The difficult part in an argument is not to defend one’s opinion, but rather to know it. — Andre Maurois
I come from a long line of heathens. As far as I can go back into my genealogy, my family has been involved in just about every form of religion except Christianity. My childhood memories consist of watching the patriarchs of my family smear the Bible, the name of God, and all those who believe in Him. So, when I became a born-again Christian at age 24, I rocked my family tree so hard you would have thought my conversion created an earthquake.
I was proud to become the black sheep of my family for the name of Christ. I’d been around the block a few times, and realized at a great cost that nothing except Jesus Christ could satisfy the emptiness I felt inside. A slew of names and jokes followed on a wave of laughter as I proclaimed my newfound faith, offering it to my relatives as if it were a sacred secret that I alone was privileged to share. Oh, how I yearned for them to taste the sweet fruit of salvation!
The family’s continual scorn soon made me feel as if I were in a court room having to defend Christianity, when in all honesty, I’d stepped into the fold merely by faith, with very little information about the Bible. What I did know is that I was a sinner, and that God loved me enough to send his perfect son into an imperfect world to die as payment for my sins so that I might have an intimate relationship with Him. Nevertheless, what little information I had was not enough to satisfy my family. As I stuttered and struggled to preserve my decision, I was assaulted at every turn with accusations that left me feeling defeated, ignorant, and alone. Something had to change.
The man who led me to the Lord gave me an important tool at the time of my conversion: Don’t believe anything anyone tells you about God or the Bible. Take notes — then research it in God’s Word yourself. Man will lead you astray; God will not. His words, along with the frustration of not knowing how to answer my family, challenged me to get into the Word of God and dig for the Truth myself. The more I searched, the more God gave me a hunger and thirst for His knowledge.
During this time, the Lord prompted me to step back from my family for a season so that I might become stronger in my faith. I didn’t stop being around my family, but I refused to go into combat with them over my belief. They were sure they’d won the battle when I’d say, “You know, I’d love to share God’s Truth with you, but right now is not the time.” Meanwhile, I did my best to demonstrate God’s love and mercy in my daily walk.
Covered with prayer from other believers, I sought ways to share God’s Word, and waited for His timing to share the Truth with my family members.
I also began preparing for war. The first and most important thing the Lord taught me about defending my faith was to pray for my loved ones. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” I realized through this Scripture that I couldn’t save my family. Nor could I make them recognize the Truth. That was the Holy Spirit’s job. My role was to pray that they would be receptive to the Holy Spirit in order to discern the Truth as I shared, becoming a tool in God’s hand.
Next, I was to stand my ground, realizing who the battle was really against: the enemy of my soul (Ephesians 6:10-12). Through my family, he was attempting to confuse me, bring doubt to my faith, and lead my loved ones further astray. The only way I could combat these attacks was to know and speak the Word of God. According to the Foreign Military Studies office, infantries are often defeated when there is a lack of field training. The field training I needed was to learn the Bible. I would no longer to back down in fear, and would succeed only if I was flanked in the armor of the Lord. Ephesians 6:13-20 gives step by step directions for this:
“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. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with the kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”
This armor of God is an internal covering that protects us spiritually, morally, and mentally, and prepares us for battle with the enemy. Just like soldiers, we become stronger in Christ when we use His armor every day.
When the battle call sounded, I was prepared. This is not to say that I had the answers to every allegation or accusation about God and Christianity. But, the more I used the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, the more prepared I was to defend and protect my beliefs. Additionally, I learned that defending our faith is more than just quoting Scripture to rebut the attack of the enemy. I would estimate that 80 percent of defending our faith is preparation, and 20 percent is actual hand-to-hand combat. In order for us to protect and reveal the Truth, we must first bathe in it. It is then that the sweet aroma of the Lord will draw others to Him through us, not in hostility, but in humility.
Sometimes I fail to defend my faith simply by saying nothing, or by responding defensively or in anger. But God’s mercy is sufficient. I’ve learned that it’s not necessarily a lack of words that defeats our purpose, but a lack of preparation. For me, the reward of being faithful in such circumstances has been overwhelming. Not only have I become skilled in the art of defending my faith, but my mother and two brothers eventually gave their lives to the Lord. Hallelujah!
Copyright © 2002 Leslie Armstrong. Used with Permission. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.