The following is a special message from Scott Heddleson, a member of Calvary Chapel Mansfield.
Have you ever had one of those days where it seemed as though you were the target of everyone around you? I think we’ve all had those experiences in life. When these situations arise what do you do? If you’re like a lot of people you start questioning God! Why did you allow this to happen? Where are you God? Perhaps you question yourself. What did I do wrong? How could I have responded differently? Along with these questions may come feelings of failure or self-condemnation, or perhaps you start doubting your faith, and salvation. If we allow these thoughts to continue we’ll soon be convinced that we’re a failure as a Christian and just about everything else in life.
At this point, what we really need is “strength for the battle.” The Lord knew that we would face times of great difficulty in our lives. He knew this because He knew that our enemy the devil would attack only those Christians who posed the greatest threat to his kingdom. So if you’re being attacked today take it as a compliment, because something in your life poses a threat to his kingdom. For this reason I believe the Lord has made a provision for us in His word. In our text for this message the Apostle Paul penned the words of Ephesians 6:10-18 which sharers godly instructions during these times of great spiritual difficulty. It reads as follows from the New American Standard Bible:
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace, 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 With all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.
In this passage we’ll find four principles overcoming every attack of the enemy. If we’ll take this a step further and apply these principles to our lives I believe we’ll experience victory during the difficult times of life.
Principle number 1: Be Strong By Appropriating The Lords Strength
Let’s be honest, when the enemy shoots one of his missiles at us our first reaction isn’t always spiritual. In fact, I think we’d have to agree that our first reaction might be to cry, complain, and blame. That’s alright because God understands that we’re dust. However, it is not alright to remain in this condition. At some point we need to get it together by taking heed to Paul’s instructions in verse 10: “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” Let’s try to reason this verse out for a second here, just the mere fact that the Lord inspired Paul to write these words indicates to me that God knew our first reaction would not be one of strength, but of weakness. If your first reaction to a difficulty is to cry, complain, and blame, guess what? You’re not appropriating the Lords strength by being strong in the Lord. The good news is that even when we don’t feel as though we have the strength to be victorious in a difficult situation the word of God teaches otherwise. Paul stated in Philippines 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The phrase, “all things,” in this verse covers a very large area and really means there’s nothing it doesn’t include. God will never ask us to do something without first enabling us to perform that task. He’s a loving Father, and as such He’s always there for us in the midst of our struggles.
It is recorded in 1 John 4:18 that there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. Therefore, when God asks us to do something, we can remain confident in the fact that He loves us. If we know He loves us we should never fear what the outcome will be. Instead we should step out in faith knowing God will give us all that we need to accomplish what He’s called upon us to do. 2 Peter shares some additional insight into this principle where he states in part, that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness. This means that if we’ve been born again and filled with the Holy Spirit we have the divine power Peter is referring to in this verse. Through His divine power God enables us by His grace to accomplish what He’s asked us to do.
There’s a biblical illustration of this principle found in Joshua chapter 1. Joshua was being called by God to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land. It appears that this may have been a task which he believed he could not accomplish. He was, after all, stepping into the shoes of Moses, and probably felt a little intimidated and fearful. In spite of his feelings God had called him to this task and would not forsake him. In four different verses in this passage Joshua had to be encouraged to be strong and courageous. He was first encouraged by the Lord in verses 6, 7, and 9, then again by the Israelites in verse 18. In this passage the Lord was saying to Joshua, listen my son, I love you and will never forsake you. I’ve prepared you for this moment and I’ve got your back so just move forward and be victorious. As we know, in chapters 3 and 4 Joshua did just as the Lord had told him in chapter 1 as he led the children of Israel into the Promised Land. Joshua was just a man, no different than you and I, so I believe the Lord would tell us the same thing today. Be strong my child and move forward in victory as you appropriate my strength in your life.
Principle number 2: Be Strong By Recognizing Your Enemy
Isn’t it true that in the arena of spiritual warfare our enemy will attack our weakest defense? In most situations I believe he works through other people. He also uses those who are the closest to us, and those with whom we have the greatest deal of respect. Not to mention those who have a tremendous amount of authority and influence in our lives. In doing so he carefully attacks our most vulnerable areas. When this happens we may find ourselves reacting, instead of responding. When we react it is usually from the flesh, and in ways that please the enemy. However, when we respond, it is most often according to the Holy Spirit is leading which is always pleasing to the Lord.
