This week it seems as though the enemy has been working overtime on the body of Christ. So many I have talked with have seen and experienced his attacks, especially in the areas of thought life and identity. It’s hard to keep fighting the good fight when your mind is exhausted from battling the seemingly endless condemnation and confusion occurring in your own head. Some days it seems easier to change your behavior– don’t go here, stop doing that, change that action– than it is to change your thoughts. Many times, changing our hearts, transforming our identity and renewing our minds, can seem like a nearly impossible task.
I was reading this morning from Ephesians 6, because I needed a reminder concerning spiritual warfare and the enemy’s quest to control our identities and our minds to keep us from being victorious in Christ. Sometimes when we feel defeated, we begin to forget that Christ has already given us the victory. When we believe we’re defeated, we live like we’re defeated, but as the children of God, we’ve been promised that we are more than conqueors because we are in Christ Jesus!
Here’s what Paul says about the battle we all face in our our minds and some things I’ve learned over the years concerning what he’s teaching us in this passage:
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.
That be strong is written in a continual, imparative tense in Greek– we are commanded to be strong all of the time, but we are told we can only do that when we rely on HIS MIGHT and not our own. It’s not our strength that sees us through, it’s his strength.
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
Again, “put on” is a command, not a suggestion. God tells us exactly what to do in order to have victory– He doesn’t leave us to figure it out on our own! He tells us what to do and then provides the instructions and the power to accomplish the task.
12 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.
Our battle is not against our body or our genetic makeup or our personalities or brains or other people; our battle for victory is a spiritual battle– the truth vs. the lie (Romans 1).
13 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.
The WHOLE armor, not just the parts we find comfortable or convenient. In order to be protected and to be able to fight, we must use everything God gives us. And I love how Paul says that here–“having done all, to stand firm.” When we’ve done all we can do, when we are at the end of our proverbial rope, Paul says we are to continue standing firm. Not in our might, not in our strength, but in His. When we rely on His strength, we will never fall.
14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
Belt of truth— what we think. Where do we find truth? How do we apply it to our lives? Breastplate of righteousness— what we do. These things go together. We can’t successfully do right until we learn to think right. Actions are an overflow of our thoughts.
15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.
The Gospel brings peace, not just for salvation, but for daily living. To rest in his peace, preach the Gospel to yourself daily– remind yourself of his grace, mercy and forgiveness and how it applies to every sin and every struggle every day of your life. When Roman soldiers dug in to prepare for battle, the spikes on their shoes prevented them from retreating. They dug in and stood firm with the help of their shoes. We too can stand firm when we dig in and rely on the truth of the Gospel to bring us peace.
16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;
It is our faith that keeps the thoughts of the enemy from piercing us. When we believe the truth, we are shielded from the lies that condemn us. Notice that the enemy keeps firing at us—we will be tempted, we will have condemning thoughts—but our faith protects us from them. This is why it is so important to know the truth and believe it! It is our belief in the truth that keeps us from being damaged by the attack of the enemy. He will continue to attack, but we do not have to be injured.
17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,
The helmet of salvation—I love this part! Sometimes we feel like our minds are controlled by something other than ourselves. We know the thoughts we are having are ungodly, so sometimes in the heat of battle we even question our own salvation. You have thoughts that you know you don’t want and you know God doesn’t want you to have, so you wonder if you are even saved. You think, “There’s no way I can be saved and also desire the things I desire right now.” You are not alone in thinking that! But this promises us that our salvation protects our mind! Once you are saved, there’s no losing that salvation! Jesus told his followers that His disciples are in His hand and He is in the hand of the Father and NOTHING can snatch us away from them (John 10).
Being in the heat of battle doesn’t mean you aren’t saved—it confirms that you are saved! Satan doesn’t fight those who don’t belong to his enemy. If Satan is fighting for control of your mind, your mind is owned by God, and there’s nothing the enemy can do to change that. He can put thoughts in your mind, but he cannot own/control your mind. Your mind is God’s and you can choose to think thoughts that are godly to crush the tempting thoughts of the enemy.
