Thought for the Week - 26th November 2018
Ephesians 6: 10-18
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;
18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints
Over the past months we’ve been doing an Alpha course. This week we focussed on the question: how can we resist evil? And that’s what I want to write about today.
So how do we resist evil?
It’s a big, serious question. We can think of evil as something that’s horribly, horribly dark that’s “out there”. If we were to name things we think are evil we’d come up with the holocaust, the horrors of war, child abuse or rape. These things we rightfully think of as evil. Yet it is a huge lie of the devil that suggests that evil is something that’s “out there” and not something we have to be concerned about because it’s “out there”. All of us have to resist evil. All of us face evil. As Christians, it’s one of our jobs to resist evil. We can think of evil as horrible, dark, awful things. But we know that sin is evil.
Sin is something that is contagious. It’s like a cancer that starts with a few cells, which go defective and then multiply and multiply. Years ago, I remember learning about asbestosis. In theory, one single fibre of asbestos in your lungs can cause mesothelioma, from which you can die. This is why when we find asbestos somewhere we quarantine the area and get the specialists in to remove it. One single fibre. How much more dangerous to our spirits is sin, yet we don’t take that same level of precaution or serious attitude.
We can think evil is that big thing “over there”. But by inviting sin into our hearts, just one fibre by its very nature grows and grows.
We’re called to resist it. Resist is a very proactive word. We must almost be like a cricketer, hitting these balls as they come against us. It can get very wearing and feel very wearing. We can feel alone as we try to fight again and again.
We never perfect these things. We’re never immune from the temptations and the assault of the enemy. Again and again, He calls us to come again to learn about these things. God calls us to open our hearts to what He has to say.
In the verses above we read to be strong His power and stand in the power of His might. The first thing we do is forget how strong our God is. When we talk about temptation and we talk about assault, the first thing we do is forget how strong our God is. We are sitting on a powder keg! We are standing on the Rock. We are in a relationship with the Creator of the universe, who made us, who made the heavens, the earth and everything around us! He’s intervened in our lives, He has saved us, He has brought us to this place, He has healed us, and He taken so much from us. Yet we come back this place and forget the power of His might!
When the enemy is lying to us about something, or we’re faced with a difficult situation, or we’re struggling against a part of ourselves, we forget about the power of His might and all about the strength of God. All we think about is us struggling with this thing.
Whatever we look at gets bigger. Whatever we’re not looking at gets smaller. When we look at ourselves we get bigger. If we look at our sins, problems or weaknesses, they get bigger. If we don’t look at God, He gets smaller. He invites us again and again to look at Him. The more we look at God, the bigger He gets. The lesser we look at ourselves, the smaller we get. The less we look at our sins, problems, and difficulties, the smaller they get.
He says to stand in the power of His might. We’re not doing this on our own. If we try to fight our sin on our own, we will fail. We know that. We can try and fight ourselves or suppress how we’re feeling, but we fail. Our will is so weak. And yet it can be so strong – we can have a strong will when we want to do something. Paul asks in Romans 7: 15 why can’t he do what he wants to do. It’s because we’re fighting these
Principalities and powers, not simply out there in the spiritual realms but also in our hearts. We fight the wickedness of man in the inside.
We can’t do this on our own. The only thing we can do that works is to take these things and almost pour them onto God. If we focus on the “doing” we fail. But if we look to God and give these things to God, He takes them. That’s what Christ did on the cross. He took those sinful desires and the weakness of the flesh, and He took it upon Himself and died for us. Our first port of call needs to be God. Don’t try to sort it out yourself and then to God. He needs to be our first port of call. We need to be a like a child who runs straight to Him. He needs to be our first port of call when we’re hurting, when we’re worried, or when we’ve sinned etc. A child who’s fallen runs to their parents for comfort. God wants us to run to Him for comfort. Within that, He develops a strength of a relationship between Him and us, that we’re finding again and again to find our strength in Him. We’ll still try and we’ll still fail. But as we get up, again and again, we learn to go back to Him time and time again. As we do that, He creates a strength within us that grows in us.
