when all hell breaks loose: stand firm

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on the evil day and, having prevailed against everything, to stand firm.

Ephesians 6:13

There’s the normal day to day struggles and difficulties we all must face. And sometimes depending, we can get well sidetracked in that, hopefully learning from such experiences how to do better. The ordinary day to day worries Jesus mentioned. Sometimes that can morph into “the evil day,” or for whatever reason we get slammed into or we descend into such. Those can be times when we feel that our bearings are all but lost. When we feel more or less completely at a loss. When we can’t make much heads or tails about anything, because all is dark, or at least dim or harder to see like at dusk.

What we need is God’s word to us in Christ here: Stand firm. We do so not in our own strength or in our own resources, but in the power and resources God provides for us in Christ and in the gospel. We take up, in the words of the passage above (click above for entire passage), “the whole armor of God,” every part. And we refuse to back down even when feel like turning tail and running. We face it, believing God is with us in Christ, and that God’s word in Christ along with all that comes with and because of that will prevail. So, we stand firm.

Something I have to be reminded of from time to time. And all of us need to rely on when the going gets tough not just in our individual lives, but as community, too.

In and through Jesus.

expect a fight

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power; put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, for our struggle is not against blood and flesh but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on the evil day and, having prevailed against everything, to stand firm. Stand, therefore, and belt your waist with truth and put on the breastplate of righteousness and lace up your sandals in preparation for the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.

Ephesians 6:10-20

There’s no question about it, followers of Christ will be in a fight to the finish. Paul or whoever wrote Ephesians as a Pauline book tells us that we’re in a struggle: “…our struggle…” And that it’s not against humans. In other words, we’d better see it on an entirely other level. Yes, humans are involved, no doubt, although not always. Any way the spiritual enemy can trip us up, it will.

It is not fun being in conflict. We would like to simply bask in God’s love and peace. And the Lord wants us to know that special rest to which he invites us, into his yoke to learn from him. But part of that learning when we look at his life and what follows in Acts and the letters, not to mention what preceded it in the Hebrew Bible, often in physical terms, but even then, with spiritual entities as the primary movers, the fact is that we need to become battle hardened and battle ready, remembering that God’s people have always lived in a story which involved a spiritual conflict.

Again, I personally get tired of it. And a lot of it relates to my propensity toward anxiety and regret. “If only,” etc., etc., etc. The enemy assigned to me knows just what buttons to push. What it does with you might be entirely different, and of course each of us is unique in our experience and makeup.

We’re told in this passage, considered the classic spiritual warfare passage that we’re to be strong in the Lord, to put on and take up what God provides for the battle, and to stand firm in that. And to pray, pray, and pray some more for all God’s people. In all of this there can be no let up. Though thankfully as we’re told in Psalm 23, there are times when our Shepherd makes us lie down in green pastures, leads us beside still waters, and restores our soul. But we can be sure that the battle is not over. And it’s during those times in my experience that I feel somehow that the worst is past.

For myself, and maybe this is going beyond what Scripture is telling us, but I think not: Whenever attacked, I want to progress. I want to get some good out of even my own mistakes, as well as whatever latest trick and deceit the enemy is pulling on me. To somehow go deeper and deeper into Christ, Christ’s sufferings, rather than try to manage it on my own. I have so much to learn in all of this. But I’m trying to be open and learn all I can in the midst and maelstrom of life. In and through Jesus.

act beforehand (as well as necessarily react)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power; put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, for our struggle is not against blood and flesh but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on the evil day and, having prevailed against everything, to stand firm. Stand, therefore, and belt your waist with truth and put on the breastplate of righteousness and lace up your sandals in preparation for the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.

Ephesians 6:10-20; NRSVue

It is important to react in an appropriate way when need be, but just as important and in some ways more so, we also need to act ahead of time in a way which might lessen the need to react later and will at least get us in the proper frame of mind and heart so that any necessary reaction later will be better. I am thinking here about the spiritual warfare we’re told about in this passage, written as it were from Paul or from someone else as if Paul had written it, which doesn’t matter for our purposes since either way it’s holy scripture.

