I sense that many Christians are defeated in their Christian lives because they are not seriously engaged in the warfare to which we are called. What keeps them from using God’s power?
- We don’t sense danger or recognize the power of the enemy.
- We don’t have all the weapons. We have never been taught the significance and importance of those weapons.
- We are untrained in the use of those weapons. Without practice, no soldier can be ready for battle.
- We may be in a comfort zone. Perhaps We are nowhere near the battle or We are somehow compromising with the enemy.
Ephesians 6:10-13 (ESV) 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
The word “finally” signals the beginning of Paul’s conclusion to his letter. At the beginning of this letter, Paul prayed for believers to know God’s “incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms” (1:19-20 niv).
The power that raised Christ from the dead empowers God’s people as they prepare for the spiritual battle they must face on this earth. The struggle occurs in the spiritual realm and must be won with spiritual weapons.
What might keep one from acknowledging this battle? Perhaps they came to Christ under a false “sales pitch.”
- They were told, “Jesus will solve all your problems.
- He will give you peace and joy.
- He will give you a happy family life.
- Come to Jesus and enjoy all of these blessings and more. He promises you abundant life.”
And so they signed up for what they thought would be a wonderful life of peace and happiness.
- All of those claims are true, but they’re only half of the picture. Jesus promised to give us abundant life (John 10:10), but He also said that He was sending us out as sheep in the midst of wolves (Matt. 10:16). That picture might not fit your idea of an abundant life!
- Jesus promised peace, but in the same breath He said that in this world we would have tribulation (John 16:33).
- He assured us of His love, but He went on to say that the world would hate and persecute us.
John 15:12-13 (ESV) 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.
It is vital for our survival as a Christian that we realize that when we became a Christian, we were drafted into God’s army. Daily we are engaged in a battle with an unseen spiritual enemy that seeks to destroy us. Otherwise, when trials hit, you will think that something is wrong. You will wonder why God has allowed this. You won’t understand the reality of your situation.
When a man’s ministry is effective, the enemy will work overtime to bring him down. It may be through internal problems in the church or through key leaders who turn against him or through discouragement or through temptation to moral failure.
To be strong in the Lord, you must be in the Lord. I won’t belabor the point, but I need to say that Paul’s command to be strong in the Lord rests on his first two chapters, where he makes it clear what it means to be in the Lord. To sum up his treatment, he wrote (2:8-9), “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
To be strong in the Lord, you must know your own weakness.
This is a continual, lifelong process that begins at salvation. We cannot trust completely in Christ to save us until we come to some awareness that we are helplessly, hopelessly lost and unable to save ourselves by our own good works.
Our pride blinds us to our true condition. It makes us think that we have some measure of strength in ourselves. In reality, the strong Christian is one who has come to see more and more of his own weakness and propensity towards sin. That awareness drives him to depend all the more on the Lord’s strength.
To be strong in the Lord, you must know the Lord’s strength.
Satan is a powerful foe, but he is only a created being, whereas God is the eternal, almighty Creator of the universe. Christ has already defeated him at the cross and resurrection of Jesus (Col. 2:15).
(Genesis 18:14 (ESV) 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.”
Jeremiah 32:17 (ESV) 17 ‘Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.
Standing firm against the enemy is the result of putting on God’s full armor.
It’s not a matter of “letting go and letting God,” where you are passive and God does it all. Nor is it a matter of gritting your teeth and doing it yourself, with occasional assistance from God. Rather, it is a blending of His power and our striving.
Putting on God’s armor means that in every trial and temptation by faith you appropriate Christ’s strength in place of your weakness.
By faith you cry out to Him for deliverance and strength to persevere. By faith you rely on His promises.
Stand firm against the enemy by growing in biblical understanding. Paul wrote the first three chapters of this letter to set forth the necessary doctrinal foundation of all that God has provided for us in Christ.
Strong Christians are doctrinally grounded in the truth of Scripture. Unless you know the Word well, as Jesus did when He defeated Satan, you will not stand firm in the evil day.
We fight a spiritual battle, but we might well ask, who is the enemy? It’s not the nonbeliever, although occasionally you will meet a person so full of evil and rebellion against God that he or she actually declares himself or herself the enemy of Christianity.
The secular media or world systems work relentlessly to undermine God’s truth, but they are not the enemy either, although they are often tools in his hands.
Our enemy is Satan and the spiritual “forces of evil.” Satan, the deceiver (Genesis 3), the accuser (Zechariah 3), the destroyer (1 Peter 5), is the adversary of our souls and of the souls of our friends and loved ones.
Our enemy is powerful, but he is also a defeated foe.
Paul states (2 Cor. 2:11), “so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.”
Satan launches repeated attacks on the credibility of Scripture, whether through evolution or by attacking the person of Christ. Satan lures us into sin by portraying it as pleasurable and by hiding its consequences. He uses discouragement, pride, selfishness, the love of money, lust, and many other traps to lure us away from the Lord.
Standing firm against the schemes of the devil means that we stand firm on the core doctrines of the faith. We cannot budge on the Trinity, the person and work of Christ, biblical salvation, or the inspiration and authority of Scripture.
John MacArthur observes (ibid., p. 378), “Ephesians begins by lifting us up to the heavenlies, and ends by pulling us down to our knees.”
I read about a missionary years ago in the jungles of New Guinea who wrote the following letter to his friends back home: “Man, it is great to be in the thick of the fight, to draw the old devil’s heaviest guns, to have him at you with depression and discouragement, slander, disease. He doesn’t waste time on a lukewarm bunch.
“He hits good and hard when a fellow is hitting him. You can always measure the weight of your blow by the one you get back. When you’re on your back with fever and at your last ounce of strength, when some of your converts backslide, when you learn that your most promising inquirers are only fooling, when your mail gets held up, and some don’t bother to answer your letters, is that the time to put on mourning? No sir. That’s the time to pull out the stops and shout Hallelujah!
“The old fellow’s getting it in the neck and hitting back. Heaven is leaning over the battlements and watching. “Will he stick with it?” As they see who is with us, as they see the unlimited reserves, the boundless resources, as they see the impossibility of failure, how disgusted and sad they must be when we run away. Glory to God! We’re not going to run away. We’re going to stand!”
Malcolm Gladwell wrote a best selling book (Outliers) that showed us that we have to do something 10,000 times to fully reach the place where we are an “competent or an expert.”
If you want to complete a marathon, you have to run hundreds of training miles. If you want to learn a foreign language, you have to spend some hours memorizing declensions and conjugations. If you want to play the piano, you have to learn the scales and how to read music.
And if you want to accomplish anything for God, you have to spend time with the spiritual disciplines: Bible study, prayer, church involvement, fasting, serving.
Being a Christian is a living relationship with our living Lord Jesus. But like any other relationship, if you want it to be deep and meaningful—beyond the superficial and empty formalities—it takes time and commitment.