We read about standing against the wiles of the devil. We can’t over spiritualise things. Often we blame the devil for things when we’re doing a pretty good job of messing things up on our own. Paul is saying that we need to remember the battle that we’re in. We get focussed on our own issues and concerns that we forget we’re part of a huge, eternal battle. We are on the side of God. He is with us and gives our strength. By virtue of being on God’s side, we are fighting things we do not understand and we are fighting things that are far more powerful than we are. It pushes us to be in the right place. If we’re not in the right place, we open ourselves up to terrible, terrible assault.
The reality is we’re wrestling with spiritual powers. These spirits are in control and have influence in government, in media, in what we watch, in what we listen, in strong and powerful places. They do not like being disturbed. They don’t like it when a soul turns to God. And they don’t like it when a soul becomes an effective channel of God. As soon as we start trying to do the right thing and turn to God, it can be like everything comes against us. It’s because we’re no longer swimming with the river, we’re swimming against the current. It’s like everything tries to push against us. This is meant to be hard. There’ll be times where we will get discouraged, where the devil will lie in our ear, and when we’ll have to fight the reactions within us. Because we are fighting things that are far stronger than us. The only way can fight with any strength and sense of victory is to fight them in the power of God’s might.
The world that we live in seems to be twisted and malformed. White has become black. Things that not so long ago were considered lies, slander and hatred have become things that are good and to be celebrated. It’s an example how the spirit of the age twists things. It can twist a whole society, but it can also twist within our hearts.
The devil uses three weapons against us:
He blinds us
He twists things
He comes to seek and destroy
We see this time and time again. The first thing the devil does is to seek to blind us. And that’s what sin does. Sin blinds us. It takes away our vision. It distorts our vision. There is a deception in it. Where we give into a sin, it changes our perspective straight away. Often we find that until we get victory over that sin, our perspective remains changed.
Think about worry, which the bible tells us is a sin rather than a virtuous weakness. When we worry about something it becomes bigger. When we worry about something, it blinds us. All we can think about is this problem, this issue, or this risk that we can’t get rid of. It blinds us to the strength and power of God. We’re blinded to the power of God because we’re so focussed on this thing. If we let something in our heart for just a moment, it changes our perspective. For example, when we’re overly critical of someone else, all of a sudden that’s all we can see. Our whole vision is distorted.
He comes to twist. He lies to us. We see from the beginning of the bible when the devil asks Eve “has God really said not to do that?”. We ask ourselves “has God really God asked us for this?”, “does He really want that?”. Doubt comes in and twists the word of God.
It perverts things. When we let sin in, it twists and perverts our relationships with each other. It takes something that’s meant to be strong and good. We know when there’s something between us that’s not quite right, where there’s a distance. It’s the devil twisting between us and twists our relationships with another.
His final aim is to destroy. He blinds us and twists us because he seeks to destroy the good in our lives and he seeks to destroy us.
Evil is not something “out there”. It’s something we face and wrestle with daily. The end point of our own sin is our own destruction. Take for example sexual sin. If we look at society, the attitude over the last 50 years has been increasing open. There’s really no right and wrong as no one gets hurt. In a society where sex accessible in all shapes and forms, wherever, however much you want, what has that done to the heart of the man? It’s destroyed the thing that God has given him. It’s perverted the thing has given him. The devil uses it not because he likes it, but because he wants to destroy it. The very thing that God gave has been destroyed in hearts.
In so many things that God gives us, sin comes in to a part of our lives. It blinds us. It distorts something, perverts something and twists something. Ultimately, it destroys.
Society at the moment is very much about the individual. About individual choice and identity. And yet these people all look the same. You see the mark of sin on people’s faces. They look less themselves not more themselves. This is what sin does. It doesn’t give us identity, it takes it away. It destroys identity. Sin takes away individuality. God leads us and invites us, that we come to Him and in having that relationship with Him, He takes away those things and gives us more of ourselves. He makes us more ourselves.
