We Are Soldiers
Every Fourth of July, I am reminded of the soldiers who fought and died for the freedoms we have and enjoy. And now as world threats turn more dangerous and terrorism is on the rise, I think about the soldiers who remain alert and prepared at all times to protect those freedoms. They must always be ready to face the enemy.
Christians are in a similar position, and in a way, we are soldiers too. We must be alert and prepared at all times to protect our salvation, because we have an enemy, the devil, who is on the job twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The Bible says he is like a roaring lion, walking about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).
We need not be afraid, however, because God has provided a type of armor—spiritual armor—for our use. Paul listed the pieces of this armor in his letter to the Ephesians. He admonished them, “Take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:13-17).
Those who will avail themselves of the spiritual armor God has provided will be able to withstand the devices of the devil and obtain eternal life.
Those who will avail themselves of the spiritual armor God has provided will be able to withstand the devices of the devil and obtain eternal life. Here is a closer look at what comprises that armor.
Loins girt with truth
In verse 14, we are told to gird ourselves with truth. The word gird means “to encircle with a belt.” Therefore, we are to be encircled with the truth of the Gospel. The Roman soldier of Paul’s day wore a loose, flowing outer garment, and when it was time to go into battle, he took that and tucked it under his belt. This gave him the freedom to move about and take on his adversary. Likewise, our belt of truth gives us freedom. We learn from John 8:32 that if we know the truth, the truth will make us free. When the devil first appeared on the scene in the Garden of Eden, he deceived Eve with a lie. He said, “Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). We don’t have to fall for the devil’s lies. If we study the Word of God and surround ourselves with the truth of the Gospel, we will recognize a deception for what it is. If you want to be able to stand, know the truth.
Breastplate of righteousness
The same verse speaks of putting on the “breastplate of righteousness.” For the Roman soldier, the breastplate was a piece of armor that covered the body from the neck to the thighs. It shielded the vital organs, including the heart. We might think of the heart as representing love. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 4:23 to protect our hearts “with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Righteousness speaks of integrity, or holiness in our actions. This suggests that living a moral and upright life will be a shield for our hearts and will protect the love of God in our lives.
The message of the Gospel is one of love; God gave His only Son to die for our sins that we might live. As recipients of that love, we have a responsibility. The two greatest commandments we have been given are to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and to love others as ourselves (Mathew 22:37-40). When we return God’s love and share it with those around us, our lives reflect the Gospel message. It is of the utmost importance that we put on the breastplate of righteousness, which has the power to preserve God’s love in our hearts.
Feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace
Verse fifteen says that we are to have our feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. Roman soldiers wore thick-soled shoes that covered the feet and ankles and extended up the leg. They had hooks on the bottoms for gripping the ground and providing leverage for pushing. Soldiers were trained never to retreat or even look back, but to be continually pushing forward. Christians, too, must keep their eyes on the goal of Heaven and be continually moving in that direction.
Obstacles will come, but with God, we can face adversity and triumph. Don’t be distracted by the things that are behind you; look forward, keeping your eyes on Jesus. If you find that you cannot move forward during difficult times, do just as Paul instructed in verse 14 and stand.
Obstacles can be intimidating, but we can overcome them. Dig in to God’s Word, dig in with prayer, dig in with fasting. Say, “I am going to stand firm until God moves this obstacle out of the way.”
I used to play football and there were times when I was supposed to block someone, but couldn’t move him, so I would just dig in and hold on to him. That player couldn’t move to the left, couldn’t move to the right. If the devil has placed something in your path that you are not able to push through, dig in and stand firm with all your might. Obstacles can be intimidating, but we can overcome them. Dig in to God’s Word, dig in with prayer, dig in with fasting. Say, “I am going to stand firm until God moves this obstacle out of the way.” Don’t let the devil cause you to cower! God does not give us a “spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
To push through the trials of life and keep moving forward, have your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace.
Shield of faith
Paul advised the Ephesians in verse 16 to use a “shield of faith . . . to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” Roman soldiers used two shields during battle: a small one for close combat, and a larger one for approaching the enemy. The larger one was called “the door.” Measuring three feet by six feet, it was large enough that a man could hide behind it. When the devil starts to throw the fiery darts of doubt and fear your way, stand behind your shield of faith.
If you are carrying a small shield, remember that your faith can grow. Romans 10:17 tells us that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” To grow your faith, read the Bible and attend church; go to Sunday school and study God’s Word; quote Scripture out loud while you are praying. The more you hear the Word of God, the more your faith will grow.
We want to have big shields to stand behind, so that when the devil throws a doubt our way, the shield will block it. When he tells us God doesn’t care, we can stand behind our shields of faith, and say, “I know God loves me.” When he says a situation is hopeless, we can tell him that with God, all things are possible. For protection against doubts and fears sent by the devil, take cover behind the shield of faith.
Helmet of salvation
The helmet of salvation, named in verse 17, protects the mind, which is the gateway to the soul. At salvation, we are renewed in the spirit of our minds (Ephesians 4:23-24). Then it is our responsibility to maintain those pure thoughts. We must be careful about what we let into our minds through our eyes and ears. Be cautious, for example, when using the internet or social media. Ask God for wisdom and discernment in what to read and watch.
Wrongful actions begin with wrongful thoughts. If our thoughts are drawn toward the world, we need to renew them.
Wrongful actions begin with wrongful thoughts. If our thoughts are drawn toward the world, we need to renew them. The Bible says in Romans 12:2 not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. We can do this by following the advice of Philippians 4:8 and purposing to think on “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report.”
It is also good to find a quiet place to pray on a regular basis. Go into a secret place, a closet perhaps, and close the door. Then forget about everything else that is going on and let God search your thoughts to reveal how they can be realigned with the Gospel. He will help you guard the access to your mind.
Sword of the Spirit
The pieces of armor named to this point are all for defense. The last item is an offensive weapon. Verse 17, tells us to pick up the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He chose to use the sword of the Spirit to resist the devil’s ploys (Matthew 4:1-11). After fasting for forty days and forty nights, He was tired and hungry. The devil came to Him and said, “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” Jesus did not react by turning the ground beneath the devil into quicksand. Instead, He resisted by quoting Scripture. He said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
The devil did not give up right away, but took Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple, where he tempted Him again saying, “Cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.” Again, Jesus used Scripture saying, “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”
The devil tried a third time, taking Him to a high mountain and saying, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” Jesus answered, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”
When the devil comes to attack you, pick up the Word. Choose a Scripture and start quoting. You don’t have to know a lot. Throw what you know at the devil or find a promise in the Bible and read it out loud. The devil can’t stand against God’s Word. The truth cuts him to the heart. If you want the devil to move out of the way, hold up the sword of the Spirit—find a promise in God’s Word, and stand on it.
Are you equipped to stand?
We hear a lot of testimonies in our services from Christian soldiers who are equipped with the armor of God and ready to stand against the devil. This is what is needed for every one of us. God has strategically placed us in locations around the world to do battle with the enemy in our communities, in our schools, and on the job. We are to resist the devil and spread the Gospel, and we can do that if we use the armor and weapons God has provided.