At other times we may have the tendency to remain quiet, but hold offenses in our hearts towards others. In time, if this is not resolved a root of bitterness can grow within our hearts (Heb. 12:15). The devil is very crafty in the way he maneuvers, manipulates, and attacks the body of Christ, leaving in his wake a sea of division and broken relationships in the church.
This, I believe, is one of his major methods of attack. He realizes that where division and strife abide there can be no unity. Is it any wonder that Paul referred to him as an angel of light in 2 Cor. 11:14? We can be certain that when another person attacks or assaults us the devil and his minions are behind the scenes pulling all the strings. Therefore, it is important for us to learn to look beyond the individual, respond in love, and realize who our real enemy is: the devil and his agents of evil. Verse 12 of our passage says “our struggle is not against flesh and blood.” It is imperative that we keep this in mind. Our struggles are in the spiritual arena not the physical. In this arena we must remember that Satan is not equal to God, for he is also a created being. As such he is not capable of being in all places at all times. However, he does have at his disposal a vast array of demons on assignment to do his bidding. These demons are referred to in this verse as rulers, powers, world forces of darkness, and spiritual forces of wickedness. Vernon McGee has aptly described Satan’s evil army in his thru the Bible commentary. The rulers in verse 12 refer to demons that have the oversight of nations, and have the rank of generals.
The powers are those demons who desire to possess human beings, and have the rank of privates. Rulers of the darkness are those demons who have charge of Satan’s worldly business. Spiritual wickedness in high places refers to those demons in the heavens who have charge over religion. From this list we can clearly see that Satan’s army is well organized and focused on dispensing acts of evil upon the body of Christ. While Satan’s army is focused on destroying us, we are, many times focused on the daily events in the natural world. The church of Jesus Christ needs to wake up and realize we are at war. We need to have a mind to take up arms and fight this loathsome enemy. However, our fight must be done according to God’s will. For then we will truly be the victors God has called us to be.
Principle number 3: Be Strong By Wearing Your Armor
How foolish would it be for a soldier to march off into battle without his weapon, ammunition, or helmet? It would not only be foolish, but it may be considered insane. The same rationale could be used for the Christian who once they realize they’re in a war choose not to take up the full armor of God. It is important to emphasize here that Paul said to take up the full armor of God, not just a part of it. For it would be just as foolish to go into battle with bullets, but no weapon. Paul hasn’t told us to take up the full armor of God for no reason. The reasoning is clear from the text in verse 13, so we may be able to resist in the evil day. I don’t know about you, but it seems evident to me that if I don’t take up the full armor of God, I don’t stand a chance in the battle against the enemy.
I need all the help I can get, and the Lord has provided all the protection we need during these attacks. However, we must fight these battles God’s way as the text reveals, by standing firm! This phrase has been used three times in this passage which indicates the importance of standing firm.
Our fight is in the spiritual realm, and it is one of faith, not of the flesh. Moses faced a similar situation in Exodus 14:13,14. The Lord told Moses in this passage to stand by and see the salvation of the Lord. As he obeyed the Lord the children of Israel were delivered. God has not changed my friend. Hebrews 13:8 says “He’s the same yesterday, today. and forever! The key to our deliverance is no different, we must obey the word of God.
It is worthy of noting that the armor which Paul describes here is symbolic of Jesus Christ and represents His characteristics. Therefore, as Paul tells us to take up the full armor of God he’s really saying to put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom.13:4) and to clothe ourselves with Him, (Gal. 3:27).
It is our duty as Christians to strive towards growing into the likeness and image of Jesus. The armor of God is attributed with 6 characteristics of Jesus which we need in our lives. He is our truth, our righteousness, our peace, our faith. our salvation, and He is the Word.
In order to grasp a better understanding of the armor, let’s take a closer look at each piece as it is described in verses 14-17.
