“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Ephesians 6:11 NIV
A giant poster of a kneeling football player with the face of Jesus looking down on him, hangs in my home. At the top of the poster are the words “Always with you.” I bought this poster in 2021. It hangs in my bedroom, where not all who enters my home can see it, but I am able to see it every day. It’s positioned in a place where, when needed, I can sit in front of it and pray, as if I am sitting at the very feet of Jesus. When I look at it, I am reminded of a few of certainties: God is always with me and He is always fighting for my family. It also reminds me of the war the enemy has waged against all of us and the best way we can protect ourselves is by putting on the full armor of God.
If you’re familiar with American football, you’re aware of the physical battle the game entails. Two teams go head to head vying to move a somewhat egg shaped ball into the end zone to outscore their opponent. If you’re on offense, your job is to protect those who are handling the ball by blocking the opponent. If you’re the ball handler, your job is to trust your teammates are protecting your blindside so you can move the ball out of the enemy’s way. If you’re on defense, your job is to tackle the ball handler and/or attack the opponent’s blindside. No matter which side of the line you’re on, if you’re on the field, you’re playing a game that consists of hard hits and getting taken to the ground. In an effort to prevent injury, players are provided gear that protects vital areas of their bodies. They’re required to wear a helmet, mouth guard and shield to protect their heads, teeth and face. They don padding across their shoulders and chest area that protects their back, neck and sternum. Hip and thigh pads are added to their uniform pants as protection from dislocation, broken bones and/or getting cut. No matter how girded these players are, injuries can still occur. When it happens, players are taken out of the game until they have recovered and are cleared to play again.
The Bible tells Christians about a different protective gear. This gear is not only essential but necessary when dealing with spiritual warfare. Spiritual warfare is not a battle in the flesh and blood but occurs in a spiritual realm. It’s a battle for our souls, for our families, for our peace of mind and ultimately, for our lives. Although we may be able to identify a few human enemies in our world, the Bible continuously reminds of a universal enemy. Everyday we are at war and our enemy is invisible. That enemy strives daily to destroy every purpose and plan God designed for us. That enemy even has assignments over us that are centered around keeping us from living our God-given callings. Because we are a hunted people, God calls us to put on His armor daily in order to be protected against the ultimate predator. Although football padding doesn’t fully protect from injury, God guarantees victory everytime we suit up in His armor.
When it comes to the ideology of warfare, Sun Tzu tells his readers this: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” (The Art of War, 2010, Capstone Publishing) This can look like immobilizing the enemy before they attack or using the power of intimidation to push the enemy away. The Bible, however, tells readers that we are already at war and that we need to dress and arm ourselves for the enemy’s attacks. This is evident in Ephesians chapter 6 beginning with verse 11: “Put on the armor of God…” Throughout the next section of verses, Paul, the author of Ephesians, tells readers exactly what we need to wear. The full armor of God consists of a helmet of salvation, a breastplate of righteousness, a belt of truth, and shoes fitted for the readiness of peace. We are also instructed to carry the sword of the spirit and the shield of faith. Actually, a few translations say “take up” or “hold up” the shield of faith but does the wording make that much difference? I think so.
To carry something, you hold it in your arms or dangle it from your hands. To take up or hold up something you place it firmly in front of you as a preventative measure, similar to a stiff-arm position in football. In an effort to defend against a tackle, a wide receiver may carry the football in his arms but hold up his other arm, directly in front of his opponent. With his hand up and palm open in a “stop” position, the ball carrier is ready to block his enemy. In the same way, when we hold up our shields of faith, we block the devil from every fiery arrow he has aimed at us and our families. Afterall, faith is the our greatest defense against one of the enemy’s best weapons which is disbelief.
It’s one thing to know what to wear, and the weapons to arm ourselves with. It means something different, hopefully something more, when we understand the necessity of both and how to position ourselves for battle. The first piece of God’s armor mentioned in Ephesians chapter six is interestingly, not head gear or shoulder pads. It’s the belt of truth. Now I don’t know about you but when I’m getting dressed, my belt is typically the last thing I put on. Keep in mind, this armor is protective gear worn over one’s clothing, so it’s assumed you’re already dressed. Nonetheless, when suiting up, I don’t think I’d put the belt on first. So why does Paul tell his readers to belt up in truth first? Because he knows the enemy’s first attack typically comes in the form of a lie or some other falsehood.
To combat any lie of the enemy we must be girded in God’s truth. John 8:32 tells us when we know the truth, we will be set free. John 14:6 says Jesus is the truth and John 16:13 assures us that when the spirit of truth speaks to us, it’s not of his own words but what God has told Him to say. Just as a belt is made to hold up a pair of pants, the belt of truth holds us up and keeps us from buckling under the enemy’s lies. In Roman soldier times, the belt was the first article put on because “it held everything else together.” (Brown, G., 2016, https://bible.org/seriespage/23-belt-truth-and-breastplate-righteousness) God’s truth holds everything spiritually together also.
