Armor of God: A Word of Caution

panic_attackContinued from here.

Spiritual attack is a real experience, and the more you grow in your relationship with God, the more fighting will be required of you. Joyce Meyer puts it this way: “New level, new devil.” While spiritual attack is a reality that you will face as you grow closer to God, you need not fear it. Remember that whether or not you win a particular spiritual battle, the war has already been won:

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.’” ~ 1 John 4:4

Spoiler alert – God wins! And because you belong to God, that means you win as well. So, it doesn’t matter how many spiritual battles you lose because the war has already been won.

You might wonder why we must fight battles, some of which we will lose, if the war is already won. God allows us to be attacked spiritually to grow us in Christlikeness. The more you transform into the image of Christ, the less spiritual attack will bother you. To an inexperienced Christian, the battle seems insurmountable. However, to the mature Christian with many battle scars, even very heavy spiritual attack is unable to shake the firm foundation he or she has in Christ.

Some people make the mistake of becoming obsessed with spiritual warfare. If you aren’t careful, the enemy will lure you into filling your mind with thoughts of him and his power rather than God. God must always been your central focus. As long as you keep your eyes on God, it really doesn’t matter what the enemy does. He is a defeated foe. Fear God, and you need not fear spiritual attack.

I hope you found this series on spiritual attack to be helpful. Now that you have the tools, use them whenever you are tempted to despair over your life experiences. This life and spiritual warfare are temporary, but your relationship with God is eternal. Keep pressing on, chasing God with all you have, and then you need not fear anything else.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace having a panic attack. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Armor of God Addendum: Praise & Worship

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While this last component is not included in Paul’s explanation of the Armor of God in Ephesians 6, I am including praise & worship as an addendum because it is such an important part of my own personal experience when I find myself under heavy spiritual attack. As I shared here, Brian Johnson of Bethel Music called praise & worship the anesthesia for the Word’s surgery. I also find it to be anesthesia for heavy spiritual warfare.

This is not unique to me. Before Gideon launched his attack against the Midianites, he spent time worshiping God:

When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed down and worshiped. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, ‘Get up! The LORD has given the Midianite camp into your hands.’” ~ Judges 7:15

As we worship God, we orient ourselves toward God rather than our problems/spiritual attack. God is bigger than anything we face, and the act of worshiping God helps us zoom in on the size of our God rather than the size of whatever we are facing. As we do this, our spirits are in a better position to “hear” from God. I often find I suddenly “know the answers” after I spend time worshiping God. It’s like he slips the answer I have been seeking into my brain while I am busy worshiping Him.

While praise & worship does not require music, I find Christian music to be very helpful in orienting myself back to God. I am musical by nature, so singing along with words directing me to focus on who God is and what He has done powerfully positions me into a posture or praise & worship.

If you are not musical, you can accomplish the same thing by reading aloud from the Psalms. Choose a Psalm that focuses on characteristics of God or specific things He has done, and read it aloud. You can also thank God for specific attributes of His character you appreciate as well as specific ways He has been faithful to you in the past.

Notice that I encourage you to praise and worship God using your voice. While we can certainly praise and worship God “in our heads,” I find doing so aloud to be more powerful preparation for spiritual warfare. If I am feeling defeated, I’ll even include my entire body in my praise & worship, such as by standing, raising my hands, or even dancing around the room (alone, of course!) Bringing my full body into the process of praise & worship is the fastest way I have found to reorient myself to God when I have been losing spiritual battles by allowing my problems to appear larger to me than God.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding up her hands and saying, “Amen.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Armor of God: Prayer

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The final piece of armor identified in Ephesian 6 is prayer:

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” ~ Eph. 6:18

Paul’s admonition to pray all the time is not an add-on or a move to an unrelated topic. It is located immediately after identifying the other six pieces of armor because prayer is an integral part of successful spiritual warfare.

Prayer is the way we stay in communication with God, which means we only need to pray when we need His intervention … which is all the time! When do we need to pray? Continually!

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” ~ 1 Thes. 5:16-18

The Bible is filled with examples of people praying as they went about their daily lives. Nehemiah used what my friend calls an “arrow prayer” when he shot a quick prayer up to God in the middle of a conversation with the king:

The king said to me, ‘What is it you want?’ Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king, …” ~ Neh. 2:4-5a

Clearly, Nehemiah did not excuse himself from the king, get on his knees, and break into a formal prayer. As he breathed in to respond to the king, he “shot an arrow prayer” up to God in his spirit, and God answered him by guiding his words and granting his request for favor with the king.

If you want to be successful in spiritual warfare, prayer needs to become second nature to you. Make it a regular habit. Your prayers don’t always have to be of the “please help me” variety, although God certainly welcomes those as well. I try to prayer throughout my day, looking for the many blessings He gives and thanking Him for them. When I become frustrated, I try to remember to thank God for giving me this opportunity to trust Him more. Weave prayers of gratitude into your daily life, and you will find yourself experiencing more joy!

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace praying in front of a stained glass window. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Armor of God: Sword of the Spirit

swordContinued from here.

The sixth piece of armor is the sword of the Spirit:

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” ~ Eph. 6:17

The sword of the Spirit is the only offensive weapon you have, so you are going to have trouble gaining ground if you don’t use it. The analogy I like to use is that the Bible is like antibiotics – I need regular doses of Scripture that are relevant to whatever I am struggling with. Those doses might not seem to be working at first, but they are fighting the spiritual “infection” a little at a time. As I keep taking more doses, the “infection” will die, and I will be healthy again.

