The story is told of a young boy who grew up on a ranch where his father raised thoroughbred horses. It was a common sight for the boy to watch the young thoroughbreds being trained to jump obstacles and race with their long, easy strides. However, because the young thoroughbreds are overly-sensitive and high-spirited, the heart of the boy grew fond of an aged, retired thoroughbred that had been pushed aside and given little attention. The boy took on the responsibility of feeding, bathing, and taking the horse on gallops around the ranch. One day as the boy was brushing the shiny coat of the horse, a potential buyer was walking around the ranch. When he came upon the aged thoroughbred he said to the boy, "I bet your horse doesn't run fast anymore does he?" The young boy stopped brushing and looked up with pride saying, "No sir, my horse doesn't run fast anymore, but he does stand fast."
When I think of the one distinguishing characteristic that set apart Christians in the early church from the brand of Christianity we see today it is the fact they knew how to "stand fast." The days were dangerous because of extreme persecution, but they were discouraging because of extreme pressure. The Apostle Paul knew the temptation for many would be to defect the faith, but rather than compel them to "run fast," time and again he encouraged the people to "stand fast." This phrase means more than simply having the right posture. It is a phrase that implies feet planted down firmly with mature stability. It was not stubbornness Moses possessed to stand before Pharaoh, nor a rebellious spirit the three Hebrew children possessed to stand before Nebuchadnezzar. It was a knowledgeable resolve that could not be swayed, softened, or surrendered. Some people say they have taken a stand, but when was the last time a stand took you? It may sound easy, but notice why there are so few who are able to do it well today.
To "stand fast" means you must live without reservations. In Philippians 4:1, Paul writes, "stand fast in the Lord..." Before a toddler can ever learn to walk, he must first learn to stand. He overcomes doubts and fears by taking hold of a stable object which provides both balance and confidence for him.
Our standing is only as good as the object we hold for strength and stability. Perhaps the reason so many falter in their Christian life is because they tried to walk with the Lord before they first learned to stand in the Lord and they never gained enduring balance. It is not enough to say we are standing for the Lord. The disciples learned that when standing for the Lord they were powerless to cast out a demon, but once they learned to stand in the Lord they could do the miraculous. What was the difference? The answer is best illustrated by the guards of Buckingham Palace in London. The guards stand speechless and motionless for hours while at their post. While doing so, they stand for something, but they also stand in something...kingdom authority. A man will never stand with determined resolve until his heart trusts that which has been entrusted to him.
To "stand fast" means you must live without retreat. In 2 Thessalonians 2:15, Paul writes, "stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught..." It was a challenge to not move away from the truth they had learned, and a reminder of a calling which left no room for retreat. I am reminded of a story in which a teacher repeatedly asked a boy to sit down in class. Once he finally sat down, he looked at the teacher and said, "I may be sitting down on the outside, but I'm still standing up on the inside!" It was such determination that Gideon's army of only three hundred men possessed when they stood before the mighty Midian army. Judges 7:21 gives us this account, "and they stood every man in his place round about the camp..." They never raised a sword or cast a spear, but the Lord gave them victory as they stood. We are told that the best lumber for building comes from trees that have weathered many difficult storms. In much the same way, the lives that make the greatest impact are those who when the winds have ceased from howling and the waves have grown calm are still standing victoriously at their post.
To "stand fast" means you must live without regret. In Exodus 14, the children of Israel were trapped between the Red Sea and the mighty Egyptian army in the wilderness. Moses then calls out in verse 13, "..stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord..." These words were not implying a passive waiting around, but rather an active anticipation of something wonderful about to occur. We might say it like this in our world today, "have your foot on the brake, but keep the car in drive!" You may wonder how David had the courage to stand before the giant Goliath or how Samson could muster the strength to stand between the pillars. The answer is they believed it would be worth it in the end. In Acts 7, as Stephen was being stoned for his stand, he saw the heavens opened and the Lord "standing on the right hand of God." Only those who never take their eyes off the finish line and the reward awaiting them will ever become great in the work of the Lord.
Most of us can bow, kneel, leap, and run with the best of them, but just how well do you "stand fast"? It is more than just good posture. It is a life of no doubts, no distractions, and no departures. During World War 2, the British soldiers had a motto: "R.F.A." This meant ready for anything. Before conflict ever arrived they had determined to keep on standing fast. I suppose Paul may have summed it up best when he wrote in Ephesians 6: 13-14, "...and having done all to stand. Stand therefore..."
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2007 Alan Stewart