In writing this, I realize that I might be confessing too much. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve been buried under a rock. How do I miss such important truths for such a long time? At times, I seem to discover (to my shame) a truth that believers have understood for years. Nonetheless, when I have that “eureka” moment, I like to share it.
So, here’s my confession: I have never really understood the point of the armor of God. Pretty sad, huh? I knew I was to put it on, and I knew what all the pieces were. But like the guy who shops the bargain bin at the Army surplus store, I had no idea what to do with it. Should a pastor have a good handle on this, maybe a few years before his ordination? Probably. But since I can’t get a do-over on the past 20 years, I’ll have to start where I’m at. Good for you if you’ve known this.
So, here’s what I learned: the fiercer the battle rages, the more timid the Christian becomes. We have this innate sense that if I don’t hit the devil too hard, he’ll leave me alone. “Don’t rock the boat” becomes the battle plan. Don’t provoke the enemy. The enemy will leave me alone if I avoid doing anything too valiant.
I think there is a certain safety in maintaining the status quo within our homes and families. Remember that the armor of God is set in context with Paul’s instructions related to the family. When husbands tolerate small insurrections and wives carry on subversive warfare and the children are passively rebellious, we know that any attempt to follow God in our family may result in an all-out war. If a husband sits down with his wife to discuss a few things where he thinks she is in sin, he expects things to get ugly. So, he avoids saying anything. If a parent seeks to correct the kids, he braces for the temper tantrum. So, we don’t rock the boat.
We don’t want the fight, so we tolerate the sin. We make an uneasy truce with disobedience and (sometimes) outright rebellion. God gives us armor before He sends us out to fight. But make no mistake: God provides armor because He wants us in the fight.
And the battle is for holiness. Three things to consider then…
The Risk of Holiness
Holiness isn’t our default setting. Nor is it an act of nature. We fall into sin by the force of gravity, but nobody “falls” into holiness. Sins grow up like weeds in our life without any special effort; holiness requires careful cultivation. The way to holiness is the upward way, winding up a steep pass over rocky ground and rugged terrain. The way to destruction is the pleasing way, a gentle slope, no sudden turns or sharp drops.
Maybe that’s why so many Christians have come to terms with their sins and have made an easy truce with them. Because it seems to me that when you leave a sin alone and don’t try to fix it, it lurks in the background without causing too much of a fuss. Bad habits and sinful thought patterns pester us without causing us too much disruption. We can be “at ease in Zion.” But confronting a sinful pattern in our lives is like poking a smoldering fire. It is bound to flare up again.
The Philistines secure their place in the garrison and are pleased to let you come and go. But if you try to drive them out, they won’t leave without a fight. And that’s why God gives us armor. Because you will have to fight; it will cost you something. You know you can’t drive out an entrenched sin without some pain and suffering and maybe a little embarrassment. And we are all a little afraid of the damage we might suffer.
God gives us armor so we can confront principalities and powers as they manifest themselves in our own lives. And we can overcome. Our armor prevents our being overcome of evil and enables us to overcome evil with good.
When I was a teen, I heard Jack Hyles preach, “You can’t fall from a crawl.” It rhymed, which made it extra persuasive. He pointed to some of the great heroes of the faith – Samson, David, even Moses. And he explained that they fell because they were running. They were in the fight. The guy who is doing something is the guy who falls. You can’t fall from a crawl.Continue reading “So What’s the Point of the Armor of God?”