The devil hath power to assume a pleasing shape. – William Shakespeare, Hamlet
If I may, let me be blunt: Christians don’t like to talk about the devil. Oh we might say we’re comfortable addressing “spiritual warfare,” but what does that actually look like? We usually resort to saying something like:
a) God is in control and all-powerful, so let’s not focus on Satan’s attacks.
b) Spiritual warfare is everywhere, and the Enemy can attacks Christians with everything from a flat tire to a life-threatening illness.
c) Spiritual warfare is more a matter of the heart rather than a tangible reality.
d) The list goes on…
While all of these responses have some elements of truth, they miss the main point: Spiritual warfare is a battle of the mind, and as Christians our response is simply to stand. Rather than fight, cower or simply ignore the spiritual battles around us, we are called to stand our ground, equipped with the Armor of God. In the sixth section of Theodyssey called “Contend,” David Smith reviews the six different pieces that make up the Armor of God (see Ephesians 6:10-18), and he shows how each piece is vital to protecting our minds against the Enemy’s lies, accusations and fear.
My Theodyssey group had been planning a weekend retreat for months and while on the retreat, we would be reviewing the Contend section. I was pumped! But life changed when I got a horrible case of the flu the week before the retreat and found myself too sick to join everyone. Coincidence that I had to miss a weekend with my closest friends, talking about life and faith and God, in a cabin in the mountains?! Maybe. That’s not necessarily spiritual warfare; instead, the battle is what goes on in my mind because I had to miss the retreat. Here’s how I was able to use the Armor of God in that moment:
- The Belt of Truth: The belt of truth protects us against the lies the Enemy tells us about ourselves and about God. We need to secure God’s truth around our lives to uproot these lies and accusations. When I realized that I had to miss the retreat, I started recognizing certain familiar lies popping up in my mind: “Now you won’t fit in to the group. You’ll be left behind. Everyone else will receive healing except for you.” So, I had to choose to believe God’s truth: “God protects me, cares for me and wants what is best for me. God’s power in my life is what will heal me. God has given me this community and will help us stay unified.”
- The Breastplate of Righteousness: When we talk about righteousness, we are referring to our identity in Christ. Through Christ, we have a right standing before God, meaning that God has made us holy, blameless and free of condemnation. Where the Enemy would want to us to believe that we are unworthy or that we must earn our own salvation, putting on the breastplate reminds us that we have been redeemed. I was tempted to believe that by missing the retreat, I would have to work extra hard to find the healing that the rest of my group experienced, that somehow I was behind the game. But, God reminded me that he is the one working in and through me, and he has already made me righteous in his sight.
- Sandals of the Gospel of Peace: In order to understand this piece of the armor, it helps to understand that the “Gospel of Peace” is the Good News that we have peace with God and that he has given us the opportunity to journey with him. From this place of peace, we can move forward with confidence and courage. If I had responded out of my fear and anxiety, I would have gone on the retreat to make sure I didn’t miss out on anything. However, choosing to walk with God meant taking care of myself, resting and trusting that God would still accomplish his purposes in me.
- Shield of Faith: The shield of faith helps us resist the temptation to place our faith in ourselves, others or circumstances. When the urge arises to trust in something temporal, we need our faith in God eternal and the work he has already done on our behalf. I certainly had (and still do have) the temptation to place my faith in the Theodyssey process, rather than in the One who created this process. My group, the retreat, the homework- all have been agents of healing and growth, yet my faith must rest in God alone.
- Helmet of Salvation: By placing the helmet of salvation on our heads, we are reminding ourselves of the hope we have in Christ. Instead of focusing only on our present circumstances and challenges, we can shift our perspective to one of the future in which God is always at work and always in control. Ultimately, we can have hope that things will not always be this way. I may have been sick and missed the retreat, yet God is moving and working in my heart through these struggles and drawing me closer to him.
- Sword of Truth: Finally, we have the sword of truth, which is perhaps the most pointed and personal piece of the armor. When Paul described this type of sword, he was referring to one that was used for very immediate, personal and close-contact defense. There are instances of spiritual warfare where the Enemy will use extremely pointed lies that attack specific weaknesses, and the believer needs to renounce those lies and affirm truths that directly oppose them. The Enemy used my fears of being rejected in many of the lies he told me about missing the retreat, so I had to grasp onto God’s truths of acceptance and unconditional love.
In the battle for your mind, take heart- you have been equipped and you have been called to stand. And ultimately, you are protected by One who loves you with a fierce devotion and will never leave you. Standing with you…