God’s armour for His people

Jul 5, 2024 | Devotions and Reflections, INSIGHTS, LISTEN

In a very familiar passage, Paul concludes his magnificent epistle to the Ephesians with a briefing on spiritual warfare: he does not want any believer to fall prey to the powerful spiritual beings who oppose the work of the Kingdom of God. To that end, he calls us to don the armour of God.

Given the sheer weight of issues that we are all dealing with internally as well as externally, it is a timely word, and one for us to take time out to consider again, and discover what the Lord may have to say to us through it. It is His armour, His weapons and His Kingdom that we are called to share in, and fight for.

We hope you will be really blessed by this talk on the subject that Robert shared recently at church.

Direct Transcript of the talk

Good evening. Thank you for your testimony, Christabelle. Thank you for a life well led. And thank you for stepping out with the gifts that you had, even when you felt inadequate to do so.

Thank you, Lord, that boldness isn’t the absence of fear. It’s the willingness to go forward despite it. And Lord, thank You for Saint Paul. His amazing letters that we’ve been looking at, Philippians, Ephesians, and all the others, Lord. They’re such gems. And they make your mystery, if not simple, at least accessible to us, Lord. And we’re so grateful. And we’re drinking in Paul’s wisdom, Lord. Thank You.

Paul started the wonderful letter to the Ephesians by wishing the believers ‘grace and peace.’ But he comes right full circle at the end, very neatly, and says the same thing again, ‘peace and grace,’ — and how we need that. He shared the amazing power that we have in Christ, then he talks about practical steps of walking with the Lord. But now he comes to the, as it were, the climax and the crunch of the epistle and it’s a challenging word because it’s about spiritual warfare, against principalities and things which in the Colossian’s letters he’d simply told us not to worship but to steer clear of but now he says actively fight against them and we need to know how to fight.

Imagine for a moment that you suddenly get a delivery parcel to your door. You unpack it eagerly and you find a suit of armour. “Oh, what do I do with this?!”

Some of you might say, “I’m good at dressing up, I know exactly what to do with it.” And some of you are actually quite grateful, because you have been to so many seminars on how to use the spiritual weapons, and you know there is more to learn.

I hope that this very familiar passage will give us pause for thought about how we wield the weapons the Lord gives us, why we have to wield them, why we need armour in the first place. It’s only figurative language, but we still need to unpack and understand it, and then see the difference between the armour that we keep on all the time and the pieces that we take up for particular situations.

The helmet; the sword, which is the word of God; the shield of faith, above all to be like a fire extinguisher that puts out the flaming darts that the enemy passes through our mind or across our circumstances, which will do so much damage if we don’t attend to them. There’s a real active thing involved here in taking up these weapons just in time.

So let’s read the passage through in Ephesians 6, starting from verse 10. Try to pretend that you don’t know it off by heart already, and we’ll see where we go.

Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in His mighty power. Put on the full armour of God (God initiative) so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood.

Whoops! I thought it was against my neighbour or that pesky colleague, or that irritating family member or . . . No!

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 host of spiritual forces in the evil realm . . .

Sorry,

. . . in the heavenly realms.

The battle is joined between good and evil, and it’s not a caricature of a battle, it’s very real.

Therefore – for that reason – put on the full armour of God so that when the attack comes, when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground. And after you’ve done everything, stay standing. Stand firm with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Above all, take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish those flaming arrows of the evil one.

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God and pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests, and with this in mind be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words will be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the Gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains.

Pray that I may declare it boldly and fearlessly as I should. And then Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant of the Lord, who has often been my messenger to the churches round about, will tell you everything so that you also may know how I am and what I’m doing. I’m sending him to you for this very purpose that you may know how we are and that He may encourage you.

Peace to the brothers and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.

. . . literally with a sincere and incorrupt love. And I think that’s woven in because even then in the early church, there were those whose love for the Lord wasn’t entirely sincere because they were double -minded. They were pleased to pick up on the benefits of following the Lord, but they weren’t necessarily prepared to be so faithful out of sight when nobody else could see them as it were. And there were some as we’ve seen in Philippians who were jockeying for position and who were ambitious. And the early church wasn’t perfect any more than the present-day church is.

