The call to “stand firm” refers to a soldier staying faithfully at his post no matter what happens around him. Let the enemy attack as he will, the soldier’s orders are clear: Stand firm!
This command was often repeated by the Apostle Paul:
- 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Stand firm. Let nothing move you.”
- 1 Corinthians 16:13, “Stand firm in the faith.”
- Galatians 5:1, “Stand firm … and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
- Ephesians 6:11, “Take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”
- Ephesians 6:13, “Having done everything, to stand.”
- Ephesians 6:14, “Stand firm … with the belt of truth buckled around your waist.”
- Philippians 1:27, “Stand firm in one spirit.”
- Colossians 4:12, “Stand firm in all the will of God.”
- 2 Thessalonians 2:15, “Stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you.”
Paul had a healthy respect for the devil’s attempts to discourage and distract the children of God. He knew that we would be sorely tempted to leave our post when the bullets of temptation start whizzing by our heads. So he repeats it again and again: Stand firm!
Stay in the Traces
Are you familiar with the term “Stay in the traces?” The phrase comes from the colonial period of American history when few roads were paved and people traveled by horse-drawn wagons. Over time the wagon wheels dug deep ruts that hardened until they were called “traces.” A good driver would make sure his wagon wheels were firmly in the traces, and then he let the horses pull the wagon to the destination.
Down South there is a famous national parkway called the “Natchez Trace.” It’s a lovely drive that starts in Nashville, Tennessee, and ends at Natchez, Mississippi on the banks of the Mississippi River. In the old days people who wanted to go to Texas would follow the “trace” from Nashville to Natchez. In a few places the old roadbed can still be seen—with the deep trace marks still evident after 150 years. To travel the road, you simply put your wagon in the traces in Nashville and just “stayed in the traces” until you got to Natchez—a few hundred miles down the road.
This is a parable of the spiritual life. Most days nothing exciting happens. Ninety-nine percent of life is ordinary. You get up, eat breakfast, go to work (or take care of the children), come home, eat supper, go to bed, get up the next day and do it all over again. And the day after that and the day after that. Day in and day out—this is life for most of us.
What is the will of God for you and for me? It is to get up each day and do what you have to do—cheerfully if you can, grumpily if you must. But do it nonetheless. Doing God’s will means staying in the traces of life day after day after day. Just do what God has given you to do. If you like it, that’s great. If you don’t like it, do it anyway. If you wish you were doing something else, grit your teeth and do it anyway. God blesses those people who do what they have to do each day—and do it even though they might prefer to do something else.
All of us are tempted to “jump the traces” from time to time. I can testify that I have never yet met a man or a woman who prospered after “jumping the traces.” You end up trading one rut for another plus you have guilt inside and broken hearts all around. If you “stay in the traces,” you may be bored tomorrow morning but at least you won’t be embarrassed or ashamed of the choices you made. Whoever you are and wherever you are and whatever you are doing, if you don’t do anything else, do this: Stand firm!