This morning I was reading about the parting of the Red Sea, so that the Israelites could escape the Egyptians. It's in Exodus 14. There was one little exchange between Moses, the Lord and the people that made me pause.
The Egyptian army was bearing down on the Israelites. Their chariots rushing over the desert to bring retribution on their escaped slaves. Cornered between the desert and the sea, unable to runaway and too terrified to fight, God's people are having a serious flap attack. So Moses reassures them:
“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13-14)
The Lord has already rescued them by bringing 10 terrible plagues on the Egyptians. The last being the death of their firstborn sons. He has committed to rescue his people. It is his work. Therefore in the face of severe opposition. Don't be afraid. Stand firm.
The New Testament addresses exactly the same sentiment to Christians. Paul writes to the Ephesian Christians about how to resist the temptation to give up on Jesus an he says: "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. Stand firm then...." (Ephesians 6:13-14).
Three times in a couple of sentences Paul says that they are to stand. Not moved from trusting in God's great work of saving people through Jesus. It's the reassurance that Christians need that keeping going with Jesus is his work. He is the one who strengthens us and enables us to keep following him whatever the pressure. We just have to stand firm and wait for him to work.
Or do we?
Because back in Exodus 14 this is the very next thing we read:
15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.
Basically God says: "Get on with it Moses! Stop the talking and get doing!"
Because trusting that the Lord is sovereign over all and brings about his purposes doesn't mean that we sit back and watch while he works. Rather God's people act on what he has promised. In this case Moses raises his staff, the waters part, they walk across on dry ground. There's a lot of activity. But only because they are confident that God is good to His word.
The same is true in Ephesians 6. As Paul describes the spiritual armour that they are to dress themselves in to withstand the assaults of the devil on their faith he says....
"...with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace." (Ephesians 6:15)
They are to be ready to move on and take the good news of peace with God to others. I guess that's why when Paul asks the Ephesians to pray he says: 6:19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel...
Standing firm for Paul involved proclaiming the very gospel that brought persecution upon him!
So the Christian life is neither "Let go and let God!", a life of inactivity because God is the one at work. Nor is it "God has no hands but our hands", if we don't get on and serve then God is completely stuck as to how he will bring about his plan of salvation. The true Christian is not afraid because they know that salvation belongs to our God, he alone brings people to Jesus. And, therefore, they work tirelessly in the light of that promise to make the gospel known.
Standing firm involves getting on with it!