Advancing the Vision: A Call to Courage
Ephesians 6:21-24 September 18, 2005
Last week we started to close our series on vision in the letter to the Ephesians. We discussed our call to not be passive in defending the vision God has for us as the Family of God.
We discovered and discussed the spiritual tools God has given us to carry out spiritual warfare. We affirmed that, in fact, there is truly a war going on.
(What should the family of God look like – and what threatens it?)
How does God enable us to defend what he has given us?
I. Cycle One: We are empowered (in the Father) – power (v. 10)
II. Cycle Two: We are equipped (in the Son) – armor (vv. 11-17)
III. Cycle Three: We are emboldened (in the Spirit) – prayer (vv. 18-20)
But the other side, the flip side, of not being passive is to be courageous. There is more we can say about this aspect of spiritual warfare in the remaining few verses of Ephesians 6 in verses 21-24. It is more than just to defend – it is to advance.
And that is just what we need to do at this time in our church history and in the present course of our lives. We need to make a statement. We need to reach our family, our friends, our neighbors and our community for Christ. The KOG needs more recruits.
ILLUS.: The U.S. is getting spread thin with the several fronts we have going now for our armed forces and the National Guard.
We need to advance the KOG and this cannot be done by simply defending it. We need to bring some more adopted sons and daughters into his family. This can only be done by taking the pointed approach of having courage to advance.
Last week we heard Paul’s challenge to the Ephesians to take a stand, so that they may be able to stand, so that when it is all said and done they will be standing.
The armor of the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of the gospel of peace, and the shield of faith will enable them to stand. They are defensive items to be put on (Eph. 6:13). With this armor, we cannot get whacked down.
But then he goes on to imply that they must advance by taking (Eph. 6:17) the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit – and bathing everything in prayer.
You have probably heard that the sword of the Spirit is the only offensive weapon in this spiritual warfare arsenal, but you cannot wield it without the courage that salvation gives (you cannot die eternally – you will be resurrected, by faith), and it is prayer that gives your sword the direction it needs to strike at vital places responsive to the truth it brings.
ILLUS.: King Arthur’s sword supposedly had some unique qualities because he had the power and the appointment and the will to remove it from the rock in which it was embedded. The sword of the Spirit is embedded in the rock of our salvation which is Jesus Christ who has given us power and appointment and will by grace to take his Word and courageously advance the KOG.
It is courage that takes a stand against the first weapon in the enemy’s arsenal. That weapon is discouragement. It is his weapon of choice. It is an insidious weapon. It is the weapon of terrorism, striking at unknown times and places.
In spite of the miracles, signs, and provisions we experience, simple discouragement can neutralize the progress of God’s people.
“Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. They hired counselors to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia.” (Ezr 4:4-5 NIVUS)
In spite of the miracle of deliverance from Babylon to return and rebuild Jerusalem, the enemy rose up discouragement that stalled their progress for nearly twenty years.
My friends, discouragement is an enemy that is both subtle in its attack and powerful in its ability to paralyze our progress. When it begins to approach our hearts we must discern it. We must refuse to accommodate its influence when it sneaks and speaks.
You may have a vision for a mission or blessing God has for you as you grow strong in the spiritual authority that comes by deepening faith. It may be a vision for personal transformation; it may be a God-inspired desire to see our families or our church brought into spiritual renewal.
We may even possess a city-wide vision or a holy passion to see our nation turned toward God. Yet you can be sure, before that vision comes to pass, you will face serious opportunities to become discouraged, but we have Christ and whole array of amazing spiritual resources by faith in him.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” (Isa 61:1-3 NIVUS)
The KJV calls this ‘spirit of despair’ the “spirit of heaviness” and the NASB calls this a “spirit of fainting”.
Discouragement keeps people from exercising their spiritual strength. It gains access by disappointment with loved ones, repeated sin in a particular area, riding piggyback on condemnation and fear.
So repent, renounce, forgive – forcefully and vocally. Release all these areas of disappointment that come through personal failure of people.
Take the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness and recall the blessings of God in your life.
A passive spirit will trap you. You must have a fighting spirit. True faith takes courage.
Focus your faith on the God-potential at hand. Courage must walk as the companion and expression of faith. Then you will move from being encouraged to being an encourager.
Discouragement is the opposite of encouragement. To be encouraged is to have courage imparted to us; to be discouraged is to have courage removed. Faith without courage will always falter.
