by Brad McMurray
In elementary school I frequently got in trouble with my mouth. One of those many times I launched some powerful fightin’ words at an older boy, but I lacked the fist power to back it up.
The older boy, Greg, was bigger and stronger. He challenged me to a fight. At our school, you issued the challenge to duel with, “You’re chose!” along with the site of the showdown (after school, by the jungle gym). That was it: the anti-grammatical gauntlet had been thrown down. I got chose. I must face the challenger, where I too would be thrown down.
It was a point of playground honor to appear once you were “chose”—to slink off was not an option. I see now that it shouldn’t have been an option to mouth off in the first place. It was too late for that. I was going to be thrashed and I deserved it.
The rest of the school day, I dreaded and lamented until the final bell tolled, summoning me to the appointed play apparatus for my licking. Would I fight back? Could I even raise any righteous resistance, being guilty through and through?
I showed, and he showed. After the sneers and glaring (his), and whimpering terror (mine), he gave the customary opening shove. I said nothing. My mouth got me in, but couldn’t get me out now. The next steps of the dance have blurred with the decades, but the thing I remember best is that I had a big brother, the same age as Greg, only a good bit tougher.
Hebrews 13 encourages us to be content with what we have because God Himself has said He will never leave us or forsake us (v 5). Good counsel, but what help is it to one bracing for violent attack or a deserved thrashing? Yet right there in verse 6, Hebrews raises the stakes to eternal heights and we are given our lines.
“So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’”
Greg was no bully. He was about to deliver a stern lesson in playground ethics and personal discipline. My sin merited every blow he might deliver, yet, in spite of what I deserved, I had received only the merest shove when my advocate interposed his own body. My big brother actually landed a few blows on Greg who then left me alone. The fight was over, at least my part in it. Though I was in the wrong, I had family in the fight and I escaped the punishment.
Is there something here for you? How are you threatened this day, this year? Are you feeling alone, afraid, guilty? What’s coming down the pike, ready to strike when that bell rings? Maybe you deserve it. Maybe it’s just injustice. No matter. You have your lines.
Precisely because He will never leave you nor forsake you, you can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
This is not permission to mouth off with impunity. This is an exhortation to live boldly in the absolute God-sworn assurance that nothing man can do to you can get in the way of what God is going to do for you. You have an advocate, a bigger-than-anything Brother, who’s already faced the penalty and beat it to a pulp.
Romans 6 says we all deserve far more than a licking. By our own sin we made a date with destruction. But by grace, through faith in Christ Jesus, we are chosen in Him (Ephesians 1:11), adopted as sons through Jesus Christ (v 5). We’ve got family in the fight.
In a fallen world, we will face all manner of trials, man-sent and otherwise. Whether we deserve it or not, whether we’re facing persecution or financial collapse or disease or nuclear war, Jesus Christ, the LORD, our Brother, will never leave us nor forsake us. So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
Through Him, we’re invincible.