One of the classic remarks to come out of World War 1 was from a Royal Flying Corps pilot who had his aircraft badly shot up by the Germans, forcing him to crash-land on a beach, not far from Ostend. After he and his observer had extricated themselves from the wreckage, fortunately no more than badly bruised, he remarked:
“The trouble with this war is that it’s so b***** dangerous!”
And so is spiritual warfare but, with the casual way some Christians approach it, you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. We may not be able to see the bullets and bombs raining down around us, or the rows of body bags, but things are no less deadly.
In his letter to the Ephesian church, Paul highlights a believer’s spiritual armour, using the image of a Roman soldier. Many believers pray through this passage: “I put on the belt…I put on the breastplate…” etc., but it’s worth looking at these from a slightly different angle.
The belt of truth. If you’re not living in a truthful and transparent way, if you are living a lie, then you have no belt to stop your clothing flapping open, getting in your way and exposing you to embarrassment.
The breastplate of righteousness. None of us is perfect and our true righteousness comes from our position in Jesus, not in what we do but, if you are knowingly behaving in an unrighteous way, you can step out from under His protection and leave your vital organs at risk.
The shoes of the Gospel. Jesus said to his disciples:
“Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
So, if you’re standing back, unwilling to do as the Master has commanded, your own walk could end up being pretty uncomfortable!
The shield of faith. Faith itself is a gift from God but, if you’re not exercising it, you’ve nothing to deflect all the missiles that the enemy will throw at you. Lack of faith leaves holes in your shield.
The helmet of salvation. If you haven’t repented and sought God’s salvation, your mind is wide open to anything and everything that comes along.
So what matters is not so much what you say, but how you live. I believe Paul is really saying: “Be honest; behave with righteousness and integrity; be prepared to share the Good News; have faith; and above all, seek salvation; for in these things you will find your spiritual protection”.
War isn’t a game and it’s foolishness to go around looking for trouble; it’ll come looking for you soon enough! But whilst you’re waiting, it would be sensible to check over your armour and remedy any deficiencies.