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25th May 2016
The apostle Paul's last instruction to the Ephesian church was to be strong. He was reminded them that what we contend with is not just physical, but also spiritual, and we have a real enemy.
These were his closing remarks, where he didn't want the church to be focused on the here and now, but on the spiritual realm. He stood like a sergeant, giving instructions to the troops. He told them to be strong because they're in a fight (verses 10-13), to be prepared and put on their armour (vv14-17), and to be prayerful because it makes a difference (vv18-20).
The decision to be strong is not something God does in you – it's a decision that you make to stand and be strong. All the way through the Bible, there are commands for God's people to be courageous. We have a personal responsibility to take what God has given us and to stand strong. It's not with our own resources, but with God's – with His might.
Courage is an internal quality, but the way we are strong is we put on armour, fortifying our souls. Paul says that we have got a real enemy – the devil exists – and this passage in Ephesians 6 tells us that he is a powerful foe. He's defeated, but he's powerful. He's also evil. He wants to ruin your life. He's not neutral. He is against you and he has schemes to take you down: he knows how you're wired and wants to seduce you into compromise and deceive you into error.
This is why we're told to be prepared by putting on the whole armour of God. That's how we stand firm when the devil tries to trip us up. We are to fasten around ourselves truthfulness and uprightness in our behaviour. One of the first things we put on is being truthful in our way of life – you know how vulnerable you are when there isn't an integrity in your life. Make sure that you're the same on Sunday as you are on Wednesday.
We're also told to put on the breastplate of righteousness. We gain the righteousness of Christ when we come to Him and confess Him as Lord, but as well as that, if you want to stand firm, living a righteous life is critically important. If you are dabbling in sin, you will not be able to stand. It's like a wide open door for the devil to shoot through.
Shoes are also a key part of the armour. We are to be ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. When we are ready to tell others about our faith in Jesus and display something of God's love, there's an opportunity here for us to not just be defensive against the devil, but to go on the offensive as well.
In all circumstances, we're to take up the shield of faith. Hardly a day goes by when we don't feel fiery little darts coming against us – doubts, fears, lies. How do I extinguish them? I take faith – I go through the memory bank of the Bible and what God has done and I cling hold to His promises. When I wake up in the morning, how I handle the first half a dozen thoughts that come into my head sets the tone for the rest of the day. I need the shield from the moment I wake up!
The helmet of salvation is placed as a guard after my mind and my heart. How familiar are you with your salvation? How much do you love what God has done for you? Worship is a wonderful way to enjoy your salvation.
The only offensive weapon mentioned is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. The Romans didn't throw their swords – they were used in close combat! Likewise, we're to confront our problems close up, taking the words of the Bible that specifically address them, and then we jab the promise of God right through the heart of our fears and anxieties and we kill them! That's how it works.
We need the Holy Spirit to make the word of God effective in our lives. We need to be filled with the Spirit, because He illuminates the Bible. In order to fight, we need to know the word of God.
We also need to pray. Sometimes when we are really struggling, it's because we're not really seeking God for breakthrough – we're not going after Him in prayer. This passage says we should pray "at all times"! Take opportunities to pray, whether you're washing up, travelling, whatever you're doing, learn how to be prayerful. It makes a difference!
We've got people to talk to about Jesus, sick people to be healed, oppressed people to be set free, the Kingdom to advance. We're to take ground, not hide in a bunker. We need to stand and fight!
Posted by Paul Mann