The first piece of armor was the girdle or belt which held the other pieces in place. Just as the girdle held the other pieces of the armor in place, so the truth holds the Christian’s life in place. The enemy will try to lie to us especially in the midst of a trial. He may try to convince us that God doesn’t love us, or that our lack of faith in a certain area is the reason for the trial. However, if we’ve been studying the word and know the truth his lies will be easily detected and dismissed. Remember, the truth is a characteristic of Jesus, for He said of Himself in John 14:6 ”I am the way, the truth and the life.” He also said in John 8:32 “you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” Therefore, the more truth from God’s word that we’ve deposited within our hearts the stronger we’ll be when the enemy comes to attack us.
The second piece of armor was the breastplate. It was made of metal plates and protected the body from the neck to the waste, both in the front and the back. The breastplate symbolizes our righteousness in Christ which is based on our faith in Him. According to 2 Cor. 5:21 since Christ took our sin upon himself we are seen as righteous in God’s eyes based on our faith in Jesus. This is such an awesome gift and one which we cannot earn; it comes solely by our faith in a loving Savior. I believe that as a result of Christ’s free gift we then have an obligation to live a life of obedience to God’s will. Romans 6:16 says in part that our obedience results in righteousness. Eph. 4:24 also speaks to this issue by saying that we are to put on the new self which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. It is plain to see from God’s word that we not only take on the righteousness of Christ, but then we’re to walk in obedience to his word which results in a righteous lifestyle. As a result of our righteous lifestyle, when the day of adversity comes upon us we’ll be found with a clear conscience before God and man. Our clear conscience then gives the enemy no opportunity to accuse us. This is a powerful provision which God has given to those who are in Christ.
The third piece of the armor was the shoes or sandals of the soldier. These weren’t just your average run of the mill sandals. No these sandals were specially made for combat situations. They came with nails that were driven through the soles. These nails then protruded through the bottom of the soles which gave the soldier traction during hand to hand combat.
A soldier needed to be surefooted because if he were to lose his footing it could mean certain death. In the same way the Christian needs to be surefooted. We’re called to stand in this passage, so we need something to hold us in place. As Christians we are to stand on the rock which is Jesus Christ our Lord. Our lives must be established in Him. Only as we’re established in Christ can we have peace in the midst of the trials of life.
Remember, Jesus was called the Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9:6, so this piece of armor like the others is symbolic of the Lord. Before Jesus left the earth He said in John 14:27 ”Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled nor let it be fearful.” As we put on the Lord Jesus Christ, we take His peace upon us. A peace with God and man in the midst of trying situations is a weapon in the face of Satan. A weapon so powerful, that he will be defeated. Satan’s main objective is to shoot arrows of fear into our hearts and minds, but if we’re focused on Christ and walking in His peace the enemy must retreat. As we continue to walk in the peace of God and stand firmly on the promises found in the word, our lives will be a shining witness to those around us. There’s something precious about a person who can go through a trying situation while maintaining an attitude of peace. This my friend is a person whose life has truly been established on the Lord Jesus Christ, and this is one whom the Lord will trust enough to open doors of opportunity to share the wonderful good news of Jesus Christ. This is the one who will be known for the beautiful feet that bring glad tidings of good things (Romans 10:15).
The fourth piece of armor was the soldier’s shield. The shield was about four feet tall and covered most of his body. It was made of wood which was covered with leather thick enough to protect him from the weapons of the enemy. For the Christian in the battle of life, the devil will shoot fiery darts aimed at our hearts and minds in an effort to tempt us into doubting God. These fiery darts may come in the form of thoughts that we’d never think of on our own. Hateful, adulterous, and blasphemous thoughts that we wouldn’t want anyone to know. Then once the thoughts have been conceived in our minds he’ll condemn us for thinking them. By doing this he can play upon our emotions in a way that may seem possible during a moment of weakness. However, we must resolve within ourselves that we’re going to trust and believe in the Lord. We can have confidence during these times by remembering that Psalm 3:3 says “Lord you are a shield about me, my glory and the one who lifts my head.” The shield referred to here is a picture of Jesus. When we put our trust in Him, he’ll fight for us and give us the victory.
The fifth piece of armor was the soldier’s helmet. It was made of quilted linen cloth and flowed down over the shoulders. It served as protection for the soldiers head, ears, neck, and shoulders during times of battle.
