The last month or so has been quite rough for myself and many Christian friends I'm in contact with. Pete's been struggling with health issues. Both Julie and Lydia have lost loved ones. And I've given short accounts of what's been going on up here in Birmingham. I should add it's coming close to a wonderful conclusion here - God is opening up awesome new doors for me (the dreaded Christian metaphor I know!) that may lead to me being far more mobile across the country which is really great. However one of the things I noticed was the discussion about "warfare" and about the "enemy" and about "attacks".
While no one would deny the presence of spiritual warfare and attack, Rob Rufus brought an important counter-balance to the discussion about warfare and attacks in the most recent sermon of his that I am transcribing - "The Struggle For The Authentic Part 4 - "The Parable of the Sower" - it's certainly made me stop and think!
Here's what he said;
"How many believe that God hasn't called us to be fighting all the time? It's wrong to be in the frontline all the time. Sometimes you have to have a rest and there is a place of peace and certain teaching will lead a Christian to think they are always fighting all the time. I think the devil wants us to believe that too. I don't believe Jesus was always fighting against the demonic. It says the enemy came and then left Him for a "more opportune season". But he left Him and retreated from Jesus after the wilderness temptation.
Jesus said over and over again; "According to your faith - so be it". So according to what you believe - so be it in your life! If you build a theology where every day you believe you are toe-toe and eyeball-eyeball in a fight with the devil, then that is according to your faith and he will be very happy for you to believe that. But I actually feel that according to my faith I dwell in the secret place of the Most High and dwell under the shadow of the Almighty and will not fear the arrow that flies by night or the fowlers snare because the Lord is my dwelling place".
I know for a fact that Rob wouldn't be promoting a triumphalistic sort of life where we drift through happily until heaven - that just isn't real life! And again and again in his sermons, you get the sense that Rob and Glenda (like other Christian leaders) go through trials that we can only dream of. But this perspective is really important. These last few months I have begun to find myself dropping my head lower and lower and wishing for this day of struggle to end. But am I falling into the trap of "according to my (low) faith - so be it?!". The devil isn't going to have a problem in me thinking the day of warfare will never end!
Rob goes on:
"Though a thousand fall by my left hand and 10, 000 by my right hand it will not come near me because I am in the shelter of the Most High. His shield of favour is around me and there are firewalls of protection and He has sent angels, seraphim, cherubim - mighty ministering spirits to me - an heir of salvation! There are times He lets me go through the valley of the shadow of death and His rod and His staff will comfort me. It says though I WALK through the valley of the shadow of death. He leads me through it and I am going to get out! And it's really only a shadow - it's not the substance and the shadow of a dog can't hurt you!
We have got to believe that God has called us to walk in peace and rest. I want to talk to you about that. I am not against psychiatrists and have many good friends who are psychiatrists but many Christians do not have mental health and they are not happy. They are not joyful and are always fighting devils.
They are more concious of the devil than of the grace and love and goodness of God and the favour of God".
And that is the challenge - are we more concious of the devil's work and actions than we are the love and goodness and favour of God? I am persuaded that rather than investing my time in reading psycho-therapy books and going to therapeutic counselling meetings, I would be far better suited to reading, immersing and saturating myself in the grace and favour and goodness of God. Once again I am reminded of why Rob is so determined never to move on from preaching New Covenant grace! Because it's not just a crazy motif to weep over with pseudo-tears and build an icon to outside your church. It's a life-changing historical moment when the curtain was ripped in two!