The second piece of armor mentioned is the breastplate of righteousness. A breastplate is made to protect the chest, heart and lungs. These organs are vital to our very existence. Puncture a lung or experience heart failure and doctors have only a few short minutes to repair the damage/get the heart pumping before you’re dead. In the spiritual realm, the enemy attacks this area through our emotions. Ever experience an emotional pain that left you unable to catch your breath or walk through circumstances where you physically felt your heart breaking? It’s an indescribable pain in your chest, a combination of an endless ache mixed with the sharpness of muscle tearing as if the circumstance is literally ripping your heart in half. Then there’s the paralyzing pressure of the enemy’s grip on your heart, squeezing tightly in an attempt to slowly crush it. Something that gets ripped in half is a lot easier to repair than something that gets crushed. Thus, feeling as though your heart is being crushed can invoke a cycle of high anxiety, chest pain and shortness of breath. This means, if we aren’t wearing a breastplate of righteousness, spiritual warfare can come in the form of emotional and physical ailments and they tend to target our most vulnerable and necessary organs.
Now, let’s talk about the helmet of salvation. This piece of armor resonates with me the most. Why? Because I am an overthinker and since a helmet is designed to protect the brain, the helmet of salvation is adorned to protect our thoughts. Just as our brains literally tell the rest of our bodies what to do, our thoughts direct our actions too. A helmet of salvation blocks the enemy from our minds. Confusion attacks when life’s storms blindside us. If we don’t guard our thoughts with the helmet of salvation, our minds will spiral and life altering decisions can be made that bring us no peace but only take us deeper into a world of darkness and confusion. We cannot control every thought that enters our mind but we do not have to entertain, believe or act on every thought either. We should test every thought by comparing it to God’s word. If it aligns with scripture, it is probably from God. If it does not, it’s definitely not from God. In case you’re wondering how to decipher your thoughts better, I believe 99% of our thoughts will either be from the enemy or our own humanness, not from God. God speaks to our spirits, not our heads.
Although Paul doesn’t mention this in Ephesians six , I believe there is one more essential piece of armor. I call it the mouth guard of trust. Our words hold more power than we know. If we speak of despair and insecurity, we will inevitably stir up both inside and around us. Don’t believe me, think of how emotionally draining it is to be around someone who is constantly complaining or speaking doomsday negativity all the time. If we speak God’s truth, we will be able to stand firm against every scheme of the enemy. This is where trust comes in to play. Have you ever felt like you were walking in God’s leading, praising Him for answered prayer only to be blindsided and have the very thing you prayed for ripped away suddenly? If you’re like me, you feel devastated and question if you even heard God correctly. Maybe you beg for God to restore it, or at least explain to you what in the world He is doing only to hear Him say, “Trust in me with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)
Trust is something I have always struggled with. Over the past several weeks, through Proverbs 3:5, God has revealed something to me regarding trust. God doesn’t call us to just trust Him. He calls us to trust Him with all of our hearts. Trusting with all your heart means posturing your own will in full surrender to God’s will because you trust His will is better than your own. This is neither easy nor natural. Especially if, like me, you prefer to be in the driver seat of your life. Trusting God with all our hearts is the equivalent of Peter getting out of the boat and believing he could walk on water. I’m just gonna get real for one minute and tell you that I have no intentions of trying to walk on water. I’m learning to trust God with all my heart, but walking on water was Peter’s gig and possibly not meant for all of us. So if ever there was a “don’t try this at home” disclaimer in any of these posts, it would be right now. Please don’t try walking on water as your method in trusting God with all your heart. Instead, simply pray, “God, I surrender. I trust You, I trust Your ways and I trust Your timing. Even when I don’t know what You’re doing and nothing makes sense, I will still choose to trust You.”
The enemy has waged a war on our lives and our families. It’s time to suit up and put on God’s armor. We have to gird our waists with the belt of truth, guard our hearts with the breast plate of righteousness and protect our minds with the helmet of salvation. To stand firm against all the devil’s strategies (Ephesians 6:11), we must also guard our mouths by speaking our trust in God out loud. We must arm ourselves with the sword of the spirit (God’s word) and take up our shields of faith. For it is faith that heals us and sets us free. Sun Tzu suggests avoiding battles altogether, but God says, the war is already on and already won. Not every battle is ours to fight. Exodus 14:14 is a reminder that God fights for us and we need only be still. He may not call us to fight every battle, but He does call us to put on our armor and prepare for battle daily. Are you willing to do that for your life and your family? I hope so, because whether you want to fight or not, you’re already standing on the gridiron of a battle field.