Message Supplement (23 August 2015)

Paul uses an analogy that helps illustrate today’s message, a lesson about spiritual preparedness and the nature of evil. Paul compares our Christian faith to a soldier’s equipment, complete with armor from head to toe and even a weapon. Paul begins by asserting how we should be strong, with our strength coming from God.

Paul tells us to wear spiritual armor for protection against whoever and whatever opposes us. Paul lists the actual, physical armor worn by the quintessential Roman soldier. Paul mentions defensive armor (e.g., helmet, shield) and the sword used for offense. Paul observed how soldiers could function magnificently when they were outfitted with the proper equipment. It offends some people that a man of God is using military terminology to describe challenges. The point is that Paul’s analogy conveys power and we take notice. Using mental images of soldiers may strike us as odd but we get the point (pun intended!).

Paul reminds us that our most persistent enemy is not merely another human being. Paul knew that “our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness . . . (Ephesians 6:12). Just when you thought that our struggles were merely physical, Paul reveals the potential perils of a hidden world.

How are you outfitted? Do you have what you need to take a stand against all sorts of evil? Do you put on the whole armor of God each day? Are you willing to learn how to wield the sword of the Spirit? And just when you think you’ve identified the enemy, such as some individual person or a system of prejudice and injustice, the real culprit could be much closer to home, such as a conflict within you. We are reminded that not all enemies are external.

Life is difficult. Part of what makes it so hard is how our lives are defined by struggles. Our bodies are buffeted by the forces of nature. Gravity wants to drag us down. Age and disease ravage us. Wars and deprivation can kill our joy and our flesh. As if that weren’t enough, bad attitudes and negativity eat us from within. Above all this is the realm of spiritual warfare, invisible yet as dangerous as a charging soldier.

One of the lessons we must learn is to not underestimate the Enemy. The positive lesion is just as important, and that is to not underestimate God’s power. We can remain faithful by keeping alert, a type of vigilance Jesus advocated. Being mindful, alert and awake can help guard us against life rot, something more dangerous than any enemy soldier. Proper thinking and awareness are great defensive weapons, like the literal armor Paul described. We thank God for helping us become mentally fit so we can withstand this challenging universe and continue to make spiritual progress. Naysayers aside, there is no conflict between a state of mental vitality (e.g., mindfulness) and God’s Spirit. Some folks who are moved by fear and ignorance suggest that we avoid anything that sounds as weird as mindfulness. But however you describe it, God’s empowerment conquers all opposition. Strengthen your mind!

A major lesson of today is that life is an inherent conflict, a constant flow of attacks inside and out. Sometimes the warfare is literal and battlefield brutal while at other times the struggle is abstract and internally devastating. Either way, we must yearn for God’s protection and persist on the path of righteousness. Church is a great place for us to prepare ourselves as we learn from one another’s experiences. Together we discover new strategies for overcoming obstacles.

Come, brothers and sisters in faith, let us band together and proclaim God’s blessings. We are victors, not victims. We are ready for whatever life throws at us and no enemy shall defeat us. Stand up, take your place, and be ready to fulfill your destiny. Do I hear an “Amen!” from the battle line?

–Reverend Hoxey