But there is an understanding of the spiritual warfare behind the scenes. Now, large parts of the church today don’t believe that. They follow the idea of things being natural. And in our comfort-laden generation, they don’t really want to think in terms of warfare, even spiritual warfare. And this is a real problem because Paul does. Anyone who goes very far in following the Lord Jesus radically, comes up against the same presence of evil and the same manifestations of Satan that Paul did, and that Jesus did, and that all true disciples have done since.

Now, we don’t need to put on a helmet when we’re playing tiddlywinks with our grandchildren. We don’t always remember to put on the helmet when we go cycling or play cricket, but we’re unwise. We get away with it 99 times out of 100, but that hundredth time is truly painful. Do you remember that government advert years ago, when seat belts first became a requirement, ‘Clunk, click, every trip.’

Now, ‘Clunk, click, we need to put the armour of God on.’ ‘Put on the Lord Jesus,’ Paul says elsewhere in Colossians, ‘and make no provision for the flesh.’ So many of us do, and it hinders our walk with the Lord. It fights against the very first command at the start of this passage which is to ‘be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.’

No matter what high quality material the armour is made of, it’s only that good if we’re wearing it properly, the right way round. Wear it the wrong way round and we can actually keep good things and God’s people at a distance. We use it defensively to say, ‘Oh, that’s not quite in my stream or stable or denominational. I’ll just keep my distance from this.’ And we’re using the armour, as it were, pimple side out, reverse side out, and we end up almost reaching the point where we say, ‘Well, there’s only thee and me left, really. But with considerable doubts about thee.’ We’re using the armour to protect ourselves when we should be protecting against the enemy.

And even the weapons that we’ve come across in this passage, like the sword, which is the word of God, actually becomes very dangerous if we don’t use it correctly. We need to go to some fencing lessons: touché, cut and thrust, riposte, various other more interesting titles in French which I can’t pronounce at the moment! But we need to know how to use the sword because otherwise we can stab each other, as Paul says in Galatians 5:15, ‘If you keep on biting and devouring one another, watch out: you will devour each other.’ Like bees we can sting each other death!

It all starts with a ‘but:’ ‘Oh he is a nice person, but . . .’ and they subtly sow the ‘but’ into the conversation and from then on you will see that person in a different, manky light because you’ve had a but chucked at you.

We have to be so careful. There are things, particularly in leadership, that we do have to say about people at an accountability level. We do have to warn, we do have to know what’s going on. But we have to be so careful that we don’t take that precious sword and use it the other way round.

And we’re more likely to use it the wrong way round if we’re allowing any of the devilish characteristics to underlay and overlay us. So, for example, Satan fell because he was – word beginning with P – proud. He wanted to be like God, he wasn’t prepared to be number two. Pride is his hallmark, and he weaves it into us so many ways, so that, as C .S. Lewis put it, we can ‘be proud of being humble.’

And yet, of course, the scriptural answer and antidote to pride is always ‘humble yourselves.’ And that’s a word we have to take to heart and see how we do it.

It’s a word I’ll chuck out to you to think on: we can be proud of the fact that we hear the Lord because we’re special to him. Well, there’s a kind of balance to keep here. Every one of us is very precious to the Lord. But only God is special. There’s a subtle nuance. And so many of these things in the spiritual warfare world are actually quite nuanced even though they come from completely opposite ends of the spectrum.

So, when in Thessalonians Paul reminds us that we’re to rejoice always because that’s the will of God the Father for us, that power of thanksgiving actually really gets up the devil’s nostrils. He hates it. It’s a rebuke to him to see Christians rejoicing. And he’ll test the resolve of anybody who tries to do that.

You managed to do it, Christabel, even when your husband died. You dug deep and went on. (Romans 8:28) And that’s a tremendous achievement because we do have rounds in the campaign which we don’t always win on points. The devil is trying to land knock out punches and we get hurt in the process. Paul knew that he’d been called to the Lord, but it also says in Philippians 1:29 that he knew he’d been called to suffer.

There’s a balance in all these things but look at this in Greek (I think in Hebrew too): the same word is used for to tempt, as to try and to test.

So when the devil is very busy doing what he’s good at – tempting – God is actually testing us. Will you still go on rejoicing, even though I seem to have taken away the reason why? And at the same time again, our soul is being tried. The devil’s watching, he’s not omniscient but he does have good eyesight, and he does seem to have done some computer hacking.

