What exactly does it mean for us to willingly serve God? I feel as though we have reduced serving God simply to resisting the power of sin in our lives. Though this is part of our service, our service is so much more. I remember growing up with pictures of the armor of God on the Sunday School room bulletin board. The message was clear, “wearing the armor of God protects us from the power of Satan.”
What if I were to state that the armor God gives us is not meant solely to be a security net or a personal fortress, but a fully operational battle suit that we are commanded to use to advance God’s kingdom?
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints… (Ephesians 6:10-18)
We clothe ourselves in the armor that God provides primarily so that we can stand against the schemes of Satan. What exactly are Satan’s schemes? Think, for just a moment, about the events that transpired in Genesis 3. Mankind lived in perfect unity with God, just as God created man to live. Satan, through the influence he had on the serpent, worked to undo God’s created order. At the very root of Satan’s scheming lies one objective: to undo what God has done. So then, we wear God’s armor so that through us, God may undo the undoing of His work. We are to fight to return creation, as a whole, to God. Whereas Satan has turned God’s prized creation away from God, our primary objective in the war we fight is to return God’s prized creation, human beings, to Him.
Imagine for just one second, that you are living in the medieval era. You suit up to go into battle, and, as the opposing army lines up against your own, you make your way to the large empty space between both and sit down. You decide, at that moment, that you will simply wait for the battle to run its course. You also expect not to be completely obliterated over the course of the battle. This is one of the huge problems with Christians here in America. We sit idle, waiting for this battle to run its course; waiting for God to move. We do not seriously consider the fact that we are God’s instruments; that He works in and through us. Do not sit idle. We are commanded to take a stand. Knights to not wear their armor so that they can hide within the confines of a fortress. If we are serious about our relationship with God, we will take a stand.
This raises an interesting question. Who or what do we stand against?
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (v.12)
As intense as it would be, we do not wage a physical war. We stand against cosmic powers and spiritual forces of evil. How is it that we are to fight something that we cannot see? How do we wage war against beings in heavenly places? There is a reality here that we simply cannot ignore. It is that the physical world, the world in which we live, is closely connected with the spiritual world. They are not one and the same, but are largely interrelated. Too often we separate them entirely when we must know that everything we think, say, do and believe in the physical world has an effect on the spiritual world; and everything that takes place in the spiritual world has an effect on this physical world. Therefore we wage war in everything we think, say, do and believe. If we think, say, act and believe in a Godly manner, then we wage war against God’s enemies. If we do not, then we sit idle in the midst of a raging war awaiting our demise.
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (v.13)
As Christians, we hear this phrase all of the time, “Stand firm on the foundation of Jesus Christ.” We are charged with the task of both withstanding and standing firmly on that foundation. The problem is this: most Christians equate standing firmly on the foundation of Christ in our lives with simply withstanding the power of sin. We are commanded, not only to withstand, but step out on the battle field. This is what it means to be a willing servant. We do not only withstand evil, but we also take a stand against it. How? How do we both withstand evil and take a firm stand against it?
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints… (vv. 15-18)
We seek truth, keeping an open mind and trusting God to supply truth for us. We simply cannot rely on our own subjective interpretations. We live in righteousness, according to the truth that God reveals to us. We stay ready for any attack that Satan may bring against us. If we are seeking truth, and living according to that truth (which can only be found in Christ Jesus), then we will face opposition from God’s enemies. We need to be ready, and the only way to be ready is to rely completely on Jesus Christ, who provided for us the gospel of peace with the pouring out of His own blood. Keep in mind that we cannot trust in Christ if we do not know Him. But the more we pursue Jesus Christ and know Him, the more trust and faith we will have in Him. This faith, keeps us safeguarded from the darts of Satan. Our faith allows us to withstand evil. We live our entire lives according to the salvation we receive from Jesus Christ, so that others might see, not what we have done, but who God has made us. Lastly we take up the sword of the spirit. The sword is a weapon used to conquer enemies. Our primary weapon in the war we are fighting is God’s word. If God’s word is a weapon, and we hide it in our heart (not only memorizing it, but also learning it) then we become weapons for the Lord, Jesus Christ. We are spiritual ninjas!
It is amazing, also, how Paul couples prayer with the use of God’s Word. When we pray, our prayers become much more powerful when we trust in God’s words more than our own. Our words are so insufficient. When we talk to God, it is so important to include the conviction we receive from scripture. We are also commanded to always be praying for our fellow warriors as we fight corruption by spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all nations (Matthew 28:19-20).
Allow me to ask, are you willing? Are you willing to put on the armor that God has provided for us? Are you willing to step beyond the fortress walls and serve God on the front lines? Are you willing to fight corruption and bear the name of Jesus Christ? Are you willing to take up the Word of God and proclaim it wherever you go? I hope so. In the words of Leonidus in the movie 300, “No retreats, no surrenders.” This is Christian law. Now is the time we take our stand.