“But come on, all of you, try again!
I will not find a wise man among you.
My days have passed, my plans are shattered.
Yet the desires of my heart
turn night into day;
in the face of the darkness light is near.
If the only home I hope for is the grave,
if I spread out my bed in the realm of darkness,
if I say to corruption, ‘You are my father,’
and to the worm, ‘My mother’ or ‘My sister,’
where then is my hope—
who can see any hope for me?
Will it go down to the gates of death?
Will we descend together into the dust?”
- Job 17:10-16
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 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, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
- Ephesians 6:10-17
“All life is a struggle—that is the nature of things. Even within our physical bodies, doctors tell us, a conflict for supremacy is going on. The bacteria in our bloodstream are waging a constant war against alien germs. The red corpuscles fight the white corpuscles constantly in an effort to maintain life within the body. A battle is also raging in the spiritual realm. ‘We fight,’ the Bible says, ‘against the rulers of the darkness of this world.’ Darkness hates light. I have a dog that would rather dig up a moldy carcass to chew on than to have the finest, cleanest meal. He can’t help it—that is his nature. Men cannot help that it is their nature to respond to the lewd, the salacious, and the vile. They will have difficulty doing otherwise until they are born again. And until they are changed by the power of Christ, they will likely be at enmity against those who are associated with Christ.”
- Billy Graham, Day by Day with Billy Graham (Devotion for 2 September)
As for the title, it is a line from the Robert Burns song, Scots Wha Hae. “Lour” is literally lower, as in where Burns was thinking at the time, the valley where Robert the Bruce defeated King Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn, but “lour” means in this case that the battle front threatens, and as the song suggests throughout and the last line literally says that it is time to “do or die.” It seemed to fit the topic of our spiritual battle, good versus evil, light versus the darkness.
In the Scriptures, Job laments that the darkness seems to be winning for the moment, and Paul is admonishing the Ephesians to put on the Gospel armor and prepare to fight the darkness.
But no matter how much we love Jesus, have you ever noticed how being in the shadows is comforting at times. I remember the old routine of never volunteering for anything in the military. I have literally seen people in formation take a step back when the commander said, “All volunteers take one step forward.” If the commander did not catch what happened in that most everyone else took a step back, then the commander thought the ones who had stood still had stepped forward to volunteer. Yes, you see it in movies often, but I saw it for real. I was at the back of the formation, and they nearly stepped on my feet. And when I jumped to avoid being stepped on, the commander thought I was volunteering to lead the non-volunteers on his crazy idea of a mission – not dangerous, but time-consuming extra work.
But in church, it is easy to sit in the corner where the lighting is poor, and they may just not notice you.
Do we ever get the idea that we can stay in the shadows and God does not notice?
But those shadows should tell us something. Have you ever taken a flashlight and shined it into a gallon jug of water? The entire room has a soft glow of light. Light conquers the darkness. Only the shadows remain, unless you shift the light to eliminate one shadow or another.
We may feel defeated at times. We may be trying to battle the darkness on our own strength, but God is Light. Wherever the Light shines, there is no darkness and there is no shadow. We can take God’s metaphor as a literal promise that when God enters the room, battling for us, darkness is at once defeated.
Then why do we try to do it on our own? If you get improper thoughts, regardless of the topic, and those thoughts lead you down a path that results in sin. Then it may seem simple to avoid the things that might lead to those improper thoughts. But then, why do you get the thought that this other thing is innocent, not like the ones that lead to improper thoughts… Like my seventh grade teacher said about getting drunk, if you know that you get drunk after two drinks, the best way to avoid the second drink is to never have the first drink. The legal age at the time was 21 years old. We were twelve years old, living in a county that had voted to not legalize the sale, transportation, or consumption of any alcohol at all. The entire illustration seemed bizarre and maybe that is why I remember it so clearly.
We could use a different illustration. Your neighbor has a furniture van pull up. You can watch the furniture get unloaded or you can ignore the truck being parked there. That is your choice. But there is nothing wrong with watching someone else work. Yet, it is wrong if you know that you will be jealous and you will covet that furniture, which leads you to buying even better furniture from a pricier store, just so the neighbor can be jealous.
What brought this to mind is that I complete several puzzles on my tablet to keep my brain sharp, daily challenges. I was behind on my daily challenges for sudoku puzzles, and I had a few to do to catch up. After you complete the puzzle, they give you an advertisement to watch before you are given credit for having completed the puzzle. Suddenly, an advertisement that showed explicit sex was shown. I closed the advertisement as soon as the program would let me. I did another puzzle, and a gambling software had an advertisement. The next advertisement was for vodka. It is strange (but I know why) that you are given the opportunity to block Christian advertisements if they “offend” you, but something that is something that a Christian might consider offensive does not have that capability of being blocked. Luckily, 90% of their advertisements involve a pill for losing weight without exercising or dieting. I simply ignore them.
But we could continue with each of the commandments in the same manner as we treated not coveting (with the neighbor and their new furniture). When we get to the commandment about not killing someone, we might think that we would never do that, but what about hating someone, holding a grudge, disliking someone, or not being willing to forgive an offense? What starts as an innocent activity, or what seems innocent, can lead us to something that is far from innocent. And we should know ourselves and know that the innocent act becomes the groundwork of temptation, maybe temptation in an area where we are the weakest. And even then, we might take a peek at the neighbor’s new furniture. We seem to not be able to resist, and we cannot resist without God’s help.
Being born again is essential, even if it was a gradual process, but spending time in God’s Word and praying and spending quality time with other Christians can help us to keep our focus on Jesus. When our gaze wanders away from Jesus, we could stumble.
Maybe that is why one of the bits of armor that we place on ourselves, according to the Apostle Paul, is a helmet. The helmet is “salvation” according to Paul. And most helmets limit, in part, your peripheral vision. Consider the helmet to have blinders, like a horse often has in a race. The horse is not bothered by the horses on either side, it looks and goes forward. And that can be what we need to do, keep the blinders on and move forward. Forward toward Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.