Psalm 78:8-9 (NASB)
8 And not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not prepare its heart And whose spirit was not faithful to God.
9 The sons of Ephraim were archers equipped with bows, Yet they turned back in the day of battle.
The question I expect from a true Christian reader now is not how to escape these troubles, but how to get this shoe on so you can wade through them in true peace with cheerfulness. It is right for the Christian soldier to ask for armor so he can fight the good fight; but the coward throws down his protection and asks which way he can run. Now I will give you the best counsel I can in the wearing of the spiritual shoe.
Examine the sincerity of your obedience. The same sound motives which take a Christian into Christ’s service will guide him through suffering whenever God calls for that to happen. When the children of Ephraim took the field they were fully armed but “turned back in the day of battle” (Psalm 78:9). This seems strange until you read the preceding verse– they were “a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God” (v. 8).
Soldiers can wear a complete suit of armor and live in a castle whose foundation is rock and whose walls are brass, yet if their hearts are not right with the prince, the slightest storm will throw open the gate and drive them from their place of duty. Sincerity is the only bolt that holds the gate secure.
We have all seen how honest hearts with very little support from without have held the town, while no walls have been thick enough to defend against treachery and the betraying of trust. Ask yourself why you practice Christianity as you do. If faith’s working hand is sincere then its fighting hand will be valiant. The power of faith which enabled saints in days of old to “work righteousness”– that is, to live holy lives– is evidenced by the sufferings they endured. “Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword” (Hebrews 11:33-34).