Did you ever have one of those mornings? I mean, you wake up, start to get ready, and then realize that you aren’t even ready for morning coffee, let alone all the things that you have to get done! I have a lot of those experiences, and they aren’t just limited to the mornings. Whether you are talking about work, school, home, or even just getting together with friends, I often find myself feeling unprepared for certain conversations, conflicts that occur, and just everyday life.
We all know about conflict. Psychologists tell us that without some stress we would just languish, that stress, in its proper amount, actually encourages growth. But when we are stressed without the proper supports in place that is when anxiety and frustration overtake us. The writer of Ephesians knew all about this, and gives us a pattern, an outfit if you will, to help us to meet the stresses, challenges, and anxieties of life and work through them victoriously: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10).
It isn’t enough just to be told to be strong, we need a road map, directions, to help us get there, and so “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, 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” (vv 11,12).
Oh, wait a minute, you might object, let’s not get into that spiritual stuff! I just need help with everyday things, like dealing with that person in the office who gets on my nerves, or the neighbor who is always throwing things in my yard. There aren’t any “dark world powers” involved here! While I share your feelings, friend, and I don’t suggest we look for a demon under every rock, I do believe there are dark powers, demons, or whatever you want to call them, whose job it is to make us frustrated, to inspire conflict, to tempt us to jealousy, anger, and even hatred. What we do with that temptation is our choice, but don’t fool yourself by believing these don’t exist.
So if they do exist, rather than getting fearful and wondering where they are, how do we deal with them? “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (v. 13). When we are prepared for the conflicts that come, when our lives are hidden in Christ and our minds are transformed by the Spirit and the Word, we will find ourselves ready for battle . . . and for victory.
The Belt of Truth (v. 14)—In Roman times, as in many occupations, the belt not only holds the uniform in place, it primarily holds tools that are used to effect what needs to be done. Knowing the knife would be there when he was attacked gave the soldier assurance that he was ready for battle. Likewise, in our everyday “battles,” we need to wear the belt of Truth, that is the Word of God. How often, when you are struggling, do you wonder, What was the verse again? Does God really care? The promises of God’s Word are our tools in the Christian life, and we can only use them properly if we have accessed them and are familiar with them.
The Breastplate of Righteousness (v. 14)—We are all familiar with the breastplates worn by ancient and medieval soldiers. They served to protect the heart, lungs, and vital organs when in battle. We might compare them today to Kevlar vests worn by law enforcement officers. But what does righteousness have to do with it? In the spiritual realm, our righteousness is, as Isaiah stated “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” (Isaiah 64:6). Righteousness refers to our “right-ness,” to the extent that we are right in ourselves. The truth is that “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way” (Isaiah 53:6a) by doing our own things, following our own purposes. Even when we burn with “righteous” anger we make choices that are selfish and self-serving, rather than seeking God’s purposes. Isaiah continues, “and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” We, of course, know “him” as Jesus. Because Jesus was perfect, without sin, when He sacrificed his life, which we remember at the Lord’s Table and on Good Friday, He paid the price for our failures and shortcomings, giving us His righteousness, his completeness and freedom to stand before God. Only when we stand with Christ’s righteousness protecting us are we able to defeat the temptations and powers that attack us. How do we do that? By admitting we are sinners, asking God to forgive our sins, and turning over our lives to Christ.
Next week, the rest of the armor.
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church
P.O. Box 393
Greenfield, MO 65661