The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God—the Bible is our only offensive weapon. There is nothing we can do to battle the temptation of the enemy except to respond with the truth of God’s Word. Look to Jesus as your example. When He was tempted in the wilderness, he didn’t argue with Satan. He didn’t try to convince Satan that He was right and Satan was wrong. He simply responded with Scripture and the debate was done.
We must be the same way. When we face condemning thoughts, when we find ourselves wanting to do what we really don’t want to do, when we wonder if we are strong enough to be obedient, we must call it a lie and replace it with truth from the Bible (2Corinthians 10:2-7). No pondering the thought, no considering the possibility, no doubting your ability to fight it. Just replacing it with truth and believing it!
18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
Verses 10-17 are teaching from Paul. Now he gives some practical “how-to” advice so we know what spiritual warfare should look like in our lives. He says that we should be praying at all times in the Spirit. That means that we need to live in a constant state of communication with God. There are times when we have to be deliberate with our prayer time—close the door, be alone, get on our face before the Father. But we also need to be constantly living in a conversation with Him. Keep Him at the front of your mind and run everything through the filter of the Holy Spirit—before you do anything, say anything, think anything, go anywhere, stop and ask Him, “What do you want me to do?” Would you be comfortable taking Jesus where you are going? If the answer is no, don’t go! Would you be embarrassed to share the thought you’re having with the people around you? If the answer is yes, don’t entertain that thought anymore! Would you be ashamed if someone caught you doing what you’re doing? Then don’t do it. Replace the thought or action with the truth of Scripture. Easier said than done sometimes, I know, but recognizing sin patterns is the first step to breaking the control they have on your life. Live your life close to Christ and you will find that temptations lose their power over you.
Supplication means to make requests. God wants us to ask for his help! He wants us to stay alert so we don’t end up wondering, “What am I doing and how did I end up here?” Persevering means we keep going even when we’re tired and think we can’t go on. Paul says that in our weakness, we are made strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). When we come to the end of ourselves and our strength, yet we still manage to not fall to temptation, THAT is when we learn that God is faithful to keep us from temptation. We learn about Him, learn to trust Him more when we persevere beyond what we think we can do.
He also tells us to make supplication for the saints. When you are focused on yourself and your sin and your battle, it often makes the battle so big it’s overwhelming. When you begin to be overwhelmed by the fight, take your focus off of your battle and pray for others. Have a list of people you pray for. Carry it with you. When you begin to be too focused on yourself, spend time praying for others. Thinking about yourself less makes the battle bearable. And think, if you are praying for others and their battles, people are praying for you and your battle as well. Learn to bear the burdens of others and your burdens aren’t so heavy.
19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,
We should boldly proclaim the Gospel to those around us. Not just speaking the Gospel on street corners to those who may need salvation, but sharing with people the impact the Gospel is having in your life, sharing on a daily basis what the Lord is doing in your life, through both your successes and your failures. When you are talking about the Lord’s work, you are more likely to continue to see His work in your life. Keeping it in the front of your mind is another way to fight the battle. It’s hard to forget what God has done for you if you are always talking about it.
20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
We need to remember that sometimes our boldness and faithfulness place us in chains, both literally and figuratively. People will reject the Gospel, they will reject you. Old friends will fall away as you make changes that reflect the light of Christ, but Paul says that even when we are persecuted for the truth, we are to continue to stand firm and continue to declare it boldly.
I needed this reminder today because sometimes the battle seems overwhelming. I need to be reminded that if I try to fight the battle in my own strength, I will be overwhelmed and I will eventually fall. If, however, I remember to follow His instructions and lean on His strength, if I learn to fight with the truth of the Word, He will keep me standing fast against the enemy. Know that in whatever battle you are facing, He is faithful to see you through to victory– He will not leave you in defeat! And know that you are loved and prayed for.