OUR BATTLE PLAN
Several years ago after I had completed basic training I received my permanent duty assignment. It just so happened that this was during the Panama crisis. Upon reporting to my permanent duty assignment, I discovered that the unit I was assigned had just returned from doing a stint in Panama and that another company in our Brigade had just deployed. Even though my unit had returned all of the exercises they engaged in after my arrival were geared toward preparing for battle. Now, I should point out that while I had never personally seen the enemy I was still expected to participate in all training activities and be prepared for the call to fight. In essence, I needed to participate in and make myself aware of the battle plan.
As a believer, a child of God, God through His word alerts us to the fact that as we go through life we too must also have a battle plan. In fact life is where the believer’s battles are fought and played out. The fact that we do not see our enemy and/or may have never personally met the enemy is no excuse for a lack of preparation or planning. There are many believer’s over the years that have allowed themselves to become comfortable with the success that they experience in life and subsequently drop their guard and have become casualty’s or suffered near fatal damage to their witness, testimony, relationship with God, their family, friends, and career.
I should point out that while the battle believer’s wage is primarily a spiritual battle, there are physical, emotional, and psychological ramifications. In other words, while we fight in the spirit there will be manifestations in the natural that will provide us with indicators of how the battle is going.
The apostle Paul closes the book of Ephesians by offering believers a battle plan for daily spiritual warfare. In a nutshell, the apostle’s plan calls for the people of God to wage a counter-offensive attack against our enemy. Paul instructs and admonishes the Body of Christ not to sit idly by or passively dismiss the enemy, but be proactive and take the offensive. Once again, I cannot underscore the seriousness of this challenge to believers everywhere to take the fact that we all have a common enemy who will stop at nothing to destroy us, undermine us, discredit our witness and testimony, or simply render us ineffective in our service to God and God’s kingdom work on earth.
I can understand the trepidation of many who will say, this is just Pastor Paul ranting again. To be honest with you for many years I did not take to the idea of spiritual warfare seriously. That is, until, God began to open not only my natural eyes but also my spiritual eyes. As God opened my eyes what I saw occurring in the world began to line up with what God declared in His word. I noticed that from the very beginning, Adam and Eve, the people of God have had to fight against an enemy that is insidious, cunning, and baffling. Think about it, God gave Adam and Eve good. That is what the Bible says, “God looked at everything He had created and saw that it was good.” They were created as a good match for each other. They were placed in a good environment that came equipped with every thing they needed to live a good life. In the midst of good along slithered up a serpent whose sole mission and purpose was to corrupt that which God gave and provided. Isn’t it amazing how when God gives us something good, around the corner lurks someone or something waiting to corrupt and tarnish the good that God has given us. God gave Adam and Eve good, but the serpent convinced them that they could do better than good. We really need to be careful that we do not lose the good that God has given us in pursuit of the better we may never find.
And so, before we totally close our minds to the idea of spiritual warfare let us listen to the apostle Paul and hear what he has to say on the matter.
The apostle begins laying out for us a battle plan in verse 10. He says, “be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” One of the biggest mistakes people make in life is to go it alone. Paul points out for us that in God’s scheme of life, there are no lone wolves. As we begin each day we ought to begin it with God, but not only should we begin the day with God we should also go through the day and live each day in God. Literally, we need to put God on each and every day to start our day. Think of it this way, on cold wintry days we do not run out of the house without an overcoat. Why? We do not do that because we will be exposed to the elements and run the risk of getting sick or something worse happening. Therefore why would we start our day without God? When we start a day without God it is like going outside naked, we are exposed and vulnerable. On the other hand, when we put God on, when we step into God, we are surrounding ourselves with God’s divine Holy presence. Therefore, anything that tries to get at us has to first go through God. The only way we can be strong in the Lord is to be IN the Lord. We have to be inside, not on the periphery, but literally inside so that God’s mighty power can protect us. Before, David faced and fought his giant Goliath, David acknowledged that the battle was not his to fight, but rather it was the LORD’S. Outside of God we have no choice but to fight our own battles and if the truth be told in many instances we neither have the physical capacity or the resources to fight all of life’s battles. Let’s stop trying to be lone wolves. Let’s stop trying to fight battles and foes by ourselves, and let’s start each day IN God. The Presence of God + The Power of God = The Strength of God.
