Series: Spirit-filled, by Rosie Moore
Like it or not, spiritual warfare is the daily reality of every Christian. You and I are called to be soldiers, prepared to fight the good fight of the Lord Jesus who has enlisted us to serve in his army (1 Tim 6:12). Paul told Timothy to face suffering “as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3-4). Jesus also used wartime imagery to describe the onward march of the Church, promising that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18).
In his book titled Stand: Putting on the full armour of God, Warren Wiersbe writes: “Some people reject the military side of the Christian life. I appreciate those who want to see peace on earth; however, as long as sin exists in this world, the battle between Satan’s forces and God’s people will rage on. Anyone who chooses to be on the side of the Lord Jesus Christ will face severe opposition from Satan and his followers. And those who refuse to fight will fall in the heat of the battle.”
Ephesians 6 takes us into the war room to show us our real enemies, as well as our God-given equipment and energy to fight effectively. Paul urges us to be prepared for spiritual warfare. In the next few weeks, we will be getting to know our Enemy’s strategies and unpacking the Spirit’s armoury:
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 (Eph 6:10-13).
The posture of warfare
My dad often told me about his oldest memory as a 3-year old. It was at the beginning of the Second World War, on the day his father left their hometown of Benoni to fight in North Africa. As the soldiers marched off, my dad followed them, armed with a stick over his shoulder instead of a rifle, dressed in his own home-made military uniform. He followed the soldiers for so long that eventually my gran lost sight of her little boy, who ended up being taken to the Benoni police station for safekeeping! At 3, my dad was naïve and clueless about the terrible realities of war. He had no idea who the enemy was, nor that 11 023 South Africans would be killed in action. He just enjoyed the marching, the band and the men in uniform. But in God’s providence, five years later my grandfather returned home safely.
What strikes me about our Ephesians text is how many words Paul uses to describe the active, watchful, prepared posture of a Spirit-filled Christian. Unlike my 3-year old dad, there is nothing wide-eyed or docile about a Christian who is walking in the kind of lifestyle Paul sets out for us in chapters 4-6. Without a doubt, if we are living as faithful Christians at home, at school, at work and in our churches, we will be attacked by the enemy of our soul, who is also the enemy of God’s people. Since the day that Jesus first became our Saviour and Commander-in-chief, we have been enlisted in the war.
Enlisted for active service
So firstly, it is impossible for a Spirit-filled Christian to be a spectator, to come along for the ride, or just join the celebrations at the end of the war. If you speak up for Christ in your context, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll get Satan’s attention. It’s impossible to keep your head down in the trenches forever. Just think for a moment: If you are trying to live by God’s laws in a culture “full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless”(Rom 1:29-32), surely you will stand out and attract Satan’s anger? You are engaged in serious spiritual warfare and a battle for your mind. The battle lines were drawn the moment you decided to “be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, because the days are evil” (Eph 5:15-17).
To put this differently, we cannot expect to sit with Jesus in heaven (Eph 2:6), and walk with him in our daily lives (Eph 5:15), unless we also stand for him in the war. While the fate of the universe is not our responsibility, it is our responsibility to depend on Christ and hold onto the victory he has already won for us through his death and resurrection (Eph 4:7). We do not fight for victory, but from a position of victory. That’s our motivation to “stand firm in the evil day” (Eph 6:13).
Taking a stand
Secondly, note that Paul tells us to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might:
Stand is the operative word. We are to “stand firm” (Eph 6:14); to be fully clothed in God’s armour so that we can “take a stand against the devil’s schemes” (Eph 6:11), so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground. Having done all this, to stand (Eph 6:13). The word ‘stand’ means to be resolute, determined, uncompromising and steadfast. But Paul is equally emphatic that we can’t stand in our own strength, only in the mighty power of Jesus who lives in us by his Spirit (Eph 6:10). Elsewhere, Paul prays for the Ephesian believers to be “strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” (Eph 3:14-16). So, the Holy Spirit is our energy source, and there’s no other way to be spiritually strong.
But what exactly does it look like to stand strong as a soldier of Christ?
Spiritual strength for believers is essentially an attitude of courage to trust what you know to be the truth, to boldly live it out and to share your faith in the world.
The Old Testament fleshes out what this looks like in many wonderful stories, which I love reading over and over again (1 Kings 2:2-3; Deut 31:23; 2 Sam 10:9-13; Ps 27:14). But I think it’s best captured in God’s command to Joshua just before he conquered the Promised Land:
“No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Josh 1:5-9).
A believer who stands, doesn’t seek out the easiest path or the safe places, but chooses instead to live out her convictions, found in God’s revealed Word. It is a man who does not live by whim or opinion, like the character William Shofield in the recent film, 1917. But, taking a stand is never an excuse for just being quarrelsome or contentious.
In taking a stand, I have not yet experienced real persecution, but I’ve often known the sneering rejection of unbelievers and the pressure to conform to the world’s way of thinking. Many times, even as a young girl, I knew the precise moment when a line had been drawn in the sand, and come what may, I could no longer be silent and keep my head down. We should not quench those convictions, and it is helpful to know that ultimately our battle is not with people who oppose us, but with unseen spiritual forces that oppose God and everything he stands for.
The danger of complacency
Finally, even when our lives seem peaceful and free of conflict, we dare not be lulled into a false sense of security in the Christian life.
I can’t help thinking of the new generation of Israelites born in Canaan, after Joshua conquered the land. Perhaps the parents failed to teach their children about the Lord, his laws and what he had done for his people. Perhaps the kids just didn’t want to hear stories about the old days (Judges 2:10). But, for whatever reason, this new generation believed that they were safe in the land and no longer needed God. Instead, they bowed down and served the idols of the cultures around them (Judges 2:17). They blended and intermarried with those who didn’t know or love Yahweh. And it wasn’t long before they were defeated by their enemies and in great distress (Judges 2:14-15; Judges 3,4,6). As Wiersbe warns, “those who refuse to fight will fall in the heat of the battle” anyway.
Like the Ephesians, we too have a rich inheritance in Christ, but we have three spiritual enemies – the world, the flesh and Satan. Before we can take a stand, we need to first worship and trust the Lord, putting on the whole armour he has given us. Complacency is the most subtle and deadly of Satan’s schemes: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12).
In what aspects of your life are you standing on the frontline?