Many history books will tell you that Leatherhead, Surrey – not far from where Insight for Living UK has its office – was the town where John Wesley preached his final message, just a few days before his death at the age of 87. Not many of those books remark on the text of that last talk in February of 1791. Having delivered more than 40,000 sermons, Wesley chose Isaiah 1:6 as his text, a miserable lament over a nation gone bad from head to toe because they had forsaken the One True God. I confess, if I make it to 87, and if He grants me the faculties to keep preaching at that age, then I hope I have the gumption to speak out the truth no matter how uncomfortable or unpopular.
There are countless beautiful reassurances in God’s Word; reasons for us to feel blessed beyond measure. Ephesians 1:3 is like a catch-all expression of this: God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. Jesus listed some of the specific blessings to be enjoyed as part of an ongoing walk of faith: we will be comforted; we are promised an inheritance; we will be satisfied in our quest for righteousness; we will receive mercy from God (Matthew 5). He also gives perseverance and encouragement (Romans 15:5), and the promise that there is nothing in this world or beyond it that can separate us from His love (Romans 8:37-39).
These assurances are there to help us maintain a straight course when the sea of life gets choppy, to stand firm when the world tries to undermine us. This is, after all, what Paul intended for us when he employed that famous image of the armour of God in Ephesians chapter six: “Put on the full armour of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. . . . Therefore, take up the full armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Standfirm therefore,” (Ephesians 6:10-14). How many times do you have to use the word stand to make your point in a single paragraph? Three times apparently. Note carefully that all that is required in a successful skirmish is to still be standing having done everything. Just maintaining your poise is a victory.
When Paul wrote those words, he wasn’t only talking to powerhouse preachers like John Wesley, he was talking to all of us. We don’t have to be rude, or arrogant, or harsh about it, but we have to remember that we have the truth on our side. That truth has transformed the lives of millions of people down through the centuries, and it is still transforming lives today. There is no need to run and hide; we can stand firm on the abiding truth that will never falter. Neither is there a call for us to be truth-bullies; “It is the gentle answer that turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1-2). When it all comes down to it, we are people of faith, and that can never be fully explained or argued. But the content of our faith – the truth that Christ died on our behalf to provide a bridge of reconciliation between us and the One True God – now that’s something worth standing for.