Jesus never promised the Christian life would be easy. Life by itself can be full of difficulties, but that difficulty is compounded by an enemy who is “prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Therefore, Paul called us to “be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength.” Our own strength is insufficient! This call to embrace the strength God gives echoes His words to Joshua: “Be strong and very courageous” (Josh. 1:7).
We, too, must embrace that same trust in God’s strength if we hope to live the Christian life victoriously. But we’re not in a battle to gain victory; we’re strengthened in the Lord and we engage in spiritual warfare from a position of victory. The victory over Satan was won on the cross. Still, though Christ has defeated our enemy (see Rev. 12:10-11), defeated enemies don’t always give up easily. When an enemy has nothing more to lose, he can even attack with greater intensity.
Paul reminded us why we need the Lord’s strength: we face a powerful adversary who attacks strategically. Paul referred to “the schemes of the devil.” Satan knows where, when, and how to target each of us. Our enemy is also organized; he works against us through his army: “the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens.”
Yes, we have victory in Christ. But Paul still called the battle we face a “struggle.” The Greek word is actually tied to the sport of wrestling, which reminds us that we don’t battle the spiritual forces of evil from a distance. Our fight is a close, hand-to-hand type of struggle—only we’re not struggling in a physical context. Our fight is not ”against flesh and blood.” It’s supernatural.
So how do we take on these evil forces that seek to harm us? We stand. In a position of Christ-centered confidence, Paul told us to “take your stand.” We do that when we “take up the full armor of God.” By doing so, we become active participants, not passive observers, in dealing with spiritual attack.
God provides His armor for the battles we face in His name:
Belt of truth. The belt secured the rest of the soldier’s armor and held his weapons. Truth is the belt of preparation for the believer. Everything we do is held in place when we accept and trust in God’s Word.
Breastplate of righteousness. A soldier’s breastplate covered the chest and protected the vital organs from arrows. Paul wasn’t referring to our righteousness in Christ, which can never be taken away. Instead, he was referring to living in righteousness (see Eph. 4:24; 5:8-9)—our daily walk with Christ. The way we live protects us against spiritual attacks.
Feet sandaled with readiness. Roman soldiers were issued quality footwear: studded boots that allowed them to travel great distances and yet stand firmly in the heat of battle. We can stand firm or move forward because of His gospel of peace. Our standing is secure because of what Christ has done for us.
Shield of faith. A company of soldiers could interlock their shields and form a solid wall as they moved forward. Our shield is comprised of our faith—our trust in the promises and power of God. The enemy can fire his arrows of lies, doubts, accusations, and temptations at us, but our faith in God keeps us from falling prey to such attacks.
Helmet of salvation. A soldier protected his head with a heavy helmet of metal. Our helmet is our hope in Christ, which rests in the future we have in Him. Because of that hope, we refuse to succumb to the standards of this world.
Sword of the Spirit. The soldier’s sword was short, like a dagger, and used for close combat. Our sword is God’s Word; it’s our only weapon that is both offensive and defensive. We rest in its promises to defend us, and we apply Scripture to specific situations to resist the enemy’s attacks and send him running. (See Matt. 4:1-11.)
We have one more tool at our disposal as we engage in spiritual battle: prayer. God has supplied us with all we need to stand, but we never stand alone. We need constant communication with the One we serve.
Prayer is more than mere communication with God; it’s our communion with Him. Prayer is taking the promises of God and speaking them back to Him. It’s a continual dependence upon Christ. We are to do this “at all times.” Paul told the Thessalonians that Christians are to “pray constantly” (1 Thess. 5:17). Even as we’re working, playing, and going about our daily routine, we are to be praying.
Why should we pray continually? Because we’re in a battle. Soldiers know they can’t slack off; they must remain vigilant. Paul called us to “stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.” We pray continually, ever alert to the attacks of the devil. But we don’t just pray for ourselves; we pray “for all the saints.” We pray for the strength of our fellow believers in this shared battle against evil. We also pray “in the Spirit with every prayer and request.” As we pray for others and ourselves, we include praise, worship, thanksgiving, and confession—in addition to the requests we lay before God.
Notice that Paul made prayer personal. He said, “Pray also for me.” Paul, the great apostle and evangelist, asked others to pray that he “might be bold enough to speak” the gospel. Paul knew any boldness he had came from God, and he was well aware of his need to remain dependent on Him.
We need boldness, too. Fortunately, the same Source that provided Paul’s boldness sustains us, as well. We can move forward in the boldness Christ freely offers. But make no mistake: we cannot be bold for God until we have been bold with God in prayer.
Excerpted from Jeremiah Johnson, Bible Studies for Life: The Dark Side © 2017 Lifeway Press®. Used by permission.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®. Copyright 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.