You would think that being in God is enough. However, Paul once again underscores that we are not dealing with an ordinary foe and our fight is not a game. With this in mind, we are instructed to never go into battle under dressed. One of the things that I discovered during my time in the military is that there are several factors that influence how a soldier should dress and the type of equipment he or she should carry into combat. One of the chief factors is the environment. I did not know that the army has one set of fatigues for extremely cold climates, another for moderate climates, and still another for extremely hot climates. I just thought fatigues were fatigues until someone explained to me a cold soldier in frigid conditions will probably not survive to long. As we prepare for battle the text tells us in verse 11 that we are to “put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” As we will see in upcoming messages each piece of equipment that God prescribes for us has a specific purpose. That is one of the reasons I believe Paul makes it a point to remind us that we cannot treat the armor of God the same way we treat taking medication that a doctor prescribes. You know, we often times never follow the directions to the letter. We take it until we feel better and then rationalize that we need to save some if we ever get sick again so that we will have some on hand. In this case, we must understand that God is giving us a full set of protective gear. The purpose of the gear is to protect us and minimize the potential for injury. I have seen and we all have heard about people not only soldiers, but firemen and police who have been cut down in the line of duty because they were not wearing standard issue protective gear. One of the blessings that accompany the armor that God gives us is that it is universal. In other words, it is good for any environment and situation. We do not need to add to what God has given us we only need to use it. My grandmother used to say, “it is better to say here it is then to say where it is.” I would much rather be in battle and not use what God has given me, then to be in battle need what God has given me and not have it.
One of the reasons I am not going into specifics here in terms of God’s armor is because as I mentioned we will deal with each piece individually in other messages. But also, the focus of this message is simply to alert us to the fact that God has a battle plan laid out and outlined in His Word. The purpose of this message is to stimulate our minds and provoke us to bear in mind that everyday we need to get ready for battle and revisit our battle strategy for each day. Why, because each day the enemy will through a different challenge at us or offer up a new twist to the problems and issues that plague us. We must bear in mind that our enemy knows our weaknesses better than we do.
After we have made sure we are not fighting alone and have gotten fully dressed for battle, then we must get acquainted with the enemy. This is perhaps one of the most critical steps in our preparation for battle, understanding whom we are fighting. The apostle Paul declares in verse 12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” When we couple verse 12 with verse 11 we understand that Paul is talking about none other than Satan, also known as, the devil, Lucifer, Beelzebub, etc. He is our sworn enemy. In fact, he is not only our enemy but he is also the enemy of Christ, the church, and the entire Christian faith. We must also keep in mind that Satan does not work alone. He has legions of other fallen angels that work with him in carrying out his bidding. Unlike God who is omnipresent, the devil is limited by time and space. He cannot be everywhere at the same time. To compensate for this, he dispatches his imps to infiltrate every area and arena of human affairs. This verse teaches us that Satan is at the root and heart of all human conflict. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood – all of the conflict that we see in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Iran, and even within our own borders has nothing to do with people they are only pawns used by the evil one. Whatever issues we have with each other are things the evil one uses to divide us, separate us, and throw us into confusion. I would encourage you to look at some of the stuff that is going on in our world. The acts of terrorism, war, conflict, racial strife, poverty and greed, and the abuses inflicted on people and our environment. I believe we all can agree that these are acts of evil. However, what we must also understand is that these acts while perpetrated by men and women they were prompted to do so by the spiritual forces of evil. In other words, it is not the person but the spirit that is in the person. Therefore, our struggle is not with the person but with the spirit that is in the person. Very often I have to remind my wife that I am not the enemy. The next time you get into conflict with someone remember the issue it is not with him or her per se, but the wicked spiritual forces at work. Consider Job, everything that happened to him was the doing of Satan. Satan had one plan for Job to get him to turn away from God. The same plan he had for Job he has for us. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be alert, your enemy the devil prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour.” Peter tells us that Satan is always looking for people to consume so that he can use them to carry out his plans for wickedness and evil. According to our text, not only does he consume people, but he also infiltrates systems. We all know what evil looks like, I would encourage you to examine different systems within our world and ask yourself, what good does this serve and who is really benefitting from this? The bottom line here is that we need to understand that we are fighting a real adversary and he will use people close to us, and anything he can to get us to turn away from God.
It is for this reason that we must be vigilant in our preparation for battle. Once we have made the decision to give our lives over to Christ the devil declares war on us and begins to go to work to mortally wound us. However, the apostle Paul admonishes us, with this truth in mind “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.” My brothers and sisters, every day that we live in relatively unharmed fashion is a day we have been protected by the grace of God. The truth is that we do not know when evil will come our way, that is why it is important that we take the preparatory measures to ensure that when evil comes our way we can stand. One of the things we all have discovered in life is that when you cede ground it is extremely difficult to make up the ground you have lost. Therefore, God gives us a daily battle plan that will empower us to take our stand in the day of evil. The Bible says, “resist the devil and he will flee from you.” How do we defeat our enemy the devil? We have to stand for God and stand with God. How do we stand for and with God? We live in God’s presence and power.