He knows he has access to our track record, so therefore he knows which buttons to push, that are most likely to lead us to make an indiscreet or inappropriate, or frankly unhelpful, response. We do need training in our minds, in our hearts, in our spirits, with each other, to be able to withstand these onslaughts of temptation.

I remember at a conference in the late ’70s, I looked at the program at the start of the week and was surprised – not! – to see that the subject of Christian discipline was going to be held in the army tent – very sensible. I was a bit more surprised when I noticed that the seminar on prayer and fasting was going to be held in the dining room. I thought that sounds like a rumbly tumbling. I’ll give a miss to that one.

But then it said that spiritual warfare was going to be held in the games room! I thought, well, one thing it isn’t, is funny. We’ve only got to look around us and we see in spades the havoc that Satan does cause in stirring up wars, in dividing one person, one fellowship, one strand from another, constantly working on the one hand to divide and, on the other hand, to discourage – and usually trying to pretend he isn’t there and isn’t really responsible for it.

Take that one of discouragement particularly. You think, ‘I’ve had so many blows here, it’s just a natural response to all these difficulties to feel down and depressed and low and discouraged.’ But actually, it’s one of the most insidious of all Satan’s temptations, the temptation to discouragement. You think of it, perhaps, as something more blatant, a temptation, but there are few that can hit you quite as hard as that.

And I’ll tell you, within the body of Christ, there are few that can hit so hard as the ‘gift’ of touchiness – and I’m not talking about having a nice hug with somebody. That kind of . . . that sense of somebody bristling and bridling and taking things the wrong way. Again, it doesn’t sound like a big sin, but it’s very hard to work with a touchy person.

And there’s the enemy, just nudging away, ‘I’ll just make you feel uncomfortable about that. I’ll make you take that word the wrong way round, and then you’ll be squirming.’ And we have to see through these things.

You know, all of us are probably able to recognize the Red Arrows if we see them flashing across in the sky, but we have to be able by discernment to recognize the arrows that the enemy hurls at us. That’s why we need to keep our well-oiled shields up and say, ‘That’s a temptation. If I go down that route, now it’s going to lead me into a nowhere place, and from there, who knows? To rage or anger or hatred or bitterness or self -pity or some other stop-you-in-your-tracks stuff – and not at a bus stop either.’

He is good at his trade, he’s had centuries of tempting people. He’s the accuser of the brethren, and if he can’t come up with a juicy piece of slander against somebody – and he’s usually very good against Christian leaders for that, because the more prominent a person’s profile from the Lord, the more the enemy will be trying to bring, cut him down to size and chip away at him, because his heart is full of envy. He remembers the days when he was high up in the ranks of the hierarchy of heaven. He rebelled against it, got chucked out, but he’s envious of those who occupy that place now. And envy is just like a green-eyed monster which brings demons in on the back of it.

Who can stand? This is in Scripture in Proverbs – anger is cruel and purely overwhelming, but who can stand before the power of envy? It can be harder to resist than paganism or witchcraft. It comes with great power, and it’s so important that we don’t give even a foothold, a toehold to envy in our hearts. It’s deadly.

It’s so wonderful to think of John 3:27, when Jesus says a man – a person, man or woman – can only receive what he receives from on high, from heaven.

And if we can rest in that, I’m not envious because you’ve got a bigger car than me. I’m not envious because your church is 100 times bigger than mine. I’m not envious because you won the World Cup and we didn’t, or whatever it may be. Those are silly examples, but actually they bracket real feelings that do enormous damage.

Lord protect us from that power of envy. Help us to see through these things.

Jesus Himself called Satan the ‘prince of this world.’ What we read here is about ‘cosmocrato’ in Greek. It means the ‘lord of this world.’

Lord, help us to know how to fight. Because even the sandals that You give us – with which we go out to reach the hard or, resistant, or those who don’t know You, Lord – it says that we’re wearing them from peace.

The shoes are shod with peace in order to wage war spiritually. It’s a paradox, but it’s a balance we’ve got to get right in our lives. We so often try to win arguments by natural causes and simply get antagonised and antagonise others as a result. May the Lord help us get the balance right and not be swept away into the devil’s terrain of using that sharp, pointy stick, the sword against each other.