It’s important for us to do all we can on the sunny days in preparation for when the cloudy, overcast, stormy days hit us. It’s easy to do otherwise, to just rest, relax and enjoy when all seems good and at peace. But this passage explicitly tells us to do otherwise. Even when it seems unnecessary, we’re to do this, so that when the inevitable comes, we’ll be ready for it.

I think some interpreters see the evil day as ever present, so that it’s just something we have to do all the time since we’re ever engaged in this spiritual battle. And that could be. It does seem like in experience that there are especially some difficult days, and for some of us if we have to do certain things, like maybe teach or give a message or lead a discussion from scripture, we can almost mark it down that we’ll be in a tussle before that time to trip us up and make us ineffective in what we have to do. That has happened over and over again for me, right up to the present day. “To be forewarned is to be forearmed.” If we know that ahead of time, then we can prepare ahead of time, and indeed we are clearly told to do just that in this passage for the spiritual warfare which is part of our existence now. Let me add to that that the difficulty and darkness can hit us at the most unexpected times as well, any time really.

If Paul asked for prayer to help him in what he had to do, proclaiming the message of the gospel, we might say all the more so for us, but really, we’re all in the same boat together on that one. A difference with Paul was that he was probably fully exercised this way all the time, whereas we are not. But we’re all in the same need, and we all have the same resources. This is something we’re to realize and grow more and more into in our application and practice of this. Something we’re to take seriously in this life, because there’s no escape. And yet we have all we need in Christ and through the gospel, spelled out to us in detail here so that we won’t miss anything within that, all of it needed for life here and now. So that individually and together we might live in the light and be a light in and through Jesus.

two basics on spiritual warfare

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power; put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil,

Ephesians 6:10-11; NRSVue

Whether we like it or not, we’re in a spiritual battle in this life; there’s no two ways about it. We might want to or automatically chalk up our struggles to this or that psychological issue, or a host of other things. And it’s not like those things can’t play in, nor that we should ignore them. We may get some significant help for example from some psychiatrist or professional counselor. Probably most of us would benefit from something of that.

But mark it down: we in Christ are in an all out battle spiritually. Not physically, but spiritually. This is personal but it does go beyond the personal into realms held down by the spiritual enemy in human entities and spaces, systemic issues where the powers hold sway. There’s no escape from this, so that we might as well face it. And we actually have to have the willingness to be in the struggle, engage in it. But how do we do that?

Ephesians 6:10-18 (you can include 19, 20 as well), click link above, is considered the classic spiritual warfare passage. And the recent updated edition of the NRSV (hard copies due around May) has a slight change here which maybe helps, closely coupling the two points in the quote from scripture, above.

First, we’re to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. When we’re aware of the spiritual battle we’re in, we often feel quite weak, having no strength at all. I’m thinking now of something Daniel went through during which he felt like strength had left him, totally weak. This is not a comfortable place to be, to say the least. But it’s necessary and the precursor to taking on the Lord’s strength. It’s the Lord’s strength, not our own, and yet somehow, we’re to take it on. We’re told to be strong in the Lord, in the strength of his power. As this power takes over, we’ll know it’s not our strength, not our power, but the Lord’s.

Then we’re told to put on the whole armor of God, so that we might be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. That means we’ll need to go through the rest of this passage, considering carefully the parts named there: belted with truth, breastplate of righteousness, sandals laced up in preparation for the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit- the word (rhēma, ῥῆμα) of God. And with that, ongoing prayer in the Spirit.

We need to be aware of this, and we soon will be if we’re serious about following the Lord fully and being a help to others through the help we’ve received and are receiving from God. In and through Jesus.

accepting spiritual conflict and the discomfort that comes with it

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

Ephesians 6:10-13

When I have to do something public even simple, oftentimes, in fact almost always I experience what I would call a spiritual conflict in something more or less sudden and troubling. So that whatever sense of well being I have is taken away. And then too often what I had to do was affected by it in a way which didn’t seem helpful.

