10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 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. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
Paul writes of this conflict that’s taking place right now as we speak. The emphasis of this little section gives instruction on how to deal with the conflict. And so the first words he begins with is a truth that He wants us 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 whole little section is written as a motivation for strength. We’re destined to be weak and waffling in faith. There is to be a strength and stability to Christianity that walks and stands in the purity of life that Christ has given us—apart from feelings of failures. What is your motivation to be strong in Christ?
I watched a small part of the USC/Hawaii football game. Before the game began, they had a woman on the field interviewing the coach. She ask him how he planned to keep his team focused after playing games that had not counted for two years. In short, his answer was that they’re focus because they know what they do will count this year.
When we realize that what we’re doing counts, then the conflict takes on real meaning for being motivated. We begin to realize that all the different difficulties we face, because of the choices we make to be a Christian, have a far-reaching meaning and focus to it. And the greatest thing to be aware of in this motivation is that God has given us ability to triumph from this section.
1. The Present Darkness
The first thing Paul wants us to come to grips with is that our difficulties are a result of “the present darkness” that we live in. There are powers of present darkness waging war against humanity. Verse 12 points this out with extreme accuracy:
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 problems are the taxman, government, employers, teachers, co-workers, children, parents, husband or wife; but it’s not. To be clear, we do not wrestle with flesh and blood. Behind the scene are cosmic powers of darkness that go unseen behind the curtain, motivating trials and problems to come after you. Your boss is not the devil, your kids are not minions of darkness, your wife or husband is not Satan incarnate. The issues we face are things that have longer reaching affect than fights or disagreements that come and go. Listen to how the Message 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.”
The whole thing about issues with flesh and blood is to get you to respond in anything but a Christ honoring way. The reasoning behind the issues is to get you mad enough to blowup, to strike at someone, to lose your self-control and react. Because the devil, if he can get you mad enough at some other human, he’s set you on a path to take away your perspective and get you involved in the present darkness.
2. The Whole Armor of God
Second is Paul’s call to arms; the call to put on the whole armor of God. Verse 11 reads, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” This is really the only way to help keep your cool in times of aggravation, perspective in moments of confusion, belief in hours of doubt. Again, the Message Bible paraphrases the verse:
“So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way.”
He’s provided, well-made weapons of the best material. God has the armor all figured out. Let’s look at it real quickly.
a. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth,
We have the truth—it’s set us free! Feelings are not the belt of truth—they’re not even suspenders. It’s the truth that needs to be hitched on everyday. Fasten on the belt of truth. Remember every morning the promises God gives you.
b. 14 Stand therefore…having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
That’s a righteousness that guards the heart—one of the most vital organs you have. Guard your heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life. Righteousness will keep the heart from chasing after things of flesh and blood seeking to distract.
c. 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.
Everyday we put on our shoes to protect our feet from harm. The foot is a very weak and vulnerable spot. There are all kinds of nerves that end in the feet. You step on a nail and it hurts because of the sensitive nerve ending. The gospel of peace on your feet keeps us from being overly sensitive about things.
d. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one
Projectiles will come your way. Satan will seek to insult your intelligence and do anything he can to keep you from following Jesus. The shield of faith comes in handy to quench those flaming darts of accusations at you. It’s what you believe about things that make a difference—not what you feel!
e. 17 and take the helmet of salvation,
The helmet protects the way we think about things. View everything within the context of your salvation! The devil will use flesh and blood to mess with your thinking. He wants you to drink his Kool-aid so to speak. You put on that helmet of salvation and it will keep your thinking right!
f. 17 and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit,
This is the only offensive items of the armor—the sword of the Spirit. This is the Word of God and prayer. If you need to take up arms, this is the way to do it. Again, let me read in from the Message:
17 …God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long.
Without the bible and prayer you will never be able to fight back and advance. There will only be the ground you have, you can’t move forward without offensive weapons. Growth comes by these two things that are the sword of the Spirit—the word of God and prayer.
3. Put it on!
The final thing to think about is put it on! To be strong, put it on! Not just some of the items,
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
That word whole in the Greek is the word full—the whole enchilada. The words “put on” means to “sink into it.” The idea is to make it your fashion! Make the whole armor of God your fashionable choice to wear everyday!
J. Robert Hanson