In the Christian life the helmet represents a mind controlled by God. This can only be achieved if the believer sets his mind to study the word of God, and apply the truths which have been revealed. It is so important to know the doctrines that are taught in God’s word. Satan will come with half-truths concerning religion and cults. While these teachings may sound correct, they’re based on the traditions of men and doctrines of demons.
However, if we’ve been studying the word and applying its truths to our lives Satan’s power to trick and deceive us into believing a lie will be greatly diminished. We can clearly see from this that the helmet of salvation is designed for our protection in the Christian life, but we must utilize it in order for it to work on our behalf.
The sixth piece of armor was the soldier’s sword. It hung from the girdle or belt of the soldier and was mainly used for closely fought battles where one would stab and cut his opponent. In this passage Paul has likened the soldier’s sword to the word of God because both have similar effects although one is natural and the other spiritual. In the spiritual realm the word of God is the weapon which cuts to the heart of the unbeliever. It is also the means by which the Holy Spirit takes the heart of the believer and performs spiritual surgery by eliminating the toxins of the old life, and renewing our minds to the truth of God’s will for our lives. This is only possible when we expose ourselves to the word of God by meditating upon it so it will do a new work in our hearts and minds. As we allow the word of God to be established in our lives we’re actually allowing Christ to be established in our lives, for He is the word which became flesh and dwelt among us John 1:14. You can be absolutely certain of one thing, once you make a decision to indulge in God’s word to this degree, the devil will not be pleased. He’ll make available to you every opportunity he can to do anything except study the word. I believe the main reason for this is, because he fears a Christian who knows the word, and knows who they are in Christ. If we know we know who we are in Christ, we also know Satan’s a defeated foe and has no power against God’s word.
It is interesting to note that each piece of the armor referred to in this passage is directly related to the word of God. The girdle of truth is based on God’s word in John 14:6 where Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Our righteousness is also determined by the word in 2 Cor. 5:21 where Paul said ”He made Him who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. The gospel of peace is established through God’s word in John 14:27 where Jesus declared “peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” The shield of faith is represented through Romans 10:17 where Paul stated, “unfaith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.” The helmet of salvation is given through the word in John 3:3 where Jesus said, ”Truly, truly I say to you unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” It is plain to see that the word of God is all encompassing in the Christian life. Therefore, it is vital that we know the word of God and live by its truths in order to have victory over the schemes of the devil. We need to realize that the enemy knows the word of God probably better than most Christians. Consequently, it is easy for him to manipulate God’s word in an effort to deceive us.
This is one good reason why we need to be in the word daily. Jesus used the word to deflect the missiles Satan used against Him in the wilderness in Matt. 4:1-13. This same strategy will also work for us in defending the attacks of the enemy. The Lord has provided a mighty weapon for us in defeating the enemy, but it will only work for us if we’ll commit to spending quality time in the word on a daily basis. We can’t give God the left overs of our day and expect to have lasting results. No, He wants and deserves to take first place in our lives. I believe this begins by a healthy intake of God’s word before we start our day. You wouldn’t expect your vehicle to operate effectively without gasoline and oil would you? Then why would we expect any less of our spiritual lives that have not been maintained with a proper diet of the word of God? This doesn’t simply mean five verses in the morning while we drink our coffee. No, this means putting a real effort into our time with God by giving Him your undivided attention and truly listening to what the word has to say to us on a personal level. It is then that the Lord will become real to us and equip us to remain victorious during the hard times of life.
Principle number 4: Be Strong By Seeking God In Prayer
Prayer isn’t listed as one of the pieces of armor, but we would be remiss if we didn’t consider its importance in the stance we must take against the attacks of the enemy. Paul believed in the power of prayer and its effectiveness in continuing his ministry. This is clearly seen through his many prayer requests recorded in some of his writings such as; 2 Cor. 1:11, Co1. 4:2-4, Philemon 1:22, and including Eph. 6:18. It is obvious from Paul’s fruitful ministry that his prayer partners were faithful in holding him up before the Lord. For this reason we could conclude that prayer is the mesh which holds the body of Christ together in unity. I believe it is for this reason that Paul has included verse 18 in this passage, where he shares some valued insights on prayer. Paul begins verse 18 by stating that we should pray at all times. This appears to be quite a feat until you consider Paul’s companion verse to this phrase in 1 Thess. 5:17 where he says pray without ceasing. In order to gain a better understanding of Paul’s meaning in these verses we must approach them from a practical perspective. It would be ridiculous to expect a person to pray at all times and without ceasing from the literal understanding of this phrase.
