Sometimes, life is a battle. And there’s no harm in admitting that. Generally, we feel less comfortable with the martial metaphors in the bible than we used to be. We prefer the images of building, or growing, or running – and, perhaps, rightly so. These are all positive, life-affirming ways of describing the journey of faith. But they don’t reflect the full picture. Obstacles and opposition are noticeably absent.
As Paul finishes his letter to the young church in Ephesus – and to all of us – a letter which is full of images of building and growing, he reminds his readers of another reality. That following Jesus can be challenging, that there are powers in this world (both natural and spiritual) which are opposed to us. And in these circumstances, our calling is to stand – to stand firm (v14), to stand our ground (v13).
But we do not stand on our own. We are strong in God’s mighty power, not ours (v10). And God gives us special armour: spiritual armour to wear for the challenging seasons of our lives, the days which feel like a battle. The armour of truth, which, like the Roman belt, holds everything in place and makes us ready for battle. Of righteousness, a godly life which, like a breastplate, guards our heart. Of the good news (gospel) which leads our feet to places where God wants us to be. Of faith, which, like a shield, parries the lies and doubts which weaken our resolve. Of salvation, the ultimate reality which, like a helmet, guards our minds.
All of these items are defensive. Our calling is to stand, and not to attack. But there is one weapon which can be used positively – the sword. It is the ‘sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God’ (v17). Since Jesus has ultimate authority in the universe, his Word and his Spirit are the two things which take the fight to the enemy. They don’t rest on our power, but his.
And we too must use the power of God’s word in our daily battles. God’s truth unmasks the lies that bring us down, and robs them of their power. When we feel useless, God’s word tells us we are loved and special. When we lack hope, God’s word tells us there is always hope. When we think we can’t be forgiven and feel ashamed, God’s word tells us that Christ forgives us completely and sets us free from sin. God’s word is our spiritual sword.
And we can also pray ‘in the Spirit’. This could be a reference to special languages like tongues, but more likely it covers all types of prayers directed by God. As God’s word soaks into our lives, so we are led by the Spirit to pray more and more according to his will. We can do this anytime, anywhere, about anything – amazing!
If life feels like a battle for you today – take heart. The spiritual armour is yours – and God will enable you to stand.