It isn’t easy, is it—just living—just facing the difficult decisions that most of us make every day—just dealing with the difficult people that we have to deal with—just being alive—just keeping on track in a changing and confusing world. It isn’t easy.
There are plenty of forces that threaten to pull us off the track. Young people have it the hardest. Teenagers have an almost desperate need to be accepted—to be part of whatever is going on—to be “cool,” or whatever the word is these days. So when two or three young people say, “Hey, come on man,” it isn’t easy to resist. When your friends say, “Just try this. It’s great,” it isn’t easy to “Just Say No.”
And it doesn’t get easy. It isn’t easy for adults either. When the boss tells you to cut corners, it isn’t easy to insist on giving quality work. When a person offers to buy your car if you will lie about the price to save them sales tax, it isn’t easy to be honest. When you are torn between the demands of your workplace and the needs of your family, it isn’t easy to set priorities. When you are attracted to someone, it isn’t easy to say, “I’m married, and this isn’t right.”
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Many of our hardest decisions have to do with the smallest things. A man named Walter Farrell warns:
“The Devil does not shock a saint into alertness
by suggesting whopping crimes.
He starts off with little, almost inoffensive things
to which even the heart of a saint
would make only mild protest.”
Are any of you fishermen? Perhaps you can understand best of all. A man named James Barrie put it this way:
“Has it ever struck you
that the trout bite best on the Sabbath?
God’s critters tempting decent men (and women).”
And so the author of Ephesians calls on us to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power.” “Be strong in the Lord.” He warns that:
“Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood,
but against the principalities, against the powers,
against the world’s rulers of the darkness of this age,
and against the spiritual forces of wickedness
in the heavenly places” (6:12).
That sounds pretty dramatic, doesn’t it. Maybe the author of Ephesians was a little bit paranoid. Maybe he was exaggerating for effect. It all sounds very preachy, doesn’t it. Is our struggle really “against the world’s rulers of the darkness of this age”? Is our struggle really “against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places “? My goodness!
Before you answer those questions, I invite you to read Time or Newsweek or U.S. News from cover to cover each week for a month, not skipping the parts that you don’t like, but reading about all the violence and evil that takes place in our world. I believe that, at the end of the month, you will agree that there is something pretty sinister going on out there.
And so the author of Ephesians says:
“Put on the whole armor of God,
that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (6:11).
And then he goes on to tell us what God’s armor is:
• Buckle the belt of truth around your waist.
• Put on the breastplate of righteousness.
• As shoes for your feet, put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the Good News of peace.
• Take up “the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the flaming darts of the evil one.”
• Take the helmet of salvation.
• Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
• Pray in the Spirit at all times.
These are the things that God has provided as our protection against evil:
• The proclamation of the gospel
• The word of God
The author of Ephesians assures us that these things will protect us against evil.
I read one commentary that said that the word “whole” is unnecessary. The commentator said that the Bible didn’t need to tell us to take up the whole armor of God. He said that the real emphasis is not on the whole armor of God, but that it is God’s armor that we are to take up. He said that the word whole simply confuses things.
I disagree. We need the whole armor of God. Just think about the soldier who neglects one part of his armor. Perhaps he fails to wear his helmet; then the enemy will aim for his head. Perhaps he fails to wear his bulletproof vest; then the enemy will aim for his heart. Perhaps he fails to dig his foxhole deep enough; then he will be constantly exposed to danger.
What part of the whole armor of God would you want to neglect?
• Truth? What happens when you begin telling lies? Soon you find yourself caught in a web of lies from which there is no escape.
• Righteousness? Just look at Bill Clinton to see the misery that moral lapse can cause. It is a tragedy. I think that Clinton is honestly a deeply religious man, but a man who failed on a number of occasions to live up to his beliefs. The result has been not only a great deal of misery for himself and his family, but compromised leadership for the nation and the world.
• Faith? The author of Ephesians says that faith quenches “all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” How can we ever survive the tough times without faith.
• Salvation? Many is the time that I don’t even know what to pray for, so I simply pray, “God, save me.”
• The word of God? I take that to mean the Bible. How could we ever know about God or what he wants us to be if we neglect the Bible?
• Prayer? How could we ever make it through a tough day without prayer?
“Put on the whole armor of God.” The author of Ephesians is simply trying to help us to be strong. First, he tells us that it is important to be strong, because we are doing battle with the forces of evil. Then he tells us how to be strong. Put on the whole armor of God.
We need to be strong to survive in a tough world. I am reminded of a story.
During the War Between the States, a Union soldier was shot in the arm at the battle of Shiloh. His captain saw his injury, and ordered him out of the battle. He said, “Gimme your gun, Private, and get to the rear.” The soldier handed over his rifle and ran north seeking safety.
After running a few hundred yards, he ran into a skirmish. He then ran east and came upon another part of the battle. He turned west and soon encountered more fighting, so finally he ran back to the front lines. He ran up to his captain and said, “Gimme my gun back, Cap’n. They ain’t no rear to this battle!” (James W. Moore, Seizing the Moments).
Our text tells us to “put on the full armor of God,” so that we will be strong—because they ain’t no rear to the our battle either.
• We will often be assailed by temptation.
• We will often be caught between a rock and a hard place.
• We will often be crushed by hardship.
But protected by God’s armor and strengthened by his presence, we will overcome. So take up the whole armor of God:
• The belt of truth
• The breastplate of righteousness
• The proclamation of the gospel
• The shield of faith
• The helmet of salvation
• The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God
• and constant prayer
So that you might be strong.
So that you might be protected.
So that you might be equipped to live your life—every day of your life—victoriously through the power of God.
Scripture quotations from the World English Bible.
Copyright 2006, Richard Niell Donovan