“If you do not stand firm in your faith, then you will not stand at all” (Isaiah 7:9).
This was the word of the Lord through His prophet to a trembling king when faced with adversaries. It was an admonishment to not look to the size of the enemies at hand, but instead trust in the power of God on his behalf. Stand up. Let your backbone be fortified with the truth of the promises and power of God.
I grew up in a time when this command, to stand firm in the faith, was really just rhetoric. There were no kings and armies at the gate; the invading culture and challenges to Christianity were held at bay inside our insulated small town; in fact, the most popular decision I ever made as a teenager was to publicly declare before my church family that I sensed God’s call to ministry.
But times… they are a’changin. Obviously.
Research shows us that the number of evangelicals is not diminishing, as some doomsdayers might claim. Instead, what we see is that the days of the “sort of committed Christian” are coming to an end. The “mushy middle ground” of occasional church attendance and casual belief in the authority of Scripture are quickly fading. These are days, increasingly so, when those who are for Christ must be truly for Christ.
There is a reaction to this reality, which I feel in my gut, that is a longing for a perceived past when based on our memory times were much simpler. But those memories are colored and tempered with time, for each generation has had its own challenges to deal with. We can’t give in to the impulse to sit about reminiscing about the good old days, the days when we remember little being challenged, for God has given us these times. These moments. There is great truth in what an old wizard said to a young hobbit in Tolkein’s The Fellowship of the Ring:
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Which brings me to the subject of our children. These are times when our longing for our remembered past should be replaced with active prayer. Not just for us, but for our children. So what do we pray for them? Do we pray for their safety? For their comfort? For their freedom? For their ease? Perhaps, but I find myself increasingly praying something else for them, something that feels more appropriate. And in that prayer, I find it not only being made on behalf of them, but for myself, for I along with every other mom and dad have been entrusted with the sacred responsibility of raising these children in the admonition of the Lord. So I pray often:
“Lord, help me raise children with a backbone.”
Their mettle will be tested. Their faith will be challenged. They will be pressured to succumb on any number of fronts. By God’s grace, we will raise them not to shrink back into the shadows, nor to be intentionally argumentative and betray Christian kindness and compassion. That they will stand, and stand firmly.