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.

hold your ground

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…

Ephesians 6:13-14a

“…stand your ground…stand. Stand firm…” The point in this classical spiritual warfare scripture passage is that we as individuals and together as church are to hold our ground against the powers of darkness and the wiles and schemes of the devil. We do so only in and through the mighty power of God given to us in our weakness, and the armor of God as part of the clothing of Christ which we’re to put on in this world.

Recently something was brought to my attention which I don’t think I’ve ever noticed before, the connection between this passage and Genesis 2 and 3 when humankind’s shame of nakedness, the fear of being completely known due to deception by the serpent came into view. God clothed Adam and Eve in the story, and provides for humankind the clothing of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:11-14).

We have to face this fact whether we like it or not, and actually I don’t care much for it, myself. But we have to realize we’re in a spiritual battle now. Definitely not physical ever, but spiritual. We’re up against forces that we’re no match for. But those forces, even the devil itself are no match for Christ, the victory and mighty power of God that is in Christ.

But we have to take all that’s given to us. We can’t do this on our own. We need each other in this, this passage is actually addressed to believers, plural; we’re all in this together. It certainly does apply to us individually, but we then mistakenly tend to see it as strictly something only we ourselves do day after day. But as the letter of Ephesians makes clear, it is Christ’s body through which God makes known the mystery and reality of the gospel, yes to the principalities and powers in the heavenly realms, these foes against which we’re to stand.

I am pretty strong in at least the wanting to hold my ground, but not yet good enough at putting on what God gives us in the strength he supplies. It is “in Christ.” Our triumph is in him, the good news in Christ. God will break through; God will help us as we stand firm, hold our ground. In and through Jesus.

the gospel is what we’re to be living out, as well as witnesses to

We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you.

2 Corinthians 10:14-16a

What seems beside the point in Paul’s addressing of his concern in passing, but really is at the heart of the point is what he was all about: not self-aggrandizement or self-glory, but only and always about the gospel of Christ.

Paul is getting after those who were set in opposition to him, claiming apostleship for themselves perhaps because they found themselves in opposition to Paul and somehow thought they could do better, or more likely out of an underlying self-ambition with a professed belief in Christ. But Paul wasn’t about self-ambition in the least, but again- only and always about Christ and Christ’s gospel.

Sometimes we may not feel we have anything to offer to others, or at least not anything they would accept. After all, people look at another according to their status, what they’ve achieved in life, or whether that other is beneficial to them, not to mention whether it all seems relevant or jives with them.

Paul was concerned about none of that, because the gospel is inherently weak and foolish in the world’s eyes, just as he had told them in his first letter to the Corinthian church. God takes the weak and despised and nothing things as his instruments to help others. The gospel is not only to be proclaimed, but lived out by those who proclaim it. Christ’s weakness in his death on the cross is to be embraced by his followers, that they might know God’s resurrection power in Christ. When we are strong in ourselves, then the only help people will get is what help we can give them, not God’s help.

And so we must continue on no matter what we’re facing or going through. Believing and knowing that we are on course only in the weakness of Christ for the good news that will bring others into the power and blessing of God. In and through Jesus.

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.

 

when strength fails

Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:27-31

Why do we sometimes lose what strength we have? A good question. Humans have been given great strength and resilience from God, but there’s a limit. We are, after all mortal creatures, and life doesn’t go on forever.

Strength is grounded to purpose, it’s not an end in itself. We often lose strength, because we lose heart. It seems like there’s little to no use, because what we’re involved in has failed.

God in addressing Israel is seeking to revive and reestablish a fallen, broken people, his covenant people. To understand the setting, it’s important to read the entire chapter. But the end of it quoted above is sufficient for a summary.

God’s limitless understanding and strength are appealed to. As Christians we believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. But that’s not sufficient in itself. What that mean for us personally and corporately is the question.

We’re to accept the revelation of God and God’s will given to us in Scripture. And we determine that by God’s promise in Jesus, we live and carry on, and by nothing else. That revelation certainly includes the whole of human life, every part.

We’re called to “hope” in God, which carries the meaning of waiting in expectation and anticipation. And then God’s promise: our strength will be renewed. So that whatever we have to do, we can fully accomplish. And with the sense of having more than enough.

This involves receiving a sense of vision from God, along with the strength to accomplish what is set out before us, just what part we play in God’s story. 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.

fighting the good fight of the faith

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:12

One of the basic tenets of the Christian life is that we’re in a fight, a spiritual one. It doesn’t take long to learn that, and especially if you’ve lived long enough as a Christian, to be reminded of it. The enemy will challenge us in any way at every turn, though usually in more subtle ways, now and then, here and there, with the intent of crushing us, or getting us to veer off path.

They do this according to our weak points. Basically challenging God’s goodness and promises, and whether or not God loves us, and loves others. They are always challenging that, just like the serpent lied in such suggestions to Eve in the garden.

It doesn’t matter what seems so real to us at the moment if it’s questioning God’s goodness and greatness as in God’s ability to see us through along with God’s willingness. Such a suggestion is patently false, a plain bald faced lie.

God is good, God’s plan for the world is good, and God has shown that in his Son, whom he sent into the world, that we might live through him. And the only way we overcome in this world, and even overcome the world is by faith. We have to believe God’s promises and trust in him. We do that through prayer, earnest prayer, as well as remaining in God’s word. Holding on to faith. So that in the end we might be able to say with Paul, the same one who told Timothy to fight the good fight of the faith:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

2 Timothy 4:7-8

In and through Jesus.

a refresher on spiritual warfare

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

Whether we like it or not, in this life, we are in a spiritual battle, pure and simple. Fortunately, it might ebb and flow, I mean go in and out in terms of its intensity. And there are those days, if we interpret “evil day” to mean special times, when it is especially trying and difficult. Maybe when all of our sense of God and of goodness is emptied, and we’re being attacked in ways which experientially is hard to describe. But not good.