We are fighting with these things on a daily basis. We could talk about any sin or any weakness and speak about them in this way. We see people who are completely focussed on themselves. Yet they have no freedom. The power of God’s might gives us freedom over these things. Whatever is we’re struggling with, whether it’s actions or thoughts, the power of God gives us the strength to fight these things and to have victory over them.
In the verses above we read to go on standing. Even when we can’t fight or do anything proactive, all God maybe asking us to do is not to step backwards and not to give into things. Having done everything we can, we just stand and wait for God. Often it’s when we stop trying to do it in our own strength, and simply stand and look to God and ask Him, something happens. Something breaks within us and it allows God to move.
Paul talks about different weapons and armour of God. The shield of faith is our defence. It’s the first thing that protects us. It’s our weapon against blindness. Paul specifically chose faith as the shield. When the devil comes to lie to us, and temptation comes against us, it blinds us. When we are blind and when we cannot see, the only thing we can do is have faith or give up. That’s where faith comes in. We don’t have faith when we can see things around us and have the evidence. The faith comes when we don’t have the evidence, when we’re not sure, and when we can’t see. When the hosts of hell seem to be around us, when our minds are a mess, or we don’t know where we are, we need to us the shield of faith. We either give in to these things, or we have faith in God because we can’t see anything. The only thing we can do is have faith. We step out onto God. We say Lord, I trust you here. That becomes the cry of our heart. Trust Him to deal with the things inside, the situations we’re in, our sins, our temptations, and the evil coming against us.
Paul also speaks of the helmet of salvation. The helmet protects our head and protects our minds. The first and last place the devil assaults is our mind. It’s the thoughts that come in, the worry, the frustrations, the anger, the hurt, the resentful, the lustful thoughts, the critical thoughts, the gossip, and the lies. It all comes through our minds. We use the helmet of salvation. Remember you are saved. Remember your salvation. Remember you are a child of God. Think about that commitment when you were saved – think about its power! We don’t have to put up with this. This isn’t coming from God – you are saved. Use your salvation to protect your head.
Paul goes on to speak of the sword of the spirit. It’s not just about defence, it’s also about offence. We are to use the Word of God. We use our Bible as a weapon. We find verses that encourage, verses that we can come back to, and verses that have power. We come back to them again and again. And when we find ourselves wrestling against ourselves or the power of darkness, we go back to those verses! We forget the verses that God has given us, so that when we are in a battle we are without our sword. We need to use the words that God has given us. Use the power of those verses as a weapon.
It’s in our deepening relationship that we have with Christ, He gives us the grounding to face thing. It’s the thing that we so often neglect.
There’s a quote from the philosopher Nietzsche that’s absolutely right: He who has a why can bear any how. When we have our faith and have that relationship with Christ, when Christ is our why, any how that comes against us we can bear. So often we forget our why. We forget our Christ. Simply spend time with Him. Simply get used to the discipline of pouring out our spirit to Him.
Colossians 3: 15-16
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly let the peace of god rule in your heart. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.
We need to open our hearts to peace. When we find ourselves in chaos and worry, we need to open our hearts to the peace of God. We come before Him, we give Him all our worries, struggles, and pains, and we do it again and again and again. We learn to give them to Him. The problem and the pain may still be there, but we know that we’ve given that raw emotion that’s causing us to stumble. Again and again we come back to the Word that is so fundamental to us. We let it rule. We let the Word of Christ rule in our hearts more and more. We are giving our hearts over to Him. We give our hearts over to Him. When He asks us or calls us to do something, we let His Word rule. We are obedient and let Him rule in our hearts.
Lift your eyes on Him. Spend time with Him. Spend time with His Word. Let go of the pain and irritations. Take a step back and give it to Him.
Let the peace of God rule in our hearts.