Put on the Armor of God

Ephesians 6: 10-20

“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. 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: 10-20

Sometimes we feel as if even God doesn’t care about us, when in fact, God cares the most of all. If we only realized how much God cares and how present  God really is, we would never feel alone. When we realize that God’s presence is blessing us, it is as if we are wearing a protective armor against despair. The Apostle Paul was in prison, persecuted because he was following Christ, when he realized that God’s loving presence is not manifested in material or physical blessing. Salvation comes through spiritual victory that only God can provide.

Paul had great faith and never gave up even in the worst circumstances. Even though he was vastly outnumbered, he never gave up his ministry because he knew he was not outnumbered spiritually. Scripture gives several instances when people were able to perceive God’s spiritual power. Paul’s faith would lead me to believe that he was familiar with these stories.

In II Kings, warring against the nation of Israel, the king of Syria had cleverly set an ambush on the road he knew the king of Israel would travel. Just as the king of Israel was about to unknowingly walk into it, a messenger approached him, saying, “Proceed no farther! A message has come from the prophet in Dothan. There’s an ambush ahead. Turn back.” Infuriated, the king of Syria set a second ambush. Again, as the king of Israel approached, a messenger came to him, saying, “Don’t go that way. There’s an ambush ahead.” The king of Israel changed directions once again, leaving the king of Syria no choice but to try a third ambush—which also failed. “There’s a spy in our midst,” said the king of Syria. “Not so,” said one of his advisors. “There is a prophet in the city of Dothan who knows everything you say.”

With that, the king of Syria deployed thousands of soldiers to surround the city of Dothan and capture Elisha. “We’re dead!” cried Elisha’s servant upon seeing the vast array of Syrian soldiers the next morning. But Elisha, knowing what it meant to pray in the Spirit, to be transcendent, simply said, “Lord, open his eyes.” And when Gehazi’s eyes were opened, he saw that surrounding the Syrians were tens of thousands of angels in fiery chariots (2 Kings 6:17).

Gehazi knew the facts- an army had come for them and there was no way out. Yet Elisha’s prayer opened his eyes to a spiritual reality- God was not only in their midst, God’s power was actively protecting them from the enemy. In those times when we feel all is lost, we need to remind ourselves of God’s love. Yet somehow we focus on our captivity and forget to open our eyes and see God’s way out. We need a friend like Elisha praying for us, reminding us that God is sovereign over all creation.

I love the play on words in the first chapter of Jonah when the sailors are afraid of  a storm. Jonah confesses that he is on the run from the God of all creation, and the sailors become exceedingly afraid. It could be that they had heard of God as they sailed out of the Egyptian ports. God was much more powerful than Pharoah and had a reputation for might.

Isaiah 59 states that God “. . . put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head.” Paul may have been considering this Scripture when he wrote about putting on the armor of God. It is God’s armor, not our own, so it is a spiritual armor of the greatest power.

When the little shepherd boy David walked out to face Goliath on the battlefield he may have had his slingshot, but that was not all he had. He was wearing the armor of God. Think of the courage that it took to face such an scary Giant- David must have felt as if he had the army of God, not the army of the Iraelites, behind him. When King Saul realized that David was serious about facing the giant, Saul offered David the King’s armor. That fancy armor, made for the first king of Israel, was too big, too heavy, and not right for David. Yet when David’s courage helped him put on the armor of God, he walked onto the battlefield courageous and strong. The armor of the world feels so heavy, but the armor of God is so light we cannot even feel it.

We prefer the armor of the world because we do not feel that we are good  enough for the armor of God. This happened to Joshua in the third chapter of the book of Zechariah. Joshua is standing in the temple and Satan is pointing out Joshua’s dirty clothes to God. This is classic spiritual warfare. Evil leads us toward thinking we are not good enough to be in the presence of God. Yet the angel of the Lord is there with Joshua, asking him to put on new clothes that shine with purity. It is God’s new clothes that are provided for Joshua to be able to stand before God. God provided the righteousness, and Joshua stood in the face of evil. In that moment, I would bet Joshua felt as light as a feather. God’s transformation is like that. Paul states in another letter that “the old life is gone, and a new life has begun.”

In other words, we do not have to manufacture this armor, and we should be mindful of this power, for things are much different when we are considering the spiritual nature.

Paul writes that we should be ready to proclaim the gospel of peace – the ultimate good news of God – but we look at our situation and do not feel ready or able to proclaim anything good. If we could only see God’s power – so mighty – so great! But all we see is our own resources getting smaller, whether it is our health, our finances, or a situation getting worse, and we turn toward despair instead of turning toward God. If we could only recall one of the lessons Scripture teaches about trusting in God’s power when we feel the weakest.

God taught this lesson to Gideon in Judges chapter 7. God told Gideon’s Israelite army to defeat the Midianites who had invaded the land. Gideon’s army had 32,000 soldiers, but God told Gideon to narrow the army. Gideon said anyone who was afraid to fight could leave the battle and 10,000 left. God thought this was still too many, so Gideon invited the troops to drink and 9,700 put their weapons down, a signal that they too should leave the battle. Gideon’s small force of 300 troops were able to drive out the Midianites and win the day.

So how do we put on this armor of God? Paul ends with instructions to pray. Prayer is how we do it! Do you remember this verse from that great hymn, Stand

Up, Stand Up, for Jesus…

Stand up, stand up for Jesus,

stand in his strength alone;

the arm of flesh will fail you,

ye dare not trust your own.

Put on the gospel armor,

each piece put on with prayer;

where duty calls or danger,

be never wanting there.

Maybe you have a friend who is discouraged. Are you called to be like Elisha and lead that person to perceive God’s power through prayer? Maybe something in your life has led you to feel inadequate, remember God has given us a new start, a new life. If we feel weak or that there is no way out, let us remember that God’s power conquers all – God always provides a way out of every situation. No matter how proud we are of our earthly armor that we have worked so hard to attain, let us put on that invisible armor of God. Maybe we can’t see it, but we can feel it. Pray and feel God’s power surround you.