Autumn skies - growing pale and hazy while a wintry breeze billows the curtains. Tiny pink "everlasting" flowers dapple the fields, the expanse of the horizon as unending as God's grace. Surrounded by so much beauty each day, one is easily lured into complacency. We all need to escape into something at times, and our beautiful mountain-home provides endless opportunity for this. But if it becomes a false peace, a gap that we fill with a temporary filling, it will "fall out", leaving the hole gaping and painful. Worse still, we may continue living under the impression that all is well, always finding something to fill that painful gap.
While it may be "well" with my soul, the reality is: we live in a time in which there is such a great surge towards peace and well-being, but a spiritual ignorance of the war that continues to rage over human souls. We walk the streets and byways, fearing physical attack. We care for our bodies, fearing physical decline. But the struggle is (and always has been) 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 places. (Ephesians 6:12) We are wrestling in precisely the place where we have been placed in Christ. Chapter 1 of Ephesians tell us that we sit with him in heavenly places!
The believer's enemies are the demonic workers of Satan, always assembled for mortal combat. This may sound a bit radical for a peace-loving Christian. But if we take the above verse as truth, we have to re-assess our comfortable lives, sign up as warriors in the real battle. Sound scary? It needn't be. The amazing thing about this battle is, it has already been won. The day Christ was lifted from the grave, he rose victorious over death and "Hades".
In apparent contradiction we live in an age where Satan's influence seems more visible than ever. But he is under Jesus' feet and he knows it - and we are being deceived into thinking that he isn't. The chaos in the world is not a result of God's inability to reign, but the world's unwillingness to accept his reign. The brokenness of the world was brought about by human sin, and humanity remains in rebellion against the sovereign God, and release from sin through accepting Jesus as their Saviour.
As believers, we are called to stand in this victory, be ready. "Therefore put on the full armour 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" (Ephesians 6:13).
And we do not need to stand unarmed. "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." (v14-17).
The belt of truth allows us to rebuke the father of lies and as well as speak the truth of who we are in Christ.
The breastplate of righteousness is the place we have obtained before God as a result of what Jesus did on the cross. ("For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ" - 2 Cor 5:21). This offers ultimate protection against the forces of darkness that try to invade that "place". To stay in right standing before God and keep this part of our armour impenetrable, we need to repent and ask for forgiveness of sin daily.
Our feet fitted with readiness in the gospel of peace, is the ability we have to "walk" freed from sin in His authority. With the same authority, we are also called to share the "gospel of peace" in our daily walk.
The shield of faith in Jesus and God's sovereign control of our lives, should be taken and held up to form an impenetrable barrier of trust and belief, that will ward off and extinguish the enemy's fiery darts. This refers to the Roman soldier's shield that was covered with a very soft wood. The flaming darts that plunged into the wood went out. So all the fiery darts that the Devil fires can be absorbed by our faith.
The helmet of salvation protects the head, a very vulnerable part of our anatomy, making it a vital part of the armour. If we are not sure of our salvation in Christ, a blow to the head means eternal death.
Lastly, the sword of the Spirit - the Bible, is the only weapon mentioned in the arsenal, which may call us into active participation in the battle. (It refers to the Roman gladius, adapted from a Spanish design. The prowess of the double-edged gladius in close range combat made it a fearsome tool in the hand of a skilled Roman warrior. When sharpened, its dual edges wreaked havoc on enemies, while its tapered point could pierce through even heavy metal armour.)
The Word of God is living and powerful, we can (like Jesus in the desert when He was tempted), use it to slay demons and evil spirits. God's Word also illuminates. It reveals to us the good and the bad, the wise and the unwise. It is the ultimate tool in learning how to live the best possible life, free from the restraints of stumbling in darkness. We do need to remember that it is by God's sword that we are saved. (Read the account of Gideon in Judges 7).
How often do we need to do this? Is it not enough that we have surrendered our lives to Him and received protection as a result? The truth is, the nearer we come to Jesus, the fiercer the attack will become. This is again, no reason to become fearful or "escape". It is a place of honour to stand in the ranks of God's army. It is exciting to be considered a threat in Satan's eyes. Does this all sound a bit fanatical, a bit way-out, weird? It may be all of these to the world, but I am deeply grateful for this armour which I put on each day so that I may be able to stand and withstand. To protect those I love and and be an offence and threat to Satan and probably those that are deceived by him.
Those of you that have actually been in combat may ask - what about the back? With all this fancy armour in place, the back is still exposed and vulnerable. This is the place that Jesus takes up to stand with us, His blood covering us anew each day.That is why we should never retreat, we are to stand and not take a backward step.
I look out from the deck of our Inesi home at our little ones rolling around in the tall grass - pulling out "naughty" plants with their Dad. I cannot protect them from the world, but I can protect them from the one that is in the world. Their names are imprinted on the palm of God's hand. I know that in this world they will have trouble, but they will grow up knowing that they do not need to fear or despair, for HE has overcome the world.
Wil om Uw naams wil hen in Uw verbond bewaren,
(Keep them in Your covenant for Your name's sake,)
En laat ze nooit van U vervreemden, nooit, hun leven lang.
(And let them never grow estranged from You, never throughout their lives.)
Ik leg de namen van mijn kinderen in Uw handen.
(I place the names of my children in Your hands.)