There are two different words for ‘to take up’ the shield of faith. That’s one word. There’s another word for ‘to take up’ the helmet and greet it. It means to welcome or receive salvation. We welcome it, we take it into ourselves, we appropriate it, we make it ours.

And then we’re not following some sort of easy, soft sell in an evangelistic meeting, which really is just kind of trying to flash fast cars to heaven at us, or to guarantee us our safety and rescue. No, that’s the starting point, but we’re actually being enlisted – whether we came at a moment of decision or gradually over a period of years. What’s actually happening is that we’re being enlisted into the Lord’s army.

Every kingdom has an army. Countries at the moment in the vicinity of Russia, are extremely busy re-arming. Not just the Baltic states, which have reintroduced conscription, but also Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. Every 18 -year-old gets a calling on to muster and to serve and defend their nation. That’s at the human level and it’s very important.

But at a spiritual level, God has two armies. The host of heaven, angels, archangels, the souls of those made righteous, it says in Hebrews 12, by the blood of Jesus, those who are now with Him, His army. And then the army on earth, the troop of God’s fellow-workers, His co-heirs, who are being trained for warfare. He’s training our fingers for war, our hands for battle.

But I keep saying it, we need to know how to wage war. So Paul comes to Ephesus and spends three years there, and the temptation when he sees these great temples of Diana, who is the Greek goddess Artemis – very powerful, very well esteemed in the ancient world – the temptation will be to say, ‘I bind Diana.’ And to go that way, focusing on the enemy.

But we don’t see a hint of him actually doing that. We do see him hiring a lecture hall and preaching for a long time. We do see various things, but he didn’t engage with the enemy for the sake of it, any more than Jesus did.

Jesus, in fact, His whole ministry was warfare. He was constantly being opposed by human and spiritual opposition. A brilliant book out by an American evangelical theologian called Gregory Boyd called God at War, offers a biblical basis for spiritual conflict. It’s a detailed book and the second half of it shows how Jesus was constantly in action in spiritual warfare and how He handled it.

But he didn’t start by engaging with the enemy. He kept his focus firmly on the Lord, and I’ll share another time, probably in a teaching on corporate warfare, why it’s very important to preserve that focus of seeking first the Lord. And as we lift up that shield of praise, as I said earlier, it goes up the devil’s nostrils, and it scatters the powers of darkness.

It is so important that we have all the pieces on.

The belt of truth holds everything together. When the girdle goes slack round there, everything else falls down. It gets a bit comic and not nice at all. Really important in this day of post objective truth – post-truth era, when the most ridiculous, nonsensical things are going round social media and elsewhere, and are being swallowed whole without proper fact-checking. All the more important that the belt of truth is ‘clunk click’ around our waist.

Father, whenever we make a lie or even a gross exaggeration, we open a little foothold to the enemy. We do it repeatedly and so easily and we think it doesn’t matter, but one thing does lead to another in the spiritual realm. I pray, Lord, that you will set a guard over our heart and over our mouth and our tongue. We don’t want to run each other down. We don’t want to look at each other in the wrong way.

There’s a lovely image that when the rams are looking at the shepherd, their woolly coats rub companionably up against each other. But when they look at each other, they see only horns, and they need to take cover quickly, in case they get thrust at.

And it can be like that with us too, can’t it? We look at each other in the wrong way and we can get very shirty and very quickly go spiralling down in our relationships, whereas Jesus is all about unity, and Paul’s concern was for the unity of the church. He knew and would have amplified Jesus’s teaching in Matthew 18, that it’s when two or three are gathered in one spirit together in agreement that Jesus promised us to be present and to answer.

But without that essential unity, we can only go so far, and our prayers can even become sideways looking rather than directly up to the Lord.

Get that breastplate of righteousness on and in place. It protects the heart and other vital organs. And the great thing is it doesn’t come because we’ve suddenly reached a mythical, magical moment when we’re good enough, we’re righteous enough to claim it. It’s a gift of God. It’s another of these things that we just receive with gratitude. It’s all with gratitude that we received this.

But then having received it, we’re part of the Lord’s army, we’re expected to use it, we’re expected to go out and take ground for the Lord and claim back those whom Satan has taken captive. That’s why we have to have shoes fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of Peace so that we go out to rescue people.