Instead what I’m learning is that we have to do our best to draw our strength from God, put on what’s called here in the passage above, “the whole armor of God,” and stand, or you might say, take our stand. That means I pray and fight spiritually and seek God’s help. But also why I’ve been looking at this passage often lately, memorizing it in a new (for me) version of Scripture, and seeking to apply it. I’m finding that it’s important to be willing to go through the most difficult part of that, not bailing out by trying to do it my own way, whatever that might be. But doing what we’re told to do in the rest of this passage.

Standing when all inside of me doesn’t want to. Hopefully as I learn better application which follows below, that will help. Although to a significant extent because of what I do understand and practice, this has already been in place, though it needs to improve. And then simply to stand in God’s strength with God’s armor for this spiritual battle when it may seem pointless.

Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.

Ephesians 6:13-20

In and through Jesus.

the struggle we’re in

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

Ephesians 6:10-13

It is important to know that we’re in a spiritual battle. Actually, unless we’re completely asleep, it won’t take long to realize it, and unless we’re in a deep sleep, we’ll get an unpleasant awakening.

We need to realize what we’re up against. And it’s also important to understand what we’re not actually resisting. This is not about struggling with other humans in physical warfare, nor any other kind of warfare for that matter, be it psychological or whatever. After all, none of that is acceptable for the church, for the Christ follower.

What we can’t escape is a cosmic, spiritual struggle. We are involved in that, whether we like it or not. And frankly, it’s not comfortable. I doubt that it’s something we’re to go out looking for. It’s upon us, and we’re told that our basic stance is simply to resist in the strength of God’s power with the whole armor of God in place.

God will help us understand how. We do well to meditate slowly on the passage (click link for full passage), looking to the Lord for understanding. God will give us that, and see us through so that indeed when all is said and done we’ll be standing firm in the Lord.

In and through Jesus.

no escape from spiritual warfare (with an end note on the individualistic interpretation of this passage)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 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. 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. Stand firm then, 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. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the 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. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Ephesians 6:10-18

There’s no escape from spiritual warfare in this life, much as we would like to. It’s just around the corner, though I’m thankful for times of rest and peace. Sometimes we’re not aware when it’s on us because it can be so subtle. The other times we know full well, a slam in our face.

It’s important to know this, and be ready for it, precisely what this passage is getting at. It’s going to be an off and on fight to the end. In between the skirmishes we do well to prepare ourselves as best we can. Because in the battle, it’s not easy. But what we’re called to do is simply stand and resist in the strength and power of God with the armor and one offensive weapon of God. In and through Jesus.

This is the individualistic aspect. The Greek is plural, implying that the entire church is in this battle. I want to consider that more in future posts on spiritual warfare. I am steeped in an evangelical, individualistic understanding which I wish to leave more and more behind.

awakened to the battle

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 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. 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. Stand firm then, 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. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the 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. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may 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 fearlessly, as I should.

Ephesians 6:10-20

There are times when we as Christians need to be awakened as to the spiritual battle we’re in. The need for such awakening can become evident when what trouble we have is harder to handle, when we feel that all is lost, or that the situation is helpless. All of that is evident that our faith in God is not what it’s supposed to be, that we’re lacking in our trust in him.

That’s when we need to be awakened to the spiritual battle we’re in. I think that can come in answer to prayer, as we look to God in our trouble or the trouble of others. In that battle we need both the Lord’s strength and fortitude. Fortitude meaning the discipline as the text tells us to stand firm with the armor and weapons of the gospel given to us to stand firm against our spiritual enemy.

Just to highlight one part of the text, our struggle is not against flesh and blood, that is against humans, but against spiritual entities, namely the demonic. I know in our western culture that sounds crazy, and we explain it all away. That includes what happens in other cultures where the demonic can be frighteningly real. Of course that same mindset does not accept the witness of the Bible, including the heart of our faith, Christ’s resurrection from the dead. So none of that should matter to us. I know there are Christians who tend to explain away the demonic as well, while believing in Christ’s resurrection. But that’s a mistake. We need to realize what kind of battle we’re in and by the help of God’s Spirit do what God’s word tells us to do.

