morals in America are lower than they have ever been in the history of our nation. It is certainly true that we have moved from religious freedom to religious toleration. The media attacks Bible-believing Christians and vilifies them like no other group. Our Christian heritage is so far in the past that for most of our citizens it is not even a vague memory.
Many of the churches to which we looked for leadership and encouragement have fallen on hard times. It has well been said that many people have judged fundamentalism in America by a handful of churches. When those churches began to struggle, we assumed that fundamentalism was struggling similarly. In truth, there are many wonderful ministries which God is building all across the land.
2. Many of the model ministries have passed from the first, to the second, or even the third generation in leadership. The first generation is a pioneer with raw faith, and, in the face of tremendous obstacles, carves out of the spiritual wilderness a ministry by God’s help and power. The second and third generations come and reorganize the office, reshape the image, clean out the closets, and apply spit and polish. This is no doubt appropriate, but it does not inspire people the way the first-generation leader does.
3. We seem to have fewer national leaders who have been given by God the ear of a large segment of fundamentalism. Many who once occupied a place of honor for various reasons have seen their influence diminished.
The Consequences: In my opinion, the consequences are nearly disastrous. Preachers are content to “just get by.” Young men are turned off by those in the ministry. What young person wants to spend his life “hanging on?” Those who do enter the ministry are in many cases enticed by the apparent success and growth in New Evangelical circles and so defect from truth.
The Scripture Applied
Is it true? Are we in an age and an era when all we can do is stand? Must we accept as inevitable a gradual erosion of the influence of our ministries and the steady reduction in our outreach? I think not. In fact, the Bible says not.
The Principle: “Having done all, to stand…” The Bible is clear. It is not time to stand until after we have “done all.” Is there a time when we have done all and therefore must stand? I suppose so. Those in prison for their faith are not required to build too many buildings, conduct too many revival campaigns or support too many missionaries. The dear, aged saint of God whose health is nearly gone and whose strength is feeble, probably is not expected to start a bus route, plant a church, or found a college. Few of us, however, are in these categories. Most of us have decided to just stand before we have “done all.”
The Particulars: I could not stop trying to grow and reach people for Christ until I honestly believed that I had done all in at least the following areas:
1. Bible reading. I read through the Bible four times each year. But I could not say that I read the Bible all that I could. I could read the newspaper less, watch football less, even exercise less and have more time to read the Word of God. It’s not time for me to stand yet, for I have not done all.
2. Prayer. I’ve not done all in my prayer life. I use the Lord’s Prayer as an outline each morning and have a rather long of list of people for whom I pray each evening. But I don’t think I’ve done all. I certainly could pray more than I do.
3. Soulwinning. My personal schedule for years has called for me to go out with my wife on Wednesday afternoons, then go out again Thursday morning, Thursday night, and some on Saturday. I witness to people on airplanes, in restaurants, and in check-out lines at the store. But I could not tell you that I’ve done all I can to win people to Christ.
4. In loving the people that I pastor. I write a birthday card for each member of our church, as well as an anniversary card. I frequently send notes of appreciation and expressions of love to our members. But the truth is, I could do much more to love the people God has given me the privilege of serving. It would be wrong for me to believe that my relationship with my people had gone as far as it could and I was just going to have to “put up with things the way they were.” I have not done all.
5. In organizing our church for growth and discipleship. We have many programs in place, most of which the Lord seems to be blessing. But I must confess, I have some members who are not working and other members who could do more, and I probably could add other ministries to help us reach more people. In no way could I give up and expect that we’ll just have to “hang on ‘til the Rapture.” It’s not time to simply stand, for we have not done all.
I think it is clear by now that this list could go on indefinitely. The fact is, we live in an age of great opportunity. The light of the gospel shines brighter in the darkness of this age than it has for years. Great soulwinning churches, some running 100, some running 500, some running 2,500, are being established all across the United States of America. This is a good time to do the work of Christ. Let’s be sure we’ve “done all” before we decide to simply “stand.”