I’m a great believer that we need to keep our antennae up. I mean, Paul was describing the latest technology, you know, that they had in his day. He was in a prison cell when he was writing this, and he was seeing a Roman soldier in his full battle array the whole time, and he pondered and reflected and drew deep spiritual parallels from the armour. If he’d been around today, I don’t doubt he’d be talking about advanced radar systems and stealth fighters and stealth bombers and things that go bump in the night, as it were! He’d be working out what we need to be aware of, so we pick things up over the horizon. We can see where a certain trend is going, and that can be true of spiritual things.

It can be true of political and social things, too. We identify the trajectory that something is on, and then we come, not with platitudes of faith of, ‘Oh, the Lord will sort it out,’ but with the equivalent of a spiritual cruise missile or a Patriot missile. We say, ‘That we need to get down: it’s a lofty speculation; it’s a thought we need to take captive to Christ, before it does real damage to us.’

And that’s the difference between, as it were, rat-a-tat-tat scatter-gun warfare and the very focussed laser-beam of ‘this is something we need to dwell on.’ And if you are in a prayer meeting and it starts off on that subject and then veers away rapidly, it is right in leadership just to quietly bring it back to that topic. Either I say, ‘Let’s go back to that topic,’ or just by doing it, but keeping on track because otherwise we can get diverted. The enemy is very keen to do that because, when he can’t stop somebody believing, which is where he puts his first thrust, his second thrust is to try to weary and wear people out by doing too much or just feeling discouraged as we said before.

He has plenty of weapons, but the Lord has given us an answer to them all because Jesus is our advocate. He’s for us. And He never sends us into a situation in which He’s not prepared to accompany us. And because He’s faithful to His word, all the things that He’s promised will be fulfilled, including the time – that glorious moment – when He takes the kingdom of this world and turns into the Kingdom of His Father’s world. And all the powers and dominions which have done so much damage will be overturned, overthrown and destroyed, and Jesus will hand the kingdoms back to his Father.

It’s a beautiful image and a wonderful day to be working towards, which is what the Lord is doing. And Paul knew that. He was talking about it in Ephesians 1 when he said that ‘Everything is going to be gathered together under one head in Christ Jesus.’ That’s what he was working for in all of this.

And he was reminding us to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power because that power is the same as the power that raised Jesus from the dead, and goodness me, it’s in us.

But most of the time we’re more conscious of our weakness. Yet another biblical paradox: God’s strength made perfect out of weakness; waging peace and yet needing to fight a spiritual war without using carnal weapons. These things need unpacking so we can do them successfully.

But to go into action on a spiritual enterprise without cover is unwise. The enemy picks off lone soldiers. It’s so important. Here Paul himself says, ‘Pray also for me. Pray that I may have boldness, pray that I be protected as I do this.’ He knew how to round up prayer and I believe that’s an absolutely vital weapon and part of our warfare. It’s part of verse 18, which says, ‘Pray in the Spirit on all occasions.’ And I love the fact that there are all different kinds of prayers and requests! But at the heart of them is perseverance and God-focused-ness. That’s absolutely essential.

And that rounding up a prayer is so important. As I shared once before, about four months ago here, I said that I can ask you to pray for me about an issue I’m struggling with, and you can do so with faith and objectivity, whereas I’m too close to it to do very well. As you can do for me, I can do the same for you.

We cover each other in that way. It’s rather like the thing on the aeroplanes when it says when the oxygen mask comes down because of a problem, attend to yourself first, then you can help others. And just as in marriage, you’d expect a husband to help a wife zip up her dress at the back; or a woman might, who knows, adjust your cravat, your tie or whatever, we can help each other. We have to be humble enough to share the need.

Those who live too self-reliantly try to do it all their own way. And this tests our humility because, look, if you say, ‘Monday morning, I’m speaking in school, I’ve got a great opportunity to preach the Gospel,’ everybody will say, ‘Oh, I get that. Fruit of the Gospel, young people, good thing, pray for that.’

But suppose you’re just feeling absolutely yuck and you really don’t know why, but you can hardly get out of bed, you’re so crumpled with it. Are you willing to share that with a friend when there’s no obvious reason for it? And yet in all likelihood, that’s the time you need prayer more.