No human today is capable of such a feat. Therefore, I believe Paul’s intention was that we maintain an attitude of prayer at all times. In doing so, we should approach every uncertainty in life prayerfully. James appropriately addresses this issue in his epistle. James 1:5 states that if any of you lacks wisdom let him ask of God who gives to all men generously and without reproach and it will be given to him. In this verse God has opened the door for us to petition Him with our requests. What so many have failed to realize is that God longs to meet your needs. It is when we call upon him, especially during the uncertain times of life, which are by far the most difficult, that God longs to meet our needs. I believe this is true for a couple of reasons. For one thing, He just flat out loves us and takes Joy in meeting our needs. Then as we rely upon him our faith will grow stronger. As our faith grows through seeing our prayers answered our relationship with God becomes more intimate. As our relationship with God becomes more intimate it also becomes more mature. As our relationship with God becomes more mature He begins to trust us with situations that at one time would have been beyond our scope of understanding. In order to reach this level of maturity our prayers must be led by the Holy Spirit.
I believe it is natural when we are facing the trying situations in life, to ask for things that are not according to Gods will. Sometimes we may think that our circumstances are so harsh that they could not be from God. In those times our flesh may scream, “flee from this uncomfortable situation,” however the Holy Spirit is saying, “Just sit tight. I’m here and I’ll walk through this with you!” I believe that one of the most difficult concepts for us to accept is that our greatest levels of growth come during the darkest days of our lives. For it is during these times that God is shaping and forming us into the image of His Son as Rom.8:29 so beautifully expresses.
Paul himself experienced a situation similar to this in 2 Cor. 12:7-10. In this passage Paul has been given a thorn in the flesh which came as a messenger of Satan to buffet him. Paul says this occurred in order to prevent him from becoming prideful over the many revelations he had received. In verse 8 he prays three times for relief, but is denied. Instead the Lord tells him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Paul doesn’t get the answer he’s looking for, but he does get an answer. It is as if the Lord came alongside Paul and said, “My son, I love you. I’ll never leave you or forsake you, and I’m walking this walk with you!” Apparently Paul grew in his faith as a result of this prayer, for we have many of his letters included in the word of God. What if Paul’s prayer had been answered the way he wanted? Of course we don’t know the answer to this question, but I’m quite certain that if Paul had gotten his way we may not have enjoyed his many epistles today. If our prayers are not led by the Spirit we’ll soon find ourselves outside the will of God for our lives. In order to avoid this pitfall we should begin each prayer by asking for a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit. Paul addressed this issue in Eph. 5:18 where he stated in part, “be filled with the Spirit.” As we pray according to the Spirit is leading, our prayers will not be selfish. In addition, we’ll be led to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who may be experiencing similar circumstances. Perhaps the Holy Spirit will drop a name in our hearts of someone who needs prayer. We may never know what that person is facing, so it is important to be obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit by praying for them until the Spirit releases that person from our hearts and minds. I believe that if the body of Christ would be faithful in praying for one another we could make a vital impact in the world we live in. Unbelievers would begin to witness victory in our lives and may want to have that same victory in their lives.
As this message reaches its conclusion it is clear to see that the Lord wants us to be victorious in the day of adversity. Therefore, He inspired Paul to share these insights. We’ve learned from this passage that we can remain strong in the midst of trials if we’ll apply the four principles outlined in this Message. We can clearly see how appropriating the Lords strength will give us the victory in the day of adversity. We’ve also learned how to recognize our real enemy, as well as taking up the armor of God and standing firm in Christ. Not to mention how important prayer is in fighting the good fight of faith. It is my prayer that we’ll not only know these insights, but we’ll apply them to our lives. Let’s not forget that when our faith is tried, so is our witness. Jesus called us to be witnesses on this earth, so let’s be prepared that we may be victorious and glorify God with our lives.