But such occasions can help us return again to a passage which actually should be a staple passage for us, as those in Christ. To help us stand firm in the Lord in his strength, putting on God’s armor, so that we can emerge and be victorious.

The entire passage is important, and we do well to memorize it, and more importantly, meditate on it, and take it to heart and life. The part I want to consider a bit today, is the idea of the devil’s schemes, which we are to take a stand against in the Lord’s strength, and with God’s armor, along with prayers.

It is the Greek word μεθοδεία, transliterated, methodeia. From scholar and Bible translator, Bill Mounce

Gloss:
scheming, craftiness, strategy
Definition:
wile, scheme, scheming, craftiness

To be forewarned, as they say, is to be forearmed. If we can realize what we’re up against, it will help us get ready, and be ready when the time comes.

It might be that “the evil day” mentioned in the passage refers simply to the time we live in (see other translations and Greek and the link above). I think it actually could mean a bit of both, that yes, we live in the time of evil when this is taking place, and yes, there can be especially trying, even excruciating times.

We are no match for the devil, the demonic, and their schemes. But they are no match for the Lord and the truth of the gospel, which is actually the point of truth, the real point of God’s word, of scripture, which sends them packing. Remember that after Satan’s temptation of our Lord in the wilderness, at a certain time he left until an opportune time ahead. They plan, they strategize. Of course they’re quite intelligent, even though warped, and only in an evil sense, such intelligence. They are bent on destroying our witness at least, even on destroying us if they can, or could.

To simply learn to pick up the scent will help us return in the Lord’s strength to what we should have on already, God’s armor, which essentially is gospel armor (this hymn gets it right, or instructs me, fourth verse). When we sense the enemy and its wiles, that should put us on full alert. And we need to anticipate that as well, or at least be ready for it.

Yes, our focus needs to be on Christ and the gospel, and never on the devil, or our troubles, or anything else. Yet as our focus is on the Lord and his triumph, we don’t hide our face in the ground, or deny what trouble we face. Instead we take up the truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation that is ours in Christ through the gospel (see The Message).

God will help us to resist and stand and be victorious in and through Jesus.

standing firm

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

One of the most vital, necessary, demanding spiritual disciplines we will have to practice again and again is the attitude and act of standing firm in the midst of spiritual warfare. As those in Jesus, intent in living in God’s will in him, we can be sure that we will be under attack. And at times, it may seem like we will lose it, that the world, at least our world is caving in, or that we are caving in response to what is going on. That is when it is most crucial for us in the words of this classic spiritual warfare passage from the Apostle Paul, to “stand firm.”

We start out by being strong in the Lord and in his mighty power, not in ourselves, at all. And we put on the full armor of God so that we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes.

No matter what, we need to “stand firm.” Which means not giving in to panic, not giving up the fight. The posture of the Christian in spiritual warfare is certainly not flight, nor is it even fight, as if we can destroy the enemy ourselves. Instead it is by standing firm, not in our own strength, but in the strength of the Lord, and equipped with the full spiritual armory of God.

As we do that, and only as we do that, we will see the Lord’s mighty power begin to make the difference. We will likely see it first of all in the peace the Lord eventually gives us. And in the difference it can make in the lives of those around us for whom we are praying.

It is interesting that Paul near the end of this great letter caps it off with direction on spiritual warfare. We need to assimilate this well, not letting up, but this practice becoming a part of our heart and lives. As we seek to imitate God no less (Ephesians 5:1), and live as Christ’s body on earth, together in him.

continuing on, come what may (in the Lord’s strength, but we still have to do it)

In and through the Lord we can continue on, come what may. Sometimes the most discomforting things in themselves hit us, with no easy answers, sometimes no answers at all. We don’t really know how to deal with a matter.

That is when all the more we need to press into what the Lord has for us, into the Lord himself, and God’s will in and through him. We can’t rely on our own wisdom and strength anyhow to carry us through. We are dependent on God’s wisdom and strength, again, with the danger of redundancy, but necessarily: the strength and wisdom in Jesus, and specifically by his cross. This power and wisdom is resident in the crucified, risen Lord (1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5). I’m reminded of the Kenyan blessing we end with each Sunday at the close of our church service:

Minister: All our problems
People: We send to the cross of Christ
Minister: All our difficulties
People: We send to the cross of Christ
Minister: All the devil’s works
People: We send to the cross of Christ
Minister: All our hopes
People: We set on the risen Christ

The Lord gives us the needed strength and wisdom that is beyond ourselves to carry on. But we must do it. God won’t do it for us. Perhaps God’s love compels us, he somehow acts to compel us and the circumstances and demands of life press in on us, causing us to do what we must. We need to get comfortable in a manner of speaking in living outside of our comfort zone. It is good when we actually are comfortable, but in this life that is more or less short lived. I look at such times, especially vacations in which the troubles of life seem to be gone or temporarily largely forgotten, as special gifts from God.

It is important to emphasize that it’s not in our own strength and wisdom that we can continue on, but only in the Lord and in his strength and wisdom. At the same time we have to emphasize that we must carry on. Actually both are equally important, even though the latter is dependent on the former.

That means I’ll be in the word and prayer, or better put will continue in the word and prayer day after day. But all the more when faced with some difficulty that is in my face, a trial, or whatever it is we’re facing in this present life which someday much sooner than later in the large scheme of things will be gone and replaced with the life to come, when this old world will be replaced by the new world in and through King Jesus. Part of preparing for that “life after life after death” (see N. T. Wright) is to learn to grow through the sometimes difficult maze of this life through seeking the wisdom and strength God is ready to give us in and through Jesus.