Prayer is so amazing because it kind of enables you to reach things that you couldn’t reach before. I often liken it to a whale that’s stranded and beached on a beach. You just can’t get it off, you can’t push it, you can’t chuck enough buckets of water at it to get it sailing off again, but you pray and God sends a special tide. He has unlimited power and unlimited means to answer prayer by.

But we must do the praying, and whether God sends an angel or whether He does something in some completely different way, we give Him the tools that He wants us to be sharing with Him.

Because you see, in Isaiah 59:17 there’s a lovely picture of the Lord saying, ‘There’s nobody getting involved in this situation, I will don a helmet, I will don a breastplate and do something about it.’
Great.

But now He’s delegated that to all of us. He says, ‘You put on your breastplates,’ and he says it also in Thessalonians: the breastplates of faith and hope and love.

We have to put on the helmet of salvation to work out what’s truth and what is deception. And the two can often run very close together – the true and the counterfeit – but one leads to Heaven and the other leads to something completely different.

Even when we’re concerned for something genuine and spiritual, we can still find that the burden goes round and round in our hearts – rather like war becomes the warp and woof of our life – and we become focused on our problem instead of focused on the Lord.

In a minute, I’m going to pray for any situations where we’ve allowed ourselves to be carrying burdens, genuine burdens for people but in such a way that they’re sucking at us, sucking us dry, instead of flowing through us to the cross, which is the real stopping place. It’s a readjustment thing that we have to do.

The devil will try all sorts of things to put us off. He’s rather like the sales-person in Are you being served? speaking to a prospective client saying, ‘Oh the sleeves, no problem with them not being quite right, sir, they ride up with wear, you know.’ And then five minutes later you see them talking with someone else: ‘Not at all sir, they ride down with wear.’

Satan will always be adjusting his tactics to try to confuse us.

Now, I know from having two sons in the army that there is a lot of clobber involved in the army. What you wear in minus 20 in the Arctic Circle for some reason isn’t the outfit that you need in jungle fighting and training in Belize, in 40 or 50 degrees of heat. We have to wear the right garments.

I know that 44 years ago the Lord said to me, “I have a pen. I have a message. If you are willing, I will be with you as a writer.” That was the tool that he placed in my hand, a pen, and then, under the helmet, the particular messages that he wanted me to share.

For my wife, it’s more like a foetal monitor, because she is a midwife; and then a lectern for the many, many years that she was a lecturer. These are the tools of our trade that we use for the Lord. Your weapons will be different, but it’s important that you know what they are, and not let the enemy try to downsize them in the wrong way, any more than we should upsize them in the wrong way through pride.

We acknowledge, yes, he has given me a gift to . . .

. . . It may be to heal people, it may be to lead deep times of silence to bring people into God’s presence from where he can minister to people. It may be to make a lot of noise in worship, on the loud praise side; it may be the very genuine, very quiet worship.

Weapons can be of every shape and size: a teacher’s voice; things that he’s trained us in; heart attitudes, deeply woven and grafted away in us.

This is the work of the different parts of the armour, all working together, the helmet, the sword, the word of God that we have to get into. They all work together so that we can stand. And then we can be strong together.

I pray, Father, for every single thing, every single foothold that we’ve given away which has depleted our strength. Where we have spent time with people we shouldn’t have spent time with, or with literature we shouldn’t have read, or films we shouldn’t have watched –

I’m sure this doesn’t apply to here but I always remember a very senior man of God saying to me 45 years ago, “The biggest problem in the church with men is pornography.” I thought, ‘Oh no, I hope not.’ But all the surveys show that he was right. The Lord doesn’t want us to deplete our strength by looking at stuff – it says bad company corrupts good character. Well, bad reading, bad watching does the same thing.

Where we’ve been genuinely concerned to serve you and do good to people, but we’ve somehow done it in the flesh and our burden has slipped and we’re worn out from it, I’m asking right now that you reposition it, Lord, so that these burdens flow through us in the Spirit to the Cross and don’t stop with us.

