Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Standing Tall

In the United States, mountain lions are regarded as the number one human predator. Author and naturalist Craig Childs was on foot doing research on the lions in Arizona's Blue Range Wilderness. As he approached a water hole from downwind, he spotted a mountain lion drinking. The lion did not notice his presence. When it finished drinking, it walked slowly away into a cluster of junipers.

After a few minutes, Childs walked to the water hole to identify tracks in the mud and record notes. But just before he bent down to look closer, he scanned the perimeter, and there among the shadows of the junipers, 30 feet away, he saw a pair of eyes. He expected the lion to run away, but it walked into the sunlight toward him. Childs pulled his knife and stared into the eyes of the lion. He knew what he must do. More importantly, he knew what he must not do. He wrote:

“Mountain lions are known to take down animals six, seven, and eight times their size. Their method: attack from behind, clamp onto the spine at the base of the prey's skull, snap the spine. The top few vertebrae are the target, housing respiratory and motor skills that cease instantly when the cord is cut . . . Mountain lions have stalked people for miles. One woman survived an attack and escaped by foot on a road. The lion shortcut the road several miles farther and killed her from behind . . . I hold firm to my ground and do not even intimate that I will back off. If I run, it is certain. I will have a mountain lion all over me. If I give it my back, I will only briefly feel its weight on me against the ground. The canine teeth will open my vertebrae without breaking a single bone . . .The mountain lion begins to move to my left, and I turn, keeping my face on it, my knife at my right side. It paces to my right, trying to get around on my other side, to get behind me. I turn right, staring at it . . . My stare is about the only defense I have.”

Childs maintained that defense as the mountain lion continued to try to provoke him to run, turning left, then right, back and forth again and again, now just ten feet away. Finally, the standoff ended. The lion turned and walked away—defeated by a man who knew what never to do in its presence.[1]

In the “go-to” chapter in the New Testament about how to engage in spiritual warfare we are told a number of times to “stand” against our Enemy. “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil . . . Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Eph. 6:11, 13-14).  

That simple command “stand” speaks volumes. It’s the least any soldier or enlisted man can do. Notice that it doesn’t say, “advance,” “conquer” or even “march,” we are simply told to hold the position and not retreat. As with the mountain lion, we are called to be watchful and be ready and to stand firm, facing forward. I don't know about you, but, sadly, my tendency is to run away when the fires of trials and temptation start to burn in my life. But if we don't stand our ground, we are giving that territory to the Enemy.

Every time we compromise our spiritual standards or fail to walk in righteousness, we are giving the Enemy a beachhead in our lives. We are allowing him to have a bit more influence in our life than before. Our task is not to defeat him--Christ already defeated him at the empty tomb. Our task is to stand firm against his attempts to destroy our credibility or God's credibility in our sight. Anything he can do to weaken or destroy our influence for Christ, he will do. But our perseverance--if we are standing firm in the armor of God--is guaranteed.

Satan is a roaring lion—he is that stalking, vicious mountain lion--who seeks to destroy and devour a believer’s, faith and testimony (1 Peter 5:8). But when we refuse to give in to fear, temptation, popular opinion or fluctuating emotions we can fulfill the words of James 4:7, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  

Think of all the faithful Christians who changed history just because they decided to stand. The three Hebrews in Babylonian captivity stood while everyone else bowed to the image of Nebuchadnezzar, and God preserved them through the fire (Dan. 3). David stood up against Goliath and God guided his stone to the bullseye (1 Sam. 17). Paul stood up in the midst of the Athenian philosophers on Mars Hill and proclaimed the resurrection of Christ, and some believed (Acts 17). Martin Luther stood before the diet of Worms, which accused him of heresy, but he said, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God. Here I stand I can do no other.” Then there was our Lord who stood before Pilate and his killers and gave the “good confession” (1 Tim. 6:17).

Just think, the people who made the greatest impact in the world for the Kingdom of God, simply held their ground. We probably wouldn’t remember them had they tucked tail and ran. So stand tall. Dig in your heels. Occupy till our Commander and Chief returns.     

[1] Craig Childs, The Animal Dialogues (New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2007), 40-41. 

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