10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and his powerful strength. 11 Put on God’s armor so that you can make a stand against the tricks of the devil. 12 We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil in the heavens. 13 Therefore, pick up the full armor of God so that you can stand your ground on the evil day and after you have done everything possible to still stand. 14 So stand with the belt of truth around your waist, justice as your breastplate, 15 and put shoes on your feet so that you are ready to spread the good news of peace. 16 Above all, carry the shield of faith so that you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.
Ephesians described, not a football uniform, but the garb of a Roman soldier. It said we’re up against serious spiritual darkness, not just “human enemies.” We deal with issues that ultimately involve the entire cosmos, or, we might say, the very nature of reality. Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy said, “People look at me and see a calm, cool guy on the sidelines and I want them to know that my Christian faith affects my coaching and everything I do.”* He knew we need God’s “armor” to win this battle, the one that makes the difference.
O God, remind me today (and every day) to “suit up” for the life you call me to. Empower me to join in your mission to push back the darkness and spread your light. Amen.
* Quote found at https://www.brainyquote.com/search_results?q=tony+dungy.
** Clinton Arnold comments on Ephesians in Clinton Arnold, gen. ed. Romans to Philemon: Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, Volume 3. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002, p. 336.
Athletes need the right gear to be prepared for their match against an opponent. Football players need a helmet, shoulder pads and body pads to protect them from the brute force of tackles of the opposing team.
As we learn in Ephesians 6 today, Roman soldiers needed a belt, breastplate, shoes, shield, helmet, and sword to protect them from harm from their enemies.
For us runners, the opponent we prepare for is a little different. Weather tends to be the biggest factor.
If you know me very well, you know I really hate winter weather. Most days, you can find me at my desk in the ShareChurch office with a blanket scarf wrapped around my shoulders or draped across my lap. At home, as I’m relaxing in front of the TV or with a book, you can be sure I am snuggling under a blanket. And once I’m cold, I can’t shake it. You know how you get cold down in your bones? Boy, I do not like to be cold.
So, you’d think I’d be adverse to outdoor running in the winter. Nope. I much prefer running in the cold than in the heat. As long as I have the proper gear, I’m good to go. For me, proper winter running gear includes 2-3 light layers for the core, including my white running jacket (which, incidentally, is also great for running in the dark--and it always seems like I am running in the dark this time of year), a head wrap to keep my ears warm, lightweight running gloves, fleece lined running tights and a little bit thicker sock. On REALLY cold days, I also add a neck warmer which I can pull up over my nose to keep my face warm.
With weather appropriate gear, I am prepared to conquer the opponent of weather. (The cold, at least. Icy streets are a deal breaker). Once I get moving, I truly don’t even notice the cold. But without proper gear, it’s likely I won’t even get out the door. If I do venture out improperly dressed, you can bet I won’t be at my best and will give up and turn around early.
Preparation, training and proper gear are keys to success. True for runners, football players, Roman soldiers. And for spiritual warriors.
I love how relatable this metaphor from Ephesians is. With the proper gear (insert the gear for the sport of your choice), we can stand our spiritual ground against whatever comes at us in this world. We can resist temptation with the belt of truth secure around our waist. With God’s word in hand and proper shoes on our feet we can be the hands and feet of Jesus, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ to others. With the shield of faith, we can protect ourselves from the cynicism and skepticism of the world around us and remain steadfast in our core beliefs. With the helmet of salvation, we can live confidently, knowing whatever might be thrown at us that salvation cannot be taken from us, it is freely given. With justice as our breastplate, we are prepared to be merciful and to defend others against injustice through our good works.
God does not promise us the Christian life will be easy. In fact, he tells us clearly there will be trouble in this world. We can’t rid our lives of hardship. But we can train and prepare ourselves for “battle” and be sure to “gear up” with the proper equipment, knowing that God is there with us every step of the way.
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