In last week’s blog, we looked at what it means to stand for something – to believe in something so much that you’re willing to fall, even die, for it. This week, I’d like to follow that up by exploring how to take a stand. As we mentioned previously, taking a stand doesn’t necessarily mean shouting the other person down, or having a big fight. Not at all. You don’t have to be loud and aggressive to make a point. You can take a stand just as you are. Even the meek can take a stand that is powerfully gentle and sensitive, and yet have it make a difference.
There are many simple ways we can start to think about how we can take a stand for God, mainly through the choices we make. We have to be intentional – these things don’t just happen overnight. We also have to be aware, because very often, the things that we’ll speak about taking a stand against are things which creep in without us noticing them. We can take a stand by living differently. For the remainder of this post, I would like to recommend some ways we can do this. These aren’t all of them, by any means, but here are some suggestions from me (in no particular order).
1) Read your Bible:
Honestly, the best thing you can do is to make time to read the Bible every single day. Trying to be consistent in this was something I really struggled with when I was younger. But, I’m now a lot more intentional with my quiet time, and I can tell you that it really does make a difference when you are – when you make that conscious effort to spend time praying and reading God’s Word every single day. Making time for this daily will really help you to focus your mind and to set your sights on godly things. And the only way that we can truly know how God would have us live is by reading His Word.
2) Who you listen to:
Please be careful who you allow to speak into your life. Even be selective about who you ask to pray with you and over you. My Dad often advises my sister and I: “Don’t let just anyone lay hands on you”. Be sure to seek out the advice of solid, mature Christians. With all the best intention in the world, others will offer their advice. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion and have no problems voicing it. But that doesn’t mean you have to listen to every opinion that is given to you, or that everyone has a right to speak into your life. Please carefully discern which advice you listen to and take heed of, siphoning out the good advice from the not-so-good.
3) What you watch/read/listen to:
As previously stated, a lot of entertainment today is dishonouring to God. Not every piece of programming, music, or literature is able to have some spiritual meaning chiselled out of it if we look deep enough. Please, try to avoid the things that aren’t good for your mind. Protect yourself. Fill your mind with good things. I’ve made a conscious decision this year to read more Christian literature. And I’m not just saying it when I say that I honestly do feel all the better for it. I cannot recommend getting into Christian books highly enough. But please, be selective and conscientious about which Christian books you read – not every so called “Christian book” is helpful, and not every supposed “Christian author” writes truth. The same goes for Christian music – please show discernment in what you listen to. I would really encourage you to research before you listen. Read up on who you’re listening to. A lot of the more modern songs that are becoming church favourites when it comes to congregational singing are actually coming from sources that are not teaching the Gospel. There are some major Christian music manufacturers that I would strongly caution you against because of what they teach (or fail to teach) from their pulpits. There are also other artists that I would strongly encourage you to listen to. So please, do your homework – research Christian authors, preachers, worship leaders, singers, musicians, etc, before you dive in and listen to them. (If you want some recommendations or some guidance in this area, send me a message and we can chat about it. Plugged In and Common Sense Media are also good sites to use when researching the content of films and TV shows).
We live in a world that promotes sexual freedom – the “right” to have sex with whoever we want, whenever we want, with as many sexual partners as we want. It’s seen as a badge of honour to have a lengthy list of previous sexual partners, and the word “virgin” is viewed upon as almost a dirty word. How ironic. As Christians, we need to follow the teaching of the Bible and be a voice for purity in a sex-obsessed world. The Bible is clear that sex was created as an experience to be enjoyed within the context of marriage. I find it really sad that some young Christians are falling short when it comes to this, and even sadder that some churches turn a blind eye to it. Young couples, professing to be Christians, live together outside of marriage and choose to have sex before marriage, and it seems in many cases their church allows them to get on with it, without an expressed concern, counsel, and consequent discipline when persisted in. Choosing to say and do nothing in confronting this is a form of condoning and accepting it. Please, churches, encourage sexual purity amongst your young people. Don’t shy away from teaching about sex in your churches. Sex isn’t a dirty word. It needs to be talked about. And if they don’t learn from you, then we leave them no choice but to learn from the world. Christian young person – please take a stand in this area. Save yourself for marriage. If you’ve already had sex, seek forgiveness from God and start over – you can still choose to wait. It is an unpopular stand to take in the world we live in, it is judged, and it is laughed at – but please don’t give in. Seek God’s approval rather than man’s. Please, guard your hearts and protect your sexual purity.
