Saturday, July 16, 2016

Ready To Fight

This summer I've been doing a Bible study on the armor of God.  When a friend of mine said she was going to lead Priscilla Shirer's seven week study throughout the summer, I definitely was on board. After the way things were going for me and my family late winter into early spring, I really felt like I needed the armor of God.  It has been a really difficult season, one in which I can't openly share in this public forum, but none the less, it has been a real trial to walk through and observe.  It's been gut wrenching and heart breaking and has left me over and over again saying, "come Lord Jesus, come." All last year I was doing Bible Study Fellowship's study of Revelation and "come Lord Jesus, come" was a regular statement that echoed in my heart and mind, and continues to do so, as I walk through life, experiencing heart break and watching unimaginable things play out in the lives of those I love. As I walk with friends and family through gut wrenching hardships maybe "come Lord Jesus, come" resonates with me because the ache is similar to what God must feel when He looks down on this sin cursed world and longs for what will one day, come to be.

The entire study is centered around Ephesians 6:10-19 "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore, take up the full armor of God so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything to stand firm.  Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray."

Shirer states this about the belt of truth: "many people who call themselves Christians today don't have a strong core belief system to govern their lives.  They don't frame their decisions around the truth of God's Word, aren't stable and sturdy in their convictions, are too easily injured and wounded by others and buckle under pressure rather than standing tough and persevering.  Truth is our core support.  It provides the essential backing we need when we're in the midst of spiritual war."  What I've been learning about truth, is that it's God's opinion on any matter, its what God says about any subject.  So my prayer for myself is that I will begin letting Gods word, that I've memorized or am studying, echo in my heart and mind so loudly that I act and respond in a right manner more often. John 8:31-32 says, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  If I hold fast, hanging on every word of Jesus Christ and then try to live accordingly, that is how I will "abide", "hold fast to", "remain faithful in" as stated in John 8:31-32.  Shirer says, "Excessive or accurate information has never set anyone free.  Knowing things about God doesn't equal honoring Him (Roman 1:21).  In fact, it's quite possible to be very smart and yet become fools.  Freedom comes to us when we unapologetically follow the truth that we discover in Him and in His Word.   Walking in it, abiding in it, ordering our steps and decisions according to it--that's what makes the difference. That's what disarms the enemy's influence and his impact in our lives."  Knowing the truth of God's word and being able to "gather" or "gird" myself up into my belt of truth, "tucking it in for safe keeping" (when impatience arises, when anger boils, when temptations come) is truly freeing.  It serves as my reminder of what God's word says and is what actually holds me together through the fight against the arrows satan wants to throw at me.

I've been tempted (and succumbed) many many times over the past months to let vulgar and unwholesome words come rushing out of my mouth, in regard to this particular situation and almost every time, Philippians 4:8 rolls around in my head reminding me of what God asks of me.  "Finally, brothers and sisters, what so ever things are true, what so ever things are noble, what so ever things are right, what so ever things are pure, what so ever things are lovely, what so ever things are admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."  I think the reason God tells us to "think about such things" has to do with taking up the helmet of salvation.  Shiver says, "God in His astounding graciousness has designed salvation to offer so much more then just when the moment of salvation occurs.  Salvation is a defensive, protective device that covers you, shields you, and protects you against the schemes of the devil.  It enables you to lead whole, healthy lives not fractured by the enemy's deceptive strategies.  As long as you don't apply salvation to your life, you'll still be vulnerable to his attacks every day for the rest of your life, even if you've gotten saved," Shirer says.   God's salvation, His helmet of salvation, not only saved me (at the moment I asked Him into my life) but also saves me each moment when pride rises up, when anger boils within, when impatience and unkind words threaten to spew out from my mouth.  I can be rescued (or "saved" again and again) from stepping off into the traps satan sets IF I'll take up the helmet of salvation and let God rescue and restore me moment by moment on a regular, daily basis, as His word washes over me and floods my mind with truth.

Studying the Armor of God has been so refreshing and encouraging.  God really did know what He was doing when He designed His plan of salvation, it wasn't just to save me and you from eternal separation from Him for eternity, it was to save me and rescue me in my daily life, in the tough, difficult, unfathomable moments that are hard to withstand.  It's been such an encouraging truth to let sink in over this summer.  My God is a good, good Father who has "plans to prosper and not harm, plans to give a future and a hope."  The armor of God is what enables me and you to go out and be salt and light in the world, to enter into hard circumstances and tough situations and shine the light of Christ into a dark, sin cursed world.   I haven't always felt sure footed and totally confident in my armor, and still don't always wear it correctly, but I do feel more prepared, more ready to engage in the fight.  I feel more steady knowing God "has given me everything I need for a godly life through my knowledge of Him who called me by His own glory and goodness" II Peter 1:3.  Now all I need to do is stand firm, "the LORD will fight for me (and you); we need only to be still" Exodus 14:14.

The last thing that I have come to realize this summer is that the armor of God isn't just physical weaponry, the very last thing that is stated in Ephesians 6:19 is the word "pray".  I love Priscilla's acronym for PRAYER: Prayer Release All Your Eternal Resources.   All I need to do is tap into those resources, we are commanded to pray, and to pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:16-18). So, this is my goal, this is my hope, that I would practice "spiritual breathing" as I try to stand firm, as I resist satan and as I engage in the fight.  I don't do this perfectly (I never will) but with God's help and the Holy Spirit's reminders, I can stand firm and stay in the fight.
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