Let me give you a specific example. As I shared, I was recently fired for standing up for what is right by refusing to do something I believe is both unethical and unlawful. At this point, I am unemployed, my former employer is fighting unemployment, and the current state of my circumstances tempt me to believe that I made this sacrifice for nothing as the company continues to profit through my former colleagues doing what I refused to do.

If I focus on parts of the Bible that talk about topics unrelated to what I am dealing with, this will be as ineffective as me taking an antibiotic that doesn’t work on a particular type of bacterial infection. I need to analyze areas of my faith that need strengthening and then meditate on passages of Scripture that are directly related. Some topics and passages of Scripture I have been focusing on include my responsibility to forgive my former employer, trusting that God will avenge me, and trusting that I will reap a harvest from doing good. Each time I focus on these passages of Scripture, I am inviting life into my soul. I am able to silence my doubts & fears and advance against the enemy, knowing that what he intended for harm, God has intended for good. I don’t know how God is going to work this situation out for good, but I believe that He will reward me for standing up for what is right.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace unsheathing a sword. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Armor of God: Helmet of Salvation

hatContinued from here.

The fifth piece of armor is the helmet of salvation:

Take the helmet of salvation…” ~ Eph. 6:17a

The helmet of salvation goes on your head to remind you to hold every thought captive to Christ. Paul told us…

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. ~ 2 Cor. 10:5

You choose what you think. If you choose to allow your thoughts to run away in fear, then you are going lose the spiritual battle. However, if you choose to supersede each fearful thought with God’s Word, then you will stop the runaway train of thoughts and rest in Christ.

Putting on the helmet of salvation is an action that requires effort. Sadly, far too many Christians are passive regarding their thoughts, which enables the enemy to have a field day. He tells Christians all sorts of lies that they passively allow to color how they view themselves, their lives, and God. Holding your thoughts captive to Christian requires focused effort, but the payoff is well worth it. My series on Promised Land Living explains all of this in much more detail.

How does salvation fit into all of this? Salvation involves much more than getting to go to heaven when you die. Paul told us to “continue to work out our salvation” (Phil 2:12). Considering Jesus’ sacrifice was enough to get folks a “free pass” to heaven, there would be nothing left to “work out” if salvation only related to heaven.

Salvation is really about life, not just in heaven but on earth as well. As I previously shared, Jesus did not come to make “bad” people “good” but to make dead people live. Working out your salvation, or putting on the helmet of salvation, is about growing more and more alive in this lifetime. The more you align your thoughts with God’s ways, you will become more alive and less vulnerable to spiritual attack.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace waving while wearing a large hat. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Armor of God: Shield of Faith

sword_and_shieldContinued from here.

The fourth piece of armor is the shield of faith:

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” ~ Eph. 6:16

Faith is a critical part of the Christian walk, and you are helpless when under spiritual attack if you don’t pick up your shield of faith. Using your shield of faith also pleases God:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. ~ Heb. 11:6

It’s easy to have faith when things are going well. It’s a whole different ballgame when everything in your life is blowing up around you. It’s in those moments – when you are tempted to doubt God’s faithfulness and goodness – that what you actually believe surfaces. If you really believe that God exists and that He will reward you, regardless, of what you are seeing in your life, then you are taking up your shield of faith. You will act based upon what you believe, not upon what you know theoretically when things are going well.

I saw Beth Moore in Greenville, SC a few years ago at a Living Proof Live event. I felt convicted when she said that dreading the future is liking being a walking billboard of God’s unfaithfulness. I knew God is faithful but did not actually believe it, resulting in me advertising God’s unfaithfulness to world. I knew that I had stop but didn’t know how, so I looked for a Bible verse to tie together God’s faithfulness being a shield. I found it in Psalm 91:

He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. ~ Ps. 91:4

Whenever I am tempted to dread anything, I recite this passage of scripture and remind myself (my soul) that God was faithful before and will be faithful again. This specific strategy is how I take up my shield of faith, enabling me to continue trusting God as my circumstances try to lure me into doubting Him.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace dressed as a warrior, holding a sword and shield between the words, “Brace yourself.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Armor of God: Shoes of the Gospel of Peace

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The third piece of armor is the shoes of the gospel of peace:

…and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” ~ Eph. 6:15

Wearing the shoes of the gospel of peace is what enables you to keep standing when everything in your life is quaking:

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” ~ Eph. 6:13

We must ground ourselves in God’s peace, trusting that He is in control, even when our circumstances scream otherwise.

This is where I am in my life right now. As I previously shared, I was recently fired for refusing to do something I believe is both unethical and unlawful, so I am currently unemployed. My extended family is dealing with strife. My closest family members have been struggling with health issues, as is true for some of my closest friends. Other close friends are dealing with heavy emotional issues. Everywhere I look in my life is quaking. If I was not wearing my shoes of peace, I would be an emotional basket case right now.

Casting Crowns’ newest song, Oh My Soul, captures the dynamic of our fear colliding with our faith. Whether or not we are wearing our shoes of peace will determine what happens – whether we will remain standing in trust with God or flat on our backs, weighed down by our fear.

That song does a wonderful job of putting to music the same “putting on your shoes of peace” strategy demonstrated by Psalm 42. When fear arises, talk to your soul. Remind your soul that your God is bigger than your circumstances. Remind your soul that God has been faithful before and will be faithful again. God gives you the choice of where to place your focus – on your problems or on your God. Talking directly to your soul is a great way to step outside of your fear and see it more objectively from the perspective of God being in control, which is the key to putting on your shoes of peace.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding up foam fingers of the peace sign. Courtesy Bitmoji.]