Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Your Weakness Is Not the Problem ... The Armor of God # 1

I may not look like one, but I am a warrior.  And, if you're a follower of Jesus, you're a warrior as well.  The reason you're a warrior is because you're in a battle.  We have a spiritual enemy who wants to take us down ... who literally has his sights on us and is looking to take us out simply because of who we are.  The Bible calls this spiritual warfare and it is very real.  We have an enemy, an opponent, an adversary who would like nothing more than to steal our joy, kill our relationships, and destroy our lives.

When it comes to this spiritual battle, if you're like me, many of us have thought our only option is to use the "rope-a-dope" strategy, meaning we just let our enemy swing away at us until he tires himself out.  The only problem is he doesn't get tired.  He doesn't punch himself out.  He doesn't let up.  He doesn't feel bad.  He has no mercy rule.  He hits after the bell and below the belt.  And, he will keep hitting and will keep punching and will keep bullying and will keep intimidating until we take a stand against him in the name of the Lord!  We have been bullied by this enemy long enough.  It's time to take a stand!

Ephesians 6 tells us that we are in a fight, but we are not left defenseless.  As followers of Jesus, we're actually given very specific instructions on how to stand our ground against the enemy's devious schemes.  For the past two months, I've had the opportunity to study the armor of God talked about in Ephesians 6:10 - 17.  I've listened to and read various authors and speakers and theologians.  It's been a challenging study but a really good one.  My plan for the next few days is to post some of the things I've learned from what I've read and listened to from my study on the armor of God and hopefully give some ways that it applies to our lives. 

Armor protects.  It strengthens.  It supports.  It covers areas that are crucial for our survival.  So each of the pieces of the armor of God provide very specific protection for our lives spiritually.  What that means is that these pieces of armor are more than just words we say or words we pray.  The application of this spiritual armor covers our lives and provides very specific spiritual protection for areas that the enemy wants to expose and wound in an effort to keep us living defeated lives.  So, we don't just say these words.  We don't just pray these words.  We live in their truth and live out their truth.  In so doing, we are protected from what the enemy seeks to accomplish in our lives and, when we do, we can take a stand against his schemes.

So let's read about the type of battle we are in and the spiritual protection we have.  Ephesians 6:10 - 17 reads, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  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.  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.  Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.  In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."

Again, my hope is to post some thoughts on what I've learned regarding each piece of the armor of God over the next few days.  But, before doing that, I think there are two interesting things to note about this passage:

First we are told to be strong.  I love that because who doesn't want to feel strong?  But, since this battle is not against flesh and blood, we're not told to be strong in our own strength.  Rather, we are told to be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might.  I actually believe that this is one of the "schemes" the enemy uses to deceive us.  Our enemy would like nothing more than for us to believe that it's our strength that makes the difference.  He would like nothing more than for us to rely on our own disciplines or our own will power or our own strength because, the reality is, as a human my strength is very limited.  So, he deceives us in to believing that admitting our weaknesses is a bad thing.  When I'm confronted with my weakness, it exposes me ... and I hate it!  I love appearing to be strong.  I love the image of having it all together.  I love for others to think that I am the pillar of strength that everyone longs to be.  And, the reason is we often base our worth on our own strength.  And, can I tell you ... there is danger in that.  Paul Tripp has said that the danger is not in your weakness.  The real danger is in your delusion of strength.  Because the reality is, until I'm in a situation where I feel weak, I will never learn to draw upon the strength of God.  I'm not sure what situation you find yourself in today, but if you have discovered that your own strength has let you down and your will power is not enough and you find yourself saying "I can't do this" or "I can't go through that" can I humbly say to you that "I can't" may be exactly where you need to be.  Because you'll never experience a "Jesus can" until you experience an "I can't."  The Apostle Paul, the same one who wrote Ephesians 6, also wrote this in 2 Corinthians 12:9 - 10, "So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That's why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ.  For when I am weak, then I am strong."  

Paul Tripp also says, "The hopelessness of weakness is the only door to the hope of real strength.  Grace exposes how deep your need really is, then takes you by the hand to where lasting strength can be found.  So boast in what most people fear because you have been and are being saved by grace."  Grace frees us to be weak because only in our weakness do we have the opportunity to understand Jesus' strength ... the strength of a limitless God.  So, if I'm the enemy, by all means, I want you to trust in your own discipline, in your own righteousness, in your own will power, in your own strength because as long as you are doing that, you are not trusting in God, the ultimate source of power and strength.  And, what this means for us is that us is that, in Christ, we do not have to pretend that we are strong.  We do not have to pretend that we are OK.  We don't have to run away from the hurt.  We can admit our pain and our weakness because when I am emptied there will always be enough of God's grace to fill me.  Beth Moore has said, "The grace of God is not a consumable commodity."  God's supply will always meet our demand and His power will rest on us in our weakness.   This is the first step to victory in our spiritual battles.   

More to come tomorrow.  Until then ... "be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might."

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