It seems like I have spent my whole life with war surrounding me. I remember as a young child hearing about the Falkland's war, after that it was Bosnia then Iraq and now Syria. When does it end? The truth is, it doesn't.
Those who have been a Christian for a long period of time have probably come up against some sort of spiritual warfare. Even if we disagree with our country going to war, we are all fighting a war ourselves. At first you may be thinking about the shallow things we face in life, the war against weight or commercialism, but, no - spiritual warfare is a real thing. Most people who believe in God recognise that if we believe in good, we must also believe in evil. Believing in God means choosing a "side" and by choosing God we are rejecting the devil and I can imagine that he wouldn't be too pleased with that. Paul attested to this in Ephesians 6:10-13 when he talked about our struggle as Christians, reminding us that it was "not 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" (ESV).
Fortunately for us Paul doesn't leave us high and dry and gives us some help for when we face this evil. In verses 13-18 he explains to us all that we need to "take up the whole armour of God". I have to be honest and say that although I have faced warfare in my own life many times I am not that good at remembering to put on the armour at the start of my day and it's really something I want to become a permanent part of my morning. Paul makes it clear that by doing so is the only way which we can stand against evil. So how do we go about putting this armour on? I had a friend who physically pretended to put on each part as they verbally spoke about it, they found it helped them remember it all without having to look it up every day. They do say 6 weeks makes a habit so how about every morning for the next 6 weeks you force yourself to do it and see if it's something you no longer need to remind yourself to do it.
There are 6 pieces to the armour and Paul begins with the belt of truth meaning we should never be standing on lies, our honesty sets us apart and helps to keep us in the world but not of the world. Next we are to wear the breastplate of righteousness. During the summer I listened to a number of podcasts but the one that stands out to me the most was a speaker at the Hillsong Conference. His name is Joseph Prince and I loved his talk so much I have gone on to follow his program of sermons at his church New Creation church in Singapore. The podcast I listened to was about Melchizedek (pronounced Mel-Kiz-id-deck) which translates to "my king is righteous(ness)". In summary he spoke about how Jesus had become our high priest when he redeemed us and is part of the order of Melchizedek. Righteousness is a word I struggled with really getting to grips with. It basically implies that our lives are justified and that we are walking a life which is pleasing to God.
The next item we are to put on is the "readiness given by the gospel of peace" as shoes for our feet, we should be walking in peace with ourselves, God and others. Bearing a grudge is hardly peaceful, neither is arguing however I know well that we are not always able to follow in Jesus' perfection as I slip up as much as the next person. It may seem strange trying to put peace and war in the same verses but we have to remember that peace is what ends war, when someone accepts they have lost. Now in this we hope that it would be the sinner, that they would accept Jesus as their saviour. Secondly to that we are not wearing the shoes of the gospel but of readiness of the gospel. There is no real explanation for what that means but given that readiness means "willingness to do something" or "the state of being fully prepared for something" I can only imagine that we are to be ready for battle. Yes, there will be days where we will be walking around in our suit of armour carrying out nothing but our usual day's activities but even through that we are to be ready, prepared for battle.
Next Paul tells us that we are always to carry with us the "shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one". Not only is Paul telling us to keep our shield with us but that we will have to use it. It may sound like all of this comes from not following God's commands but actually it's quite the opposite. We face this warfare because we follow God's commands. We commit to a side, God's side and therefore put ourselves against the evil one and should expect that the more we walk the path that God has carved out for us, the more we will be attacked. If you have read Job then you will know he was the most amazing man of God in his time. He was such a man of God that he faced fierce attack, which God permitted because he knew there was nothing the devil could do to turn him away from the path he was on. We too, will face the evil one if we live the life that God has called us to but God has not asked us to do it without his help.
We, next, must "take up the helmet of salvation" because once we have been saved we know where we are going but we also know the final battle has already been won. Jesus has already paid for our sin, he has already died for us and given his life for ours. The final piece of armour is the "sword of the spirit" which has always been referred to as the Bible. We have to always remember that our best weapon is the Bible, being able to reply to the father of lies as Jesus did when he was in the desert being tempted (Luke 4:1-13). Jesus was able to knock back every lie that the devil told him using scripture alone. We are told that scripture, the sword of the spirit, is "breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for rep roof, for correction, and for training in righteousness " (ESV). As I believe this is the case then I know that the Bible is there for me to try and know God more but also to memorise different verses for my own protection. In Hebrews 4:12 that not only is the word of God "living and active" but it is "sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (ESV). Now doesn't that sound like the kind of weapon you want in your hand and at your side? If so find some verses to memorise, verses that will help you - possibly like the verses I've shared above - when you are faced with the enemy.
You may think that if you get attacked that God mustn't love you, but in fact it's quite the opposite. The devil is only out to attack those who do the lords work and you may find that the closer you get to God's plan the more you are attacked. In some ways you could say that you want to be attacked because it shows you that you are walking in the right direction, you are on the devil's radar because you are helping to do God's work and doing it well.
I hope today you are putting on your armour of God and getting ready for the possibility of warfare - always be ready, you never know when he will strike!