“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle 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.” Ephesians 6:10-12
Paul writes of a conflict happening right now. The emphasis of these few verses lets us know we’re in the middle of it! He opens with a significant truth to grasp—“be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” In even a simpler way to say it, the Message Bible reads:
“God is strong and wants you to be strong.”
The section is written as a motivational tool for strength. Understanding the ability of human fortitude, Paul knows we are naturally weak, however, there’s to be a strength and stability to Christianity that walks and stands in a purity of life. Jesus sums up our predicament by noting, “the spirit is strong, but the flesh is weak.” What then can be our motivation to be strong in Christ?
I watched a small part of the USC/Hawaii football game. Before the game began, a woman was on the field interviewing the coach. She ask him how he planned to keep his team focused after two years of playing games that hadn’t counted. In short, his answer was they’re focused because they know the future games count. When we realize that what we’re doing is “for keeps,” then the conflict takes on real meaning motivating focus on the battle. And what’s the greatest thing to be aware of in this conflict? God has given us ability to triumph! Paul wants us to see what’s behind our problems—he wants to raise the proverbial curtain to see what’s going on behind the scenes. Verse 12:
12 For we do not wrestle 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.
We think that our tribulations are the taxman, government, employers, teachers, co-workers, children, parents, husband or wife; but it’s not. To be clear, we don’t wrestle with flesh and blood! Behind the scenes are cosmic powers of darkness hidden but very observable spiritually with eyes of faith. They’re behind the curtain of trials and difficulties coming after us. Your boss is not the devil. Your bothers and sisters are not demons.Your kids are not minions of darkness; your wife or husband is not Satan incarnate. The issues we face are things having greater reaching consequences than fights or disagreements with flesh and blood. Look at how the Message Bible reads in verse 12:
“This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.”
Issues with flesh and blood are to get you to respond to things in ways not honoring to Jesus. The focus is to get you mad enough to blowup, to strike at someone, to lose your respectability and react. Because the devil—if he can get you mad enough at some other human—can set you on a path to take away your motivation for serving Christ. Take a good look at what’s going on behind the curtain and know the conflict you’re in is not a wrestling match again flesh and blood but the cosmic powers and spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places!
J. Robert Hanson