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A Promise for When You're Stabbed in the Back

Recently I was talking with a close friend about the inevitable struggles of Christian ministry. Together he and I have logged nearly 90 years of serving the Lord. We both were called to this life, and so our years of service have been an honor and a great privilege.

But we both have had our share of heartache and suffering. The worst hurts have come from those who claim to be Christians, sometimes from people we thought were close friends. Someone has pointed out that the full armor of God does not protect your back. Getting stabbed from behind is my least favorite part of serving Jesus.

But of course, our Lord suffered the ultimate in betrayal at the hands of one very close to him. Jesus is the Suffering Servant and the Man of Sorrows, and he has promised tribulation and trials for those who follow him.

Anyway, my friend and I were reflecting on these things. And even if you’re a veteran of the hardships of ministry, the struggles don’t seem to get any easier.

We agreed that interpersonal conflict, personal shortcomings, pride, wounded feelings, and downright carnality produce a heavy load for a person in ministry who already struggles with a tight schedule and the care of eternal souls. No wonder we stagger under the weight of it all.

As we talked I recalled a period in my early ministry when an angry man left our church threatening to sue me and the church. I was a young pastor, and fear gripped me as I continued to mull over his hostile words. I didn’t have money for an attorney. If I lost a lawsuit, I might also lose my house. The church I planted might fail. And if that happened, the prospects of future ministry for me would be bleak. The “what-if’s” piled up like an enormous rock pile, ready to bury my life in an avalanche of dread.

And of course, the enemy exploits these “what-if’s,” whispering them over and over when we’re trying to sleep and taunting us with them when we’re awake. But the Lord gave me a wonderful promise from his word that enabled me to rise above the “what-if’s” and to focus on my Sovereign Lord and His compassionate care for me.

Isaiah 54:17 says, no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.

This strong statement of God’s sovereign protection for His people is a great promise to deflect and defeat the enemy’s attacks. Certainly, weapons are fashioned against us, and tongues do rise up to pronounce judgment. Our great God, for His own purposes and glory, allows the suffering and the pain. But He also puts limits on the damage they can do. He has covenanted with His servants to turn evil into glory for Him and good for us.

The last line of the promise underscores that the victory comes from Him alone: This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord. “Vindication” in Hebrew could also be translated righteousness. Remember why we are no longer judged – because Christ’s righteousness is reckoned unto us. Isaiah 53:11 says that vindication/righteousness comes from Christ. The righteous one, my servant, [shall] make many to be accounted righteous.

My friend and I agreed that Isaiah 54:17 is a promise we will claim again and again. I hope you will, too.

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