I see signs of the spiritual battle not only off and on in my own life, but in other places nowadays, which is nothing at all new. We need to pray about such, but first things first, we have to take care of ourselves, where we’re at, what’s up with us. In and through Jesus.

 

our struggle is not against people

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 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. 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. Stand firm then, 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. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the 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. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may 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 fearlessly, as I should.

Ephesians 6:10-20

If there’s anyone who struggled with people besides our Lord, it was surely the Apostle Paul. When you read the account in Scripture, it’s remarkable what all he went through especially from his own people, but sometimes from others as well. His life, like our Lord had previously indicated, was marked with suffering. And Paul did warn people about certain characters who were resisting the gospel and its messengers.

But in Ephesians we read something that is remarkable in itself and yet given the message of Scripture and what is more and more revealed along the way is arguably not all that surprising. There are underlying spiritual entities at work both to resist us and resist our witness. They are active and at work in usually the most subtle ways, though sometimes not so subtle. C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters is a remarkable read that lifts the veil off what they’ve been doing the past few centuries right through to the present day, even with anticipation of what’s beyond. Without getting into that, which I’m not prepared to do anyhow, I want to insist that what Paul calls us to here is nothing short than living in the truth of the gospel, as we share that gospel as a witness to others.

What do we tend to do instead? We fall right into the enemy’s trap by doing something different. We might fight fire with fire. We might enter into the struggle as if it’s against other humans, perhaps a political or philosophical battle rather than a spiritual one. That doesn’t mean that something of philosophy or politics might not find its way into what is going on, though the gospel should always be front and center. The point is that we’re no less than in a spiritual battle, with the Holy Spirit at our side to help us through prayer and our attempt to do in the Lord’s strength, what God calls us to do here.

With these things in mind, we want to beware entering into the enemy’s turf by stooping to something less than what we’re called to do. Yes, there’s always grace for us in Christ, but that doesn’t mean we’re doing what’s best or most pleasing to the Lord. So we want to avoid insofar as possible partisan politics, like siding either against or for some particular politician or government official. This seems to be a major way in which the enemy is either tripping us up, or our witness. That said, we also need to be willing to take some controversial stands which will be considered political. The gospel is not just about one’s personal relationship with God and their salvation. It includes so much more, at the very least in its impact on all of life. If we fail to take that into account, then we’re not following Paul’s example or heeding what Scripture says. But we want to do so as those who are “as wise as serpents, yet harmless as doves.”

This really all begins with our own walk. We should not imagine that God has something “great” for us to do day after day. The great God wants done is that we see to ourselves, as the text above says, and pray. God will let us in on other things along the way, but it must always be first things first, the basics in place. We must seek to live in the strength and provision from God, realizing that we are in a battle, a spiritual one. In and through Jesus.

our struggle is not against people

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 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.

Ephesians 6:10-12

God gives us his strength and “armor” to wage spiritual warfare no less. Never against humans.

This is far more important than we normally might think. We tend to evaluate problems in human categories. And actually we can gain knowledge and insight in doing so. And there’s no question that we can offend others. When we do so, we need to go to them and make it right, asking for their forgiveness. But when we have problems with people that are really not our fault, or just seem to be beyond the pale of what fault we have, we need to remember where our struggle lies.

For one thing, this will help us get our focus off the person. The problem does not really lie ultimately with them but with the spiritual entities in the mix behind whatever might be transpiring between us and them. We need to direct our attention against the real foe, which is spiritual.

And we do so in no less than the strength of God’s might, with no less than the armor God gives us in Christ through the gospel. Which of course is why we need to focus on that entire passage (Ephesians 6:10-20). Meditating on it with the view of putting it into practice. In and through Jesus.