Increase the flow of Your spirit in our heart now, Lord. Help us to know when we need to reach for the helmet and say, ‘Hang on, I smell a rat here. Something isn’t true.’ Help us to spot the deception. Where something in media, or closer at hand, just has a bad ring to it, help us to identify that, and then steer clear of it, let it bounce off our breastplate, or to find an antidote to it as a way of disarming it.

Because, you see, people might say, ‘Well, hang on, Jesus has won the victory on the cross. So why are we talking about a battle? At the very most, surely Satan’s just on a long leash?’

Well, here’s another paradox. The battle has been won. (Colossians 2:15) That’s done. It’s dusted. It’s for all time. He’s disarmed the powers of darkness. There is no final battle to win.

And yet we’re called to warfare. Many people use the image of D-Day at that point and say, ‘We’ve landed, but we’ve still got all the fighting to do.’ I rather like the image of the president of America in November when there’s a change of government. That president is on the way out, but he doesn’t actually leave the White House until the following January. And because he’s still president and in charge of the armed forces of that nation, if he so chooses, he can cause an incredible amount of mischief. He’s got all the power still there.

And that, I think, is a picture of the power that the enemy really does have, and which is undoubtedly too strong for us in ourselves, but not too strong for us when we’re together, not too strong for us when we’ve got the armour on, and we’re calling on the name with Jesus. But it is too strong for us on our own.

And so the battle continues. ‘Here be dragons.’ We have to be alert to that and not be fazed by it. I was astonished – I read a Bible book today, a commentary – and I was absolutely astonished to hear it say that this was only for the first century, that these powers and principalities only operated in the first century, that it is all finished now.

That’s nonsense!

What Paul was teaching came after the cross and he was teaching it. The battle is real, but the battle is the Lord’s. And that’s why David, thank you for choosing that chorus, ‘In heavenly armour, we’ll enter the land; the battle belongs to the Lord.’

I pray, Lord, that we will get good at harnessing each other for battle, that we won’t waste time on sideshows, but we’ll fight the campaigns that You want us to fight.

Some churches will go for one emphasis, and some for another, and that’s fine. There’s room for all, as long as we’re taking the time to seek the Lord and say, “What, Lord, and how, and when?” Ask Him for the detail. You can be quite sure the enemy from his point of view, will say, ‘What’s the point?’
And if that doesn’t work, he’ll try a three-fold approach. He’ll say, ‘That thing can’t be done, that enterprise that you are thinking of? Impossible.’

And if you refuse to fall for that, then he’ll say, ‘Oh . . . Well, if it can be done, you aren’t the person to do it.’ And that knocks out a large percentage of people because they believe Satan’s assessment of the situation.

But if we are a bit wiser, and we reject both of those tactics, then he tries a third one – and this is a sucker punch that often gets through when the others don’t. He says, ‘It’s not the right time to do it,’ and everybody backs back a bit, saying, ‘Perhaps it isn’t and it would be rather costly to do it; perhaps we shouldn’t do it.’

Then the enemy piles it on, ‘You’re too old anyway; you’re too young.’ ‘You’re too this or you’re too that.’ ‘Only a man can do that, you can’t do that.’ ‘Oh, but it takes a woman to do that.’

Etc, etc, whatever . . . But those things just go on being shaped to try to exploit our particular weaknesses. All the time what he’s doing is angling for a subconscious, subliminal pact, whereby we say, “Ok, if we stop pressing quite so hard on God, you’ll back back a bit, Satan?”

And Satan says, “I’ll back back a bit if you stop seeking God so hard.”

And a pact is forged, totally at a subliminal level. If it came out in the open as words, your head theology would reject it completely and say, ‘I’m not going to do that; that would be suicide.’

But it all happens below ground. Like an iceberg, nine-tenths of what Satan does is out of sight below the ground. And we have to say, “Oh, that’s what he’s trying to get us to do. Back, back, back a bit.”

That’s difficult to say at the end of a talk. But that’s the way he works and the way the Lord works is to say,

“I’m leading you on. Put your hand in Mine. Hold on tight. We’re going into action together. I won’t let you down. I don’t promise you won’t get bruised on the way. You will, but I’ll be with you through thick, through thin. And you will have the joy in heaven of seeing the fruitfulness of what you persevered in praying and in sowing.”

Those threads will come up and form a beautiful tapestry in heaven. Thank You, Lord.

Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash

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