Strive to live in purity. That doesn’t just mean choosing to not sleep around, as mentioned above – I mean purity in every aspect. Keeping your body pure, your speech pure, your mind pure. If you know that a certain book, TV show or film leads your mind to places that it shouldn’t go, then cut that book, TV show, or film out of your life – throw it away. Proverbs states, “Bad company ruins good morals” (Proverbs 4:13, ESV). If you know that certain friends are causing you to stumble in your walk with God, then distance yourself from those friends and seek out ones who will help you in your walk. If you know that going to a certain place causes you to slip, stop going to that place. Please make conscious decisions to cut out the things that cause you to fall short. Strive to keep yourself pure.
Generally, the church is vague and inconsistent on this issue. However, the Bible does caution believers against drunkenness. Personally, I choose not to drink, and I would strongly encourage you to consider doing the same. It is scientifically proven that alcohol effects our self-control. The Bible says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control [emphasis own]” (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV). Self-control is one of the virtues that we as Christians should seek to display, in the same way that we would wish to display kindness and goodness. They are given equal weight! So why would we want to purposely take away from that? Why would we intentionally allow ourselves to not possess one of the qualities that the Spirit evidences in us? Sadly, the alcohol crazed culture of the world – one that says we need to drink alcohol in order to have fun, be sociable, and to have a good time – is seeping into churches. I am saddened to read of church small group socials that plan on going for “drinks” – and not of the soft drink variety. I am disappointed to see professing Christians, and even church leaders, partaking in drinking alcohol, willingly allowing their self-control – a biblical fruit of the Spirit – to be compromised. I am dismayed when I can’t tell the difference between how a saved person and an unsaved person choose to spend their Saturday nights – getting drunk in a nightclub. Please, Christian young person, take a stand in this area. Set yourself out as different. You don’t need to drink alcohol to have fun. You don’t have to drink alcohol to be popular or liked. Real friends won’t force you to drink alcohol. You don’t have to go to a nightclub to have a good time. I often hear the argument for Christians attending nightclubs “but I’m being a witness for God” – would it not be a more effective witness to take a stand by not going to these places instead of being found in them and passively blending in and endorsing the culture?
7) The Words We Speak:
The Psalmist writes, “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3, NIV). The tongue can be a powerful tool, with the power to both help and hurt. In Exodus 20, we are presented with the ten commandments, the fourth of which is “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exodus 20:7, ESV). We can’t really get anything more straightforward than that – it’s there, it’s a commandment. In the same way that we are commanded to tell the truth, to not steal, to not murder, etc, we are commanded to not take God’s Name in vain. Except, some Christians do. And I can’t begin to understand why. Because not only is it dishonouring to God, it is also just a bad witness to those outside the Church when we blaspheme and take lightly the Name that we profess to worship. The Names of God and Jesus are not swear words. They are not exclamations. They are not substitutes for expressing surprise, anger or shock. They are holy, weighty words that should not be used carelessly. Please, be encouraged to take a stand in this area. Keep God’s Name holy. Banish bad language in general from your vocabulary. Swearing is not a sign of intelligence, it’s not a sign of humour, and it’s not clever. And most importantly, it isn’t honouring to God. The Bible says, “Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity” (Proverbs 21:23, NIV), and it later instructs, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29, NIV). Take a stand to guard your tongue and the words that you speak. Use your words to build others up, to tell the truth, to glorify God. It will set you apart. People will notice. Your unsaved family and friends will notice.
8) How You Spend Your Sundays:
The Bible commands “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8, ESV). For Christians, our “Sabbath” is Sunday. Unless you work in a life-saving profession that cannot function without you (I’m talking doctors, and paramedics, firemen, etc), Christians need to be in their place on Sundays. We need to be in church. We need to be in God’s house. I work in the theatre, but no matter what job I’ve had, I’ve made it clear from the outset that I will not work on a Sunday. Work should not keep us from going to church. Please, Christian, keep your Sundays for God.
We can also honour God and take a stand for Him in the clothes that we wear. Choosing to dress modestly and attractively, without flaunting our bodies in a seductive manner, is honouring to God. It seems to be that so many clothes, particularly for young people (sometimes even children and young teens), are sexualised. Choosing to honour God by dressing modestly not only helps us in our quest to live in a pure way, but it’s also a step we can take to not be a stumbling block to others.
These are just a handful of ways that you can make conscious and intentional stands for God, setting yourself out as different from the world. People will notice. People will see something different in you, and they will be drawn to that. By making these seemingly small choices, we can make a big difference for God. John Stott wrote, “I sometimes think how splendid it would be if non-Christians, curious to discover the secret and source of our light, were to come up to us and inquire: twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are?”