In Ephesians 6:10-18 Paul gives us a vivid picture of a person fully equipped for the optimum Christian life. It’s a multi-faceted approach, and each facet allows us to reflect the light of Christ.
Paul begins by reminding us where our strength comes from: “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” I need this reminder constantly, because I keep leaning to my default position – trying to do it myself. Recognizing that God is GOD and what that really means in the first step to real strength.
The next facet involves choosing to use what God has provided for both our protection and the advancement of His kingdom. “Put on the full armor of God,” Paul says. God provides the armor; it’s up to us to put it on, and to put it all on.
This armor is crucial because we have an enemy who is constantly waiting for us to expose a vulnerable spot. Satan never takes a day off. One of his most nefarious schemes is to deflect attention from himself by focusing it on others. Satan is ecstatic when he can prod us into fighting each other instead of him. When he can convince us that our enemies are those around us, he knows he’s not only making us miserable, but damaging our witness to the world. So Paul puts it in plain language: “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood [other people], but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Before we go into battle, we must accurately identify the enemy, or we will be doing battle under Satan’s direction instead of God’s.
The certainty that we all face evil is Paul’s next point. We put on the full armor of God so that when, not if, the day of evil comes, we can stand our ground, because we’re standing in God’s protection.
The first item of God’s armor is the belt of truth. When Paul wrote in the first century AD, Roman military belts were made of leather topped with pieces of metal, with an apron of leather and metal strips hanging down in the front. These belts helped relieve the weight on a soldier’s shoulders when they were worn over chain-mail upper body armor, and were used to hold a dagger or sword.
God’s truth guards all of our vulnerable places because it keeps us from being deceived by Satan, others, or ourselves. It takes weight off our shoulders by removing doubt. It provides us with a weapon to use against our enemy, as Jesus did so effectively when Satan tempted Him in the desert. Keeping God’s truth firmly buckled around us is vital to our defence.
The breastplate of righteousness is in place when we have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior and have been given His righteousness in place of our filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Being righteous doesn’t mean we’re perfect or even “good enough to pass,” but that we’re in right relationship with God; that despite our failings, we’re genuinely seeking His will, to become more and more like Jesus. Being right with God guards our hearts. It was inherent in Paul’s prayer for the Philippians:
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God. (1:9-11)
God’s footwear is designed to make us ready to take the steps that bring the good news of God’s peace. The shoes may look much too big to fit our feet, but if we’re willing, God is able to make them fit. Being ready for battle in God’s name means being ready to walk in peace and toward peace with others.
Faith is the shield that extinguishes Satan’s flaming arrows. Our enemy wants to do more than just penetrate our defences – He wants to keep the wound inflamed so it can’t heal. Some of his typical flaming arrows include the soul-piercing fear that God couldn’t love me; I don’t belong; nobody appreciates me; I have a right to be angry; I can’t do anything right.
The faith that shields not only involves being sure of God’s power and promises, but sure of – and secure in – His love. He is our security in an insecure world. He has proven our worth to Him on the cross; we need to know and accept this love in every fibre of our being. We may have to remind ourselves of it daily. God’s love for me means I have great significance; I don’t need to prove myself to anyone. When the arrows pierce and keep burning, I need to get my shield back in place; to learn to recognize the signs of shield slippage.
The knowledge of my salvation – all that is cost and all that it means – protects my mind and my thoughts. Salvation is not a one-time event, but a process that requires discipline and purpose: “. . .continue to work our your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Phil 2: 12-13)
The helmet of salvation can prevent Satan from getting a free pass into our heads. Firmly in place, it can stifle the internal warfare between the productive and the damaging. Don’t face the day with your head unprotected; put on the helmet of rejoicing, gentleness and thankful prayer when anxiety threatens. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7)
Tucked away in the belt of truth is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. It cuts to the hearts of those it penetrates. It enlightens and lifts us as well as admonishing us when we need correction. It is utterly dependable and an essential tool to keep always at hand and ready to use.
The final facet is ongoing communication with God. A soldier in the field needs to be in constant communication with the commander if he or she is not to become isolated, disoriented, or unsure of the goal. We are no less vulnerable. Learning to be in contact with God “on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” will keep us on course and alert.
Know your enemy. Arm yourself with God’s truth and His righteousness. Be ready to take the steps that lead to peace. Use your shield of faith and put on salvation’s helmet. Use God’s Word and talk to him throughout the day. You’ll be able to stand no matter what happens.
And Satan will be flaming furious.