Ken Klaus offers this -- During World War II it must have been difficult to be an American citizen with the name William Patrick Hitler. It must have been doubly difficult if you were the only nephew of the chancellor of Nazi Germany. And, if you wished to enlist and fight against Germany, you first had to get the president's permission, and pass an investigation by the FBI. This is what happened to William Patrick Hitler. He had come to America in 1939 and in 1942 asked Franklin D. Roosevelt's permission to enlist. When the government's blessing was received, he joined the Navy in 1944 and served for years before he was injured. William Patrick Hitler took a stand for that in which he believed. He stood firm in his faith and did what he did out of love for his country and his friends. His is quite an example for Christians, isn't it? You know, once upon a time we were part of an evil empire that was dedicated to the enslavement of the entire world. But then something happened. By God's design we came into contact with the freedom that could be ours in God's Kingdom of grace. Through Word and obedience, we were made citizens of this Kingdom, which had been brought into being by God's promise and the Savior's sacrifice. As members in that Kingdom we rejoice that the final, ultimate victory has already been won by the risen Savior. Still, skirmishes and scuffles, conflicts and combat continue on. And we are given a choice. We can volunteer to fight with our comrades in Christ, or we can try to blend into the background as a noncombatant. I know what William Patrick Hitler did. I pray we might be as brave and committed to the cause of the Christ.
In short, this is what Paul is reminding the Ephesians in 6:10-20. We are in a spiritual battle…and preparation is as important as the battle itself in any wartime situation. The soldiers of ancient times would be well-equipped with armor…you have seen enough movies to know this. Paul uses different sections of this type of armor to illustrate the kind of preparation that we must do spiritually.
An important part of preparation is to know the enemy. And the evil one (Satan – adversary, devil – accuser) is the leader. We have a significant amount of information about him In the Word of God…there is no reason to be ignorant in our understanding. Even though there are certainly mysteries as to his origin (Luke tells us that he was cast down from heaven to earth, 10:13), there is no mystery as to his activity. We do know that he limited…that he is working from a losing position…that he is not eternal…he is not all-knowing…and that he does indeed have to have helpers. These helpers are called principalities, powers, rulers, the spiritually wicked – a definite army of beings that assist him in his bidding. Paul indicates that this group is no joke…Satan and his minions are strong, and that we must have the power of God in order to stand up against him. And he doesn’t fight fair…he is subtle, intelligent, tricky. He seeks to blind the eyes of men and women to the truth of God’s Word.
As believers in God’s plan and his will, Satan brings the battle to us. He is a defeated enemy, and he doesn’t want to see anyone succeed in being faithful to God’s calling through His Son. A truly important thing to remember is, as John shares in his first letter – “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) This is a powerful encouragement! Paul tells his audience that an important part of preparation is to put on spiritual armor, and he explains what each piece is and how it works. The girdle (the underneath pants), holds the parts of the armor together -- (apparently this terminology wasn’t acceptable to some, because later translations changed the word to “belt.” And for good reason – what guy would want to be known to be wearing a girdle?) :-) Nonetheless, like the belt, truth is the integrating force in a Christian’s life – it is what holds everything else together. A man of lies comes apart, but a person of integrity can face the enemy without fear. The breastplate covers the upper body, and it symbolizes righteousness. The life we live either fortifies us against Satan’s attacks or it makes it easier for him to defeat us. The breastplate, being the largest piece, covers our hearts, as does the righteousness of the Lord. The shoes or boots help us to stand in battle. We need to be prepared to take the gospel to a lost world…a world that needs to hear about “the peace that passes understanding.” The shield was a large piece of equipment, typically made of wood and leather, and it would protect the soldier from weapons. We hold up under our faith when Satan is firing flaming arrows at us…our faith offers us protection, and it needs to be steady, as we do not know when the enemy will mount an attack. The helmet protects the head. It symbolically protects the mind controlled by God; the person who studies the Word of God and truly discerns the message therein will not be led astray, assuring salvation. The sword is the Word of God. The message of God pierces the heart like a sword. The Spirit of God wields the sword, uses the Word of God in the life of the believer to accomplish God’s purposes and to make us more like Jesus. The sword is an offensive weapon…it represents a message that is intended to be taken to other people.
But, all of this a moot point in we are not in communication with the Commander! We need to constantly have a mindset of prayer. This doesn’t mean that we are always praying to the Lord out loud, but that we are prayerful in our Christian walk…our mindset is bent on asking the Lord’s opinion, asking for His help. In all of this, the evil one can be defeated and we can experience victory, and help to facilitate victory in others’ lives. Paul says, “Watch and pray.” God expects for us to us our spiritual, discerning wisdom in order to overcome in the spiritual battles that come our way. Finally, we pray as a part of a great family of believers. Paul asks for the Ephesians’ help, support in prayers…can we be any different?
I mentioned the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis in a recent post. So, now I will share a Screwtape Letters type of fable. It is told concerning a meeting that Satan had with his workers. They were assembled to devise the means whereby they might be able to cause people on earth to stumble. One rose up and said, “I will go to earth and tell men that the Bible is a fable, and that it is not divinely appointed by God.” “That is good, but not good enough,” said the leader. Another said, “I will tell them that there is no God, no Savior, no heaven, and no hell.” Satan said, “No that will not do, we cannot make them believe that.” Suddenly another arose and suggested – I will go and tell them that there is a God, a Savior, a heaven and a hell…but, I will also tell them that there is no hurry to believe, tomorrow will do.” So, they sent him.
Unfortunately, too many people…good people…raise the white flag, spiritually and say – “I give up.” And this is tragic. Others by their inaction…being too busy with the world…have given the evil one the victory. In effect, they are the ones who say, “I will get serious about my faith tomorrow.” We have to be active, purposeful if we are going to effectively win the spiritual battles that come our way. There is no trial or temptation so great that you cannot overcome it by the help of the power of the Spirit of the Lord! We cannot do this if we are not regularly in the mindset of prayer and studying the message of God in the Word of God. We have to remember, the battle has already been won! We simply need to rely on the strength of His might and the Lord will go to battle for us as He did with David against Goliath. If in our own strength we confide, we will surely fail. But, if we trust in the Lord, and wage the war according to His plan and activity, we will overcome and succeed!