Months, sometimes years of training go into sending soldiers out on the battlefield. And, in reality, can they ever really be prepared for the unpredictable nature of what could happen? As a coach preparing for a big game, I always worried about stepping out on the court after days of preparation and being totally caught off guard by the other teams preparedness. As a parent, I worry about sending children out into the world totally unprepared for what lies ahead of them. As an educator, what if I don’t prepare them for their future? Do we ever really completely know what we are doing? I don’t think so. But we do what we can, when we can.
Could you imagine what it would be like if our Army allowed soldiers to self-prepare at home and then called them to action when it was time to be sent? Or what if educators just sent worksheets to the homes of students and the only time they came to school was to take their standardized tests? Our society is experiencing more and more the effects of parents allowing children to raise themselves and then turning them loose into the world that waits to devour them.
But what about the spiritual implications? I don't know that we live with enough spiritual awareness. Paul wrote about it in Ephesians 6. He was pretty real about the enemy. “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” That doesn’t sound like a pleasant war to be engaged in. That doesn’t sound like an enemy that I can prepare myself for. I don't know about you, but when I read those words, I think something along the lines of, “Man, I am way in over my head with this one!”
Or, am I? Sometimes I think I don’t even know this world. Maybe because life, as I know it, is too comfortable. Too easy. Too satisfying. Maybe the enemy doesn’t need to use a whole lot of his power and spiritual forces in my life. Paul made it pretty clear, “...so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” It sounds like a brutal war. Yet, for some reason I can’t explain, I am drawn to it. Relentlessly drawn to it.
Here is what else Paul had to say. “Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power...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.”
He goes on to talk about the tools that help us stand firm, the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the readiness of the gospel of peace fitted on our feet, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit.
And it’s at this moment, that I notice, that we have the greatest general that ever was and ever will be. And I say that for two reasons. First of all, our enemy is greater than anything that we could face and could ever prepare ourselves to face. And second of all, there is nothing that we can do to be prepared, so our general took it on Himself to make us prepared. Everything Paul wrote about comes from Him. Every piece of armor, He has provided. He just calls us to “put it on.” It’s as if He has already laid it out for each of us. He invites us into the battle with Him and all we have to do is commit to putting the armor on. He will teach us how to use it. He provides it. He waits for us to pick it up. He teaches us to use it.
But it doesn’t stop there. When we do put on the armor and prepare to walk into the battle, our general isn’t up on the mountain top watching the massacre to see who wins. No, no, He is far more advanced as a leader than that. He isn’t in the back sending us forward. He isn’t in the middle, surrounded by a valiant team of warriors to protect Him. No, He is in the front leading the way. He is compelling us to go with Him where He has already gone...alone.
Our enemy is intimidating. Our enemy is destructive. He has come to “steal, kill, and destroy.” But our general is greater. Our preparation is more intensive. Our armor is superior.
Paul said it best.Three things he mentioned in these verses. “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might...put on the full armor of God...and pray in the Spirit on all occasions.” The enemy is great when I stand on my own. The enemy is nothing when I trust in God, am prepared by God, and when I pray in the Spirit of God.
Paul writes about being an ambassador for the Kingdom quite often. I think it was one of his favorite ways to describe his relationship with God. I noticed he used that word at the conclusion of this text. Sometimes I think our culture is full of believers...highly lacking in ambassadors. I don't know that there is a better way to describe an ambassador for the Kingdom than what Paul laid out here in Ephesians 6. An ambassador is someone who trusts in God, is prepared by God, and walks in the Spirit of God. Yes, Paul was an ambassador.
Good news for us, we are led by the greatest ambassador of the Kingdom that ever lived. He went to the cross and conquered death on our behalf. Our enemy doesn’t look so intimidating when I stand in His shadow.