We must continually take the sword of the Spirit, the Word of the Living God, in offense against this adverse spirit of discouragement. Are you in his Word daily? But what does his Word in Ephesians 6:21-24 have to say to us today about taking courage?
“Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you. Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” (Eph 6:21-24 NIVUS)
How are we to understand and apply God’s call to courage in spiritual warfare?
-or- How does God enable us to advance what he has given us?
I. Courage in spiritual warfare is powered and motivated by love.
“Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” (Eph 6:24 NIVUS)
These are Paul’s last words in his letter to the Ephesians. It is a call to be powered and motivated by love. If we have love we can take courage because love never dies.
Jesus loves us, and if we respond to his love we will be resurrected as he is – and so love never dies.
“"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (Joh 3:16 NIVUS)
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1Co 13:13 NIVUS)
“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (1Jo 4:15-16 NIVUS)
A. So spiritual warfare is motivated by love first of all because in love we are invincible. Therefore in love we can be courageous because we cannot lose.
Love does not stop loving because it is rejected. It is love rejected itself that condemns. It is not we ourselves who condemn but it is those who reject love who condemn themselves.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (Joh 3:17-18 NIVUS)
B. So spiritual warfare is motivated by love second of all because in love we are concerned only for the welfare of others. It is not self-motivated. Therefore in love we can be courageous because we are not self-serving. All we desire is that they discover the life of love that we know in Christ. All we need do is confirm love.
It is so easy to reject those who reject us. If we do that, our own love stands condemned.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1Jo 4:7-8 NIVUS)
We must have the courage that love brings by knowing that we ourselves are secure in love, and that all we want is to offer that same security of love to others.
C. So spiritual warfare is motivated by love third of all because in love we bring an end to war by making peace with God.
Love never dies and love doesn’t want anyone else to die either. This is purposeful and courageous advancement of the KOG. It is a call to make peace with God by accepting his love.
“Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” (Jas 3:18 NIVUS)
We are called to be peacemakers. Part of our spiritual armor is to stand on peaceful ground (feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace - sandals of peace).
We must not forget that our message is the gospel of peace. The end goal of any warfare must be to bring peace.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Ro 5:1 NIVUS)
The God of peace has chosen us to crush Satan under our feet.
“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” (Ro 16:20 NIVUS)
Peace has a militant side. True peace only comes because we have confronted and overcome our spiritual enemies – with the love of peace. And there can be no peace until there is peace with God.
Perhaps too many Christians confuse peace with passivity – living in compromise with heaven’s enemies. This is not peace but bondage.
Jesus came to bring peace.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (Joh 14:27 NIVUS)
“"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."” (Joh 16:33 NIVUS)
But it would not be a peace without cost.
“"I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” (Lu 12:49-51 NIVUS)
He also came to destroy the works of the devil.
“He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” (1Jo 3:8 NIVUS)
Jesus came to bring peace by being in war mode.
“But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons." Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. "Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house. "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” (Mt 12:24-30 NIVUS)
And he told his disciples (and us by extension) that we also would do the works he did.
“He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” (Mt 10:1 NIVUS)
“If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” (Mt 10:13-15 NIVUS)
“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (Joh 14:12 NIVUS)
“The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name."” (Lu 10:17 NIVUS)
And he assures us that ultimately nothing will harm us.
“He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” (Lu 10:18-19 NIVUS)
ILLUS.: Jan Stilwell returning home to Uzbekistan to discover the house overrun by scorpions.
Are you encouraged yet? Are you coming to understand and accept that our spiritual radar must continually be on the alert to sense the enemy’s advance into God’s world?
But even more so, are you gaining confidence, in Christ, to be spiritually aggressive toward the powers of hell? Are you gaining courage to advance into the enemy’s territory?
“Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear— hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” (Jude 1:22-23 NIVUS)
But it must be love that motivates us.
Let us reach our community by taking courage that in love we are invincible, that in love it is for their good, and that in love it brings peace with God.
Let that be the vision of our church, “A Caring Church with A Message of Hope”.
Let it be known that we cared/loved so much as to be courageous with the gospel.
Let us continue to reach and teach and preach so that the light that is this house may shine ever so much brighter with the hope that is Christ. This is his vision for his family.
How is God calling you to shine? How is God calling you to be lovingly courageous with the gospel? How is God calling you to advance his vision?