Overcoming Temptation - Spiritual Warfare
Overcoming Temptation: Spiritual Warfare (Ephesians 6:10-13)
The Christian life is a real, arduous, difficult, and dangerous conflict. The phrase "let go and let God" can be totally misleading. It can suggest a passive, quiet, inert Christianity which passes through life with comfort and ease. New Testament Christianity— the real thing—is very different. Our brief years on earth present a constant battle in preparation for an eternity at rest with the Lord.
Only a sufficient source of strength and only an adequate supply of protection can make us victors in the fight. We are indeed in a superhuman battle against a supernatural foe. The only way to stand our ground, no less prevail, is to fight with weapons given by God. Victors in temptation overcome only with the weapons God provides because they know the strength of the enemy.
The Battle Requires Adequate Preparation for the Christian
Understand the source of the preparation: "be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power" (v. 10). Literally, we are to "be strengthened in the Lord." The source of our energy for spiritual warfare must and does rest outside of us. These words do mean "pull yourself together." Our preparation for spiritual warfare is an appropriation of dynamic energy from beyond ourselves. In this battle we can quickly come to the end of our hoarded resources. We must enter the battle in the vigorous operative strength that is inherent in God Himself. We move into the battle as if surrounded with a spherical shield or protective bubble of divine strength.
This strength must be constant in its appropriation. There is no once-for-all donation of such resources. Daily and repeatedly we enter into that strength from beyond ourselves.
Remember the scope of this preparation: "put on the full armor of God" (v. 11). There is an element of urgency in this as if it were a military command: "Put it on at once." There is not time for apathy or delay in light of the enemy's activities. The emphasis rests on the comprehensive nature of the armor required to stand in such a battle: "full armor." The word suggests the Roman legionnaire with his full complement of defensive and offensive weapons. The suggestion is obvious: to be unprotected at any point can be dangerous. Paul presents the armor in Ephesians 6:14-18.
But this is not armor which you invent. It is the armor whose source is God Himself. We may attempt to design all kinds of tricks to get us through the day. Only God gives the armor that survives spiritual warfare.
Grasp the significance of this preparation: "so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes" (v. 11). We are not dealing with the impersonal conflict between an internal principle of evil and good within ourselves. We are dealing with an external and powerful adversary who has access to us and superhuman intelligence in dealing with us. He uses various forms of craftiness, strategy, and expert methods. In the face of this, God desires us to take our stand. For each of us there is a critical position on the battlefield. God desires that we take it and hold it. That position may be standing for Christ in our home, neighborhood, school, church; or job. Only God can enable you to take that stand and hold that ground.
The Battle Requires Appropriate Identification of the Enemy
Do not misunderstand the nature of the battle: "our struggle is not against flesh and blood" (v. 12). We must have the armor God provides because we are not engaging in hand-to-hand conflict with a mere human foe. We are not wrestling with the physical, intellectual, and spiritual limitations of mere humans. The consequences of losing to our spiritual enemy are far worse than being pinned to a mat in a wrestling arena.
Do understand the enemy. Paul parades the entire army of hostile spiritual forces before us. There are ranks and assignments in that army of darkness. The words emphasize the tyrannical strength and hardness of the spiritual sovereigns in that dark world. Their seat of power is not located on the earth. Although they do not belong to the heaven of God's throne, they are nevertheless more than earthly in their origin and power.
Also understand the time of the conflict. Not every day is equally a day of battle. There is the "day of evil" (v. 13). Fortunately, God's strength is always equally available every day. As an equal blessing our spiritual enemy does not attack equally every day. He does depart for a season, only to return. But there are days of evil, awful days of attack in the conflict. For those days we must be prepared in advance. In those awful days of attack your goal is that "after you have done everything, to stand." There are bright days of advance in which it is all we can do to stand our ground. On those days a man or woman has been a spiritual hero simply to stand neither dislodged nor floored, but to hold onto the ground already gained. There can be no advance until there is a stance.
Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.