Have you ever made a promise you didn’t keep? Have you ever rushed to judgment? Have you ever felt like walking with God has become harder and harder? How do you stand strong in your faith over the long haul?
Ray was shocked at how quickly he crumbled. He suffered unending criticism from the retired clergymen in his congregation when he pastored his first church. After experiencing their stinging complaints, he swore to his wife, “When I retire I am never going to speak against my pastor!” And, with those words, Ray made a pledge he failed to uphold. When Ray attended a funeral where his new minister wore flashy earrings, he was livid. “How disrespectful can that young man be?” His complaints pressed into the next day when he went to church and surprisingly, he observed that all the men wore earrings. This is how Ray discovered he needed cataract surgery! He allowed Satan to trip him up with false assumptions.
Paul the apostle teaches you that you are in an ongoing spiritual war, and you must learn how to fight to stay strong in your faith!
In Ephesians 6:10 Paul begins his conclusion of the book of Ephesians with the word, “finally”. Up until this point in the letter, Paul has been teaching that you are new creatures in Christ who live a new way. You are victorious, unbroken because of the amazing life that has come inside of you. Paul finishes this letter by stating that the spiritual conflict you will now encounter is caused by your new life in Christ. You enter a battlefield of epic proportions.
Look at Ephesians 6:10:
10) Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. ESV
The power to live strong comes from God; it does not come from you.
Have you noticed that the Christian life is impossible in your own strength? You will not be able to be Jesus to anyone if you rely upon yourself. And, surprisingly this frustration and inability to be strong in your own strength is by design. God allows the exasperation, so you will seek the stamina that comes only from him. You must be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
So, what do you need to know to find your strength in the Lord?
When you want to be strong in the Lord, learn that your true enemies are not flesh and blood, but spiritual. Look back at Ephesians 6:11-12.
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. ESV
If you think your enemy is a person, you enter the wrong clash.
If you think your rebellious teen-age daughter, your personal trainer, or your noisy mother-in-law is your foe you will engage in a mistaken conflict. You enemy is not flesh and blood. Your true adversary is spiritual. To be strong in Christ you must engage in the right struggle. To mount a campaign in your strength against a person who is not your true enemy will always leave you feeling defeated. Make your stand against a spiritual enemy in God’s strength.
Satan’s schemes are predictable and identifiable.
See the word translated “schemes” in verse 11? If I were to transliterate this word and spell it with English letters it would look like “methodia.” The meaning of “methodia” always involves a level of evil. That is why the English translators of the New Testament rightly choose the word “schemes” to translate this word in the Bible. Notice something about this word. Does it remind you of an English word in any way? Yes, it resembles the English word “method.” What Paul is emphasizing here is there is a technique, a calculated strategy to the way the devil works. Recognize those tactics and war wisely against them.
In John 10:10 when referring to the devil, Jesus said,
“The thief comes only to steal, and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly” ESV.
Recognize the true force behind a spiritual attack.
Satan pursues predictable patterns of behavior. Anytime you see a theft of peace, the killing of life, or an attempt to destroy anything good, you are recognizing the schemes of your true foe. It often appears a person is carrying out this demonic attack, but that person is merely a puppet who has been deceived into cooperating with the devil (Matt. 16:23).
Don’t miss the real enemy.
This does not mean you can’t hold people accountable for their behavior, it means you can’t stay strong in the Lord if you do not recognize your true enemy is spiritual.
Paul shows that spiritual attacks come from many different directions.
Look at verse 12 again. Notice that in English the translators should have written the word “against” only before the word “rulers” in this verse. In English, the proper way to write this sentence would be, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers over this present darkness, and the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places.” Amazingly, this would also be the correct way to write this sentence in Greek. Instead, though, Paul wrote the word “against” four times before four different entities. What was he emphasizing?
The evil one orchestrates the darkness, but he has a myriad of approaches from which the struggle may come.
Spiritual soldiers are told to “stand.” Interestingly, in Paul’s injunction in Ephesians 6:13, we are not told to march with this armor on; we are told to stand. Standing is an odd way to fight a battle. We are to stand because Jesus mission to earth was to destroy the works of the evil one. He accomplished this by his death and resurrection. Our job is to stand in the victory Jesus has already won.
Notice that of the six pieces of armor listed in Ephesians 6:14-17 only one piece of weaponry can be used for offensive action. The sword of the Spirit is your offensive weapon. Most of your armor listed here is for a defensive stance. Return with me again to look at more of Ephesians 6.
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 firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. ESV
Stand on the ground that has been given to you to protect. Stand in the truth of your unbrokenness. The battle is raging for your thinking and you must protect the truth of your new identity in Christ.
Intentionally, there is no weaponry given here that guards your backside! If you run from the fight there is nothing to keep you from being shot in the back. The safest place for to be is facing your true adversary. You are powerful because of Christ’ sacrifice and as such, stand to defend your new identity with the strength that is found in him.
What might change you if you believe your enemy is not flesh and blood? Would you experience more peace? This is an important question to answer if you want to be strengthened by God.
Change the way you pray for yourself. It is never selfish to pray first for yourself. Asking God to strengthen you is a wise stance and is a part of his revealed will for you (Ephesians 3:14-19).
Don’t be passive about the spiritual assaults you encounter.
Actively pray these three things when experiencing conflict with people, people who in the past you might have been tempted to label as your enemy:
1. In Jesus name, bind and gag to silence all spiritual forces of darkness that have been speaking through this person when you are in his or her presence.
2. Pray that God will bless your relationship.
3. And, lastly, pray that this tormented soul would begin to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. Pray that they would be able to discern the difference between their own voice, the voice of the demonic and the voice of the Holy Spirit. Pray that God would give them an ever-increasing measure of grace to respond to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
Find your strength in God. It will revolutionize your life! Nothing is impossible for Him. “Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might.”